Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Archive 92

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Removal of Cannabis question

This editor asks whether the plants he saw high in the mountains were planted there as jokes upon him. One wonders whether the question he has planted here is a joke on us. In any case, we cannot help him, although someone has seen fit to respond to him nonetheless. I have hatted the question. μηδείς (talk) 04:09, 14 July 2012 (UTC)

I can imagine that this question was a joke, but I don't think that removing it before the asker had a chance to respond to StuRat it is really in line with assuming good faith. There are a few questions in the post that are of a clear scientific nature that we certainly could answer i.e. "Can Cannabis grow in the Colorado high country?", "What "unrelated species" are there that I may be confusing this with?", "what illustration?!". I agree that we can't answer whether or not it is a joke, but it's easy enough to just point that out to him and answer his other questions. (talk) 04:27, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
Shenanigans. The illustration is directly to the right of the word illustration in the text and mentions the diagnostic venation. Do you propose to tell him to look right? How,exactly, are we to know what species might confuse him, since he can't identify a picture in the same paragraph? How, exactly, are we to tell whether some unidentified being might have planted some unrepresented plants in a mountain vally to play a joe on the OP? That's paranoid thinking, and the OP needs legal advice if he wants to fool around with an illegal substance and he needs medical advice to deal with his solipsistic though processes. Is this what the ref desk is for? This entire thread is for naught if the first thing we do when someone leaves a flaming bag of dogshit on our stoop is to question whether it might really be a sign from the gods. μηδείς (talk) 04:36, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
More premature hatting on your part. I un-hatted it. He may not be able to see the picture for some technical reason, like if he's trying to read the article on a mobile device which can't display it properly. I assumed good faith and answered the Q. StuRat (talk) 04:39, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
StuRat, I have yet to see a bit of trolling to which you won't provide a reference and link free response. μηδείς (talk) 04:44, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
Then you haven't looked very hard. I often skip Q's that have no answer I can provide. Just count the portion of the Q's out there to which I do not reply. StuRat (talk) 04:55, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
I also fixed the heading level for this section, which, for some reason, was a 5th level heading. StuRat (talk) 04:41, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
Lay of the formatting, my response was meant to follow under the one above it, someone refactored it as a new section, I object to that so I left it a separate subsection. μηδείς (talk) 04:44, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
That makes no sense, discussion of a removal or hatting of a Ref Desk Q always gets a new section here. Would you like to make it purple and flashing too, for some strange reason ? StuRat (talk) 04:52, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
Yeah, I moved it into its own section because it has nothing to do with an ongoing community discussion about possible changes to the reference desk. If it really can't be moved into it's own section then I suggest it just be hatted since it's totally off-topic to where it's posted now. (talk) 05:39, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
Agreed, I made it it's own section again. StuRat (talk) 05:44, 14 July 2012 (UTC)

I think it's pretty clear now, based on his follow up that User:Reflectionsinglass was not trolling when he asked that question. Oh well, hindsight is 20:20 I guess. (talk) 22:39, 14 July 2012 (UTC)

Possible request for medical advice

There's another question that may be a request for medical advice. I don't think there's anything wrong with telling him to stick some hair in the freezer or whatever, and he didn't even say that he want his genes sequenced for medical purposes. But the word "body part" makes me think he wants us to tell him how to cryogenically freeze his severed arm or something. (talk) 08:21, 15 July 2012 (UTC)

Don't see any medical advice question there. The only reason to save a DNA sample for the future is to sequence it after you are dead, at which point our medical advice would have to be really good to bring him back. :-) StuRat (talk) 08:52, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
I was thinking more like if he wanted someone to tell him which body part he should remove and preserve, and then how to go about doing it. (talk) 09:37, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
Fortunately, DNA samples are a lot easier to obtain than that. StuRat (talk) 09:39, 15 July 2012 (UTC)


{{RD-best}} (Reference Desk - best) has been nominated for deletion -- (talk) 22:44, 15 July 2012 (UTC)

What is that even used for? W203.27.72.5 (talk) 01:26, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
Apparently if you want to put a star next to someone's post to mark int as "the best". μηδείς (talk) 01:38, 16 July 2012 (UTC) * —— Shakescene (talk) 17:23, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
Oh yay! I love getting a golden star from the teacher! (note the italics to make it sound like Medeis's neice). W203.27.72.5 (talk) 02:25, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

Original research and conspiracy theory

To what extent is original research and a hint of conspiracy theory acceptable as an answer to a question on the Reference desks? Or am I being unrealistic? (I have no objection to people holding strong views and showing a healthy distrust of others, but I don’t believe Wikipedia in general, or the Reference Desks in particular, is the place to air those views.)

On 11 July an IP asked the following question: “Does the air in an airliner cabin recirculate, or is there some mechanism to exchange it with outside air without losing the cabin pressure?” See the diff.

The first reply included the following statements:

"The banning of smoking also meant that the amount new air added to the cabin could be reduced - thus saving the costs of pressurizing greater amounts of air to keep the interior atmosphere agreeable. To save more costs, they also reduced (in the last decade), the cabin pressure – but to the detriment of passengers suffering from emphysema and other medical conditions that low air pressure can aggravate. To counter the possible resulting in-flight emergencies from this new practice, some air-lines are now carrying portable automatic heart defibrillators on board -as if to say – we endeavour to take great care of our customers as always. I don't know what is better – a twenty cents cheaper ticket or free electric shocks." See the diff.

I was surprised that an answer on the Science Reference Desk would include the implication that airlines were deliberately exposing passengers to health risks in order to “save costs” so I checked the information provided at Cabin pressurization. This article contains no information about passengers being deliberately exposed to health risks in order to “save costs”. That aspect of Wikipedia’s answer looks like someone’s POV.

I left a message on the Talk page of the User who supplied this answer, and raised the matter of original research and conspiracy theories. See my diff. This User moved my message to the Science Reference Desk (nothing wrong with that) and appended his response which included:

"However, when fuel costs shot up, many airline sort to save costs by manually reducing the cabin pressures and volume exchange."
"The figure of 8,000 feet is the acceptable maximum and OK for a fit person – some airlines however have been suspected of maintaining lesser cabin pressures."
"This is not OR on my part but recounting worries that have been brought to my attention by friends who have had reason to to battle with their management in the air transport industry. With more people flying more frequently, these problems are increasing. Added to that, is the inconvenient times when one's plane gets diverted, due to a medical emergency suffered by another passenger."
"Air travel is now incredibly safe due to the development of regulations encouraging good practice but blind trust in believing that accountants can run the airlines alone and go along with believing every reassurance the PR department coughs up , is not something your air aircrew on your next flight maybe happy to go along with – after all, they often have to deal with life and death decisions and in the worst cast scenario -more likely hit the ground before you do."

Read the complete response by viewing this diff. I have found none of this material on Wikipedia. The User has supplied links to some sources but none of them support the strong views or conspiracy theory that I am objecting to.

Is this information acceptable as an answer on the Reference desks, or does it cross the line into unacceptable pushing of a POV? Dolphin (t) 06:21, 14 July 2012 (UTC)

I posted the original question and as for all of the above; I have no opinion as I didn't ask anything about the levels of pressure in airline cabins of if they've changed over the years. I got my answer from other editors who actually addressed the things I did ask. (talk) 06:30, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
Years ago, I heard the story that the reason your ears get so painful on descent is because the airlines don't bother fine-tuning the pressure enough. And I recall from the days that smoking was allowed in one portion of the plane, that the scent of smoke would soon pervade the air. Allegedly, the real reason smoking was banned was so they could recirculate the air more economically. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 06:44, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
Have you noted that smoking is prohibited almost everywhere - airplane or not? OsmanRF34 (talk) 17:02, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
I'm talking 20 years ago. And, yes, there has been great progress since then in restricting public smoking. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:42, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
I see no issue with those responses. Airlines definitely have sometimes risked customer safety by cutting costs, as several airlines have been fined and warned by the FAA for not doing required maintenance, especially budget carriers. See this story from just yesterday: [1]. StuRat (talk) 07:42, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
StuRat appears to be saying airlines have been fined by the FAA for not doing required maintenance so Wikipedia can legitimately accuse airlines of doing just about anything, regardless of whether it is maintenance or not. No evidence necessary.
Where is the objective evidence to support the statement given on Wikipedia's Science Reference desk that "they (airlines?) reduced cabin pressurization in order to save costs"? That some airlines have begun carrying portable automatic heart defibrillators in order to "counter in-flight emergencies resulting from their decision to reduce cabin pressurization"? I suspect such objective evidence cannot be produced because it doesn't exist. How far can the Reference Desks go before they violate Wikipedia's stated objective that anything likely to be challenged will be verifiable? Dolphin (t) 08:12, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
Things work differently on a talk page, like the Ref Desk, than they do in an article. In an article, such statements should be removed if unsupported by refs, as they are what "Wikipedia says is true". But here it's obvious it's just one poster's opinion, so, if you disagree, simply add a comment after the post (and indented from it) stating that you disagree and would like to see sources. There's no need to complain about such posts here. StuRat (talk) 08:36, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
From a technical perspective, the RD is not a talk page, though whether or not it is one for the purposes of policy is another matter. The guidelines do say not to edit anyone else's comments with a few small exceptions, and being unsourced and OR aren't on the list. As for what was actually written, as the asker I didn't take it seriously because it lacked extraordinary evidence to back up its extraordinary claims, and as I said, it wasn't what I asked anyway so I was tempted to just hat it. I especially liked the part where Aspro claimed it wasn't OR because he heard it from his friend. Classic. And Baseball bugs must have misread your complaint as an invitiation to post his own OR/conspiracy theories about airlines. (talk) 08:45, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
This answer was unacceptable, in that it was pure OR. Sources must be providable for answers. This should have been removed, and should not be repeated. Hipocrite (talk) 09:58, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
That's incorrect. The standard of requiring sources for every post only applies to articles, and, even then, it's not always strictly enforced. It certainly doesn't apply to the Ref Desk. On the Ref Desk, sources are preferred, not required: Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Guidelines#Reference_requests_and_factual_disputes. StuRat (talk) 10:06, 14 July 2012 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Hey Stu, I had a look at Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines and found nothing to support your claims. On the contrary, I found many statements that are incompatible with your claims. Here is a selection:

  • We expect responses that not only answer the question, but are also factually correct, and to refrain from responding with answers that are based on guesswork.
  • Ideally, answers should refer (link) to relevant Wikipedia articles, or otherwise cite reliable sources.
  • Our standards on verifiability, neutral point of view, or no original research should be kept in mind on the Reference Desk, ...
  • Personal opinions in answers should be limited to what is absolutely necessary, and avoided entirely when it gets in the way of factual answers.
  • For some types of questions, answers that contain references are more useful than those which don't. For those questions, make a serious effort to locate a Wikipedia article or an outside reliable source that supports your assertions, and include a link to it in your answer. You may know that your answer is correct, but a reader has no way to judge how reliable your information is unless you specify your sources.
  • While we should keep the Wikipedia verifiability policy in mind while answering, and referenced answers are strongly preferred, ...

If you can find a word or two at Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines that you believe are compatible with your claims, please let us know. Dolphin (t) 10:32, 14 July 2012 (UTC)

Hypocrite didn't say that sources are required. He said they must be "providable". I don't think it says that anywhere in the guidelines though. The guidelines do, however say not to edit other people's answers unless it's for; formatting purposes; to remove medical advice, legal advice, professional advice or any request to provide such advice. It explicitly says not to remove answers just because they are wrong. It also defers to the talk page guidelines in matters relating to editing other peoples comments, which strictly limits the cases where other people's comments can be edited. There's nothing that says you should remove other people's OR or personal opinions, regardless of what Hypocrite says editors should have done. (talk) 10:42, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
Agreed. Dolphin, you seem to intentionally ignore everything that supports what I said. For example, I said "if you disagree, simply add a comment after the post (and indented from it) stating that you disagree and would like to see sources". The link I provided took you right to "Do not delete an incorrect answer, solely because it is wrong, even if you can prove that it is. Instead provide the evidence and let the readers decide." This directly supports what I said. Am I to believe you just missed that bit ? StuRat (talk) 11:15, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
I confess I didn't follow your link with any diligence. I have now done so. I hasten to point out that I didn't delete anybody's answer - I left a message on the User's Talk page. I'm not asking that any answers be deleted. What would be really, really good would be if the User in question made a response something like "You're right, original research isn't valued on Wikipedia and I will try to supply better answers in future." That way all this drama could come to a sudden end. Dolphin (t) 12:21, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
That's not going to happen. But if it's any consolation, you now know that the person that cared enough to ask the question in the first place was not mislead by that red herring, and that your answer was very helpful. Thanks for that, by the way. (talk) 12:50, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
Long-standing consensus among regular RD contributors is that best way of handling an answer that is merely wrong or speculative (and not blatantly offsensive, personal attack, or medical/legal advice) is to post a correct answer with sources. In most cases the questioner appreciates the sourced answers and can filter out the noise, which is exactly what happened in this case. Removing answers simply because other editots think they are wrong leads to bad feeling, arguments and edit wars. Although some editors are attracted to such Wikidrama, we like to minimise it on the RDs. For editors who crave a Wikdrama fix, there is a endless supply at ANI, RFAs, RFCs etc. so no need to look for it here. Gandalf61 (talk)
Not sure what this is about. No answer has been removed. Dolphin (t) 12:21, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
Hypocrite said "This answer was unacceptable...(and)...should have been removed...". StuRat said he was wrong and you cited a bunch of stuff from the guidelines and said that StuRat was wrong. (talk) 12:47, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
(edit conflict)Sorry if my response was not clear enough. You started this thread with the rhetorical question "Is this information acceptable as an answer on the Reference desks, or does it cross the line into unacceptable pushing of a POV?". By "unacceptable" I took this to mean that you thought the post should not have been allowed to remain on the RD (this is usually the case when an editor complains here about an RD post). Hipocrite was more explicit, saying "This answer was unacceptable ... This should have been removed". I am pointing out that we do not handle speculative, POV or OR answers on the RDs by removal, but by responding with correct, sourced answers. Gandalf61 (talk) 13:09, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
Agreed. StuRat (talk) 22:21, 14 July 2012 (UTC)

This thread is about some bad answer that Aspro gave that you didn't like, and I didn't listen to. You made your opinion known to him, and you gave me the answer that I wanted. Now you come here to point out that his answer was unacceptable. I already know (StuRat disagrees, but as you pointed out, airlines doing one bad thing doesn't mean they're guilty of everything else people say on the internet). And Baseball bugs gave some neither-here-nor-there response about stories he has heard regarding airlines. But what it all comes down to is this: What do you want? He gave a bad answer. Shall we spank him? He refuses to admit it was bad. So what? What are you trying to achieve? You asked if it was acceptable. No it wasn't. Yours was. Case closed. (talk) 12:43, 14 July 2012 (UTC)

It was acceptable, if you define "unacceptable" as meaning "requires removal". "Incorrect" is not the same as "unacceptable". ("Since "acceptable" and "unacceptable" seem to be vague terms, I suggest we not use them here.) And airlines cutting safety to save money in one area certainly does imply that that might do that in other areas, too (although it's not clear if they lowered cabin air pressure, but that certainly isn't an outrageous claim, given their history). USA Today says: "One study performed by doctors in the 1980s found pressurization differences across the fleet. Each plane must meet the same strict standard to go into service. But once it is in use, everyday wear and tear can change the way the air flows in the cabin. Even small dents in the floor by the door, where heavy carts are dragged aboard, can make it more difficult to maintain cabin pressure." [2]. So then, an older fleet, especially one with minimal maintenance performed on it, may well have lower air pressures than in previous years. Also, the fact that they had to go back to the 1980's to find a study implies that nobody is paying much attention, and "when the cat's (FAA's) away, the mice (airlines) will play". StuRat (talk) 22:16, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
That being said, the word unacceptable should not be confused with inacceptable, which refers to something so acceptable its acceptability cannot be measured. μηδείς (talk) 22:30, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
That comment is invalid -- meaning, well, guess. Looie496 (talk) 22:48, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
As disconsequential as this discussion. See gossip μηδείς (talk) 23:08, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
The answer wasn't acceptable because I, as the asker didn't accept it. I rejected it, based on its merits, and accepted a different answer. There's no need to read anymore into the term than that. Medeis, the wikitionary article disagrees with you. If you have a source, perhaps you would like to fix it? (talk) 23:12, 14 July 2012 (UTC)
I guess I have been misunderestimating Australians. I though they got irony. μηδείς (talk) 01:20, 15 July 2012 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────In raising this matter here I had no intention that the User in question should be disciplined, or that his answer should be removed. I haven't even mentioned that User's name on this thread because it is unimportant. The important issue is what do the regulars on this Talk page think of original research and conspiracy theories being presented as answers to good-faith questions. We have some guidance published at Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines which is unambiguous about the sort of answers that should be supplied. It says things like:

Our standards on verifiability, neutral point of view, or no original research should be kept in mind on the Reference Desk
While we should keep the Wikipedia verifiability policy in mind while answering, and referenced answers are strongly preferred, ....

I was interested to see the extent to which respondents were willing to uphold these Guidelines when presented with a clear case of original research and conspiracy theory. User:Hipocrite's response showed that he could see the answer in question could never be considered compatible with Wikipedia's principles and guidelines, so he immediately said so. Well done.

Other respondents showed they were uncertain about the guidance at Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines and whether it was actually applicable or relevant to Users answering questions on the Reference desks. Those Guidelines say things that are incompatible with some of the views expressed on this thread. Those who disagree with some of the things said in the Guidelines should go to Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Guidelines and argue the case for some changes to be made. If Users don't believe the guidance material is pertinent or relevant they shouldn't simply work against it - they should work to change it. Dolphin (t) 05:30, 15 July 2012 (UTC)

I'm not following you at all. You are congratulating Hypocrite, who said the response should be removed, even though I've shown you repeatedly that the guidelines say explicitly that such a removal is inappropriate. You seem to be bending the guidelines to mean what you think they should mean, and ignoring the parts you don't like (they usually end up as the "..." that you leave out when repeating them here). StuRat (talk) 06:21, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
I congratulated Hipocrite because he went straight to the core of the matter when he wrote This answer was unacceptable, in that it was pure OR. (He also said "it should have been removed" but it wasn't clear to me whether he meant the OR should have been removed, or the whole answer. Either way, it was of no interest to me. It is well-established that on the Reference desks we don't remove answers, or even parts of answers.) At no stage have I suggested any part of any answer should be removed. There has been no need to inform me that we don't remove answers because I have never suggested such a thing. I have been trying to foster a discussion about what Users think of original research and conspiracy theories being presented as answers on the Reference desks. It now seems that most of the Users who contributed to this thread don't see any particular problem with original research and conspiracy theories being presented as answers. Consequently I am suggesting that some of those Users might now do the honorable thing and turn their attention to Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines and argue for some major changes to be made. Dolphin (t) 06:43, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
Dolphin51 - I think you are creating a false dilemma. Hipocrite's views on the one hand and "don't see any particular problem with original research and conspiracy theories being presented as answers" on the other are at opposite poles, whereas you seem to be presenting them as the only possible alternatives. I stand at neither pole. We should allow OR answers to stand, but we should counter or validate them with responses that cite a Wikipedia article or an external source. This is entirely compatible with Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines. Gandalf61 (talk) 09:28, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
I think we should discourage Users from giving answers based on original research. We should also discourage Users from giving answers involving conspiracy theories. That is why I wrote to the User in question, and left a polite, explanatory message on his Talk page. I have never advocated that answers should be removed from the Reference Desks. Dolphin (t) 11:09, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

Removal of HIV test question

This question was unhatted today due to an opinion that it's not a request for medical advice. Please see Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Guidelines/Medical_advice#Distinguishing_between_what_is_and_what_is_not_acceptable. I think it's pretty clear that this question is analagous to the first example, "I have a persistent cough. Can that be caused by heartburn?" as the asker first refered to his own state and then asked a generic sounding question. I've rehatted it. Let's reach a consensus before we go changing it again. (talk) 05:55, 15 July 2012 (UTC)

I agree that it's a request for medical advice. However, in general, if somebody unhats a Q, this means your opinion that it should be hatted is not universally shared, so I feel you should first develop the consensus before rehatting it, otherwise we may end up with edit wars. StuRat (talk) 06:15, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
Well, I'll take your advice and unhat it, but I thought that this situation would be a bit like the WP:BLP one, where it's better to have any potentially damaging stuff pulled down until there's a consensus to include it. You know, to err on the safe side. (talk) 06:26, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
You do have 2 against 1 now, so that's at least the start of a consensus to hat, so you could probably hat it now. StuRat (talk) 06:29, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
I rehatted it, so now you can't be accused of edit warring. StuRat (talk) 06:37, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
To be fair, the IP also said that it wasn't medical advice. (talk) 06:42, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
True, but I just saw that AndyTheGrump also says that it is medical advice, so we're at 3:2. StuRat (talk) 06:52, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
Stop the vote counting guys. You know that's inappropriate. The question that was asked and (at least partly) answered was about the time period for getting reliable results from an HIV blood test. It's exactly the sort of content I would expect to find in a Wikipedia article on that topic, and is, so on it's own it's not personal medical advice. Yes, the OP said he was seeking the information for personal reasons, but how can we have an article about something, but not be allowed to mention it when asked on a Ref Desk? Should we delete the article? HiLo48 (talk) 07:05, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
To get a little bit away from the case at hand; pretty much all medical advice questions can be answered from what's written in articles. The guidelines actually give two examples of requests for exactly the same information, and says one should be removed whereas the other can be answered. Maybe the way these questions are worded has some legal significance to the project. I don't know. But my interpretation of the guidelines as written is that this is a request for medical advice and should be removed. (talk) 07:27, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for the pointer to the guideline. Unfortunately, it's a pretty crappy one. I agree with the conclusion you draw from the examples, but the guideline also says, as its second sentence, "If a complete answer to the question may be given without interpretation of the condition of any actual person, it is acceptable to answer the question." The question in question in this case COULD be answered "without interpretation of the condition of any actual person". I'm not pushing hard for any position here, but that guideline just ain't helpful. HiLo48 (talk) 07:35, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
Well, I can't really disagree with that. Maybe we should just unhat the question as Medeis did before and just act to remove any attempts to interpret the OP's conditions should anyone make one. (talk) 07:42, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
In my opinion, anything that is easily understood as asking for medical or personal advice should be removed or refactored aggressively. An alternative to hatting in this case would have been to redact the personal circumstances and to leave only the knowledge question ("how soon can HIV be detected by tests"?), then answer that. —Kusma (t·c) 08:01, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
On several occasions I've responded to medical questions by simply saying that we cannot give medical advice and directed the questioner to an obviously relevant article. I've then felt a bit insulted when the whole thread has been removed. I'm sure others have had similar experiences. We can help people without giving advice. HiLo48 (talk) 08:18, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
Just to clarify, that's not what happened to when I first hatted this question. Only Andy had responded at that time. added his response to the closed thread. I saw him do it in the diffs at the time, but I didn't bother following it up since he didn't give medical advice and it wasn't otherwise inappropriate. (talk) 09:46, 15 July 2012 (UTC)
Yes, there are many valid reasons for replying to a closed thread, like explaining why it was closed, referring them to the discussion here, asking follow-up Q's to determine if the reason for closing it was valid, etc. StuRat (talk) 19:38, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

Black holes as dark matter

Is [3] correct given that Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Science#Black_Holes_and_Dark_Energy.2FMatter is not yet archived? (talk) 23:15, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

Resolved (talk) 05:03, 17 July 2012 (UTC)

recent trolling

It appears that since drivebywire has been blocked we are now getting trolling by recent accounts User:Ochson and perhaps OsmanRF34. I have hatted this conversation since it starts with a clear request for opinion: μηδείς (talk) 23:28, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

I am not a troll. My questions are being answered with links. That's a proof that they are relevant to the RD. Anyone can review my contributions and decide for himself: [4]OsmanRF34 (talk) 23:33, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

BTW. Medeis removed a comment of mine from the RD recently (proof: [5]), which is against the rules (see WP:Talk) just because I re-factored a comment of him (which is acceptable, according to the same rules). OsmanRF34 (talk) 23:37, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

forged thread deleted

I have deleted the thread about the math skills of biologists [6] and filed an ANI [7] report. It was created by User:Ochson forging my name and erasing his own autosignature. μηδείς (talk) 23:48, 18 July 2012 (UTC)

Yeah, that was the last straw. I've indeffed him, which was probably overdue at this point. He will not be missed. --Jayron32 00:02, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
Here's a diff of the actual forgery: [8]. StuRat (talk) 00:08, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
I thought something was off... I may have been a little overzealous assuming good faith :) SemanticMantis (talk) 01:27, 19 July 2012 (UTC)

Shouldn't we sign when we hat something ?

Not doing so makes it look like it was decided by a consensus of the Wikipedia community, when, in fact, the decision to hat is typically only one person's opinion. Experienced Wikipedians can track down who did it with the History, but, of course, many OP's can not. StuRat (talk) 00:11, 19 July 2012 (UTC)

Agreed. SemanticMantis (talk) 01:34, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
What do you mean? Put a signature inside the hat? μηδείς (talk) 02:46, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
If we really want to do it properly, shouldn't we actually remove the thread and replace it with the relevant template? (talk) 02:48, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
Removing threads is an extreme act, and only should be done in very limited cases. Hatting is generally reserved for most cases which don't fall under the stuff we remove (obvious trolling or vandalism, medical/legal advice, contributions from banned editors). Hatting is a good way to put the breaks on a thread, or part of a thread, which is veering way off course. We shouldn't remove text except in extreme cases, and hatting works fine for non-extreme cases. As an aside, we should sign the hat, or at least leave a comment indicating that we are hatting. Other than saying it is best practice to do so, however, I don't know what more can be done here. This isn't going to establish an enforcable policy with consequences for violations. Yeah we should all do it. And if someone doesn't, either because they forget, don't know they should, or just want to be obstinant, what are we gonna do? Send them to bed without dinner? So yeah, we should all do it. So what? --Jayron32 03:19, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
Is the practice of hatting reflected in policy, and if not, should it be? (talk) 03:43, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
Discussion closing policy is a mess, with large areas missing entirely once you get outside of the XfD area. Its largely just something experienced editors pick up from watching others. Typically when a discussion is closed, there is a signature, and I think as a best practice its what you should do. But if someone hats something that clearly needed hatting, and doesn't sign the hat, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Oh, and when someone closes a discussion, making a consensus determination, they usually sign it too, and in fact, closes without signatures are almost always the non consensus determination type of close. (though rare) Monty845 03:54, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
If this is the consensus on the reference desk, could we consider updating our guidelines to reflect that? The current guidelines only mention removal and replacement with the template, but even in cases where a request for medical or legal advice has been made, it rarely gets any treatment other than a hatting. I think that's appropriate, removal is a harsh thing to do, but I would like to have guidelines that actually mean something. (talk) 04:01, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
No, the only special template we have is the medical/legal removal template, and that usage is already covered by ref desk guidelines as they are published today. The act of hatting inappropriate discussions is a Wikipedia-wide practice that is so prevalent I don't know that it requires special attention here. The only really unique thing done here is the removal of medical/legal questions and replacing said removals with a template; though that's only unique to the ref desks because it is the only place at Wikipedia where such questions typically get asked. Otherwise, all of the practices here at the ref desk reflect how all discussion fora work at Wikipedia. --Jayron32 04:06, 19 July 2012 (UTC)

speaking of which

I have hatted the apparent return of User:Ochson as User:Whatisrealis who has reverted to deleting his own autosignature and vandalizing dates and titles. μηδείς (talk) 04:14, 19 July 2012 (UTC)

His teacher would no doubt be very disappointed in how he's turned out. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 07:49, 19 July 2012 (UTC)

Strength training question - Medical advice?

The original question on the science desk was, "What are the advantages and disadvantages of classic weights/resistance training with cardio vs circuit training?" I said we couldn't answer it because doing so would be giving medical advice, which was questioned and my explanation was moved here. (talk) 07:00, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

The downside of trying to attempt a one-size-fits-all answer here could easily be fatal for more than a few percent of the population acting on it. The questioner said nothing about their body mass index, mobility, injuries, or cardiovascular history. (talk) 22:30, 15 July 2012 (UTC)

"The questioner said nothing about their body mass index, mobility, injuries, or cardiovascular history." Which is exactly why it's not a request for medical advice. Clearly they're asking about generalities and not a specific case. It's not appropriate to continue the discussion about whether or not this is a request for medical advice here. If you must debate the point further, open a thread on the talk page. W203.27.72.5 (talk) 01:12, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
Well how would you answer it? The correct answer depends on those parameters and varies widely with them. (talk) 02:12, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

Above conversation moved from Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Science#Strength_training. W203.27.72.5 (talk) 02:29, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

Please read Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Guidelines/Medical_advice#Distinguishing_between_what_is_and_what_is_not_acceptable. W203.27.72.5 (talk) 02:32, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
Okay, I read it: "If a complete answer to the question may be given without interpretation of the condition of any actual person, it is acceptable to answer the question. If an interpretation of an actual person's condition is necessary for a complete answer, the question is asking for some form of diagnosis or treatment advice that is not allowed." (emphasis added) The examples shown don't cover that excerpt for this case. Again, how would you answer the question? (talk) 07:03, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
I don't know the answer, but if I did I would tell them what the advantages and disadvantages of classic weights/resistance training with cardio vs circuit training are, in a general way, without interpreting the condition of anyone (since they haven't even given a condition to interpret). (talk) 07:07, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
The disadvantages include that either could be too strenuous to be safe for the increasingly large proportion of the population which might be interested in their advantages. I don't think there is any way to answer it without what I would personally consider an unacceptable risk of incorrectly interpreting the questioner's medical condition. If that makes me more conservative than the guideline, then so be it. (talk) 08:11, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
Clearly not a request for medical advice. StuRat (talk) 08:02, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
I agree. Just because a question happens to be one that a medical practitioner might have a particular view about, does not make it a request for medical advice. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 10:16, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
Standard advice on weight training is to consult a doctor first. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 10:51, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
Yes, and that's if they indicate that that is in fact their intention. There was no such indication in the question, which was: "What are the advantages and disadvantages of classic weights/resistance training with cardio vs circuit training?". That looks like a general, academic enquiry to me. Maybe they asked because they really are considering such training, but it's not our job to second guess every questioner who ever comes to the ref desk, just so that we can issue an appropriate warning. We are not some Consumer Advice Bureau, and we are not manufacturers or marketers of medicines or herbal supplements that require all the usual warnings and disclaimers. If someone asked this question at a RL ref desk, they would just answer the damn question, and would not be taking it upon themselves to make assumptions about what may lie behind it, and certainly would not be cautioning the questioner to check with their doctor if they were planning to start an exercise regime. Even if the questioner told them that that's what they're thinking of doing, it's still not the RL ref desk's job to assume the role of parent. It's not their job to do that, and it's not ours. We are not the "nannies" to whom you often refer in less than glowing terms. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 12:25, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
I wouldn't characterize the question as a request for medical advice. But ethics would suggest that we inform the OP. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:27, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
What are the advantages and disadvantages of five foot ceilings and narrow airline seats? If you're short and thin, they save building space and allow more seats per plane, right? But if you're not, then you get your head bumped and are extremely uncomfortable. The answer to the question asking to compare similar exercise alternatives varies too widely with body type, and messing it up seems more likely to cause problems than blindly recommending low ceilings and narrow chairs. I don't want to be a nanny, I just want to avoid having the Foundation forward me a subpoena from the attorney of an aggrieved widow. (talk) 19:06, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
It's a perfectly simple request for information. A good answer will direct the OP to a publication by X in which the comparative advantages of both types of exercise are discussed. Or, even better, to an article by Y which synthesises the findings of X and others. We may even have an article they can read. A lousy answer will give the OP the writer's own, unsupported opinion without any caveat that it is unauthoritative. In the case above, recommending low ceilings and narrow chairs would be a lousy answer per se, not because of the infinitessimal possibility of harm and a lawsuit, but because the question does not ask for a recommendation or an opinion, and our guidelines tell us not to give them. Unfortunately, the OP will probably get both kinds of answer. There is nothing wrong with the question - the potential problem lies with the potential answers. - Karenjc 20:41, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
I wouldn't call it "perfectly simple" but most of the rest of your answer with which I agree is why I linked to Exercise and did not prematurely archive or remove the question. (talk) 22:08, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
Friend, you cannot possibly be serious. You've (a) assumed that the OP is actually intending to use this information to decide on their own personal exercise regime - but we have no reason to make such an assumption; (b) assumed we would answer the question as if they'd asked about their own personal exercise regime - but they did not put the question in such a context, and it would be impertinent and contrary to our guidelines for us to answer it in that way. That's at all, before we even get to the issue of what if any warnings should be included in such an answer.
But let's hypothesise here for a moment or two. Let's assume someone answers it in that way, and it lasts long enough for the OP to read it, and it didn't include any sort of warning about checking with their doctor first. And the OP then goes off and starts a program, and has a heart attack and dies in the gym. I can certainly understand there'd be a grieving widow, who might be angry enough to want to sue anybody and everybody who could possible bear any responsibility for this unfortunate outcome. So who would she and her lawyers target? The gym, perhaps? Did they question the OP before accepting their money? Did they caution the OP to have a medical check up? Did they do their own check of the OP's physical condition and ask whether he has any existing medical conditions, and make their own assessment of the best regime for them, or did they just say "No questions asked. Your wish is our command, sir"? Did the OP actually have a medical check up, whether anyone suggested it or because they, as a responsible adult of marriageable age, would have known to do anyway? What did their doctor tell them?
All manner of things could have led up to the OP deciding to start that particular program at that particular time at that particular gym - from specific promotional material from the gym, to conversations he had at work or in the pub or on the phone or on skype or on facebook - many of which would have been with anonymous people - to general health advice we get in zillions of places. The chances of the widow's lawyers discovering he'd ever asked this question on the WP Ref Desk are close to zero. He could have asked it while at his local library or internet cafe, and there is no way his identity could ever be ascertained. Assuming they did discover it, the chances of the lawyers thinking they had even the ghost of chance in pursuing any sort of legal action against the foundation are even closer to zero. Assuming they initiated such action anyway, just on the wildest of off chances, or maybe because they're not very good lawyers, it would start with a letter to the foundation - most certainly not a subpoena. The foundation's lawyers would give such a letter a very quick rebuff with standard wording disclaiming responsibility in such cases, that they would have developed way back when Wikipedia first got off the ground and polished to perfection in the years since then, and that would be the end of that. There is actually no chance whatsoever that such correspondence would ever be forwarded to the editor who answered the question, who could well have been an anon IP themself.
We cannot frame our policies on the basis of fears that are the stuff of kafkaesque nightmares, which is what Friend 71 is asking us to do. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 21:52, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
A kafkaesque nightmare is what happens when people wake up as a bug. That is much less likely than wrongful death lawsuits by accident victims acting on improper exercise advice, but they are not likely enough to warrant censoring the question or the answers. (talk) 22:11, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
Seems to me that "censoring the question" is exactly what you've done above at "I don't think there is any way to answer it without what I would personally consider an unacceptable risk of incorrectly interpreting the questioner's medical condition." We have no reason to believe that the question has even the slightest connection to the questioner's medical condition, hence the question of the interpretation of that condition and all its attendant risks simply does not arise. Put it this way: If someone asked whether oranges or mandarines would be better for some dish they're planning to make, would we feel it necessary to point out, along with whatever culinary references we provide, that all foods are dangerous if eaten to excess, and they should therefore exercise caution when eating the orange/mandarine dish? Hardly; that would probably be seen as a gross impertinence. Well, the OP's medical condition and exercise program is as relevant to their question as that. Namely, not at all, as far as we know. OPs have responsibilities too. If they choose not to mention the particular reason for asking their question and how they might use the info we provide, that's their call. Their right to divulge only as much information as they choose is one side of the coin; the other side is that the less info/context they provide, the greater is the risk that the answers they receive will not be particularly helpful, and may even be harmful in extreme cases if acted upon in isolation from any other information. That is a risk that they bear. It is not a risk that we bear, and not even living in the most litigious culture the world has ever known changes that. It's not a question of not caring for people or not being concerned whether or not people protect themselves from danger. But we cannot be all things to all men. Better to not even start down that impossibly long road. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 23:39, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
If I wanted to censor the question, I would have deleted, obscured, archived, removed, or otherwise made it more difficult to read. Instead I gave a proper warning to seek professional advice, and linked to an article which includes the necessary information to make a responsible informed decision. Please do not make assumptions about the extent of others' legal liabilities. (talk) 00:00, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
Please do not make an assumption that this OP asked their question because they are intending to commence an exercise program. There is no evidence whatsoever of that. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 02:05, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
He's asking some technical medical questions. Who among us here is qualified to answer? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:18, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
It's the sort of question a sports trainer would be well qualified to make educated comment on. Are you saying that sports trainers should desist from practising their craft because they're now seen to be encroaching on the work of doctors? Just because some activity involves the body does not make it a "medical" issue. You go to a doctor before embarking on a new exercise routine, to make sure your heart etc are all in good condition and you're not inadvertently going to be putting yourself in danger. It ceases to be a medical issue the moment the doctor gives you the all clear. That attended to, the next issue is exactly what exercises/training will be best for you, and that is something the trainer and you work out together in the light of your physical fitness, current level of activity, what you're hoping to achieve, etc. ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 05:16, 18 July 2012 (UTC)
Certainly. Your comment above could easily have been rewritten and summarized as a proper answer to the question, i.e. (1) consult your doctor; (2) consult your trainer. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 11:15, 18 July 2012 (UTC)
No, that would not be a proper answer to the question, with all due respect. The question was: "What are the advantages and disadvantages of classic weights/resistance training with cardio vs circuit training?". What special knowledge would a doctor have about that? If they wanted to know how to beat Usain Bolt, would you suggest they talk to their doctor to get the answer? The question was NOT: "What steps should I take and who should I talk to before starting training". You said above that you "wouldn't characterize the question as a request for medical advice. But ethics would suggest that we inform the OP". Your ethics are commendable, but that response is still based on an interpretation of the OP's personal circumstances that makes some quite amazing, and completely unjustified, assumptions. This thread owes its very existence to a similar assumption on the part of, who believes any answer would necessarily involve providing medical advice. If I knew the first thing about physical training, I'd have answered it myself, and would have done so without getting into the OP's personal circumstances at all, or mentioning the word "doctor" at all. A general answer to a general question is the go here. I just don't see why we have to make it any harder than that. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 13:12, 18 July 2012 (UTC)
If the OP is only curious and not seeking medical advice for himself, there's no harm in erring on the side of caution - since we don't actually know what he's got in mind. Also, presuming what a doctor would or wouldn't know is a recurring theme I've seen here - and is ample evidence of why we shouldn't be giving medical advice. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:08, 18 July 2012 (UTC)
The point I keep making (and I promise this will be the last time) is that the matter raised by the OP has nothing to do with doctors in the first place, and it's not our place to make it be about doctors. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 01:27, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
Doesn't "cardio" refer to the heart? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:54, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
Yes, but lots of things have relevance to the heart without it being a medical matter/issue. Many forms of sexual activity are very energetic and undeniably have implications for your cardiac health. In the heights of passion, it would be easy to overexert oneself if the session carries on for too long for your or your partner's own good. But nobody ever suggests you check with your doctor before getting into it, so to speak. Adults are assumed to be aware of such risks and to monitor themselves. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 05:39, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
You are obviously not American. Here we have the explicit advise in all commercials regarding erectile disfunction medications that no one ever participate in sexual activity without first seeking the advice of his medical professional. μηδείς (talk) 05:53, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
I've had a look around and there's stuff about checking regularly with your doctor if you're taking certain kinds of ED medication, to make sure there are no signs of tissue damage. Can you show me a link to one of the commercials you're talking about? -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 06:23, 20 July 2012 (UTC) (By the way, did you ever seriously for one moment think I was an American? Jack of the Ozarks, perhaps? -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 11:08, 20 July 2012 (UTC))
Medeis is right - there are various disclaimers in those ED ads in the US. Whether any of the ads are on Youtube, I don't know. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 11:35, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
I'm trying to get my head around this. You go to a doctor to discuss erectile disfunction, presumably because it's interfering with your sex life; and you're prescribed medication. I imagine the doctor would issue the relevant warnings at that time. Because it would make no sense, if you're watching TV at midnight with your partner and you suddenly get an urge for sex, to have to first ring your doctor and ask if it's OK. So, I'm guessing people can legitimately get hold of ED medication without ever seeing a doctor, and they're the people the disclaimers are aimed at. Right? -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 00:28, 21 July 2012 (UTC)

This is not medical advice. It is specifically, sports/dance-related, training advice. For that, as I said, seek a specialist, or information published by a specialist in that area, be it an MD or otherwise. Further there are many specialties in the medical field. At no time should we assume that all MDs have the specialist's knowledge, a position unfair to both the physician and the patient. I am suggesting, that in general, if you want specialized information seek the specialist be it an MD or otherwise. (olive (talk) 15:23, 18 July 2012 (UTC))

I agree with Jack here. This is not a medical question, its a sports-related, training question, and its a simple request for information, not a request for a diagnosis. We cannot assume motive on Wikipedia at any time. Further, I have been and have trained elite athletes and we do not go to general practitioners or to most kinds of MDs for this kind of information, but only to a sports specialist, physician or otherwise. Generally most physicians unless they have a specialty in sports medicine or a related field are not necessarily up on this kind of information. So yes a good trainer or other sports specialist could have this kind of information. As well, there is a lot of conflicting information on this topic so its not something easy to answer and I'd suggest a general answer would probably be overly simplistic. I'd suggest the best place to go for an answer is to a sports specialist or alternately to read up on the research and professional opinions in the area, if so inclined.(olive (talk) 15:03, 18 July 2012 (UTC))

...and that's what we do: provide "references" on the "reference desk" to appropriate resources.
The broader question here is what constitutes medical advice. Information about medical conditions, medical controversies or anything body related is not advice. We can't diagnose anything, or offer treatment suggestions, but we can explain what the treatment is and does. If someone asked "Do my symptoms mean I have diabetes?" we say, we can't help you, go to the doctor. If they come back and say "My doctor says I have diabetes, what is it exactly?" we refer them to the diabetes article. That's not advice, that's info. That's what real libraries do, and in fact doctors refer patients to the library (or online) to look up more info about the conditions. My library had a whole thing about where we sent all the local clinics info about what we have so they could direct the patients to us for that very info. I'm not worried about liability at work when I give someone a book about cancer treatments or weight training. Mingmingla (talk) 16:04, 18 July 2012 (UTC)

Closed BSA discussion

I have closed part of the discussion on the BSA question as off-topic. The question was about the BSA using federal property, and not on the imagined equivalence of paedophilia and homosexuality. For the purpose of openness, I should say that I am currently employed by a WOSM member organisation, one which has recently released a press statement strongly distancing itself from the BSA's membership policy. This edit was in no way influenced or requested by my employer. - Cucumber Mike (talk) 15:21, 19 July 2012 (UTC)

I don't work for or against the BSA and I agree with the closure. μηδείς (talk)
Good closure. The discussion was veering off into polemics and posturing. Regardless of my personal beliefs one way or the other, this venue isn't the appropriate one to make polemical statements or engage in advocacy or anything like that. --Jayron32 16:41, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
The OP's question was intended to be provocative. The logic behind the BSA reaffirming its anti-gay stance need to be explored. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:14, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
I would respectfully disagree. The question asked about BSA using federal property, and we can and should answer that, preferably with a yes or no as appropriate, along with some references. Whilst the questioner may have wanted to be provocative, I'd like to assume that they didn't - and even if they did, we can be adults about it and stop ourselves from taking the bait. It's true that the logic behind the BSA reaffirming its anti-gay stance needs to be explored, but we don't need to do it here. There are plenty of other places out there in web-land where that can happen. - Cucumber Mike (talk) 08:11, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
The only reason to bring it up is to complain about possible civil rights violations. So the real question is, "Is there federal civil rights protection for gays?" If there isn't, then there's no civil rights reason why the government shouldn't "support" the Scouts. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:11, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
I know I took the bait and posted in this but am fine with it being hatted as it was off topic. The trouble is, refdesk regulars are people who are interested in everything, love to learn, and have lots to say. Itsmejudith (talk) 08:43, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
Oh, absolutely. I'm itching to hold forth on BSA and their membership policy! And just to be clear - my 'taking the bait' comment was not directed at anyone, least of all you Judith. - Cucumber Mike (talk) 10:02, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
No offence taken. Itsmejudith (talk) 12:56, 20 July 2012 (UTC)

if the best we can offer a reader is a dignosis of his psychology

we shouldn't be offering him any diagnoses at all; μηδείς (talk) 02:49, 21 July 2012 (UTC)

Good call. It's a shame so many people answered. (talk) 03:39, 21 July 2012 (UTC)

"Don't edit others' questions or answers"

I disagree that we should not edit answers. Specifically, if answers are given that are unverifiable, in that no source could be provided, and they are not simple calculations, those answers should be removed. Hipocrite (talk) 23:35, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

That is generally contrary to longstanding consensus. There are some special cases where whole answers can be removed. Removing only a part of an answer is hardly ever done. But being inaccurate is no reason in itself for removing an answer or any part thereof. People write what they write, and it stands or falls on its merits. They do not write what someone else says they wrote. There are ample solutions to addressing inaccuracies in answers outside of directly changing them. Remember, this ref desk is not like an article, where the text is continuously worked on and developed and polished over a period of years. It's much more like a talk page conversation. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 23:49, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
Agreed. Erasing somebody else's contribution because you disagree with it is like shouting down an opponent in a debate. If you have better sources, then show them, and win the argument that way. StuRat (talk) 23:55, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
The refdesk is also not a market of ideas, where good ideas and bad ideas compete to determine what is right - that's a debate forum. This is supposed to provide references on request. That longstanding local consensus of people who have not been driven away by the "refdesk regulars," who desire to have a chatroom is at odds with the general consensus that this is an encyclopedia is not relevant. Hipocrite (talk) 23:53, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
If so many people were driven away, as you claim, then the Ref Desk would have fewer and fewer questions. There's no sign of that. StuRat (talk) 23:57, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
That is the lump of labor fallacy. There might be more better questions if crappy answers were stopped. Hipocrite (talk) 00:00, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
(1) Removing answers is not the same as editing them; the latter should almost never be done. (2) Experience has shown that removing answers is not a good idea unless they seriously violate policy, because the disputes that arise cause more trouble than it is worth. Looie496 (talk) 00:08, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
  • Good faith answers by editors in good standing (i.e anyone not currently under a ban), which don't blatantly violate the policy against legal/medical advice, should not be removed merely because the answer is bad. Discussions which veer patently off-topic can be "hatted" as needed, or moved to this talk page (with a note telling people you did that). We've been doing that for a long time. But genuine attempts to answer an OPs question shouldn't, under any normal circumstances, be removed. If the answer is bad, give a good answer yourself. If you wish to change existing practice, you're going to have to get direct, explicit consensus to do that. So far, you're a singular voice in this matter. You're going to have to establish that a preponderance of the Wikipedia community agrees with you. I don't, as yet, see any evidence of that. You could start by getting someone to agree with you. --Jayron32 05:18, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
  • I agree with JackofOz, StuRat, Looie496 and Jayron32. Deletion of answers just because we think they are unverifiable is not the right approach. Unverifiable answers should be countered with sourced answers, but they should not be removed. We should be encouraging editor engagement, not stirring up Wikdrama for the sake of it. Hipocrite, your repeated attempts to promote your extreme and minority views about the RDs are becoming tendentious. Gandalf61 (talk) 08:23, 17 July 2012 (UTC)

trolling/sockpuppetry by Ochson

I suggested above that Ochson was trolling and probably a sockpuppet. This edit of hippocrite's remark seems to confirm that. Can an admin watching this take action? μηδείς (talk) 00:21, 17 July 2012 (UTC)

Sounds vaguely Norwegian. DriveByWire was recently indef'd as being another incarnation of an indef'd Norwegian called Cuddlyable3 (talk · contribs). ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 02:07, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
At User:DriveByWire it says they were suspected of being a sock of User:Light current, but the actual block log just cites disruptive editing. StuRat (talk) 09:43, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
There's further info under the SPI and at user talk Elen of the Roads. It was thought to be "LC" but indications are it was actually "C3". ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 10:35, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
To confuse things more, their home page was now updated to indicate that they were blocked as a suspected sock of LC: [9]. StuRat (talk) 01:57, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
LC is just the gift that keeps on giving, even when he doesn't try. A wise admin once told me that when a sock is blocked, it doesn't really matter who he's a sock of, as his behavior often stands on its own, so to speak. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:14, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
Does anyone know of a template that says "this account is a suspected sock puppet" without the "of User:foo" part? I couldn't find one. —Steve Summit (talk) 11:52, 23 July 2012 (UTC)
There are a couple under Template:Sockpuppeteer without username. ---Sluzzelin talk 12:27, 23 July 2012 (UTC)

remove possible blp violation

Someone hatted this discussion, but if it really is a blp violation it should be removed, so i have done so. μηδείς (talk) 16:33, 19 July 2012 (UTC)

Good call. That discussion was veering into some questionable territory. Speculation over the sexuality of public figures is clearly not a productive discussion to have, and has serious WP:BLP implications. --Jayron32 16:42, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
I think there's a really good ethnographics question in there somewhere that probably has at least a handful [edit: couple; e.g. PMID 19651415] of PubMed sources answering it, but tying it to a public figure isn't the way to avoid BLP issues. (talk) 22:52, 19 July 2012 (UTC)
OK, but personally I think Bashar al-Assad has a lot more to worry about than his speech impediment. StuRat (talk) 02:53, 21 July 2012 (UTC)
I might agree, but our hopes and BLP policy are two different things. μηδείς (talk) 02:26, 22 July 2012 (UTC)

What's the point of this thread: Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Language#Why_do_Europeans_speak_American_so_poorly.3F?????

Shouldn't joke threads be removed? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:08, 21 July 2012 (UTC)

The OP asked a question that cannot be definitively answered, so the inevitable debate ensues, and the deliberately inflammatory wording gives the OP his opening to berate other editors for not understanding his "irony". Classic troll behaviour. (talk) 02:09, 22 July 2012 (UTC)
At the very least seems to be a WP:Point violation. Personally I would have hatted it when I first saw this a few dasy ago but the question seemed to somewhat evolve in to partially useful discussion and hatting something with so many responses tends to be a good way to ensure a lot of IMO unnecessary discussion. Nil Einne (talk) 00:54, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

Deleted troll question

I deleted [10] a daft troll question and one associated response. --Viennese Waltz 12:31, 24 July 2012 (UTC)

Medical advice?

I had deleted this question[11] because it sure looks like someone trying to get a prognosis, which of course would not be allowed. However, I guess this is theoretically actually not a request for a prognosis, because the OP doesn't mention who the specific patient is? I think it's unlikely that the OP doesn't have a specific person in mind, but without any evidence of that, I guess the wording is such that it sidesteps the medical advice guideline? Red Act (talk) 00:21, 22 July 2012 (UTC)

P.S. I should have mentioned that I undid my delete of the question, because I wasn't sure if it was allowed or not. Red Act (talk)

You're certainly allowed to, but in this case I think you were mistaken; the question is about modes of therapy and not about a personal situation, so it's okay to answer (as others have). That being said, you were obviously acting in good faith, which is the important bit. Matt Deres (talk) 04:44, 22 July 2012 (UTC)
I meant I wasn't sure if the question was allowed, i.e., I wasn't sure if the question counted as requesting a prognosis and treatment advice, not that I wasn't sure if deleting the question (leaving the title and adding {{rd-deleted}}) was allowed. Red Act (talk) 12:58, 22 July 2012 (UTC)

I have hatted this explicit request for medical advice posted by a user with an oddly sophisticated account for a newbie: μηδείς (talk) 18:57, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

The OP's mistake in this case was to refer to one of his friends, thereby making it a request for a diagnosis. If he had left it in the realm of the hypothetical, i.e. by just saying "what are some possible reasons and cures for bad breath", the discussion would not have been closed down. Pity. --Viennese Waltz 19:58, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

Obama-Biden question on Humanities desk

What guideline was the Obama-Biden question on the Humanities desk breaking? The question clearly asked if it was a "known fact" that Obama would choose Biden as his running mate for the upcoming election. It's a yes or no question. No opinion was requested. No prediction was requested. The request was for a state of affairs right now and as such, there should be (and is) a concrete answer. Dismas|(talk) 01:42, 24 July 2012 (UTC)

I agree that the question is answerable without voicing an opinion or starting a debate. However, I don't think the Ref Desk Irregulars have that kind of discipline (and I include myself in the "undisciplined" group). That's not a reason for removing the question though, especially when it has been answered with an appropriate cite. Bielle (talk) 02:02, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
Agreed, a perfectly valid Q. StuRat (talk) 02:50, 24 July 2012 (UTC)

"The reference desk does not answer requests for opinions or predictions about future events. Do not start a debate; please seek an internet forum instead." μηδείς (talk) 03:22, 24 July 2012 (UTC)

For instance, have there been any confirmations of "Obama-Biden 2012" campaign buttons/T-shirts/posters being created by the Obama campaign yet. Medeis, this is a very clear, factual question, that does not require or ask for any prediction of the future. Someguy1221 (talk) 04:01, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
(ec) The header was imprecisely worded (as so many of our headers are). It's impossible for something that hasn't occurred yet to be a "fact" (it's not even a fact that the Olympics will start next week or that there'll be a presidential election in November), so the only way anyone would know for sure about this matter would be if there has already been some statement about it, thus making it about the past, not the future. The meat of the question was indeed about the past: "Have there been any confirmations of ...". -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 04:06, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
The question can be answered terribly factually. I don't know why this is an issue. Obama has not yet formally announced the running mate that I have seen, but there has been basically no talk of it being anyone other than Biden, and Obama's campaign store is selling Obama–Biden 2012 lawn signs and other such things. So that seems like a pretty good indication of the intentions, here. What's futuristic about that? What's an opinion about that? Where's the long and drawn-out debate we are trying to avoid? Heck, even if we said, it's possible that he could change the VP slot up until such-and-such date, or the convention could do it differently, or whatever, that's still well within the purview of the Ref Desk. I fear this falls under the common trap of "I don't know the answer, I assume nobody knows the answer". --Mr.98 (talk) 11:20, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
The hatting seems to have been a response to the future tense used in the confused header ("Is it Known for a Fact that Obama Will Pick Biden for VP Again?"), but as 2 people pointed out above, the real question was not seeking an opinion about the future but wanting to know whether a decision has already been made. Maybe if we were being bone-crunchingly pedantic, we'd have to say there's room for doubt, but we're not like that. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 11:41, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
If there was even the vaguest hint that the sitting President was considering having a different VP nominee (which hasn't happened since FDR's presidency), the media would be all over it. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:21, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

Hatting of Boat Pumps question

User:Looie496 hatted this question on the miscellaneous desk on the basis that "we shouldn't give people advice on how to do stupid and dangerous things". I disagree that that is a valid rationale for closing this thread. Is there a consensus that this type of question ought to be closed? (talk) 05:24, 24 July 2012 (UTC)

Do you disagree about it being stupid and dangerous, or think that it's okay to give advice about stupid and dangerous things? Looie496 (talk) 05:47, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
I have no opinion as to whether it was stupid and dangerous. (talk) 06:06, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
The Guidelines say: "The reference desk is not censored. No subject per se is off limits." But:
  • (a) how likely is it that we could find any sort of reference for this type of question?
  • (b) nobody is forced to engage the OP at all.
We do have exclusions for medical and legal advice. Maybe we should consider extending the exclusions to questions that prima facie appear to pose risks to life and limb. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 06:28, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
Or perhaps we could remember that this is a reference desk, and that providing answers that are inherently un-referencable is a violation of the purpose here - IE, stop making things up and laughing like teenagers about how funny your made up stuff is. Hipocrite (talk) 12:34, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
We have always had a de facto policy against answering questions where a wrong answer could put a person at risk. That's pretty much a matter of necessity: if the Reference desks start sending people to the hospital (or worse), the WMF would have no choice but to shut them down. Looie496 (talk) 17:00, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
I'm not seeing any de facto policy against answering questions where a wrong answer could put a person at risk. The RDs have given advice on firing flare guns at people, unknown mushrooms, ear clapping, jumping from a speeding train, testing an electric fence and leg stab just to name a few. (talk) 18:59, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
Yes, well, we all know that it's very difficult to maintain any sort of consistent policy here, and it isn't too surprising that by going back 6 years you can find a few counterexamples. Looie496 (talk) 19:19, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
The fact is that we've gone to the trouble of putting various things into our guidelines, but at this stage there's no mention of the above sorts of examples. It's currently down to the morality and conscience of individuals as to whether they get involved in answers to such questions. We've had people come along and ask for ways to help them commit suicide, and some editors have seen fit to helpfully provide advice (admittedly this was not recently). I'm not aware of any "de facto" policy against answering questions where a wrong answer could put a person at risk. But I'd certainly support a de jure policy (to the extent that our guidelines are enforceable) prohibiting answers that make it easier for someone to harm themselves or others. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 19:35, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
While I would probably not support such a de jure policy, I would still like to see a proposal to change the guidelines to that effect so that we can get some clarity on this issue. (talk) 09:39, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
Also from memory most of those examples appeared to be hypothetical/out of interest discussions, except perhaps the unknown mushrooms one. It's clear in the example deleted above, it's not a hypothetical discussion. Nil Einne (talk) 04:55, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
If we were to refuse to make assessments of danger because we assess that it would be dangerous for us to do so, I see a slight logical problem with that.  Card Zero  (talk) 15:29, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
  • Since this is coming up again below in more farcical form [#Illegal information], I'll note the two big scraps I recall from the past: 1) My college prof says we have to distil the active ingredient from one of our own prescription meds and mine is OxyContin. What solvent do I need to separate out that whatchacallit, hydromorphine, heroin? 2) I want to hang this big sign overtop the main street where we're having our town festival so people can walk under it, how thick of a wire should I use? These both to me seemed like obvious "figure out yer own drugz" and "talk to a professional engineer" but resulted in huge angst. Both in my opinion were just plain dangerous questions, as the specific and obvious answers to the very narrow questions ignored the wider implications. Ideally everyone would just assess this sort of thing carefully and decline to respond, but competition to be among the top responders to any and all posts works very much against that end. Franamax (talk) 04:40, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
To see egotistical competition is a bit cynical. I see goodwill, eagerness, and caffeine.  Card Zero  (talk) 21:35, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

Inappropriate behavior by Looie496

See here: [[12]].

  • There is no rule about the max. number of questions/day, ASAIK.
  • The comment should have be posted on my talk page.
  • I am asking less than the number of questions that he suggested I should limit myself. See here: Special:Contributions/OsmanRF34
  • Questions are also a contribution to a RD. They keep it alive.
  • He is free of not answering any question (I suppose WK does not keep him as a slave somewhere). OsmanRF34 (talk) 17:08, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
He asked you politely to ask less questions. It's not exactly inappropriate behaviour. Incidently, if you have a problem with another editor's conduct this is not really the appropriate place to bring it up. Taking it to WP:AN/I would make more sense, but I am not recommending doing that for something this inconsequential. The better course of action would just be to ignore his suggestions if you don't like them. (talk) 21:58, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

I have to agree entirely with Looie, whose request was far too politely put. We seem to have an awful lot of nonsense questions by serial questioners recently. I am all for limiting users to one question per day. μηδείς (talk) 22:33, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

I'm not sure I agree with the last sentence. We'd happily answer 100 questions a day if they were all from different editors. We wouldn't put them into some sort of queue, or have a booking system. As long as they were all valid questions, we'd answer all of them. What possible difference would it make if 3 of the 100 happened to be from the same person? Now, there's an argument that anyone who asks a lot of questions all at once is trolling. But if each of their questions viewed in isolation was perfectly appropriate, they don't become less appropriate simply because they were all asked on the same day. Once we impose an arbitrary limit, we could then exclude a second question asked at 11:55pm, but would have no objections to the same question asked ten minutes later at 12:05 am. If trolling is the issue, we deal with it by considering the merits of the question and/or the manner in which it was asked, not by imposing daily limits. Trolls will still be trolls even if they can come here only once a day. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 22:48, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
Please name one user who posts more than 3 questions a day who you don't think is trolling. We've got several recent users whose half dozen questions a day don't even rise to the level of coherence, let alone that of seriousness. μηδείς (talk) 22:59, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
If the people posting too many questions are trolls, they can be dealt with as trolls, without introducing a new rule. Someguy1221 (talk) 23:01, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
That's right. I've asked many, many questions on the ref desks, and have sometimes asked two the same day. I don't think I've ever asked more than two in a day, but I'd like the freedom to do that, without being subject to an arbitrary rule. Such a rule would not even have the claimed effect of reducing troll activity, but it could potentially adversely impinge on legitimate questioners. The proposed solution is wrong in principle. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 01:20, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
  • I don't think OsmanRF34 is anything like a troll, but he has been asking questions that he doesn't really need to know the answers to, and at what I perceive to be increasing rates. That's a trend that in my experience often ends badly, and I was hoping that a gentle nudge might be enough to keep it from going in that direction. Unfortunately I have never found a way of suggesting that people exercise restraint that doesn't leave them offended -- I would welcome suggestions. Looie496 (talk) 23:12, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
Well he suggested doing it on his talk page. Maybe that would help avoid offense. Osman has asked 8 questions in the last 7 days. That's definitely frequent by normal RD standards, but I don't know where you think it's leading. I agree that he hasn't been trolling, and although Medis has previously voiced suspicions that he's a sockpuppet, I'm not aware of any reasons to believe that. (talk) 23:21, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
I often post more than one question a day, and I'm not a troll. Just in the last 24 hours I've asked 2 (why cheese is different once it melts and resolidifies, and a question about extracting water by metabolizing fat). StuRat (talk) 23:27, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
This isn't the first time people have been told they are asking too many questions, and many of them weren't trolls. Two examples which come to mind are people who asked basic questions and didn't seem to do much research, CI and JRS for example or who thise asked fairly inane questions of random thoughts in their head (WWPU). Of course even if the rate is fairly low, asking too many questions which we can't answer (BWH and IIRC to some extent that interacial marriage person) or a bunch of related questions where the OP doesn't seem to have read or at least understood the previous responses (the demographics IP) also tends to be seen as problematic. I would note that Looie's response suggestred one or two a day and which means two isn't really breaking the 'limit' and I'm pretty sure it was intended as an overall thing. If you occasionally ask 3 questions but normally don't ask any that isn't likely to be seen as a problem without considering the questions themselves.
As I hinted at, ultimately the questions will likely make a big difference to how people feel about the number. For example, I never really believed that Wdk123 (don't think this was ever a real account) et al was really trolling despite their many accounts and their later denial of them and they didn't really ask that many questions but I think their questions and way they responded tended to annoy people and sometimes violated a variety of guidelines which I think was part of the reason they were blocked (albeit later unblocked with I believe the requirement to stick to one account which I'm pretty sure they've violating) although I think the problems in mainspace were the final straw (and they seem to be staying away from it with what I believe is their new account).
In any case, with a single suggestion, I agree there's no cause for complaint. People are free to politely make resonable suggestions just as people are free to ignore them. You could perhaps argue it would have been better on the talk page but I don't see any point going in to long debates about that.
Nil Einne (talk) 00:50, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

Further notes:

  • The problem was not being impolite, but inappropriate.
  • There is also no rule about this: " he doesn't really need to know the answers to." How can you determine that? Nobody needs to know whether a shooting star is faster than a comet, or why Pluto has a different orbit. Should these questions be banned?
  • Legit questions are a legit contribution to a RD. There is no need to enforce a non-existing rule.~That's like criticizing someone for answering too many questions. OsmanRF34 (talk) 12:34, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Uh who said anything about enforcing any rule? As plenty of people have said, it was only a suggestion which isn't uncommon even here on the RD. Okay to be fair, there are some suggestions which are usually considered unwelcome, grammar/spelling ones are problematic not helped by the actions of one now banned and one disappeared editor but I haven't seen any real evidence people consider suggestions to reduce the number of questions one which is forbidden. And as the discussion over the previous weeks has indicated, we don't have any real agreement to remove flawed answers except in a few cases, but people do occasionally suggest an editor's answers are not always helpful and they perhaps should be more selective choosing when to reply which is likely to be far more offensive. Part of collaborating means you have to learn to accept criticism and suggestions, whether you choose to follow it or not is up to you although if you always find yourself offside with the community don't expect to last long. (In some cases it may be better if you don't follow it.) Nil Einne (talk) 12:57, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Who said something about enforcing any rule? Start with this: one or two question/day, when indeed it would increase the number of questions I was asking. And there is no optimal number of questions that the RD can deal with. What if someone asked 100 valid questions? I do see an agreement regarding quality, but Looie is at odds here, since there is not limit regarding quantity. Indeed, why would someone put a cap on the number of valid contributions? There was no valid criticism or suggestion by Looie. Therefore I suggest the Looie496's rule: don't suggest anything on the RD which makes no sense, nor is backed by common sense, nor is based by consensus. OsmanRF34 (talk) 13:38, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Actually Looie496's suggestion made perfect sense and was a valid suggestion. You are dependent on people taking their time to answer your questions, and the more you annoy people, generally the less likely they are to do so. I doubt Looie496 was the only one getting annoyed by your behaviour and if they were then, your responses here have meant they aren't now. (And since you still don't seem to be getting it, it seems it was fine for Looie496 to point it out.) Frankly it's silly to suggest that simple suggestions needs consensus. Incidentally, someone asking 100 'valid' questions in a day would likely be blocked, probably before they even reach that number. The RD isn't anyone's personal question asking page and few would believe someone asking that many questions is asking in good faith anyway. I also don't know what you mean about Looie496 being at odds. No one here criticised Looie496 other then suggesting it may have been better to do it on your talk page. In fact me and 203 suggested it wasn't an issue. μηδείς is apparently also concerned about your behaviour and suggested Looie496 was too polite. 3 people (JoO, SG and SR) have opposed μηδείς's suggestion of a hard limit on questions per day and pointed out that sometimes people ask 2 or 3 questions in one day without issue, without really commenting on Looie496's politely worded suggestion. Nil Einne (talk) 00:02, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
Can you explain at all by what behavior could he get annoyed? He suggested that I could limit myself to 1 or 2 questions/day, but I was asking less than that. There was absolutely no basis for that suggestion. OsmanRF34 (talk) 19:14, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
Looie496 suggested you were asking a lot of questions and suggested you try to curb yourself. The limit they proposed may or may not have made sense, but missing the point of what someone's suggestion doesn't generally help. If really necessary, you could mention that you've never actually asked more then 1 or 2 questions a day and ask whether given this they still felt you were asking too many questions as perhaps they had overestimated how many questions you were asking. Alternatively just accept what was said, whether or not you choose to follow it. Either way your response here has reaffirmed for me my third sentence, so I most likely won't be responding further. P.S. On the day of Looie496's suggestion you asked 3 questions, 2 on the computing desk and 1 on the science so even from a technical standpoint you were asking more then the suggestion. Note also that when someone suggests you limit yourself to something, they're not actually suggesting you should try to achieve the limit. Nil Einne (talk) 14:48, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

Illegal information

Should there be a policy against the reference desk providing either classified information or instructions on how to do something illegal? Whoop whoop pull up Bitching Betty | Averted crashes 08:41, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

No. That would make it impossible to give all kinds of information to people in different juristidictions, and we would have to find out what jurisdictions all the questioners are in, and even then people other than the questioner could still get information from the reference desk by looking at the answers given to others. It's totally impractical. (talk) 09:37, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Plus, refusing to give such information would be implicity giving legal advice (about the legality of giving such information). (talk) 09:39, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
No it wouldn't. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:25, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Indeed. In many areas we simply don't know if something is illegal or not. Areas like alcohol, for instance, where there are many regulations even in the USA. Or what if someone asks how to make their car go faster - might they be planning to speed? Or skeptical questions about religion (breaking some country's blasphemy law or law against inciting religious hatred)? Or general questions about guns and other weapons? If someone asks a specific question about something that's obviously a serious crime for anyone to do, like how to murder someone, and there's not really a legitimate reason for asking the question, then that question may be removed. But I don't think we need a policy saying that. --Colapeninsula (talk) 10:40, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
And the rules on what counts as classified information are so baroque that even people with security clearances have hard times following them. --Mr.98 (talk) 11:35, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Indeed, the answers to some questions "How many figher jets does the air force have?" are public record in some countries but asking it in others would get one locked up! Roger (talk) 11:44, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Strictly speaking, asking is not usually illegal. Answering can be. In most countries, answering is only illegal if you have been given access to specific information that is actually secret. (Interestingly, it rarely matters what you answer back — answering at all if one has been given said information is usually a no-no. So if I knew how many jets it was, and I said, "oh, how about 50?" that would probably be considered indiscreet even if I knew the answer was actually 500.) But anyway, classification is complicated. I have yet to see any questions answered on here that showed any sign of access to classified knowledge. (Though it's not impossible; technically all of the WikiLeaks State Department cables are still classified, even though anyone and their grandma can read them. Ironically, only members of the US government are not supposed to read them.) --Mr.98 (talk) 20:08, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
It's legally reminiscent of trade secrets, although with potentially much worse penalties. You only get in trouble for revealing it if you had promised not to, and you only get in trouble for reading/using it if you payed the revealer to get it to you. IANAL but simply repeating what is already out in public is perfectly fine (in the US). I agree that I have not seen anything of concern on the desks. Regardless, if someone comes to Wikipedia and claims to have classified secret government information to reveal, they probably don't belong here. Someguy1221 (talk) 20:17, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
It's actually considerably more complicated than even that... but anyway, we're digressing. Under US law, the fact that something is well-known by non-cleared people, or published openly, does not automatically relieve it of its legal classification status. --Mr.98 (talk) 12:39, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
So if somebody asks, "How would I go about gunning down a bunch of folks in a crowded movie theater", we would just merrily chime in and give the OP some ideas of what to do. Right? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:24, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Yes, because none of us has anything resembling common sense and have no idea what a troll is. Can we please not go down the pedantic path? Dismas|(talk) 23:34, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
While I appreciate Dismas reminding us that common sense tells us not to answer, suppose someone (probably a troll) asks that question and another editor (who may also just be trolling) answers. Do we remove it? (talk) 00:35, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
Often any clear cut trolling is removed or at least hatted, this would include the responses although this frequently results in a fuss. One of the concerns is people may have answered in good faith without realising the OP was probably trolling but in the immediete term, it's difficult to imagine this is likely even for contributors from outside the US. Nil Einne (talk) 03:26, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
Our practice has generally been to refuse to tell people how to get access to pirated software or media -- that's the main circumstance where this sort of thing has come up, as I recall. Looie496 (talk) 00:44, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
With copyright infrigement, one of the issues is we have a clear wikipediawide policy against linking to anything which is likely a copyright infrigement due to contributory infrigement concerns. Whatever some may like this argue, this is usually taken to include any specific torrents. Controversially some people have tried mentioning a well known torrent site like Pirate Bay or ISOHunt and perhaps even a suggested search term, I don't think we've ever had consensus on this but I doubt it would go down well it's ever taken to ANI or whatever. There are some potential concerns about helping those who appear to be infringing copyright these are more from the editor's POV but there may also be some concerns for the foundation (see the EFF's view [13]). I don't think there's any wikipedia wide policy on this probably because it isn't something that's much of an issue in other areas. Nil Einne (talk) 03:10, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
On the other hand, WP:RX is a precious resource which is only legal because the editing community presumably contemplates improving articles with the requested copyrighted material. It's been cleared by the Foundation as such, but if it were to be abused by someone who re-sold the information or used it commercially but not to improve the encyclopedia, it would be at risk. It's important to keep those kinds of cooperative fair use resources in mind when discussing these questions. (talk) 23:16, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
Speaking generally, if someone claims they seriously want to murder someone or do some other act illegal nearly everywhere with severe penalties, either they're trolling or I don't think we want to assist them. Either way I would support removal or at least hatting edit:, notifying the foundation if it's felt the querent may be serious. If people claim they are doing research for a book or are simply interested in the question, we usually AGF. When people suggest they want to do something illegal by their own intepretation but which isn't so extreme (e.g. 'I'm 18, how can I obtain alcohol in New York for a party, no one will sell to me since it's illegal' or 'how do I test my car's maximum speed on a public road without getting caught by the cops'), I think people are often reluctant to help particularly if they feel the OP may harm themselves or others but sometimes even if they may disagree with the law; although the question and serious answers are usually left be. Nil Einne (talk) 03:40, 27 July 2012 (UTC)

speaking of pointy trolling in search of criminal advice

Semantic mantis has described the request for information on how to convert semi-automatics to automatic hanguns as pointy, and I will call it insulting trolling. I have closed it per the above discussion. μηδείς (talk) 03:52, 27 July 2012 (UTC)

I totally agree with closing that pointy thread. Even if generally speaking requests for advice on breaking law aren't out of bounds, I find it very hard to believe that that question was asked in good faith. (talk) 03:55, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
Repeated removal and restoration of the hat were followed by AndyTheGrump deleting it all together. Again, this was totally appropriate in my opinion. (talk) 04:44, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
Restored again. I warned User:Whoop whoop pull up that he is in violation of WP:3RR on his talk page. He apologised. So long as it stops now I'm inclined to leave it at that. (talk) 05:01, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
Good removal. Asking for advice on possibly breaking the law, and then edit-warring over it. He should know better. And incredibly poor and distasteful timing, following that horrific Colorado incident. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:20, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
It's on ANI now. I thought may be WWPU wasn't being pointy but asked the question above to check if what they wanted to ask was okay, and upon seeing the responses felt that their question was okay. (This has happened before although people usually mention they have a question in mind.) But WWPU states that neither are the case. Nil Einne (talk) 06:33, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
Subsequent to the removal and AN/I, User:Swatjester went and posted legal advice about the question on Whoop Whoop's talk page, and User:Burpelson AFB gave an answer to the question there too. I left messages on both of their talk pages letting them know about the question posted here and why we wouldn't answer it. (talk) 01:44, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

That is nothing! We've had detailed questions on the design and construction of thermonuclear bombs, not to mention the synthesis of methamphetamine and various high explosives. In the U.S., information about the production of neutrons is born secret because of proliferation concerns regarding nuclear activation, but we get Farnsworth fusor questions happily answered by regulars all the time, and chemical isotope separation questions now and then. Our articles on all of those topics are even more detailed in a way that seems far more dangerous to me than instructions on how to make a semi-automatic weapon fully automatic (are such instructions even illegal in the US?) I was told I was overreacting when reluctant to answer neutron production questions, but this is what happens when someone asks how to make an automatic gun? What do we do when someone asks how to make an AR-15 lower receiver? (talk) 23:38, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

See "Hatting of Boat Pumps question" above. We really do need to have a defined policy on how we deal with questions where our helpful answers could put third parties, or even the OP themself, at risk. Our current policies about not giving legal or medical advice are there to protect us, primarily. This issue is about protecting other people, primarily. We have a duty of care, and we cannot continue to leave it up to the whim of individual editors. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 01:35, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
Jack, we could "put someone at risk" by recommending a specific route to avoid a traffic jam on the way home, by explaining the properties of safety matches or by suggesting that the OP seek professional medical advice. (Yes, I am being extreme, but telling the truth, nonetheless.) I don't, personally, have any problem at all in pointing an adult to a source for information about suicide, for example, but, even accepting that I can't know for certain that it is an adult asking the question, others would object, some strenuously. I doubt we do have a duty of care beyond what one might accept for oneself. I don't know enough about firearms to comment on the sense (or lack thereof) of making a gun an automatic weapon, but I am sure there are Ref Desk Regulars who either do know, or who would spot a bogus or dangerous response and call it out. I am generally against making any more rules than are necessary. The Ref Desks have come this far (at least 5 years in my personal experience) without it being a problem; why add more layers of rules now? Bielle (talk) 01:59, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
We seem to have had a whole rash of aggressive question removals, hattings, closures etc lately. And they've led to increased traffic here on the talk page. This diverts us from our real purpose. Why not substitute the heat here for light out there. If a particular question is appropriately hatted or removed entirely, then surely a whole class of questions should be treated that way. More than one class, really, but they could all be sub-classes of "Questions that require special treatment". -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 04:20, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
What you say about a "whole rash of aggressive question removals . . ." is true; however, as I have never agreed with the aggression and only sometimes agreed with the removals etc., I see the problem more as a behavioural matter for a few of the regulars and not a policy matter that requires more rules. I am (we are) only diverted from our real purpose if I (we) decide to join in. Instead of defining "wrong questions", perhaps we should look instead at "wrong behaviours", on a case-by-case basis. In general, if one of us thinks a question should be hatted or removed that is seeking neither legal nor medical advice, avoid unilateral action (excepting only gross BLP problems and the like). If one feels very threatened by even the thought that someone might provide an inappropriate response in the meantime, why not just add "Please do not respond here before you review the discussion here", with a link to the talk page? We aren't running a kindergarten, nor do we want people to act as Ref Desk police; there is enough of that about elsewhere on WP. Bielle (talk) 04:43, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
I strongly agree that in general non-medical/legal/BLP violations ought to be discussed prior to being hatted or deleted. There needs to be a consensus before we remove something. (talk) 05:04, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
No. Hatting does nothing other than pause discussion to look for consensus when an editor has a concern. μηδείς (talk) 05:07, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
Other editors shouldn't just have their discussions paused on them because one person has a concern that may not be shared by the community. Leaving a note like Bielle suggested that points editors to the where the discussion is going on is far more appropriate. Until there is a consensus, it's up to the individual editors to decide if they want to continue or not. (talk) 05:20, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

@ Bielle, for what encyclopedic purpose would we be suggesting a route home for someone? I think we can agree that that case might not be particularly risky, but why would the wikipedia reference desk have anything to say about it? (These are rhetorical questions, not personal challenges, obviously.) μηδείς (talk) 05:07, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

We answer a lot of questions that have no readily discernible encyclopaedic purpose. I can recall a question about the closest subway stop to some specific destination on the Toronto system, though not one about avoiding traffic jams. I believe I answered it. I would answer one about avoiding a traffic jam if I knew the area. Not all of us have GPS. :) Bielle (talk) 05:17, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
Is saying that we do do something saying why or that we should do it? We can say that such and such information exists at a certain article or link without any problem. Who disagrees that when we get into the individual and the risky at the same time we have crossed a line? μηδείς (talk) 05:27, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
I recently asked about an individual experiment that I was actually doing involving dangerous chemicals (I wouldn't call it risky because I know it was done safely, but other editors could only assume). I don't think it crossed any lines and was an entirely appropriate question for a reference desk that could be, and in fact was, answered with a variety of links to articles. (talk) 05:41, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

Straw poll on dangerous questions?

Someone should do a straw poll on removing questions about making nuclear weapons, fissile material and its enrichment, chemical and biological weapons, high explosives, addictive and dangerous drugs of abuse, and automatic weapons. I'm in favor of being less forthcoming on those topics, in that order, here on the Reference Desks than we may be in our articles. If someone wants to convince me otherwise, I'd like to know of a case where a question on those topics is likely to arise without putting a third party at risk. Academics studying those topics can look up the articles themselves. (talk) 03:00, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
Categorical rules are a bad idea. Wikipedia is WP:Uncensored, though it would be reasonable to remove questions on a case by case basis if its clear they are seeking help in actually doing something illegal. If I asked, How many components are different between a semi-automatic AR-15 and a select fire M4? I would be asking a question that could reasonably fall into the category of making automatic weapons, yet a forthright answer that just said how many were different really wouldn't aid the questioner in making an automatic weapon. Likewise, someone asking about how much uranium had to be mined to supply the Mahattan project is asking about creating nuclear weapons, but our response isn't going to help them make one. I think the better rule would be: If the context of a question makes it reasonably certain the questioner intends to use the information being sought for an illegal purpose, don't respond. Monty845 03:07, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
Uncensored refers to not deleting material bacause someone finds it religiously/aesthetically objectionable. μηδείς (talk) 03:34, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
No. Polls, by their very nature, achieve the exact opposite of working towards consensus. Stick to discussion. And good luck with that. HiLo48 (talk) 03:04, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
Well, two of my pet peeves here were the threads on "How can I poison rats?" and "Can I safely drink out of a cup which previously bore poisonous contents?" Both of those could be criticized not only as regarding dangerous actions, but also specific non-encyclopedic individual acts. Questions that involve individual risk would seem to be delimitable. I am not in favor of banning theoretical questions. μηδείς (talk) 03:34, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
Here is a question that I remembered coming through awhile back, specifically addressing the concern raised above about making "explosives" (is Nitroglycerine even a high explosive?), and how it was handled. Personally, I think that too much information was given, but that said, the OP was not given any particularly useful or helpful information if doing bad stuff was his or her goal. I would concede that we should act with restraint when we suspect that people are trying to do dangerous or destructive things (like asking how to build Nitroglycerine), but to make an actual rule saying "delete that" would be too restrictive. I think a common sense sort of "rule" would be a lot better. Obviously (in my mind) if somebody knows how, he or she should not be writing out instructions on how to make Nitroglycerine, just from an ethical standpoint. Falconusp t c 03:49, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

I oppose any straw poll because Wikipedia is not a democracy. I don't have any problems with so called dangerous questions. If the questions are about dangerous things like explosives, radioactive material, poisonous substances, infectious agents, weapons, cars, flammaable goods, corrosive liquids, drugs or whatever we can just point them to an article or extenal reference about what they are talking about. If providing that information is illegal where you are don't answer. If there are no references, let them know. If there's no chance of there being any anywhere because of the highly specific and unencyclopaedic nature of the question, close the thread. If they're trolling (and I mean really trolling, not just anything you happen to not like), close/delete the thread. If they make a threat of violence, follow the procedure for dealing with that. (talk) 04:09, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

A straw poll is not a formal vote. I didn't think it was being suggested that with 50%+1 we would institute a reign of terror. As for the Nitroglycerine example, that is a perfect case where the criterion of individual risk (or whatever we would call it) would apply. Say a perrson asks how nitroglycerine is made. Dangerous? Yes, in the abstract. A question involving individual risk? Not necessarily, it can be curiosity. Is the subject encyclopedic? Yes, we are entitled to answeer it as such. Supposed the subject says that he is trying to dry out nitroglycerine in his oven, and he wants to know the best temperature at which to do it as quickly as possible, but without ruining it or killing himself. Encyclopedic? No, this question is of concern to one individual in a specific circumstance. We are not a how-to. Individual risk? Yes, in a court of law we could be found liable if he follows our advice and... μηδείς (talk) 04:28, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

I just mean I want to get a sense of what proportion of others active here share my concerns about answering questions on these particular subjects. I don't really care what proportion wants me to be unable to get such a sense, but it's apparently larger than I expected. Sigh. (talk) 06:04, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

Removal of Bad Breath medical advice request

This question was posted in both the miscellaneous RD and the science RD. I removed it from the science desk once I realised that there was an identical question on the miscellaneous desk that had been hatted by Medis. (talk) 21:14, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

Good removal. Halitosis can be symptomatic of any number of things. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:22, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
I was going to argue about this as I read the question because at the start it was a general question about what could be causes of a condition, which is a reasonable question, not seeking a specific diagnoses.. When it started talking about "my friend", that's when I saw that, yes, good removal. The user was looking for a potential diagnosis. Mingmingla (talk) 02:35, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
When somebody hats/habs the discussion due to policy violations, then it should not be edited further. Medeis closed it, and at least three editors added unecessary stuff. At least Bugs was just suggesting seeing a doctor, but Viennese Waltz was telling the OP exactly how to go about getting medical advice from us next time. I know I have hat/hatted my fair share of things, only to have people come right in and continue editing as if it weren't closed. Could we stop that? I know that the recommendation is to delete rather than hat/hab, but I find it preferable to leave it there closed so that the OP can see why the question wasn't accepted, rather than it just disappearing. I really don't know how else to tell people - when someone else closes a conversation, do not add any information without bringing it up here. In my mind, it's that simple. Falconusp t c 03:09, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
Just delete it and add the template {{RD-delete}}. Then the asker knows why it's gone, and the entire discussion is removed. (talk) 03:46, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
That seems like an option, but it remains that when someone closes the discussion, it should then be done. Falconusp t c 16:21, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
You don't mention a third user. Is it me? I added a link to the article on halitosis. In doing this I was following part of the medical advice guidelines: "Where appropriate, offer links to suitable resources. This may include internal wikilinks or external websites. Be extremely careful not to offer a diagnosis in this way."  Card Zero  (talk) 20:26, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

I understand Falconus' complaint, but I didn't find anything wrong (which is different from annoying) with the three posts. I thought hatting the question was okay since no diagnosis had yet been given. I think hatting first then deleting if necessary or another editor seconds and wishes to do so is better than deleting at the drop of a hat. μηδείς (talk) 20:33, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

Okay, others here maybe don't agree with me as strongly about keeping a closed conversation completely closed - I'll stop worrying about that then for now, but I will probably choose to remove questions in the future rather than hat/hab them, or maybe do as Medeis says above, and just delete the question if I don't like how people edit my hat/hab. Falconusp t c 03:02, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
I do agree that it's rude to continue a hatted discussion, it shows contempt for the rules. I do think that those three comments were innocuous per se, but set a bad example. My suggestion above was that we treat hatting and deletion as a two-step process wher one editor hats, signs his comment when hatting, and posts here. Then a second editor who agrees (assuming there is no immediate consensus against) can delete the question if he feels it is warranted. Only in the case of really bad problems should one editor immediately delete a section entirely--but be bold if the act is justified. 04:18, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

"girl's" gymnastics? hatted

I have deleted a question as to why women's gymnastics isn't called girl's gymnastics as a request for opinion and invitation to debate. μηδείς (talk) 01:06, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

Wikipedia has Gymnastics all-around champions by age which may have been of some help. Sometimes editors will try and get poorly worded or borderline trolling questing back on track.—eric 01:50, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
I don't see this as anything of the sort, medeis. I assume ScienceApe is referring to the fact that, at least in some jurisdictions, most of the competitors are legally minors, and "Girls Gymnastics" is most definitely a thing. ScienceApe also didn't explicitly ask for an argument or opinions, that was you putting words in his mouth. If there exists an official communique from the IOC regarding the name of this event, then it is possible to answer while referring only to verifiable facts. Someguy1221 (talk) 02:33, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
I see no justification for hatting this Q. It's entirely possible the IOC has made a statement on their naming choices, in which case a factual answer would exist. Unless you can positively state that they never made such a statement, you should not hat the Q. StuRat (talk) 02:31, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
I think its clear there's no sewer you won't justify wallowing in StuRat. If the OP wants to ask a serious question he is invited to do so. But just putting "why" in front of an insulting premise doesn't turn it from inflammatory trolling into a valid ref desk question. I get it that the OP thinks the women should be called girls. And I suppose we should entertain the question why the don't call the Miss Ebony pageant the unmarried black girl pageant, because "that's what they are"? I am not prepared to offer my opinion or debate why women shouldn't be called girls. Let the OP post a relevant request for references. It is not our place to rewrite frog questions hoping to turn them into princes. μηδείς (talk) 04:02, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
To be fair, Medeis, it's equally clear that there's almost no question you won't construct some new reason to hat, delete, or get terribly alarmed about. —Steve Summit (talk) 13:29, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
You are aware that girl is a common word to refer to any woman who is not legally an adult? Are you aware that assume good faith is an official guideline? No rewriting of the question is required. You just have to stop making wild assumptions of the OP. Someguy1221 (talk) 04:08, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
I don't think there was any reason to hat or close the question and I think FiggyBee answered it succinctly (if without references): calling it a "Girls" event would imply an upper age limit (cf. Girl Guides and Boy Scouts). Matt Deres (talk) 13:19, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

removed identifying information from defamatory post

The following post made defamatory statements per se comparing a named individual to a criminal gangster. I believe the entire post should be removed, and its visibility changed, but do not know how to go about the latter. Can an admin take a look? I think I'll post this at ANI as well. μηδείς (talk) 01:19, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

You seem to be going way overboard here. For example, you've removed the names of businesses, what rule are those are supposed to have violated ? StuRat (talk) 01:35, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

There is potential liability for defamation from people and companies. The entire post will need to have its visibility removed. There is no purpose served mentioning third parties when such a suit is possible. I have already referred this to ANI and am going to go to BLP for quicker action. μηδείς (talk) 01:47, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

I will just note that there was no actual named individual. There was a named business, which was itself named after an individual, but there was no imputation in the post that the person who the company is named after was the person who the OP spoke to. --Mr.98 (talk) 02:37, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
And what defamation are you even talking about ? Is it "Am I getting ripped off" ? You seem to be seriously deluded if you think such a post needs to be removed from all Wikipedia records. That is only done in extremely serious cases. StuRat (talk) 02:39, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
Shall we contact the dealership then and have them comment on the statements? Maybe they can help us help the IP? Are you suggesting that knowing the dealers name (and a business can sue, BTW) helps us as wikipedians answer this question? Or that as wikipedians we can answer this question? The IP User has commented that he meant no criminal allegations at the BLP board. I have suggested that he show good faith by rewriting and reposting his question without the identification of third parties. If you have some problem with that you can go comment at the BLP board. Or you could just revert my edits and restore the comparison. μηδείς (talk) 03:39, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
Please include links to AN/I, BLP, or anywhere else you've posted about how incredibly dangerous you think this Q is. StuRat (talk) 04:18, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
AN/I discussion and WP:BLPN discussion. (talk) 04:24, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

Inclusion of the VIN number

I don't see why he can't include his own VIN if he wants to. I don't see how it would help either, but if he wants to identify himself or his own property, that's his business. (talk) 04:02, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

We don't let people give their addresses, telephone numbers, or email just because that's their business. My question is, does knowing the VIN actually help answer the question, and is it untraceable? If the answer to either of those questions is no, then under no circumstances should it be posted. μηδείς (talk) 04:06, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
You seem to be saying anything which is not of use in answering a Q should be redacted immediately, even if it's not harmful in any way. We have no such policy. If they want to include irrelevant info, that's fine. Only if it is somehow harmful should it be removed. StuRat (talk) 04:15, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
The reason addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses are redacted is because they're are contact info. You can't reasonably contact someone with a VIN. (talk) 04:18, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
There are places where you can look up the record of a car based on it's VIN, like Carfax, but they charge a fee, so I'm not going to do that. StuRat (talk) 04:13, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

This is very simple. The ref desk is about answering questions using wikipedia's resources. Not about seeing what neat shit we can get our paws into. Posting the VIN is potentially harmful--it can be looked up by anyone with a subscription to carfax or the like, and this is attached to a name and an address on a title one assumes. And still no one is saying why we would need the number in the first place. Wikipedia is not a window for us to peep into or to throw garbage out of. We need to control our urges rather than act like children demanding to know why there should be any limit on our actions, god forbid, a self-imposed one. Until we do have a reason to know it besides curiosity and an assurance of safety, leave it out. μηδείς (talk) 04:30, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

You still don't get it. There is no policy saying we can delete anything that's posted simply because we think it's irrelevant. So stop using that as a justification. As for harm, I'm still not seeing it. So somebody could find out who owns the car. So what ? StuRat (talk) 04:35, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
The "act like children demanding to know why there should be any limit on our actions" sounds more like you, where your action is randomly hatting things for reasons you invent. StuRat (talk) 04:38, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
Medeis, I think most of us appreciate that you are trying to keep things in order around here, but you do seem a bit trigger happy on the hats and deletions. I'm not saying you should stop entirely, but perhaps you can bring them here to the talk page before you do anything. I know it seems like everyone is against you sometimes. In some cases, the community agrees with you, in some they don't. But you have been closing a substantial amount of stuff lately, not all of it warranting any action at all. Mingmingla (talk) 16:53, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
Don't worry, I don't feel like the community is against me, and thanks for the comment. I do think certain posts merit bold action. Hatting and going to an admin board is not unilateral deleting. I can't imagine, for example that there's even one lone holdout who really regrets the removal of references to third parties in the recent science desk post. Although there was a lot of loud complaining. And the reposted thread has veered away from answering the user's question, and turned bizarrely into a debate over why we shouldn't post unique and traceable identifying information, even if we don't need it. I suggest we all focus on providing quality answers to valid questions. μηδείς (talk) 17:12, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
So, first you say on the miscellaneous desk posting of the quesiton, "If other editors believe this information is both actually necessary and guaranteed harmless I invite it to be restored if there is consensus," and then you wonder why the responses there have "turned bizarrely into a debate over why we shouldn't post unique and traceable identifying information." Is this more of that irony I don't get? (talk) 20:14, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
Well, what's the point of being zealous when it comes to deleting questions of others, BUT, at the same time posting jewels like this: Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Archives/Language/2012_July_19#Why_do_Europeans_speak_American_so_poorly.3F? OsmanRF34 (talk) 18:39, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
Ah, yes, I remember that one. It left 12 dead and 50 wounded. μηδείς (talk) 18:53, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
In summary... OsmanRF34 (talk) 19:15, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
Medeis, you're still not getting it. Just because nobody misses something you redacted doesn't mean you have the right to redact it. Using your logic, it would be fine if I broke into your house and took some small objects you don't much care about. The redaction itself is wrong, regardless of the content which was redacted, unless the material redacted violated some policy. Your argument that it was extraneous is absolutely irrelevant.
I agree with the suggestion that you should post your complaints here first, and only hat if you get a consensus to do so. (Anything that seriously needs hatting will be hatted by others.) StuRat (talk) 19:45, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
Although the VIN might be useful, usefulness alone is not sufficient reason to allow it, because the fact that the VIN information can directly lead to who owns a particular car is similar to randomly posting an email address here that leads to its rightful owner. Such posting of personal information is potentially problematic and against the policy I would think. --Modocc (talk) 20:10, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
What about the posting of static IP addresses that is done automatically for non-logged in users? They can easily lead back to the person using it. There's nothing wrong with identifing yourself. Many wikipedia editors do it in various ways for various reasons. There is even a policy on editing under your own, real name. You can't post contact information on the RD because the questions are to be answered here so they are subject to review by the other editors, not sent off in a private email communication. If you want to list your first and last name, town that you live in and place of birth that's up to you. If it's wildly off topic then I can see why it might be hatted or if there's some burning reason why it must be redacted (for example if someone is being impersonated) then that can be requested, but there's no policy of automatic redaction of all unique identifiers. In my questions and answers on here I've given more than enough information to uniquely identify myself. Between my IP address and details I've given about my work there's only one person on Earth who I could be, but that doesn't mean we're going to go redact all of that.
In this case the VIN number is possibly relevant to the question. Some mechanic who does have a subscription to carfax might chance by, look up the VIN and see that the car is of a particular series with a known defect in that particular faulty component and give some good, verifiable information to the OP. (talk) 20:30, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
The static IP is revealed by only the persons allowed access to a computer, thus we can assume that this is OK and we have no reason to not allow this, however with any other personal information provided by posters, we can not be sure about who exactly is providing the information and for what purpose. We do not know if a poster is using and/or misusing someone's personal information without their permission. Its therefore against policy. --Modocc (talk) 20:49, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
Which policy? To quote Wikipedia:Personal_security_practices#Personal_information, "Wikipedia does not require you to provide personal information on userpages or elsewhere in the course of editing the encyclopedia. While there is no policy forbidding this(emphasis mine), remember that information revealed amongst friends and fellow editors on Wikipedia is kept in a permanent record that is accessible by anyone in the world with a networked computer." (talk) 20:52, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
This is a Red Desk policy: "Do not provide your contact information. E-mail or home addresses, or telephone numbers, will be removed." Note that we don't include things like VINs. StuRat (talk) 20:57, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
The reason we don't allow things like email addresses is that a spam-bot can easily collect those and spam those people. With a VIN number it would take time and money to track down the owner, and no spam-bot is going to do that. StuRat (talk) 20:54, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
That's one reason, not the only reason. Liability for advertising information we cannot confirm the provenance of is another. I would say let IP70 mail us a letter certifying the VIN is his--but still, why would it be the policy of an encyclopedia to take such risks? μηδείς (talk) 20:58, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
The real name policy is very relevant. I agree with Modocc. I assume good faith on the part of the IP user given his very gracious response to my challenges--but we do not have any way of verifying that the VIN (vehicle identification number) belongs to him. We have serious concerns here, however slight, and still no overwhelming reason why the VIN has to be posted at an encyclopedia.μηδείς (talk) 20:58, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
And if he did post somebody else's VIN, what possible harm would that cause ? You can't commit identity theft by knowing just a VIN. StuRat (talk) 21:19, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
Certainly anyone pretending to be the owner of a VIN is, to a certain extent, stealing the VIN owner's identity, and someone may be malicious with such impersonations by getting the person they are impersonating into trouble with some institution or third party. Real names are OK, but the real name policy is written so as to minimize such risks. Given that the post entailed a complaint against specific parties, μηδείς was correct in challenging the personally identifying info. --Modocc (talk) 21:50, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

I haven't read all of the above so forgive me if this has already been said, but there are actually pictures of "VINs" in the Vehicle Identification Number article and [commons gallery]. There doesn't seem to be anything prohibiting the posting of them nor any verification checks ensuring the uploaders actually owned the vehicles. (talk) 22:04, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

I appreciate you pointing these out, and if a discussion such as what took place on the reference board here were to take place regarding any of those VINs, there would be grounds for some oversight on those discussions too. If Jimbo or other established editor put their VINs online that would be fine, nevertheless any editor that reveals their real name or other identifying information is subject to a block and oversight in accordance with the real name policy, which is intended to ensure that an editor is actually the person they say they are. In addition, this is not the best venue to discuss whether or not these VIN pics are appropriate, but I'll assume they are. --Modocc (talk) 22:43, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
Did they even claim to own the vehicles? I could go to the car park out front and give you pictures of 20 VINs from cars I don't own. (talk) 22:20, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

In a post on the computing desk from May last year a user posted the serial numbers of a variety of computer components that he claim to own. In a post on the miscellaneous desk from March this year a user posted a partial VIN from his motorcycle. In another post on the miscellaneous desk from September last year a user posted the entire VIN number of his car. None of these were redacted. I don't see how any policy says that they ought to be redacted. But if you insist, could we agree on a compromise to include a partial VIN number? (talk) 22:36, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

That could work, as part identifies the model and part is a serial number of the actual unit, but it's not always obvious which is which. StuRat (talk) 23:25, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
(ec) Consensus is not established - or even modified - by any one editor "insisting". -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 23:27, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

Computer serial numbers are not publicly traceable to titles. If the IP editor wants to take a picture of his VIN and upload it he will authorize a legal release saying he is the author of the work. Let him do so and post the picture. It indemnifies us and incriminates him if he uses it for false purposes. It will also be immediately deleted since WP:NOTIMAGE, not that we all care about the big picture or anything beyond the next fix...I mean comment. Frankly, this discussion is getting tiresome, since it is based solely on the premise that editors can do whatever they like on the ref desk without a valid reason for doing it and no matter what the consequences. μηδείς (talk) 05:19, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

You would do well to remember what you just said there: "based solely on the premise that editors can do whatever they like on the ref desk without a valid reason for doing it and no matter what the consequences." That applies to you, too. Just come to the talk page here before hatting or deleting, get a consensus, and let it go if you don't get one. Wikipedia might be at risk with our decisions (but probably not), but you personally will not be held accountable if something slips through without you getting to it quickly enough. Mingmingla (talk) 17:36, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
As for the VIN issue, there is no real expectation of privacy, since I can walk through a parking lot and get the VIN to every car there. Mingmingla (talk) 17:38, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
That VINS are not private doesn't matter if the general objective of the policies is to prevent the misuse or abuse of such information. Real names, street addresses, and license plates are also public information, and email addresses and telephone numbers are often too. -Modocc (talk) 22:35, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
Say what Mingmingla? Are you comparing English Wikipedia to a parking lot? Do you actually own a car? Do you walk around parking lots peeking through the windshields? Or do you save such creepiness for Wikipedia? Franamax (talk) 01:59, 31 July 2012 (UTC)
Medeis, as far as I'm concerned, editors can do whatever they like on the ref desks, as long as it's within WP policy and the ref desk guidelines. As to the "without a valid reason for doing it" part, as far as I'm concerned, editors are presumed to have their own, good reasons -- AGF, and all that. Finally, as far as the "no matter what the consequences" part (and, again, as far as I'm concerned), editors are innocent until proven guilty of not causing bad consequences.
I'm tired of this thread, too, as it's a whole bunch of unnecessary discussion about a non-problem which it seems to me that you have constructed out of thin air. —Steve Summit (talk) 23:39, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

Good answer on the my daughter has apha thalassemia question

For all our talk above, I think the answers in the Alpha-thalassemia question are exactly how we should treat this kind of question. Good work there to everyone who posted in it. Mingmingla (talk) 17:45, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

I am going to move my suggested reading under Mr98's comment. I am wondering if maybe we should collapse the policy discussion. The user will not necessarily profit from reading us talking among ourselves. μηδείς (talk) 17:55, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

Hatted BLP violation

This thread is problematic, and the last comment making specific claims is a clear BLP violation. μηδείς (talk) 18:36, 30 July 2012 (UTC)

No, it's not. It's a factual question. Michelle Miscavig has not had any public appearance in any form in years. The OP wanted to know if it's being investigated as a crime. If you have a problem with a particular comment, take it out on that comment. Someguy1221 (talk) 23:48, 30 July 2012 (UTC)

When was the last time <leader> visited <place>?

I have just removed two of these from the Humanities desk, and I'm going to be silently removing any more that I come across. This is Ref-desk abuse. Looie496 (talk) 20:22, 1 August 2012 (UTC)

I think it's worth noting that both questions were more than <arbitrary leader> / <arbitrary place>, but rather <leader of colonial power> / <former colony>. That is, the topics themselves are not inherently ref desk abuse. — Lomn 20:31, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
I think it would be a bit of a shame to systematically remove questions like this. Generally, I'm perfectly happy for anyone to go ahead and remove stuff any time they feel like it, but I don't see what the benefit is going to be in this case. No-one forces us to answer, or even look at, questions, and so I'd say the best defence against boring and/or repetitive questions would be to ignore them. - Cucumber Mike (talk) 20:37, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
What is abuse is that the editor has been asking questions of that form over and over again for weeks. One or two is no problem, but it is ridiculous to expect us to handle an endless series of them. Looie496 (talk) 20:39, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
I agree that this person should be doing their own google searches, but why can't you just ignore the questions? You don't have to answer them and if other editors do want to, why not just let them? (talk) 21:01, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
[The symbols "< >" in the heading When was the last time <leader> visited <place>? cause the enclosed words to disappear from the watchlist. The symbols "[ ]" in headings cause linking problems. The symbols "( )" do not cause technical problems. The symbols "{ }" probably cause technical problems. I am not sure about the technical suitability of underscores—"_ _"—as enclosing symbols in headings. See User:Wavelength/About Wikipedia/Link test page one and User:Wavelength/About Wikipedia/Link test page two.
Wavelength (talk) 21:14, 1 August 2012 (UTC)]
Yeah, I noticed. I won't do it that way again :-). Looie496 (talk) 22:05, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Obviously it would be more efficient to just research a particular guy's schedule via Google than to try and make others here do that same work. Although I do wonder... When was the last time the chairman of the 2012 Olympics took his family to Newcastle? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:51, 2 August 2012 (UTC)
Many questions asked at the refdesk could be answered with Just Google It. Is that the standard for actually removing questions now? Monty845 14:41, 2 August 2012 (UTC)
Without regard for whether or not the questions should or should not have been removed, the asker has been here for years asking the same sorts of questions. He seems to generally be interested in former colonial powers in general, and often asks a streak of closely related questions regarding former colonial posessions and their current relationship to their former colonizers. For example, in rapid succession we might get a series of questions which asks about immigration from the DRC to Belgium, and from Indonesia to the Netherlands, and from Algeria to France, and from Brazil to Portugal. Wait two weeks, and then we get a series of questions on Belgian-based corportations who have employees in the DRC, and Netherlands-based corporations who have employees in Indonesia, and French-based corporations who have employees in Algeria, etc. Then wait two weeks and we get the next batch of questions. Given the narrow focus of the questions, and the similarity each time, I think it is a clear case of Hanlon's razor if I ever saw one: The OP of all of these questions isn't trolling: They are genuinely interested in the lasting effects on colonialism in various places; but lack the wherewithal, ability, or knowhow to any serious research in the field: instead they come here and ask these redundant questions. Not sure what the appropriate way to handle this is, except to note that they've been here a long time, and that I usually don't have any problem answering their questions politely when I can find the answer. Perhaps that is the best way to handle it. --Jayron32 20:06, 2 August 2012 (UTC)
This is one editor I haven't followed very well but am I right they are the same people always asking stuff like how many Indonesias there are in the Netherlands and other random demographics stuff like Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2012 March 28#French cities with significant population Muslim African francophonie arab? If so, while I agree I haven't seen much evidence they're a troll, they do seem to lack the ability not only to do any research, but seemingly to understand and read the articles and stuff that has been told them before. E.g. as you and me pointed Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2012 June 3#Largest Muslim population in Europe 2, it's not entirely clear how much they absorbed from many of the other answers. (I remember the Indonesian part a lot because I also remember AnonMoos mentioning lots of times about how there are many Moluccans in the Netherlands.) While I'm not saying we should remove their questions, I do understand the temptation when it's not clear if there's much point trying to answer. Nil Einne (talk) 17:06, 4 August 2012 (UTC)

I have no opinion on this removal, but please provide the diffs for your actions, Looie, so they can be traced without days of research. μηδείς (talk) 19:21, 4 August 2012 (UTC)

closed req for med adv

insofar as this is not a joke it's a req for med advice: μηδείς (talk) 03:15, 5 August 2012 (UTC)

It's a completely legitimate question, Medeis. "Is the botulism in spoiled food the same as the botox they inject into people's faces". Only you would interpret that as a request for medical advice. Someguy1221 (talk) 03:49, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
Please note the use of the word "theory" in "note that the question is not SHOULD i do that but can i, in theory, do that?" That's appallingly punctuated, but not a request for medical advice. HiLo48 (talk) 03:55, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
I interpreted this question in much the same way as Someguy. I don't think this is a request for medical advice, though the repeated use of the first person singular makes me cringe. (talk) 03:56, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
On second thought, the guy does clarify that he is speaking only theoretically. μηδείς (talk) 18:21, 5 August 2012 (UTC)

Closed request for debate/opinion

This thread: is an outright request for subjective opinion and debate. μηδείς (talk) 01:26, 6 August 2012 (UTC)

I don't see that at all. Would you consider Why don't all gay men just come out of the closet? as a request for opinion? The fact that many refdeskers feel compelled to answer with opinions, original research or unreferenced claims is irrelevant. Questions such as the one you just hatted are perfectly appropriate for the reference desk. There are thousands of completely serious peer-reviewed articles that discuss societal concepts of masculinity. Just because these are "soft" sciences with no hard facts doesn't mean they are off limits for the reference desk. A true reference desk would help you find sociology texts just as well as it would help you find chemistry texts. Someguy1221 (talk) 04:18, 6 August 2012 (UTC)
I agree with both of you. One of the problems with social science questions that are inappropriate, such as the example Medeis shows, is that to indicate the question is misformed, and misinformed, will mean giving a tutorial in Sociology 1000; and, involve correcting the OP about their failure to use correct or current terminology. The analysis of society and culture procedes on top of a theoretical basis on top of methodologies, just as much as the analysis of engineering systems procedes on top of a model on top of mathematical systems. Often OP asks a question that lies outside of:
  1. Accepted or acceptable problems in a social science, "Why don't straight men compliment each other?" rather than "What is a straight man?"
  2. Theoretical constructs that are grossly out of date in their context, or constructs that aren't accepted at all.
  3. Questions lying outside of methodological demonstration in a social science sense: "Why don't any straight men compliment each other," versus, "Why are some "men who have sex with men" in Australia viewed as "straight"?"
Yet reference deskers feel obliged to try to answer. One solution would be to simply say, "Your question has not been answered by [the relevant social science], nor is it a problem considered worth answering and/or capable of being answered. To learn more look at [social science], [currently accepted methodology] and [currently accepted theoretical constructs governing the domain]." ? Fifelfoo (talk) 05:10, 6 August 2012 (UTC)
Yeah, except the question was fine and answerable, even if the language used wasn't all jargony and didn't show a specific understanding of the conventions of sociology to answer it, it was still not hard to provide real references, and give leads to further research, which I did rather easily already. --Jayron32 05:28, 6 August 2012 (UTC)
I extended your scholar search into the standard scholarly terms for "embodied" issues, and it came up blank for male-male body compliments. I think you're being mislead in your search in relation to non-embodied male-male compliments, such as "Nice google search answering OP's question, Jayron32." Embodiment makes the search results go straight into queer studies. Fifelfoo (talk) 05:45, 6 August 2012 (UTC)
Actually, the specific work I found in the Google search, [14] deals with all sorts of compliments, including ones about appearence. --Jayron32 06:22, 6 August 2012 (UTC)

Closed request for legal advice

Closed request for legal advice: μηδείς (talk) 19:19, 4 August 2012 (UTC)

To bring up a point made not two minutes later: "please provide the diffs for your actions ... so they can be traced without days of research." (emph added) [15] -- (talk) 18:07, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
Given the edit in this case was not deleted, a direct link to the still existing section was more helpful, and was provided. If you need help learning how to use wikipedia, follow (i.e., move your cursor to and click on) this link: Help. μηδείς (talk) 18:26, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
And yet the provided link will shortly become unusable, either because someone else has otherwise modified the section or because of the normal archiving process. The request for a true diff is not unreasonable, and the condescension unwarranted. That said, I concur with the closure. — Lomn 15:21, 6 August 2012 (UTC)

Removal of comments by User:KoshVorlon

User:KoshVorlon is deleting my comments saying that they're uncivil. (talk) 12:02, 6 August 2012 (UTC)

Please see WP:Civil. Even if my comments were uncivil, which they are most certainly not since they're not even about another editor, there is no permission given by that policy to summarily remove them. (talk) 12:30, 6 August 2012 (UTC)
I see no problem with the removal. — Lomn 15:23, 6 August 2012 (UTC)
WP:RemoveCivil permitts the removal of uncvil comments. My removal wasn't personal or anything.

"....We are all Kosh...."  <-Babylon-5-> 16:01, 6 August 2012 (UTC)

Removing dangerous questions

The idea of a straw poll was rejected above, so I propose this change to WP:RDG outright:

We should remove questions about making nuclear weapons, producing thermal neutrons, making fissile material and enriching it, making chemical or biological weapons, making high explosives, making addictive and dangerous drugs of abuse, and making automatic weapons. Npmay (talk) 18:14, 30 July 2012 (UTC)

Oppose Those are encyclopedic topics. It is the request for risky speccific individual how-to advice that is problematic. μηδείς (talk) 18:35, 30 July 2012 (UTC)
Can we please use common sense in this area? Questions that are clearly inappropriate should be removed from the page, particularly if there are multiple such questions from the same user. If the question appears to have been asked in good faith, a note explaining why this particular question was not suited for the ref-desk can be left on the editor's talkpage. Excessive time should not be spent arguing about the merits of such questions, as this diverts community time and resources both from responding to other questions asked on the reference desk as well as from editing the main portion of the encyclopedia. Newyorkbrad (talk) 18:44, 30 July 2012 (UTC)
There is nothing more amusing to me than people who know very little about what is and is not sensitive information related to nuclear weapons making things up that sound scary to them. Producing thermal neutrons is not exactly a secret thing — Enrico Fermi was issued a patent for the basic method in 1940! There are patents for enriching uranium, making a nuclear reactor, and separating plutonium from the waste products. Knowing how to do these sorts of things is pretty innocuous — because it's a long way from actually doing any of them. I think as long as nobody is using the Ref Desk to broker centrifuge sales then we're in the clear as far as the NPT is concerned. --Mr.98 (talk) 01:38, 31 July 2012 (UTC)
Although if you are reading about those things from an Apple device, you may be violating a EULA agreement. Someguy1221 (talk) 01:48, 31 July 2012 (UTC)
I just had a delicious idea. What if the North Korean nuclear tests fizzled because they got their nuclear weapons design information off of Wikipedia? --Mr.98 (talk) 03:53, 31 July 2012 (UTC)
Pretty sure Microsoft products have the same requirement in their EULA. (talk) 07:09, 31 July 2012 (UTC)
It's just export control boilerplate. --Mr.98 (talk) 13:33, 31 July 2012 (UTC)
So do we ban questions about Iran's nuclear weapons program? Or the Manhattan project? Or nuclear power? (I'm also intrigued why you want to ban questions on automatic weapons but are fine with questions on semi-automatics and other sorts of firearms. Maybe you feel other firearms are so easy to manufacture that a prohibition is unnecessary.) --Colapeninsula (talk) 12:05, 2 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose as in the previous discussion, a rigid categorical rule will either be substantially over inclusive, or miss lots of questions that should be removed. The solution is common sense, not WP:CREEP. Monty845 14:39, 2 August 2012 (UTC)

Just let the Chinese Government become the World Government and let the entire internet be censored. Spyware issued by the Government must be installed on all computers. Count Iblis (talk) 23:39, 3 August 2012 (UTC)

Yeah, right. This whole thread is a misnomer. There are no dangerous questions, period. There are, however, plenty of dangerous answers to questions, and plenty of dangerous statements not associated with any questions. -- ♬ Jack of Oz[your turn] 23:47, 3 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose Rule creep. I also do not endorse self-appointed censors deciding what referenced knowledge is too dangerous to appear in the ref desk responses, in an encyclopedia which maintains a "how-to" article on suicide methods through 9 deletion discussions, largely on grounds that WP:NOTCENSORED overrules the fears that knowledge might lead to something bad happening. Wikipedia also has detailed "how-to" information on the best triggering methods in the Car bomb article. which has been around for 9 years, and apparently not censored of how-to's. A question "How are car bombs typically triggered today?" could be answered by directing the questioner to the relevant article, but would be removed under the proposal on grounds that car bombs are dangerous and illegal. A question that indicates criminal intent (such as "What poison could I put in the Boss's coffee that he would not detect until it was too late,"' or "What would be the most sure and swift and painless way for me to commit suicide" could and should be removed. Edison (talk) 16:14, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

As I stated above, common sense should be used in this area. Good-faith questions should receive responses where these can be given without creating the impression that Wikipedia is indifferent to public safety. Trollish questions and questions that appear to have been asked to have been provocative and test limits should be stricken. Admittedly there will be borderline cases, but good sense should be sufficient to address 90+% of them. Continued bickering about these sorts of issues is unhelpful. Newyorkbrad (talk) 18:09, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

She's dead, Jim

The gorilla died four years ago. What sort of good faith are we supposed to assume would prevent a zookeeper from noticing her prize exhibit was four years deceased? And why would we restore such trolling when the poster who created it deleted it himself? μηδείς (talk) 19:39, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

Being wrong, or confused, or misinformed, or committing a grammatical error, or whatever, is not sufficient evidence of trolling in and of itself. (Neither is removing one's own question.) Letting such a question stand was not going to do any harm. As usual you're a little quick on the gun. You really need to re-read WP:AGF. --Mr.98 (talk) 20:25, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
I'm totally lost here. Are you saying you redeleted a question the OP first deleted ? You really need to start at the beginning so we can understand the sequence of events. StuRat (talk) 20:26, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
(ec)I didn't remove the user's question, I hatted it and pointed out the fact that Jenny (gorilla) died in 2008. It is the poster himself who deleted his own, dare I say, 'nonsense'? In any case, you are right that no one was going to lose his life over this. But I am not aware of any good reason to encourage trolling either. μηδείς (talk) 20:30, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

StuRat, the poster implied he was from the Dallas Zoo and wanted to list information about their exhibits, including the Gorilla Jenny. The problem is that Jenny has been dead for four years, and anyone associated with the zoo would obviously know that. I hatted the discussion and pointed out that it was dubious. 98 unhatted it and chided me to show good faith. I thought that was an absurd recommendation. And the original poster himself deleted his comment. Then another user told the original poster not to delete other people's comments. Given this was his own hoax question he deleted, I redeleted it. μηδείς (talk) 20:33, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

"We would like to add details about certain of our gorillas, Jenny, is [was] actually the world's oldest gorilla." Really? One word in the wrong tense is proof of trolling? Someguy1221 (talk) 20:35, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
(edit conflict) The entire point is that it wasn't clear it was trolling. I don't know what it was. But you had insufficient evidence to assume it. I saw no reason to hat it. Perhaps if it had not been labeling trolling the OP would have come back and explained themselves — that they had made a typo, that they had been confused, who knows. No way to know now.
In general, I think the Ref Desk needs a lot less of your premature hatting of things. You've had a large number of your decisions reversed and contested by others. That's good evidence, perhaps, that your assistance in that area is not actually needed. When your attempt to stifle discussions and enforce your idea of the rules causes more disruption than the alleged violations, it's a good time perhaps to take a break. --Mr.98 (talk) 20:36, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
I would note it's not even as simple as Someguy1221 suggested . Just substituting 'is' with 'was' (i.e. 'For the Western Lowland Gorilla, we would like to add the fact that one of our gorillas, Jenny, was actually the world's oldest gorilla) may lead one to believe the gorilla's lifespan was later exceeded which I presume is not the case. A better formulation would be something like 'the longest known lifespan of any gorilla' or 'oldest known gorilla ever' (similar to the formulation used in List of the verified oldest people). In fact even these formulations would have to be carefully worded since we evidentally don't know the precise age of the gorilla, just that the minimum possible age is longer then any other known age. In other words, it hardly seems surprising if the OP choose a poor wording. To be fair, when I initially read what μηδείς pointed out (only after reading what μηδείς said obviously), I too made the same mistake of not appreciating it may be a simple grammatical error. So I'm not saying μηδείς was wrong for not realising it may have been a simple grammatical error rather then trolling. But the fact it's so easy to make mistakes of this sort does reaffirm why people shouldn't be too hasty in closing discussions. Nil Einne (talk) 21:04, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

Good grief. This clearly wasn't trolling. Somebody at the zoo wanted to help add information, and they were a little confused. (Yes, it probably belonged on the Help Desk.) I'm sure the original poster deleted it because they came to realize they were in the wrong place. (Or perhaps because after being scolded against "advertising", they decided they weren't interested in helping out after all, which is too bad. AGF, and all that.) —Steve Summit (talk) 22:45, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

Tried to post this 3 hours ago but my internet went down (again). Anyway, you are misreading the question. Just because she is dead doesn't mean she isn't the longest living gorilla on record. The person with the longest confirmed human life span is also dead, but that doesn't somehow invalidate the facts. I don't see any indication of trolling in that post at all, just a naive person who wants to fill Wikipedia articles with references to a zoo. A link to WP:ADVERT is really the only response necessary. 2002:5CE9:401A:0:0:0:5CE9:401A (talk) 22:46, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

  • Hey, whoever wishes to do so should simply call the Dallas Zoo, say they are from wikipedia, and want to help. I am quite sure an institution like that must find English verb tenses and the inteweb quite confusing, and no one will get laughed at for volunteering. μηδείς (talk) 23:23, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
Seriously, though, I think there are plenty of zoos whose volunteers are not all native English speakers. —Steve Summit (talk) 23:33, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

closed req for med adv

Hatting this seems sufficient: μηδείς (talk) 02:20, 8 August 2012 (UTC)

Please make it so, before people advise psychotherapy, sleep studies, electrocardiograms, or various herbal teas and homeopathic nostrums. Edison (talk) 02:31, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
Someone has removed it. μηδείς (talk) 02:35, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
It sounds suspiciously like one of Edgar Allen Poe's stories. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 07:53, 8 August 2012 (UTC)

close req for copyright vio μηδείς (talk) 19:40, 9 August 2012 (UTC)

Good closure. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:22, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
I thought we weren't allowed to give legal opinions. The notion of copyright doesn't exist in all jurisdictions, and it's hardly our place to decide what's legal or not for the person asking the question (or indeed, that we never allow questions about activities that are illegal in some, or even most jurisdictions). No, I'm not completely serious, but I think it does raise some good questions about the intersection of different policies within Wikipedia in general and the Reference Desk in particular. Buddy431 (talk) 22:41, 10 August 2012 (UTC)

The Ref Desk is dumbing down, the regulars here should post problems

The Ref Desk is on a downward spiral, the more trivial questions are posted the less inclined people who have interesting questions want to post here, and that then leads to more and more discussions on this talk page about how to deal with problematic questions. To get out of this downward spiral, we need to post questions for the other regulars. Count Iblis (talk) 21:17, 10 August 2012 (UTC)

I thought the sole purpose of the reference desk is to provide answers to those who need them, not to encourage and support an interesting forum. However, I would be happy to be told that's not the case! --Demiurge1000 (talk) 21:20, 10 August 2012 (UTC)
I contribute questions on the occasion that I have them. i don't think soliciting questions or racking our brains for them will get us better ones. I have seen a lot of bad questions by people who post them in any quantity. μηδείς (talk) 21:41, 10 August 2012 (UTC)
A downward spiral? No way. All learning is good. Someone who asks what Count Iblis thinks is a dumb question today will hopefully ask a more sophisticated one tomorrow. All learners have to start somewhere. HiLo48 (talk) 22:07, 10 August 2012 (UTC)
It's only the OPs whose questions get dumber each time that are a problem, but the refdesk has always had those, and always dealt with them. Someguy1221 (talk) 22:13, 10 August 2012 (UTC)

The Ref Desk has too many regulars answering questions relative to the number of questions asked, which leads to the Ref Desk becoming a forum, where each qustions kicks of a discussion among the regulars. Given that we are already a de-facto discussion forum, we should make this a higher quality discussion forum that serves more as the way the Ref Desk was intended. Count Iblis (talk) 22:27, 10 August 2012 (UTC)

Your train of thought lost me in the last few words there, but in support of the rest, I'm now going to go ask a question at the Science refdesk. --Demiurge1000 (talk) 22:32, 10 August 2012 (UTC)
It's the middle of summer, and most schools are not in full swing. It'll pick up come September. It always does. Mingmingla (talk) 00:45, 11 August 2012 (UTC)
I have to mildly object to the Northern Hemisphere-centric perspective there (I'm in Australia), but I take your point ;-) HiLo48 (talk) 01:46, 11 August 2012 (UTC)
See "Eternal September", to which the following four pages link: Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Archive 52, Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Archive 76, Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Archive 79, Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Archive 86.
Wavelength (talk) 02:16, 11 August 2012 (UTC)
Since Wikipedia is supposedly losing contributors, and since a too-anal application of the "not a forum" rule is only likely to deter people from this particular corner of Wikipedia, the rule should IMO be interpreted generously. (talk) 03:39, 11 August 2012 (UTC)

subthread proving the hypothesis

It always has seemed irrational to me that you upsidedowners don't simply have cold summers and hot winters instead of at the wrong time of the year. Next your clocks will be running backwards and your toilets emptying with one flush. μηδείς (talk) 01:51, 11 August 2012 (UTC)
Just remember that our toilets empty in your direction. HiLo48 (talk) 01:59, 11 August 2012 (UTC)
Just be happy if your toliets empty
Here's a question for the desk: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could outsource the job? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 01:59, 11 August 2012 (UTC)
The woodchuck wouldn't chuck wood at all, if the wood chucking process has been outsourced. For a more detailed analysis, you really do need to specify whether it has been sourced to a domestic wood-chucking enterprise, independent subcontractors, or it has been moved overseas; and also to what extent, if any, the woodchuck has retained executive and quality control powers over the chucking processes.--Shirt58 (talk) 02:29, 11 August 2012 (UTC)
Most likely it would be in a branch office, with a trunk line for frequent rings. And don't overlook the need for training programs, service level contracts, and confidentiality agreements. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:14, 11 August 2012 (UTC)
He might not be chucking wood, but he would be having wood chucked. Unfortunately the last six woodchucks I have seen have been ex-woodchucks, a population boom evened out by hrududu. μηδείς (talk)
Quite. "Evened out" as in "flattened". Some woodchucks chuck wood. Others chuck it in. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:13, 11 August 2012 (UTC)

Re-opened hat on RD:S

I have reverted the hatting of the repair shop shenanigans by Medeis. While I generally concur with Vespine and Medeis that the thread is opinion-heavy, I don't think it's substantially more so than the de facto community standards for acceptability, and comments such as "go to another shop" are (while not referenced) perfectly reasonable responses such as would be provided by a brick-and-mortar Ref Desk. On the other hand, it's yet another rambling digression by our friend from Manhattan KS, so maybe a discussion about preemptive closures on those grounds is due. — Lomn 12:40, 9 August 2012 (UTC)

It's a tricky one, as it meanders into legalistic issues, i.e. wondering if some garage is engaged in some kind of illegal practice. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:57, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
It's a waste of space and time. You should have left it hatted. Looie496 (talk) 15:50, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
I agree with Looie and Medeis. There's a valid question in there somewhere about how the wiring could have done that to his car, but most of that question is just paranoia. Someguy1221 (talk) 16:28, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
If you will, allow me to flip that around: most of the original post is just paranoia, but there's a valid question in there about how the observed effect could happen. I note that the responses posted generally skipped the anecdotes to answer the more objective questions (Do service centers sabotage cars? No. Are mechanics paid by commission? Repair rates are standardized by the job in question. Does the car being a PT cruiser have any bearing? The cruiser is noted for electrical issues. And by the way, you don't have to do repairs where you bought the car). It'd be nice if references for the above had been provided initially, but they're all referable (save maybe sabotage, which I would consider sufficiently self-evident as to not need the reference anyway). — Lomn 17:45, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
As Medeis has re-closed the question, noting it as "explicit request for opinion/anecdote", I think it worth asking: there is an explicit request for anecdotes. There are also, as I've noted, multiple questions which are not. Is that sort of policy -- one wrong step undoing a number of reasonable ones -- one we want to encourage broadly? — Lomn 17:51, 9 August 2012 (UTC)

It's one thing if it's a silly question. It's another when you get into borderline legal issues and talk of crime and violence. The user is obviously aware he's testing our boundaries with his explicit request for opinion, and his using people's first names to make irrelevant ad hominem attacks when he should be asking some sort of science question. He's quite free to post an actual scientific question if he's got one. μηδείς (talk) 18:26, 9 August 2012 (UTC)

This: "If anyone would like to chime in their thoughts, then please do. How likely is this new problem (which occurred at the service lot, of all places) an act of sabotage?" is either a request for an unserious chat or a serious opinion on a criminal act. Either way it's verboten. μηδείς (talk) 18:31, 9 August 2012 (UTC)

Let's separate those two out. I have no argument with your characterization of the "chime in" sentence (but I note that the RD is intelligent enough to simply choose not to engage that portion, too). But "how likely is this new problem an act of sabotage?" is simple to answer. The answer is "vanishingly unlikely". I fail to see how this in any way creates friction with our policy on legal matters. — Lomn 18:36, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
It is not the reference desk's job to examine every manure pile to see what pearl we can extract from it. Although I am quite sure the IP is enjoying the attention this is a waste of time and space, discussing it any further even moreso. μηδείς (talk) 18:44, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
Maybe, but I don't see why we need to be protected from doing it either. If someone wants to sort it out, let them; I've seen plenty of wastes of time and space here, but it should be open for people to chose to do so. Nobody is forced to read it, nobody is forced to answer it; and since nobody is printing this all out, the space doesn't cost anything to waste. I don't see that drastic a difference between this and asking if buying a laptop with such and such screen for an extra $200 is a rip off (save the edge of paranoia) and we allow those questions to stand. Phoenixia1177 (talk) 20:52, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
Did he update the question? I don't remember it reading like that last time I looked at it...I change my opinion, it just seems like rambling now (supposing it was changed.) Maybe if he edited it. Phoenixia1177 (talk) 20:57, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
No. See [16]. The only modification was the addition of two further level subheadings [17] and a reply [18], later signed [19]. Are you perhaps thinking of their earlier question on their car before they decide to have the PCM replaced elsewhere a week or two back? Or one of the other questions they've asked on their car a few? months ago? As even Lomn mentioned the style of question is fairly normal for that contributor. Whether it's problems with their car; ways to make money/find a job/emigrate/what to do after uni with a big student loan/disability/braces/people holding grudges etc; or random other stuff like what to do about a mobile phone bill from Japan, or what to do after having words with someone from a petrol station, or how to hide their IP, or random stuff to do with IRC, and a lot more questions I can't be bothered remembering. (Probably should mention them twice asking about getting braces in India, only to deny it was them the second time.) Their style is fairly distinctive often starting off either with some random problem they're having in the real world or something they heard from some random place, usually particularly when it's a problem with the real world with a fair amount of apparent paranoia or strange hasty conclusions drawn from slim evidence. At least they seem to have given up on their Japanese bidet crusade.... Nil Einne (talk) 22:05, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
I was thinking of an older question. But, wow! I've noticed many of the questions you mention, they're all from the same source? Yeah, they should definitely just get taken down unless they're legitimate, I can understand a random poorly asked question, but that just seems disruptive. Phoenixia1177 (talk) 03:41, 10 August 2012 (UTC)
To be clear, I'm not accusing them of trolling or generally being intentionally disruptive. They've been consistent enough in the 2-3? years they've been here that I strongly suspect they're not trolling or trying to be disruptive, it's just the way they are. (And particularly since their IP stopped changing much, as they've helpfully told us a lot of times, it's even easier to follow them.) In fact plenty of their questions have revealed it isn't exactly unique to the RD, e.g. their recent comment on 'mass-pinging IRC'. They do have the occasional problem of asking again when they aren't satisfied with the answer (asking 3? times in a row about the Google gadget thing is a clear example of that) and sometimes pretending it wasn't them when challenged which could be seen as unacceptable disruption. However unlike with a genuine trolls, I've never felt the need to block them being that important. While with a lot of their questions (particularly those involving making money), I'm not sure whether anything we say is going to make much difference, I do suspect they're somewhat interested in the answers, unlike with a troll who is generally more interested in the response. Also many of their questions are 'strange' (for the lack of a better term) enough that you don't actually have to be familiar with the RD to realise what you're dealing with, unlike with a sneaky troll who's trolling may not be obvious unless you're familiar with their history. (The example which started this thread or the joining Free Syrian Army are prime examples here.) Nil Einne (talk) 14:04, 12 August 2012 (UTC)