Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Archive 7

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Archive 1 Archive 5 Archive 6 Archive 7 Archive 8 Archive 9 Archive 10

Archival tips

  1. Thanks for archiving.
  2. Next time someone archives: I really recommend leaving very recent topics. There were comments archived here that wasn't even four days old. If someone checks in weekly (as many contributors do) they'd never see these. -- Jmabel | Talk 19:03, 11 December 2005 (UTC)
  1. You're welcome :-)
  2. Good tip. I'll remember next time. --HappyCamper 22:37, 11 December 2005 (UTC)

Trolls, flamebaits, and non-questions...

Maybe we should set up a clear policy on trolling, baiting, or clear non-questions. (The creationism one on the science desk currently there comes to mind as an example.) Just deleting the question would probably just prompt the poster to re-enter it, so maybe a strikethrough the question, with a generic template of some sort... Any thoughts? --Fangz 23:46, 10 December 2005 (UTC)

It also looked like trolling to me. There are people too stupid to waste effort on. I don't think we need any formal mechanism. Those who feel like accommodating them can do so and those who don't can ignore it. If it got troublesome, I would use your template idea to redirect people to an "arena" page where those who thought the challenge intellectually worthy could engage each other. alteripse 00:27, 11 December 2005 (UTC)
I agree with alteripse - we don't need a formal mechanism. If you read through all the archives, the reference desk has been robust against these sorts of posts ever since it started way back when; as long as the post itself does not overpower the rest of the questions, in principle there is nothing wrong with keeping it there. --HappyCamper 02:15, 11 December 2005 (UTC)
In relation to non-questions, our policy should be immediate removal. Otherwise, editors are tempted to reply with smarmy, sarcastic replies, or replies that attempt to answer what they think the submitter might, just, possibly have been on about. We're not here to try to second guess what people who are too lazy to say what they want, want. And we're not here to invite editors to go on ego trips where they can display their knowledge in the face of the most cryptic of clues. JackofOz 05:55, 19 December 2005 (UTC)
Perhaps this is slightly related to this discussion? I've set up an association of reference desk employees at meta:Association of Reference Desk Employees, originally as a joke, but now it might actually have a use; we could come up with policy and things like this...? Any ideas? Cernen Xanthine Katrena 23:37, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

Reference desk archival

Hello everyone! I am not sure of my availability during the holiday season - although I will try to archive during this period, it is quite possible that I will be away from the computer. If there is a need to archive the reference desk, a simple cut-and-paste of X number of days should be adequate - I usually trim a handful of dates so that there are 5-7 days worth of active questions, but there are really no "rules" behind the archival - whatever seems intuitive and simple usually works best! --HappyCamper 00:11, 12 December 2005 (UTC)

Soapboxing on "How to ask and answer"

Wikipedia:Reference desk/How to ask and answer previously stated, under "How to Answer":

The Reference desk is not a soapbox. If you wish to argue a particular viewpoint, please do so on an appropriate talk page.

I changed this bullet point to

The Reference desk is not a soapbox, nor is any part of Wikipedia. Wikipedia articles provide information on different viewpoints, however, and readers are encouraged to make these as comprehensive as possible.

Talk pages need to become less like Usenet forums, not more. Does anyone object to the wording of my revision? --zenohockey 04:50, 12 December 2005 (UTC)

It sounds good! --HappyCamper 01:46, 13 December 2005 (UTC)
Eeeeh... "as comprehensive as possible"? Like our article on the Jews needs to include the views of Nazis? And our article on the history of Islam needs to include the views of Pat Robertson? I think not. As it says on WP:NPOV, "Articles that compare views need not give minority views as much or as detailed a description as more popular views, and may not include tiny-minority views at all." -- Jmabel | Talk 08:04, 13 December 2005 (UTC)
How about now? --zenohockey 03:10, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

I almost refrained from replying on the grounds that no one pays any attention to instruction pages like this anyway, but I don't even want these sentences on an ignored page. There are at least 3 problems with your sentences and your intention:

  1. They ignore the fact that many of the rd answers do have a POV, and almost no one who answers bothers to present the others. I'll bet you I can find more answers that fail to present another widely held pov than you can identify answers that meet your criteria. In other words, you are arguing for a major change in the purpose and construction method of the ref desk. The ref desk is and should be different in style, purpose and method of construction from articles. Ref desk answers are quick and usually not researched. They are signed; it is obvious to everyone who reads them that the answer does not come from "wikipedia"; it comes from "HappyCamper" and represents HappyCamper's knowledge and POV. If I want to disagree with HappyCamper, I do not revert his comment and I do not take him to the arb committee, I simply add another answer underneath saying I disagree and why. RD answers are ephemeral, not polished and optimized and recorded. Although they are archived, they are not practically retrievable and not likely to be ever looked at again. They are simply not worth hammering out compromise wording in the event of disagreement.
  2. We don't need to change policy because we don't have a problem. Some of the most entertaining answers are pov. Anyone is welcome to respond. The only friction or annoyance I have ever seen expressed here have been on the couple of occasions when some jerk tried to censor an answer that didnt match his or her pov. You want to encourage that?
  3. You really want to announce, "Don't bother to answer at the ref desk unless you are willing to describe all points of view!"? Who will enforce your policy? How? Are you looking foward to complaints about the ref desk on the arb com page? Are you going volunteer to be a ref desk Monitor and delete the answers that dont contain your pov?

Haven't you figured out that we don't argue about the ref desk at the arb com page precisely because we don't insist that every answer be npov! If I haven't convinced you yet to pretend you never had this bad idea, let me suggest an experiment: set up a scupulously enforced NPOV page as a mirror to the current pages. See which one generates the most ill will, arguing, and departed editors. Now can we just quietly archive this npov idea and pretend it never came up? alteripse 18:01, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

First of all, your tone is entirely inappropriate. I remind you to assume good faith.
Regarding your substantive points, I don't propose that the ArbCom be involved on a regular basis, but I certainly can imagine cases where that would be necessary, like a poster answering every question by blaming Jews. I simply want to discourage people who may, at some point, decide to use this page to spread vitrol of some sort.
Nor do I "want to announce, 'Don't bother to answer at the ref desk unless you are willing to describe all points of view!'" I want people to give answers based exclusively on a concern for facts, and not for pushing their own agendas—to embark, if they wish to respond to a query, on an earnest search for the right answer. --zenohockey 18:43, 14 December 2005 (UTC)
Then I am going to change the last point regarding the WP:NPOV policy. As the answers here do no need to conform to the NPOV policy, reminding people to remember it is confusing.Brian Schlosser42 19:45, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

Well, pardon my tone, but my only negative experiences at the ref desk over the last 2 years have been from two editors who censored my responses with exactly your phrase. It obviously pushes my button.

Your answer here seems quite different from the implications of your proposed sentences. May I remind you it is possible to make a very POV answer based entirely on "facts"-- POV can be all in the selection and framing of which facts you choose to present and what interpretation you want to put on them. It sounds exactly like you are not proposing to enforce it consistently, but only on those pov you find offensive. Am I reading you right?

Let's have a practical test. It is hard to imagine an answer that is more POV, politically biased, expressing negative national stereotypes, and unnecessary for answering the original question than Diderot's of this morning: [1]. It was offered solely to push his political POV, not to convey "facts". It insults my country. It is also the funniest and sharpest answer I have seen in weeks here. Go ahead, censor him or prove all my points.

Again, in my opinion this is a naive, misguided, unnecesary, and unworkable proposal. We have all had bad ideas, and I am sure you are a brilliant, humane, fairminded, valuable editor. Walk away from this one and let's deal with real trouble if it arises rather than make policy that invites trouble. alteripse 19:26, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

My NPOV sentence was, in my mind, shorthand for saying: "Don't get caught up defending a viewpoint; just state what you think, any supporting facts that you have, and move on." This is, more or less, what the NPOV guideline prescribes for articles. But if it's being interpreted in other ways, then I'll drop it. --zenohockey 22:55, 14 December 2005 (UTC)
Thank you. Let's all write some articles. alteripse 10:57, 15 December 2005 (UTC)

Tracking down anonymous question-posters

Since a lot of question-posters forget to mention what nation they're from or interested in, I took the liberty of tracking down an anonymous user by feeding the IP that Wiki had collected into Community Geotarget IP Project, then posted the results to help other answerers. It just occurred to me that I might have erred in balancing the desire to be helpful with the right to privacy. Are there any Wikipedia policies advocating or disapproving of what I just did? --Mareino 19:40, 16 December 2005 (UTC)

When someone edits on Wikipedia, their IP is recorded and this becomes public... --HappyCamper 02:11, 17 December 2005 (UTC)

Can we ban askers?

Maoririder has been abusing this service, asking pointless and even answerless questions regularly. Questions like what is Robin William's character dressed as in "Death to Smoochy"... it's answered at the start of the article on Wikipedia. Then he asks what Belgian cookie store is in the shown picture. Then he asks who'd win, Shaq vs. Kobe? Who would win in a game of the Colts versus the Chargers. Then he asks "democrats only" why the Onion wrote a parody article. Then he asks who Björk is; when a user suggests he searches for a fan club to join and ask, Maori asks, "why can't you?" He sees a picture labelled "GSCube", and doesn't want to Google the words after a user suggests he does.

One thing after another, plus this user's talk page says he's even left racist comments in some spots. Can we just delete any question he asks on sight? -- user:zanimum

If I recall correctly, that user has, or claims to have Asperger's syndrome (please read that article before replying), so we try to give him as much lattitude as possible as long as it doesn't amount to outright abuse. Have you tried simply asking him to stop? They are very annoying, but I don't think they violate policy, and that is the only thing that would support a block. Consider contacting the editors like User:Flcelloguy that are trying to mentor him before pursuing anything. - Taxman Talk 01:42, 20 December 2005 (UTC)
Hmmmm....Is there anyway to clarify his claim to have Asperger's Syndrome? Maybe we could help him out in some way i guess...
Jayant, 17 Years, India (Talk) 03:52, 25 December 2005 (UTC)
I don't see why there needs to be such a public discussion on the matter. For one thing, Wikipedia is not "therapy", and I don't think the posts are particularly disruptive. Simply ignoring it should suffice. --HappyCamper 05:16, 25 December 2005 (UTC)

Unsolved queries page for Wikipedia:Reference desk/Mathematics

I've had a question go unanswered on this page by the time it was archived, so I thought I would put it in an annex at Wikipedia:Reference desk/Mathematics/unsolved. I'll leave the honour of how/whether to link it from the ref desk to HappyCamper, since I'll no doubt mess up the house style. --- Charles Stewart 02:13, 30 December 2005 (UTC)

Okay, I'll take a look. There really isn't a house style...I just archive whenever I feel like it. All Wikipedians are welcome to archive as they see fit. As long as it's simple, fun, and easy to do, that's all it matters. I used to sort the questions and list them in answered/unanswered sections, but there are too many of them for me to do now. If I ever archive an unanswered question, always feel free to repost it again. I'll do that now, and maybe add another link to the archives. Stay tuned... --HappyCamper 02:21, 30 December 2005 (UTC)
Hmm...well, I decided to be a bit creative, and reposted it with lots of references to where it came from. I also made another link in the archives to the new unanswered page that you made. Let's see if Wikipedians can answer the question this time around! --HappyCamper 02:30, 30 December 2005 (UTC)
Thanks. I doubt the question will be answered now, it's pretty obscure. --- Charles Stewart 17:46, 30 December 2005 (UTC)


I propose that we do weekly archiving, taking into account the overwhelming success of these reference desks. Pages become huge in no time. deeptrivia (talk) 02:44, 1 January 2006 (UTC)

Anyone can archive the reference desk, and it has always been that way. :-) Anyone can join in, and anyone can archive as they see fit. Just so long as it's simple, fun, and makes reasonable sense.
Proposals are fine and dandy - but only if there are volunteers to follow through with them. I have been the primary archiver of the reference desk for well over 6 months now, and as far as I can tell, nobody has consistently stepped up to help out with archiving. The few times other Wikipedians helped out, I am eternally thankful to them.
As this is a volunteering project, I archive at my leisure - and only when I am relaxed, in my armchair with a cup of freshly brewed coffee by my side. Ah...I can just hear it, the light classical music on the radio...the sweet pattering of the summer rain outside...
If you check the history of the archives, you will see that a weekly archive would be insufficient. Here's my wishlist for 2006: (either one will do, although I think the first one is much better than the second)
  1. More Wikipedians spontaneously helping out with archiving at their leisure;
  2. A daily archival by a bot, which also addes date labels at midnight.
freshly brewed coffee
Anyway, my coffee's ready. See you around! :-) --HappyCamper 20:31, 1 January 2006 (UTC)
Ah goodie! One of them was archived this time around. One thing I always remind myself is putting an edit summary to the effect of "massive archival of the wonderful science reference desk on Wikipedia" so that the RC patrollers don't confuse pageblanking with good faith archiving. WP:CDVF users do that sometime unless they see this. --HappyCamper 20:43, 1 January 2006 (UTC)

Request for reason and help

I request help from anyone concerned with humanities to assist here where a problem is most apparent[[2]], and to consider the a.r.t./article resolution template I suggested here at The template is not a template in the wiki form but more in the general working sense. Thanks EffK 01:27, 3 January 2006 (UTC)

WP:RD/M Formatting

The formatting has gone totally haywire from about January 7 onwards, with extra spaces in front of section headers and indentations, causing a whole lot of stuff to end up being in one section. Can someone fix this without losing the contributions people have made? User:AlMac|(talk) 01:50, 9 January 2006 (UTC)

Looks fine to me. I'm guessing it's been fixed. -- Jmabel | Talk 09:08, 9 January 2006 (UTC)
Apparently via reverting ... I had posted here, then thought Help Desk would be better ... discussion there took it to Administrative Incidents, and then an Administrator took care of it. User:AlMac|(talk) 11:42, 9 January 2006 (UTC)