Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Archive 96

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Question removed as "medical advice"

My question and all subsequent answers were removed here: [1]. As you can see, it's a question about general medical procedures, not a request for medical advice. Furthermore, Anthonyhcole did not post any message here informing us of the removal, notify any of the parties who posted there, and did not even leave a medical removal template behind. Comments ? StuRat (talk) 08:18, 2 October 2012 (UTC)

I agree with you. This was clearly not a request for medical advice and should not have been removed. --Viennese Waltz 08:31, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Thanks. Anybody else ? StuRat (talk) 18:18, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
I think that the question, as asked, is/was fine; it's a general question about medical treatment, not a request for specific treatment. Matt Deres (talk) 19:01, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
See μηδείς (talk) 19:19, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Don't just cite that without further elucidation, it's irritating. Does the question fall foul of Kainaw's criterion in your view, or not? In my view it does not. --Viennese Waltz 20:08, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Sorry, I am one of the ones who responded to the question and who restored it when it had been hatted without explanation, so I didn't think it necessary to comment further. It's obviously a general question--in fact, too general. We can imagine that the asker might somehow act on specific information were he to get it. It's obviously on just that good faith imagined possibility that the question was closed. But the concern with the disclaimer is that we not give actual individual advice or diagnosis, not that we make it impossible for ourselves to imagine that people might somehow act on information we provide; just like it's not our place to imagine what valid question the poster might have given that we could have answered when he's given one we know that, as it has been asked, we can't. People can imagine anything--but we're not paid to. μηδείς (talk) 01:24, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Some context for the question would be helpful. It's not the type of question that's likely to come out of the clear blue sky. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:32, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
OK, I saw it in passing on some medical show, and wanted to know if there was a better way to do this type of treatment. (They gave steroids for a lung infection, with inflammation, presumably, and the patient's BS went to 700 something, then they gave massive doses of insulin to try to get it back down.) I didn't catch the name of the show, or I'd have mentioned it. StuRat (talk) 22:39, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Re:Kainaw: It is a question about treatment. Bielle (talk) 23:16, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
But not one I'm going to implement. What I find out about the recommended treatment will never be used on a real patient. StuRat (talk) 23:32, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
You don't know that. I suspect the point is that this is not just about what StuRat intends to do with the answers to his question, but what any other reader could do with a treatment proposal, even a sourced one. I have no reason to disbelieve you personally, StuRat, but we cannot control the conclusions others will draw, ever, so we need to control the types of questions we will answer. Your modified request in this scenario for unsourced opinion is most inappropriate given the topic. Bielle (talk) 23:52, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Bielle, that's irrelevant. When we hat unambiguous medical advice questions, we then also take the attitude that it's none of our business to correct any misunderstandings the patient may have, we simply say, don't ask us, go to the doctor. So, even if it is very clear to us that the patient is doing himself harm, we still leave it to the doctor to intervene, we're not going to advice the patient to prevent that harm. Similarly, when we discuss anything of a medical nature here, we should be able to do that without any regard for some misguided patient to do something stupid. You really can't prevent stupid people from doing stupid things. Count Iblis (talk) 00:05, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Per PMID 17627511, there's not a lot anyone can do with brittle diabetics until they can get an islet transplant. They're like immunocompromised patients. I don't think this was a request for advice and I don't think it should have been removed. Doesn't anyone try researching the answer before posting questions or acting on them? —Cupco 23:56, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Irrelevant, Iblis? Not at all. First, we don't hat "unambiguous medical advice" questions; we delete them -with the appropriate links and notifications, of course. Hatting seems to be for the ambiguous ones. It is perfectly true that we can't prevent stupid people from doing stupid things; we can't even prevent bright people from doing stupid things. We can, however, and usually do, prevent the Ref Desks from adding to the general range of stupid choices. To accomplish this, we have a rule that we do not respond to requests for medical advice and legal advice, two areas where stupidity may be more dangerous than others. Bielle (talk) 01:09, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
But the question was not a request for medical advice. Per Kainaw, a complete response to the question would not have contained a diagnosis, a prognosis or advice on treatment. --Viennese Waltz 08:54, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Some may recognize me as an editor who favors removal of medical advice from the RD. This specific question was (clearly, IMO) not a request for medical advice, rather it was a request for medical information (a crucial distinction that is addressed in Kainaw's criterion cited above). As noted above, this deletion also fell short in terms of notification. -- Scray (talk) 01:43, 3 October 2012 (UTC)


I think the best way to proceed with this stuff from this point is a WP:DENY strategy I hereby christen "JETFA". Why argue out this stuff and get all furious with people and devote oceans of ink to Talk Page Archive #96? I humbly suggest we Just Edit The Friendly Article. An additional advantage of this tactic is that our articles on this stuff are so scanty, unreferenced, and often downright inaccurate that it's not hard to find good new information to throw in from all your false-positive search results even if you never do find the specific question that was asked, and you probably reach more people in need, and if the nattering nabobs have even a vestige of ethics they won't be able to revert you entirely. And I think they'll encounter some resistance from the admins if they try to claim you can't build the encyclopedia because some sick guy on the Refdesk might want to read it. Extra credit will be counted if you can remember what that Refdesk Collaboration template thingy was called and put it up alongside the "question deleted" notice. Wnt (talk) 05:19, 3 October 2012 (UTC)

That's all fine. We're still not going to answer questions people should be getting answers from their doctors for. --Jayron32 06:01, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Wnt is fond of citing statistics that supposedly show how often patients have been killed by doctors. I wonder if there are any stats of folks who were killed by following the advice of random internet users by either not going to a doctor at all, or by finally going to a doctor once it was too late to be saved. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:21, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
As a rule increased educational level is associated with a reduction in all-causes mortality.[2] Some of this is explained by a very basic level education indeed - eating your vegetables, not smoking cigarettes. Some isn't. However, it is clear that the more people know, the better their chances, and if our articles, or our Refdesk answers, provide people with an increased level - even when it is not a professional level - of medical information, this will be to the good. Wnt (talk) 12:54, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
To both of you: It ultimately doesn't matter. We aren't going to change this long-standing practice because of the singular campaign of one editor. Wnt is welcome to improve any Wikipedia article he wants. We're still not going to answer questions whereby people ask us for how to cure their diseases. --Jayron32 15:31, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
I'm surprised you call this a campaign by me, when this discussion began as a dispute between other editors and I proposed a "compromise" that you sound willing to accept. Wnt (talk) 15:43, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
I'm willing to accept any attempt to improve the content of a Wikipedia article. That's irrelevent to the practice of this board's refusal to attempt to provide answers to people who want us to diagnose or give treatment advice for their diseases or injuries. That should never change. If you want to make Wikipedia articles better, you do that. We're still not telling people how to cure their diseases. --Jayron32 17:19, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
That thingy is called WP:RDAC.  Card Zero  (talk) 06:57, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
I agree that creating or editing an article is appropriate. However, it may not be appropriate to notify the OP on the Ref Desk of the article. It's OK on their talk page, as this makes it obvious that you personally think that article may apply, versus "the Wikipedia Ref Desk" saying so. However, people with dynamic I/P's and no screen name may never see their messages. In this case, perhaps a Ref Desk link to the article would be allowed, provided it's made entirely clear that it's the personal opinion of the poster that this article may apply. StuRat (talk) 18:54, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
The purpose of the Refdesk collaboration tag, as I understand it, is to recruit other editors to work on the article; should the OP see it, it is a happy coincidence. I doubt anyone who objected to mentioning the collaboration would really be happy to see you one-on-oneing the OP on his talk page at greater length, but that's outside the scope of this essay. Wnt (talk) 19:02, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
The essay would represent a constructive statement if not for the third paragraph, which is obviously not neutral. More importantly, referring RD/S visitors to an article is generally a good idea because there's a good chance that article will have been edited collaboratively, have a general tone, and be well-sourced. These characteristics are especially unlikely to be present in an article that has been created or edited to answer an RD/S question; to the contrary, the article's content with respect to the RD/S question, to the extent that it has been edited per JETFA, will represent one editor's POV and interpretation of the questioner's need. Therefore, I strongly oppose the approach advocated in your essay. I see nothing wrong with RD/S questions prompting improvements to our articles, of course; I just don't think that an essay should suggest this as a way of circumventing our medical advice guidelines. -- Scray (talk) 22:33, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Certainly I am not suggesting to take a diagnosis for one person and dress it up as an article; that would be absurd. I'm saying to expand or create articles as need be to cover the topic, according to the usual standards for articles. Wnt (talk) 23:36, 3 October 2012 (UTC)

Copied from my talk page:

See Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk#Question_removed_as_.22medical_advice.22. The consensus there seems to be that your deletion was inappropriate. Please bring any further removals up for discussion there. Just deleting a Q without telling anyone is unacceptable. StuRat (talk) 02:21, 6 October 2012 (UTC)

Ordinarily I wouldn't have removed the question. As I've said before, most questions, even on medical topics, are benign; it's usually your answers that are problematical. This question, however, contained the assertion that steroids are used for the treatment of infection. The response that clarified that point also contained medical advice ("You might give nsaids, for example") and had to be removed; so I removed the lot. As far as deleting without telling goes, I mentioned it in the edit summary, "Remove medical advice and unsourced medical claims." --Anthonyhcole (talk) 05:09, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
While edit summaries work for Ref Desk regulars, random OP's generally have no idea how to search through the edit history, so won't have a clue what happened to their Q. This is why, at the very least, we leave a medical advice removal template behind. As was explained in the text you removed, the "You" in Medies' comment meant "Medical professionals". In any case, a bad answer to a Q is not a reason to remove the Q, it's a reason to hat the bad answer. A mistaken assumption in a Q is not a reason for removal, it's a reason to explain the error to the OP. StuRat (talk) 05:33, 6 October 2012 (UTC)

Australo-American relations and low unrounded diphthongs

I moved this here because it was a metadiscussion about behavior and personality, and unrelated to providing references to readers regarding subjects under discussion. --Jayron32 04:17, 3 October 2012 (UTC)

Please add a link to show where you moved it from. μηδείς (talk) 21:50, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Why this racist obsession with Americans, when Canadians and RP Brits and even the Irish have the same exact opinion of Australian vowels? Is there something inferior about Americans that needs emphasis for her majesty's subjects, present or recent, or whatever? μηδείς (talk) 03:48, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Huh? --Jayron32 03:50, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Pffft! (?) μηδείς (talk) 03:53, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
OK. Since that didn't work, let me elaborate: Would you care to explain the source of your outburst? And perhaps you could do so with less inflamatory language this time. It would be most helpful. --Jayron32 03:56, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
No obsession. The subject was raised by Baseball Bugs who, I would would be bold enough to suggest, is unashamedly American. Other views (on spoken Australian English, our Bugs, or anything else) are, of course, welcome. HiLo48 (talk) 03:54, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
My point was that the vowel of words like "high" is /ai/ in Gen Am, RP, and most dialects of English. To discuss how it is Americans who have an issue with how the Aussies pronounce that diphthong is not only biased, it's ignorant. μηδείς (talk) 04:01, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
I said other views were welcome, so thank you for your view :-) HiLo48 (talk) 04:05, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Who said that Americans have any issues? You're inventing subtext again Medeis. You really should just take people at face value. I can't find anything here that either I or HiLo48 or any other user said which could possibly be construed as "racist" in any way. --Jayron32 04:10, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
I don't know any Americans who have "issues" with Australians or any other English-speakers. If anything, Americans admire Aussies as free-thinking and independent, like our own image of the Old West and of America in general. And the various ways English speakers pronounce words is a lot of fun. Accents are fun. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:15, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
The success of Crocodile Dundee is evidence that Americans don't hate Australian pronunciation, though they do find it "colorful" and have some stereotypes. Unfortunately, Australia's individualist image has been tarnished in recent years by its internet censorship and weak record on freedom of speech... Hmmm, why is this on RD:Talk again? You should just split to a new question. Wnt (talk) 12:47, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Yes, I think the problem is that Americans think of Aussies as too colorful. When we encounter an Aussie we start saying thinks like "Put the shrimp on the barbie, mate !". That's about as annoying to an Aussie as if anyone who encountered an American started doing John Wayne: "Howdy pilgrims !". StuRat (talk) 19:04, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Interestingly, "shrimp on the barbie" came from an ad campaign designed for the American market, because they wouldn't have made much sense of putting "prawns on the barbie". No Australian ever talks about shrimps when it's prawns they're eating. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 21:25, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
God, well if you are going to judge Americans by their ad campaign designers we have no defense--at least not one that isn't a racist attack on the 'people who control the media'. My sole point was that most Americans can't tell the difference between an Aussie and a British accent (or a Cockney and an RP accent) and think they all sound posh, while Brits are the biggest critics of Antipodean English. To cast it all in terms of American opinions of Australians is not only bigoted, it's factually wrong. μηδείς (talk) 21:46, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for finally recognising my true status. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 23:31, 3 October 2012 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Being an American, I find this just plain wrong: "... most Americans can't tell the difference between an Aussie and a British accent (or a Cockney and an RP accent) and think they all sound posh ..." e.g. to me a Cockney accent sounds rather lower class. Americans I've known, can tell the difference between those accents.
America is a big place with a huge variety of people and cultural pockets, and a covering a large land area. So to make a blanket statement about what "Americans" can or can't distinguish language-wise is naively stereotyping. e.g. I find the Aussie use of "Cheers" as a sign-off irritating, kind of like "Have a nice day!" But that's me.
And what is meant by this: "well if you are going to judge Americans by their ad campaign designers we have no defense--at least not one that isn't a racist attack on the 'people who control the media'." In what sense is "racist attack" being used here?
And who designed this ad campaign for the American market - and which market? I never heard that ad campaign. MathewTownsend (talk) 22:52, 3 October 2012 (UTC)

Oh, it was a long time ago. Maybe 20 years. When Crocodile Dundee was still well known. And I'm an Aussie who never says "Cheers". As for being liked for our "colourful" language (hope you like that spelling), it doesn't work here. If I see bullshit written here, and openly call it bullshit, I get accused of being uncivil. HiLo48 (talk) 23:05, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Here is that iconic ad that lead to the whole “shrimp on the barbie” thing. It was from 1984, 28 years ago. How time flies.
And here's an Aussie take on it.
This an utterly execrable and totally forgettable attempt to cash in on it. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 23:31, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Hmmmm. Entertaining. I think. That "Aussie take on it" reminds me that at least a lot of Australians help Americans when they sing. They do it with an American accent. HiLo48 (talk) 01:39, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
Mathew: don't worry about -- pay no attention to -- that curious remark about "judging Americans by their ad campaign designers". I didn't understand it, either, but it's just Medeis being outrageous, as usual. I'm not going to say what I think he is, because he'd cite me for a personal attack, but I recommend that you just ignore him. —Steve Summit (talk) 00:38, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
I didn't start this pointless stupid thread, but I am glad you took the opportunity to blame me for it. That's why we have neutral admins, right? μηδείς (talk) 01:21, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
No, but you did call someone a "racist", with no apparent antecedent action on their part. That's what led to this part of the side discussion.--Jayron32 05:28, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
Until this discussion, I wasn't aware that Aussies are a "race", nor that having fun with the many ways of speaking our great and glorious common language constituted "racism". ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 11:30, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
Oh, for Freddo Frog sake, how on Google Earth did this become a controversial matter? There are far more important "on-wiki" things to address.--Shirt58 (talk) 12:39, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps I' m missing something and I have no desire to read the whole boring conversation but my impression is that per the discussion, it is Americans that are a race. Nil Einne (talk) 06:41, 6 October 2012 (UTC)


I thought this page was to discuss ideas that would improve the Reference Desk, or to identify problems with the Reference Desk, either one with the intent or desire of improving it. But lately all I see is fighting. Please stop fighting. Thank you.    → Michael J    07:07, 3 October 2012 (UTC)

One of the most frequent "problems with the Reference Desk" is the manner in which individual editors interact with each other. There are many ways in which interactions can be less than ideal. Sometimes, these matters need to be discussed back here. If not here, where?
If we could eliminate all less-than-ideal interactions between individuals, both here and in life generally, we'd .... I'm sorry, but that would be OR, because there is no real-life example I could possibly show you.
I, for one, would much rather we talk things out, or at least try to. It doesn't always work; some people just want to have it their way, with as little dissent as possible, and have very limited patience with anyone who has a contrary view. That's sad, but it's part of the way things are, and we have to deal with things the way they are, not the way we'd like them to be. Getting to the point where things are the way we, collectively, would like them to be is, we hope, the end result of dealing with things the way they are right now.
I'm sorry you see these back-room discussions as fighting. That's the last thing I would ever want to be associated with, and I think I speak for most others here. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 08:30, 3 October 2012 (UTC)

"Lately"? I've been frequenting the Ref Desks for more than six years and I can't remember a time when peace and harmony reigned. --Dweller (talk) 11:41, 3 October 2012 (UTC)

It's better to debate issues here than to do so in front of the OPs. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:23, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
  • Hello Michael J, and welcome to Wikipedia, the encyclopedia that anyone can edit. This is what we do here... --Jayron32 12:28, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
...Fight?  Card Zero  (talk) 13:03, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Seriously? Fighting describes a sizable portion of what happens in all of Wikipedia, every day. Where have all of you people been? --Jayron32 13:06, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
I strongly believe that, especially in main space, editors fighting is extremely beneficial. --Dweller (talk) 13:09, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Well, okay, healthy debate, yeah, but we do have WP:CIVIL, too... —Steve Summit (talk) 17:17, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Jayron, I have been editing on Wikipedia for nearly seven years. ... I guess I am just noticing that the nature of the discussion includes more animosity and personal insults than in the past. But then again, discussion and discourse in general society has devolved in that manner over the past few years as well, so I guess the talk page is just mirroring society. Not that I have to like it in either place. (I remember a time when a group of us would gather together specifically to politely debate politics and religion.)    → Michael J    20:06, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
I've been here almost as long as you have (2005-2006) and it hasn't been any different the whole time I've been here. I don't participate in such rudeness, as best as I am able, but it's always been there, and always been like this. It isn't correct, I argue till I am blue in the face for a more professional, civil, and respectful discourse. But expressing incredulity at the situation is a worthless endeavor. I recognize that it is the state we are in. I don't like it, but I also don't pretend it doesn't exist or hasn't existed for many years. --Jayron32 01:45, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
Looking at the provocative thread above this one I have to say to Jayron that people who arrange bets on cockfights rarely strap on the spurs themselves and stand in them as participants. μηδείς (talk) 01:55, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
I'm afraid I don't follow. Could you speak more plainly, perhaps? --Jayron32 02:01, 4 October 2012 (UTC)

Exceptions to the medical advice policy

There are a few cases that I've encountered on another forum (where we don't have the "no-medical advice policy") that would pose a problem if they had been posted here and then deleted or hatted. This has to do with patients who get (dangerously) bad treatment from their doctors. In such a case, one would at least have to hat the question with the advice to seek another doctor, which in itself is non-trivial medical advice.

An example of a case that occured a few weeks ago. On a forum about vitamin D, a patient asked a question about the alfacalcidol she was prescribed. She had read that alfacalcidol is potentially dangerous and askd if she should instead use regular vitamin D. Then at this point, had this question be asked here, we would have deleted or hatted the question. But now consider what happened on our forum. We asked the patient to post her blood test results and asked if she is a kidney patient. It turned out that her blood tests were ok. that she had been vitamin D deficient but due to the previously prescibed vitamin D supplements, her vitamin D levels were now normal. And she is not a kidney patient who needs to use alfacalcidol.

The reason why the doctor prescribed her the alfacalcidol was simply because this is insured and vitamin D supplements are not. Not only that, the doctor had not planned any regular checks of her blood calcium levels, so basically the doctor was prescribing alfacalcidol as if it were just some vitamin D supplement.

Our advice was to go back to the doctor, explain to the doctor why taking alfacalcidol is a bad idea in her case (we gave the detailed explanation to her), return the alfacalcidol and ask for regular vitamin D supplements (and then find another, competent doctor). Then the next day we heard from her what happened. The doctor did gave her regular vitamin D supplements, but didn't take the alphacalcidol back, he told her that as it would be destroyed when returned, she could just as wel keep it and give it to someone else who is vitamin D deficient.

Count Iblis (talk) 16:07, 3 October 2012 (UTC)

I think we went over this before. Telling people "we don't answer these kinds of questions", is not, in itself, any form of medical advice. I see no problem with refusing to answer medical advice questions where people believe their first doctor gave them what we believe to be bad advice. We don't respond to requests for the kinds of questions a doctor should be answering instead of us. Full stop. --Jayron32 17:17, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
(ec) I like the direction of your mind, but if this is a prescription drug (speaking of which, what's the best resource to find out this sort of legalistic stuff about chemicals?) then isn't it highly illegal for her to give it to someone else? Of course, since he's a doctor, his advice is ethical by definition, and I would not want to contradict his suggestion here for fear of violating our policy on giving medical and/or legal advice... Wnt (talk) 17:19, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Yes, the doctor was just incompetent on this issue, giving this drug to others is completely irresponsible. To address Jayron's point, I think we do need a new policy for such exceptional situations were, beyond a reasobable doubt, the patient is at risk. It's not that different from the policy we have about dealing with suicidal editors, or people who make a credible threat to use violence, or a pedophile who is grooming some child here. There are emergency procedures here to deal with these issues, so why not have some procedure here to deal with the (rare) case of someone who is not getting the right medical attention?
All we would be doing is simply refer the person to the right doctor with just minimal advice from our side. And this doesn't have to be done by us here at the Ref-Desk, there could be someone from the WMF who would assist the patient. So, this procedure should only be used when saying "go to your doctor" would likely do more harm than good, like in the case described above. It's rare, but not so extremely rare that it never happens. Count Iblis (talk) 17:55, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
All we should be doing is not giving them any advice. As far as I'm concerned, this is a non-starter. At the absolute outside, we should say: "If you are concerned about the advice your doctor gave you, see a different doctor", and nothing else. And that is a stretch, too. We aren't doctors, and we almost certainly don't have the relevant info, such as patient history, allergies, etc. Mingmingla (talk) 18:38, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Telling people "in this case your doctor's judgement is questionable, so get a 2nd opinion" is iffy, yes. A better approach might be to alter our medical advice template to say "If you are unhappy with the advice from your current doctor, seek advice from another". StuRat (talk) 19:00, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
You would have to think about a wording that works across the world. In the UK you have a right to seek a second opinion. That's probably on the NHS website somewhere. Itsmejudith (talk) 19:12, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Certainly you have the right to a 2nd opinion anywhere. I assume you meant that the government/insurance will pay for it, in the case of the UK. That does bring up any interesting issue, though, of nations where a 2nd opinion is at the patient's expense, and many can't afford one. This is similar to the problem of the uninsured in the US. It certainly seems like health outcomes would be improved in such situations if there was somewhere online that people could get a minimum level of medical advice for free, although that doesn't need to be Wikipedia ("Your cut has turned green, swollen, is oozing pus, and smells bad ? Go to the emergency room !"). StuRat (talk) 19:23, 3 October 2012 (UTC)

Cultural assumptions in questions (discussion from "Why do Koreans eat dog")

Note: Moved from mainspace to here

There's a theme in the responses above that I see a lot around the ref desk. Lots of people jump on the OP because they assume the question is making some judgment about the practice they're asking about. Maybe they are. Would these responses be the same if they asked "why do the French eat creme brule?" You'd respond to that question by finding some history, referring them to the article, and moving on nicely. The initial responses all jump on this assumption which turns into a discussion of what other countries eat strange things... nothing to do about the OP's question about Dog meat in Korea.
Which would be one thing if it was an odd topic, but it's not because we have dog meat and, GET THIS, Dog meat consumption in South Korea (which should have been the first link provided, yet even to this point in the discussion, I don't see it linked to). And because the OPs question does have some tone of... astoundment... we have Taboo food and drink as an article that would explain that part. Shadowjams (talk) 20:47, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
(Mainspace link) hydnjo (talk) 22:18, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
Mine was the first response, of "Why do Americans eat cow meat?" It's an approach I often use with teenagers (I'm a teacher) with the aim of getting them to think and perhaps arrive at at least part of the solution themselves. I don't apologise for this. HiLo48 (talk) 23:36, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Yes, I know exactly what you were doing. I take issue with exactly that approach for reasons explained above. You assume that they ask the question because they find it odd, not that they're interested in an answer, and you run with that to make a point about their cultural assumptions you've assumed. Shadowjams (talk) 03:30, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
While I take Shadowjams' point, I'm not sure that he's not making his own unwarranted assumptions about whatever unwarranted assumptions HiLo48 might or might not be making about the original poster's unwarranted assumptions. Given that the OP is posting from a U.S. ISP, it's not unreasonable to assume that he is an American, who will at least be familiar with the United States' dominant practices and taboos, whether the OP agrees with – or understands – them or not. Asking an American the question "Why do Americans eat cows?" prompts the question, "Why do Americans eat cows, anyway?" and leads to the potential for all kinds of interesting discussions about history, economics, migration, culture and traditions, geography, and so on. The typical American is likely more familiar with American history (political, social, economic) than with Korean history, and is more likely to be well-equipped to approach the 'Americans and cows' question. Once they have examined the 'Americans and cows' issue, they'll have a better handle on the sorts of questions they might want to ask to answer the 'Koreans and dogs' question—regardless of their personal cultural assumptions and taboos, they will be able to transfer their approach over, and be better aware of the gaps they might need to fill in their knowledge and experience. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 04:03, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
You'all mind if we move this sub discussion to the talk page? Shadowjams (talk) 04:12, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
To the Talk page of what? And yes, just to confirm TenOfAllTrades' point, I did check that the OP was probably located in Houston, Texas, so could be expected to be familiar with American, particularly Texan eating habits. I thought of mentioning Texas Longhorns, a breed I've seen for myself within the city limits of Houston, but thought that might be pushing it too far. HiLo48 (talk) 04:20, 4 October 2012 (UTC)

I take both your points, and in fact I acknowledge you're probably right. Just based on the tone of the question it's not unreasonable to guess the OP might have been asking it as a point of astonishment, rather than of curiosity. But I think that's generally an unhelpful assumption to make. Especially if we have an article that will answer the asked question outright.

What ends up happening, as it did here, is that people spend the next 8 or so responses talking about this tangent, and the question is never really answered. I understand too why it's tempting to do. It's almost always with... searching for the right word here... concerns over cultural superiority, or some other even more charged topic (think politics, race, religion, etc.). And that's a recipe for spiraling into tangents, debate, forum behavior, etc.

And I think we'll all agree. The Ref Desk gets a bad impression because of these tangents. If instead, with perfectly blank faces, we answer with factual concise, un-editorial answers, we shut down that concern, and if in fact the OP was trying to make some cultural point (or are just naive), our nonchalant handling of the matter does more to correct any strange biases than all the proselytizing could ever make.

I'm certainly not immune from doing exactly what I criticize here either. We all like to get our side out there, whether it's a basic fact that was misstated, or an opinion or worldview we think is wrong. But I think there's a balance and too often the Ref Desk goes too far. HiLo's comment certainly wasn't extreme or out of the ordinary, but it was a terse response that led off topic (possibly not HiLo's fault that it did), when we have a very good article on the precise topic that should have been linked in the first response.

I'd like to see us get away from opinion bating questions, or responses. Because for no other reason, they make the odds of an OP finding a good, answer that much harder. We are too prone to speculation, us giving our opinions that we piece together from our experiences. Sometimes this leads to good answers.

Some questions leave no other choice (I'm sure you can find one at any time on the desk) than to speculate. But sometimes we have good articles on the topic that answer it, or we can at least point them towards that, and then do our speculation. It's all a balance to be sure. But I fear, and I don't think I'm alone, we've gone too far one direction on this front. Shadowjams (talk) 04:23, 4 October 2012 (UTC)

hey, why don't we just start a meta wikipedia meta reference meta desk meta talk meta page where everyone who has a meta issue with meta anything can meta move the existing discussion to a meta thread about meta reality? Meta? μηδείς (talk) 05:07, 4 October 2012 (UTC) meta μηδείς (talk) 05:07, 4 October 2012 (UTC) meta μηδείς (talk) 05:07, 4 October 2012 (UTC)?
I heard you like meta dog so I meta'd the meta. Shadowjams (talk) 06:16, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
DYK that meta is an anagram of meat? Shadowjams (talk) 06:16, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
Metaballs.  Card Zero  (talk) 16:59, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
Meh. HiLo48 (talk) 05:09, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
I'm a bit disappointed that you moved this. While my comment didn't hand an answer to the OP, I thought it provided some useful insight into how the OP (or anyone else) might go about finding the answer to this, or a related, question. The Ref Desk isn't just about snapping out a quick answer, it's also about helping teach readers how we (and they) can find answers. I put some thought, time, and effort into what I wrote, and I think it's too bad that you cut it out of the page only twenty minutes after I posted it. I get that you wanted to reconsider your unwarranted attack on HiLo48, but you threw the baby out with the bathwater. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 14:25, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
Are you talking about why I moved your response onto the talk page? If so, it's because I wanted to move the entire thread in wholesale, so as to not change any context, and because all that I moved is utterly irrelevant to the OP's original question. We're having, as medic says, a meta debate about whether answers like HiLo's are constructive at the ref desk. And you're talking about that point. It's not really relevant to the OPs question (except in some meta way). You're free to add it back I guess, as is this discussion apparently isn't going to accomplish anything. Shadowjams (talk) 22:34, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
I would say that a discussion encouraging a poster to consider how he might approach finding an answer to his question is – or should be – relevant to his interests. When the Ref Desk is at its best, we're not (usually, supposed to be, just) a "magic answer machine" that regurgitates material that could just as easily have come from LMGTFY. When a poster gives us a question whose answer comes from a complex mixture of history, geography, culture, and economics, we miss a great opportunity when we don't give the OP a chance to explore those issues and – perhaps just as important – help to put them in the context of their own experience and background. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 23:55, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
That explanation works fine with a math question, or even a question where you take a neutral slant on the subject, but if we view every question as an opportunity to educate the OP on a particular worldview, or less subtly, a political point of view, then it's a forum. And the RD, at least in theory, ought to be something different.
You're right, we're not a magic answer machine. We're a reference desk. We ought to supply references, or if it's possible (and not homework), just answer the question. We're not a chance for everyone to ply their particular worldview. That'll come up sure, but does it need to be the lead-off response, when a better response would be "how about you look at this article that's almost a verbatim rephrasing of your question called Dog eating in Korea."
I generally hate example arguments but try this one on for size: If the OP had asked "why did German and the U.S. fight in WW2?" it hopefully wouldn't be one's first instinct to say "why did the U.S. and Japan fight in WW2?" That response would seem blatantly ridiculous. On its face that's what happened here.
Now, I'll concede that there's a difference: namely when ones asks about a cultural taboo there's something probably to that. But why must we make that assumption. And, the default position in the first few responses seems to be "so what, it's just another animal, what's the difference." I might agree with you there, however, the fact it's controversial suggests a substantial number of people don't actually agree with that worldview. So as great as you think cultural inclusiveness is, or not judging other cultural practices, understand there's a not insubstantial number of people that disagree. It's opening up a debate that doesn't ever need one. Shadowjams (talk) 02:09, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
Why are you telling me about (what you imagine are) my thoughts on cultural inclusiveness, or plying different worldviews, or abusing the Ref Desk as a forum? Where did I do that in what I wrote? You may be responding to things that other editors have said, but despite the location and indenting of your remarks you don't seem to be replying to my comments. In any case, I'm sure that you realize your hypothetical question about WW2 isn't really directly analogous to the situation at hand, and I'm loath to encourage this discussion to wander further afield—but I hope that you also realize that a complete response to that question properly would include reference to other wars by way of contrast, comparison, or context. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 02:37, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
Why do you assume this is all about you? My answer speaks for itself. I'm still the only one who referenced the obvious topic on point. As I said before, this discussion apparently will go nowhere. Shadowjams (talk) 04:57, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
Your reply was intended in reply to TenOfAllTrades (as they already mentioned), so it was entirely resonable for them to assume it was directed at them or at least in reply to what they said. Nil Einne (talk) 06:35, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
Did you mean "Your reply was indented ..."? -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 12:18, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
Ooops yes, sorry for any confusion. Nil Einne (talk) 23:11, 6 October 2012 (UTC)

Innapropriate question

Wikipedia:Reference desk/Science#Best suicide method looks inappropriate, but doesn't seem to be actually breaking any of the rules at the top of the page. I have attempted to answer it, but unsure if the question should be deleted -- Davidprior 12:20, 5 October 2012 (UTC)

I see Grump already removed it. In effect, it's a request for both medical and legal advice, so it has to go. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:36, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
This one comes up fairly regularly in one form or another, has been handled in a variety of ways, and has provoked passionate debates on how to handle it. Examples: 1, 2 3, 4, 5, 6. There are also references to unsuccessful attempts to produce a protocol on how to do so. If we believe there to be an imminent threat to life it should go to the Foundation to be handled (as here, for example); however, this was couched in general terms rather than personal ones. In this particular case, is a simple removal without trace the right way to handle it? (Note that I agree in principle that this should not be answered in the usual way because of the serious potential for harm - I'm not criticising the removal per se.) Just looking for policy, or some sign of consistency in how we handle a question like this, because the examples I linked to don't help. - Karenjc 13:41, 5 October 2012 (UTC)

I wrote the following before knowing this issue had already been raised:

I'm not here to take issue at all with Andy’s edit about not answering questions about how to commit suicide. A very sensible removal.
But his edit summary states a position that doesn't seem to be covered by our Guidelines.
"The reference desk is not a place to seek professional advice on medical … matters, …" is not relevant, unless one regards the extinction of life a medical matter. I don't.
"The reference desk is not a place to debate controversial subjects" is not relevant, as this was not an invitation to a debate, just a request for info on how to do it.
If we want to have a clear policy about suicide-related questions, we should have it down in black and white. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 23:56, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
Interesting that I have no problem answering a question about "how to" with respect to suicide (deliberate killing of oneself), while I do have a problem answering questions where one could accidentally kill (or severely injure) oneself. I'd love to know, for myself, exactly what drug to take in exactly what quantity to achieve the least painful, but certain, death. However, I don't expect many would agree with me, so I am not asking the question and I am not arguing against the close. And yes, I do realize that information "for myself" might also be used against others. Bielle (talk) 00:11, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
Attempting suicide is illegal in most places, and aiding in someone's pursuit of that puts the respondent on the wrong side of the law. Even forgetting that, he didn't just ask how to do it, he asked for specifics which require medical advice, which no one here is qualified to provide, and it's against the rules anyway. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:34, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
Do we have a formal policy about providing advice on illegal activities? It's obvious that some people in society (police, criminologists, legislators, etc.) have to study illegal activities as a normal part of their lives. I'm also concerned that there is no universal moral certainty about suicide being a bad thing, yet almost every comment written here so far has been written as if there is. You must all know that there is considerable debate on the matter. HiLo48 (talk)
The "illegal activities" issue has been debated here before. Very few activities are illegal everywhere and in all circumstances; on the other hand many common everyday activities become illegal in certain circumstances. For the action at issue here, reading our article on suicide legislation shows that there are many jurisdictions where attempting suicide is not always illegal, and even some where assisting suicide may be legal. So it would be difficult to exclude questions asking for information about a possibly illegal activity unless the questioner explicitly states that they intend to use that information to break the law. Of course, a question such as "when is it legal to do x ?" should not be answered because it breaks the "no legal advice" guideline. Gandalf61 (talk) 09:56, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
(edit conflict) In many jurisdictions suicide is certainly not a crime, although assisting suicide may indeed be. So "no legal advice" may or may not be relevant. Jack has outlined a similar difficulty with "no medical advice". This question falls down the cracks between our RefDesk guidelines, yet cannot easily be escalated to the WMF either. I accept HiLo's point about differing opinions on whether suicide is a bad thing or not, but that's a whole nother can of worms and not, I would suggest, within our remit. What is different about this type of question, compared to your usual medical/legal infringement, is that the way we respond could, conceivably, influence someone's decision whether or not to kill themself. I think we should have something in black and white to refer to when we get a question like this. The previous ragbag of questions and responses I linked to above underlines the fact that we don't. - Karenjc 10:07, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
  • This should not have been removed, but it would be a good opportunity to WP:JETFA, as I've suggested before. Our coverage of suicide methods doesn't describe anything as advanced as the, ahem, "assisted suicide" formula encountered by Socrates, nor does it mention the so-named Hemlock Society. (I'm not really interested in editing the article myself, though, as I don't really feel like I've heard any definitive reviews back from those who have taken this particular vacation) Wnt (talk) 13:23, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
    • Yes, it should have. Helping someone kill themselves or anyone else is NOT appropriate under any circumstances here. If you want to e-mail the user, that's your business. But don't put wikipedia in the business of aiding and abetting suicide or homicide. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:44, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
      • There's a difference between answering a question and helping someone kill himself. People who make suicide attempts and suicide gestures are, by definition, in a disordered state of mind, and their intent may not be clear - they may want to die, or not want to die, or create some risk that overwhelms the smaller problems of their lives, I don't know, but what I do know is that the poor bastards do not want to overdose on acetaminophen and suffer a long slow lingering death while somebody half-heartedly tries to rustle them up a liver. They already know a gun will kill; giving them information will not give them a more lethal means, but it might help them to avoid doing something like that that will result in neither death nor life but a misery they never wanted in all their indecisions. Wnt (talk) 21:48, 8 October 2012 (UTC)

I've read somewhere that the best method is to inhale helium. Count Iblis (talk) 15:24, 6 October 2012 (UTC)

Nitrogen is cheaper, but more dangerous to the next person who comes along if you use it in an enclosed space. —Tamfang (talk) 16:28, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
Which then leads to the question about the existence of the World where/when you don't exist. Arguably there exists a large number of universes where you exists and where you don't exist and whatever you choose do to doesn't matter at all, except for which World you end up in. The World where people died because a copy of you committed suicide using nitrogen simply exists, even if you decide not to commit suicide. Count Iblis (talk) 16:44, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
The morality in a multiverse problem! That's a total sidetrack, but fun. Tell you what, I'll put something on my talk page about it.  Card Zero  (talk) 13:15, 7 October 2012 (UTC)

Removal of "answered" closure

I removed an "answered" closure on RD/S just now. I hope that this is not controversial, but I recall a consensus that we don't close questions; rather, the RD is an open discussion that OP's don't "own". -- Scray (talk) 23:43, 5 October 2012 (UTC)

That would be my read on the RD's usual practice. Bielle (talk) 00:13, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
I recognised the OP as having done it before confirmed from [3]. I agree consensus has generally been against the idea, I didn't personally see any deal with the first instance but it may be best to have a word with the OP about it if it's going to keep happening so I've directed them here. Nil Einne (talk) 06:45, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
Hi, thanks for letting me know. I'd taken a long enough break from Wiki that I'd actually forgotten the "Resolved" template, and searching for it (I couldn't remember the word, incredibly), I found the answered template. You are correct, I've only used it twice, but certainly no ownership was implied. Don't think I didn't realize the template stood out like a sore thumb! Do let me know if the resolved template is also recognized as contravening RD rules. (Reply here.) Again, thanks for notifying me. – Kerαunoςcopiagalaxies 09:00, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
The {{resolved}} template is appropriate.    → Michael J    14:25, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
We try to avoid hatting or closing questions – at least, questions that haven't gone off the rails – for a couple of reasons. Sometimes it's possible to go a bit deeper into an answer; for instance, the thread that Scray un-closed has had two replies since it was reopened, one of which mentioned the concept of shot noise: an article that had been overlooked in the original responses. More seriously, an apparently-answered question will occasionally receive an outright incorrect response from one of the Ref Desk's shoot-from-the-hip answer-first-look-for-sources-later crowd; closing the question may discourage fact-checking. (I have in the past seen a resolved or closed template slapped on a thread that has received entirely incorrect, entirely unreferenced replies.) Finally, there are instances where the original question has received a reasonably complete answer, but there have been follow-up questions that arise from the discussion; while such queries can sometimes be moved to a new thread, it's often better to leave them to be handled in situ, in the context where they arose. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 15:10, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
I support Scray's re-opening. I'm also generally not in favour of any sort of final "resolved" or "answered" mark. Just because the OP or a respondent think they're got the proper answer doesn't mean that they actually have and the "resolved" tag dissuades further respondents from clarifying or correcting earlier replies and also encourages the OP to think the matter is closed. Yes, there are instances where it's... well, not entirely unhelpful, but it seems to have a lot of downside with no real upside. Matt Deres (talk) 17:37, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
I'll admit that I used the resolved template in the past to sort of hint at the fact that I've removed the Ref discussion from my watchlist—and sometimes people would leave kind messages on my talk page notifying me of their continuing responses. But this shouldn't be relied upon at all, obviously. The ideal thing to do, of course, would be to simply keep the page and question on your watchlist until its time is up and it's removed. If I ask a question like, what's two plus two, and I get the answer "four" with a link as to why, I suppose a resolved template would suffice, but some questions also bring forth serious discussion, alternative possibilities, etc. Either way, I wasn't aware of how closing a question would have such effect, so I do appreciate this point being brought up. – Kerαunoςcopiagalaxies 07:11, 7 October 2012 (UTC)
Usually when a question is resolved, the resolved tag is not added, and usually when the resolved tag is added, there is still more that could be answered. So certainly the question should remain visible. Wnt (talk) 01:03, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
And we've just had a demonstration today of why using {resolved} tags is a bad idea. At Wikipedia:Reference desk/Science#Cat eyes (permalink) we had a question that received an off-the-cuff response that was plausible-sounding but had no supported references or research; the person giving the reference-less answer decided on his own initiative to add a resolved tag ([4]). Unfortunately, his answer was incomplete and inaccurate. I've removed the resolved tag, added a well-referenced, more-detailed, more-accurate answer ([5]), and advised the OP that there were problems with the answer he had originally received, but there's no guarantee that we're always going to catch these things. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 02:39, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
There are occasions, however, where a question of fact has a single, definitive answer, and further discussion merely leads the thread astray. Would not the {{resolved}} tag be appropriate in that instance?    → Michael J    02:51, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
In the instance I just linked, the person who posted the incorrect answer presumably believed he had provided a single, definitive answer. In any event, how often do questions that have a clear, cut and dried, factual answer really get dragged off into the weeds? My impression is that we mostly get into trouble with questions that don't have short, definitive, 'right' answers: the opinion-seeking questions and the 'what-if' questions. (I do wish, however, that there was half the effort put into searching for appropriate references that there is put into coming up with 'clever' jokes.) TenOfAllTrades(talk) 03:31, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
I am not sure exactly what the issue is here. A question marked resolved is neither hatted nor deleted. Anyone who likes is free to append an answer--I have never seen anyone get upset when that happens. And I have never seen anyone get upset if the questioner removes a resolved marker, or adds one. About the only even related thing I have seen happen is people bitch when their political answers to a linguistic question are hatted by the questioner, as opposed to some random editor with a POV hatting the POV's he opposes. The former strangely seems to bug the shit out of people, while no one complains when the latter happens. This is all rather bizarre and uebermeta. μηδείς (talk) 04:02, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
Personally while I disagree with the use of resolved by anyone besides the OP, I don't mind when the OP uses them even if I wouldn't encourage it. While the OP doesn't 'own' a question, and plenty of questions and answers can arise out of interest to a wider audience and the archives mean answers can continue to be helpful to others for a long time after; our primary aim in answering questions should generally be to help the OP. If the OP feels an answer is resolved and marks it as such, this likely means they are satisfied with the level of the existing answers, and potentially will not even be back to check any new answers. This may discourage future answers such as those which may provide further elaboration or explaination, but I don't necessarily see that as a bad thing. If people can't be bothered answering because they're not sure anyone is interested any more that should be their choice. Of course if someone else is interested, I don't see any problem with them removing the resolved tag for that reason (but I don't see any reason for them to remove it simply because they dislike such tags). Similarly if it turns out the the problem is not simply that the answers could do with further explaination but they're basically wrong, it's likely helpful to actually tell the OP of that if they're potentially not going to be back. The only real problem is that since the resolved is not normally signed, we have no way of knowing who added it, so it's difficult to be sure the OP was actually the one who added it. (Closed discussions as started this thread are more problematic.) Nil Einne (talk) 04:03, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
I marked it resolved since I believe I gave a correct answer (and still do, despite some nitpicking), and the OP seemed happy with the answer. Note that the actual Q was whether cats have IR vision, so the additional discussion of why they do or don't isn't a reason to keep the Q open. As said above, if anyone feels it is resolved, but has something to add, they are free to do so. If they disagree that it is resolved, they are also free to remove the tag, as happened here. It's still helpful to have some indication as to which Q's are resolved, so the tag is useful there. StuRat (talk) 21:50, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
If the OP wanted to add the resolved tag, they could have done so. You should not be deciding for the OP that your answer is correct, particularly since as this case and others have shown, you are often wrong. Nil Einne (talk) 03:36, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
Most OP's don't have a clue how to add the resolved tag, and may not even be back, in any case. As I said, anyone who wants to reopen it can do so. StuRat (talk) 04:01, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
I'm in agreement with Nil Einne - I can understand the OP's application of this tag for the reason stated by Keraunoscopia above, and the OP has a unique role with respect to the question they've posed. Application by others is unhelpful (and you StuRat stand out in my memory as using it indiscriminately). -- Scray (talk) 04:50, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
But that's a key problem. The fact that OPs tend to be inexperienced means that they may mistakenly think when their question is 'resolved' and they should expect no further answers or that we have an official method of deciding whether the existing answers are sufficient and correct and have decided they are in this case (or possibly both). In fact, in a case like this when you are adding it based on your own replies it's worse since there isn't even a third party who has decided your answers are sufficient. Experienced editors i.e. those who are likely to reply don't need some other random editor to tell them the matter is resolved in a place like the RD where most of the time, there's no clear cut definition of 'resolved' or arguably a lot of the time a questions isn't even really resolved. Nil Einne (talk) 06:26, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
If we don't add resolved tags, they will rarely be used at all by the OPs. Thus, we each end up having to read through long question and answer threads to try to determine if they are resolved or if we can add to them, repeatedly. The reality is that, once a Q gets to a certain length, most of us will just decide that it's probably answered and skip it, as it's not worth reading through all that to try to make the determination. So, the purpose of the resolved tag is to ensure that Q's with lots of responses, but no resolution, don't get ignored. As for your concern that the OP may not feel they can remove the tag if they disagree, we could update the template to say so, or I could add a separate note to that effect. StuRat (talk) 06:36, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
If the resolved tag were only applied appropriately (as Nil Einne points out, if it could be used accurately) I would agree, but you have amply demonstrated its misapplication. It so unreliable that it simply disrupts reading. -- Scray (talk) 06:42, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
Here's an example of where the OP didn't mark it resolved, but it was fairly obvious from their comments it was, so I added the tag: Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Mathematics#Root_problem. StuRat (talk) 08:25, 9 October 2012 (UTC)

Let's imagine...

Let's imagine some anonymous IP asked a question if anyone knew a resource that could provide a certain sort of comparison, and got these answers: (1) What you are asking for is too difficult for anyone to answer...[6] (2) Why not ask for something else [7] (again, even if you did already [8] ask for it)? (3) You don't speak proper English [9] (4) And even if you do know some English, when you say "side by side" to mean "side by side" you still don't know what that means [10] (5) But still, I can do what you want in a totally unhelpful way [11] (6) And I am sure there's no way to do what you want [12] (7) Even if there is [13] (8) And I'm wrong, it's still not perfect [14]...? How would you react if you were that IP and someone asked you to comment on an RfC about the continuing helpfulness of the Ref Desk? μηδείς (talk) 23:35, 7 October 2012 (UTC)

Hmmm Bielle (talk) 00:03, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
Your point is valid and the pattern all too common; however, eventually, you did get a good answer from a previously unrepresented user. I would hope the unhelpful is not always necessary in order for the helpful to appear, but it is a possibility. Perhaps the length of the answer attracts someone's eye who does know a better response; perhaps, having eliminated the sidetracks, the true track becomes visible to just the right reader at just the right time . . . Thoughts anyone? Bielle (talk)
On occasion I have had the misfortune to ask a friend, lover, co-worker or family member if they were treating me with the same respect they would treat an absolute stranger. I don't really want or need to go beyond simply posing that question. μηδείς (talk) 00:20, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
I should have split up my responses differently, as you were really asking two different Q's. As far as finding software to overlay maps, that part's reasonable, but the side-by-side maps part is a bit silly, considering how easy it is to do that now, without special software. Trying to talk about both cases simultaneously did lead to some confusion (you thought I was talking about overlays when I was talking about side-by-side maps, and vice versa).
And, in general, we should be free to question OP's assumptions, point out why a question may be unanswerable, etc. StuRat (talk) 00:24, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
While your comment is true, all too often "unanswerable" means not much more than "I can't be bothered to check", though sometimes reaches as high as "I don't know", neither of which needs to be documented. If there is truly no way to answer the question, then perhaps we should just leave it unanswered. That would certainly make the point at least to the effect that no one who has seen the question has had a verifiable answer. Bielle (talk) 01:19, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
In case it is not entirely clear, AlexiusHoratius did provide exactly the sort of reference that was being looked for [15], regardless of the complaints before and after that that was not possible. μηδείς (talk) 01:32, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
I am increasingly of the opinion that questioning the OP's assumptions, etc, should not happen unless some positive value can also be added, as it otherwise seems quite tempting to many people (myself included) to get in a response that consists of little more than "I'm smarter than you, see what I have thought about that you have not". For instance, if you need to clarify the OP's locality, also provide information for your best guess of the OP's locality or some other locality you can answer for. In this particular case, I think StuRat's behavior gets worse as the thread progresses: for instance, alleging here that the whole problem is that Medeis can't tell that he's asked two questions, and that that is the source of all this mess (which, for the record, is false. Medeis' core question is "where can I compare two geographic areas at the same scale?" Overlay, side-by-side, degrees of exactitude, projection preference, or whatever else that thread devolved into are secondary, and if a respondent cannot delineate between the two, he should not be answering those questions.) — Lomn 21:32, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
I didn't say "Medeis can't tell that they asked two questions". It was my answering without clearly saying which of the two options I was referring to that led to confusion, with each of us thinking the other was talking about the same method they were. I should have numbered them 1 and 2, as I often do with an I/P editor who asks multiple Q's, to help keep the two discussions clear and separate. But Medeis absolutely hates anyone editing their question in any way, even basic refactoring, so I left it as is (although I see Medeis has just been blocked by Franamax for doing just that). StuRat (talk) 21:40, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
OK, that does indeed make more sense, and I apologize for the mischaracterization. — Lomn 14:51, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
I am sorry, but what does my having been blocked for having given someone a star for a good answer have to do with your nonsense on this thread? μηδείς (talk) 22:43, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
Rewriting history now, Medeis? You were not blocked "for having given someone a star". That per se was never the issue, and you know it. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 23:11, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
My comments in this thread have nothing to do with your block. As this thread was not about your block, I do not see why it should be otherwise. — Lomn 14:33, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
It's probably worth pointing out that, had it been an IP asking the question, the thread probably wouldn't have descended into the same contentiousness that it did, simply because the participants (on both sides) wouldn't have felt the need to snipe at each other, in continuance of their historical acrimony. -- (talk) 15:45, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
What historical acrimony? StuRat has given plenty of good answers to mine and other's questions. His six non-answers here before anyone else responded stand on their own and have nothing to do with me. μηδείς (talk) 22:43, 9 October 2012 (UTC)

merkel jokes

I have closed this thread ( for which no non-opinion answers have been offered. μηδείς (talk) 22:37, 9 October 2012 (UTC)

The very first answer gives a reason, with a source. And, in any case, bad answers are not a reason to close a Q. StuRat (talk) 23:00, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
There is only one joke, in small type, and it followed a response that was sourced. The question itself is a good one. I support the removal of the hat Bielle (talk) 23:08, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
no problem, except the question itself doesn't seem to be an encyclopedic one, regardless of the answers. Do we have a relevant article? μηδείς (talk) 23:11, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
Certainly it sounds like a good question. There must be a reason. Wnt (talk) 00:21, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
Medeis, it's not about having an article. It's about the existence of a reliable source, which were provided. OsmanRF34 (talk) 17:39, 11 October 2012 (UTC)

Could I get another chance at asking my question?

The last question i asked, "whats it like to be a beautifull woman?",wasnt answered. Sure, some non-native English-language speakers wrote some words after my question, someone demonstrated their inability to draw logically valid inferences, and someone made a presumably humourous referfence to the Daily Heil, but none of these assortments of letters could even loosely be called an answer. None of the regular refdeskers attempted to answer my question; im quessing i asked it at a sub-obtimal time or day? Am i allowed to ask the question again? Given that it wasnt answered, and that its a fascinating subject, i think i should be allowed to. I havnt edited the refdesk for years, however i did recently provide a rather good, if late, answer to a porn-related question, does that gain me any kudos? If you give me special dispensation to ask the question again I will agree to remove the Jimmy Saville joke. Peace and love brothers. Willy turner (talk) 00:44, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

It seems like there were many attempts to answers your Q, including by me. What else are you looking for ? StuRat (talk) 01:48, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
Rest assured that all the RD regulars who did not answer your question didn't do so because of the day or time it was posted; either they felt they could not or should not reply. As such, I recommend refactoring the question rather than re-asking in the original form. For the question itself, I suggest reading memoirs by women you find beautiful. — Lomn 14:37, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
Well, I'm possibly regarded as a Reference Desk regular, so here's my position... I saw the question, thought "I'm not a woman, I'm not beautiful, so what the hell would I know?" so I didn't respond. Hope that helps. HiLo48 (talk) 19:28, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
You know what I think? The question should have been hatted as a request for opinion. Surprised? μηδείς (talk) 19:50, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
To be fair, I think the OP has a point that few people answered the question as posed. The OP specifically asked for links to online sources on what it's like to be a beautiful woman, preferably written by one but even if not that's okay provided it wasn't fiction. They posed a bunch of sub-questions but it seems clear there were supposed to be answers by these sources. They specifically said they did not want the opinions of random wikipedias. There were perhaps 2-4 sources of some relevence, the Samantha Brick one perhaps being the most clear cut one and a bunch of stuff which is basically what the OP specifically said they did not want, i.e. opinions of random wikipedians. There answer from one person which even though it was basically personal opinions of a random wikipedian was perhaps okay since the person says they're a beautiful woman, and since the OP is apparently looking for random stuff written by random beautiful woman on what it's like to be beautiful, it's not clear that it makes much difference whether it's on the RD or on a blog.
In any case, I'm reluctant to criticise the respondents here per se. As I mention the OP posted additional questions, some of which contained a bunch of suppositions etc. While it may have been their intention for these questions to be answered by the sources, the trouble is when you make such suppositions etc, you invite people to challenge or respond if they feel what you're saying is flawed or whatever.
In any case, I agree with the answers above. There's no reason to ask the question again. If you feel the answers weren't answering your question, you're welcome to clarify that in the original question. But ultimately the primary reason why you don't get any answers tends to be because no one has any answers. The 'genre' of 'what it's like to be a beautiful woman' written by a beautiful woman isn't likely to be that interesting to many so people may be unfamiliar with much work. As the Samantha Brick case illustrates, the potential response also likely discourages people from writing such work. Also, by restricting yourself to free online sources, you're restricting what is available. You may also want to consider whether the supposed experience of one random person is really that helpful in understanding what it's like. There are plenty of work which hints at answers (but by nature to only a small part of the equation), for example by analysing how people respond which arguably is more meaningful. Finally have you actually attempted any research yourself? A simply search for 'what it's like to be a beautiful woman' seems to get a bunch of stuff which look like they may be what you want.
Nil Einne (talk) 03:57, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
If you want sources, check out this simple search at Google Scholar: here. I typed "attractive women" and got a metric shitton of quality, highly respected research into the effect of attractiveness on any number of things. That should suffice to keep you busy reading quality sources for some time. --Jayron32 04:05, 11 October 2012 (UTC)

removal of a question on RD/S regarding hip surgery

I just removed this question. -- Scray (talk) 17:13, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Good call. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 17:59, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
Good removal. --Jayron32 18:12, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
I actually disagree, the user was asking a factual question about that type of surgery, and how there could be feeling along with such paralysis, which is related to phantom limb syndrome. Some factual links regarding diagnoses he has already mentioned and not solicited, along with the caveat that we cannot tell what is going on in his specific case, should be fine. I.e., we can give general info without diagnosing him ourselves. μηδείς (talk) 19:55, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
I missed any mention of phantom limb syndrome, or any other diagnosis. Are you making that diagnosis from their comments? -- Scray (talk) 20:11, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
The question asks, basically "I had surgery, and now I'm having these symptoms. What could be causing them? We don't answer those sorts of questions. The OP stated ". I underwent this experience and some of them tell me that my sciatic nerve was okay before the hip joint surgery and was cut during that surgery since I could move my right leg after the accident but before the 1st surgery. Kindly clarify" That's a clear-cut a case of medical advice requesting as I've ever seen. --Jayron32 20:34, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
Yes, but the OP also appeared to believe that sciatic nerve exploration was an attempt to reconnect the nerve, whereas so far as I understand all they're doing is looking at the lesion through an endoscope. (though surgery can be done through an endoscope, and for all I know this surgery can also) That kind of basic information we should provide - and a patient really should know it already in order to have given genuine informed consent. Wnt (talk) 20:37, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
  • Per WP:JETFA, I've added [16]. This sort of gross anatomy isn't something I know very well - I'm sure there's much I missed, some risk of error in what I added, and I don't have access to half the sources, so I would encourage others to lend their hand. Wnt (talk) 20:16, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
    • Did you just state that you're adding information to articles without actually reading the sources that supposedly support the statements? --Jayron32 20:30, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
There were some abstracts there I couldn't follow to the full article. Still, when a claim is made clearly in an abstract, I don't find it unreasonable to cite it - it's still more reliable than a news article. Obviously this is not the most preferable way to do things, but better to provide such basic information than not. (Come to think of it, I'm also thinking of some sources cited in the various case reports that summarize the literature in their introductory sections, which I would think would make good reading for this purpose) Wnt (talk) 20:32, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
OK. That's not ideal, but not as objectionable as simply slapping some unread sources on a statement in the hopes that something is sorta related. What I would do if I were you is to dash over to WP:REX and ask that someone who has access can email you a copy of the full papers. They will do so, and that way you can check your work. If you want to do it the correct way, that is what you should do instead of merely working off of the abstracts. --Jayron32 20:37, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
I thought about that, but I also thought, that's a collaboration and this is a collaboration and this one is already started, so I might as well try my WP:JETFA approach and see if anyone here prefers developing the article over arguing about it. Besides, I'm not sure which sources to request unless and until I actually wring out all the search results I can find, and I got nowhere near that in the first pass I just did. Wnt (talk) 20:41, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
I don't understand Scray's question. Phantom limb syndrome has information about having feelings from a limb whose neural connection has been cut. The OP has already specified that the connection has been cut. What would be wrong with saying, this article discusses a information related to a situation you have indicated? I would not be telling him that his nerve's been cut. He already said that himself. μηδείς (talk) 20:42, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
I don't know if the OP really knows what he knows, nor is it appropriate for me to second guess him on that per the actual policy. What I also don't know (yet) is what sensations are actually felt by someone with sciatic nerve completely cut, with sciatic nerve palsy, with sciatic nerve neuropraxias, etc. But that we might, with enough sources and time, come up with a decent section in an article about. Wnt (talk) 20:49, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
  • WntMedeis: If the Meningitis article states that that condition is associated with headache and fever, and a querent reports those symptoms, shall we link to that article? That's called making a diagnosis! -- Scray (talk) 20:52, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
I would say that such a link wouldn't be right if the question doesn't specifically mention meningitis, because while it might be an enhancement of the article it's not in response to the question (excluding diagnosis that is not being done). However, using the template to link to the OP-mentioned "headache" or "fever" - including if you decide to add sentences to the article mentioning that they can be caused by meningitis - is within the realm of the permissible. Wnt (talk) 20:55, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
(ec) I strongly object to this edit coupled with your fresh edits to the linked article in direct response to a medical advice question. As you admit, your edits are preliminary and don't reflect any longstanding consensus regarding the article you've linked from RD/S. This is clearly circumventing the med-advice removal, as I predicted when JETFA was proposed. I have left your template (which erroneously reports that the article has been "enhanced") pending consensus. -- Scray (talk) 20:50, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
My goal is not to circumvent the policy (which, arguably, we've done more so in the discussion here so far). My goal is to get us some good facts in the article so that we and maybe the OP can start to figure this stuff out. I think my additions to this section are something of an enhancement, though more should be done. Wnt (talk) 20:53, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
Did the article previously mention endoscopy as a possible solution? Doesn't your addition of that to the article in response to the question on RD/S represent a suggested therapeutic approach (i.e. medical advice)? Your comment above suggests that's what you had in mind. -- Scray (talk) 21:01, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
No. As I answered at the meningitis question, the only thing that needs to be established is that the article expansion - in general - is relevant to the RD question. Once that is established, which information we choose to add doesn't matter, and it doesn't have to be relevant. For example, I added a lot about total hip replacement, which is not anything like what the OP was talking about, though perhaps some of the papers and data there will be useful to him anyway. Wnt (talk) 21:04, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
You know what procedure the OP underwent? I don't. -- Scray (talk) 21:08, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
Technically, I don't; I shouldn't diagnose anything by policy. But for purposes of discussion, as a matter of common sense, "corrective surgery" following an accident is not the same thing as total hip replacement for arthritis. I mention this only to illustrate that the pattern of editing I intend to do on JETFA articles is not some kind of semaphore diagnosis - I want to improve our overall coverage of the topic at hand, ideally to the point where the people asking the questions can find the information they need to understand their own diagnoses. Wnt (talk) 21:16, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
I'm going to step away from this for a few hours and let others weigh in. I'm appalled, but maybe I'm unreasonable. -- Scray (talk) 21:21, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

@ Scray, you seem to be answering my comment bassackwards. If the respondent said he though he was suffering from phantom limb syndrome, what did we think caused it, and I suggested that maybe his nerve had been cut, that would be offering a diagnosis. He has already given the diagnosis. I would be referring him to an article that covers what happens when the nerve had been cut. The diagnosis has already been providden. I would just be saying, here's an article that discusses what you yourself say you have went through. This is all very clear and simple. Read Kainaw's criterion. The mere fact that an editor has mentioned a diagnosis in a question does not mean I am providing one by linking to an article. μηδείς (talk) 22:00, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Medeis, I suggest you read Medical diagnosis; what's backward is your use of the term "diagnosis" - i.e., going from "cut nerve" and sensory symptoms to phantom limb syndrome is called "diagnosis" in this context. BTW, I am quite familiar with Kainaw's criterion - and you've stepped right over it. -- Scray (talk) 01:39, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
The OP is under a doctor's care and not asking for us to give a diagnosis of his condition. The fact that he hasn't said "I want to know if you have an article on "phantom limb" or any other possibly relevant article doesn't mean we can't refer him to them. (Perhaps you have jumped to the conclusion that rather than telling the OP that certain articles discuss cut nerves and sensory issues, I want to tell him "You sir, in my medical opinion, definitely have phantom limb syndrome"? If so, that's your surmise, not my suggestion.) Your doctrine here would imply that we could never mention any medical term the OP himself hasn't already stated, or would be giving a diagnosis. That's not what diagnosis means, and suggesting various articles to a person who is under a doctor's care and knows exactly what has happened to him would be neither offering diagnosis, prognosis or medical treatment suggestions.
Wnt, I don't see any consensus for approval for WP:JETFA, which you have set up as if it were a guideline or policy. It's your wholly personal essay, some of the contents of which were exposed to the Ref Desk, as Scray has linked above, for less than a day. It did not have anything like wholehearted support. If this JETFA belongs anywhere, it would be as a personal essay, one of your own sub-pages. I certainly object to it, though here is not the place to discuss my reasons. You need a long time period to get a broad response to such a change in approach. Using it to justify uninformed additions to a specialist article appalls me. As for the question, there was a clear request for clarification of a diagnosis made by "someone". We don't make diagnoses and I can't see where "clarifying" a diagnosis is any different. And where "phantom limb" came into this, I do not know. The OP mentions a hypersensitivity and that the nerve is "termed 'cut'"; all else is conjecture. I agree fully with the deletion of the question and I wish we could convince Ref Deskers to stop playing doctor. Bielle (talk) 01:17, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
While I support the tenor of your position, Bielle, I can't see any evidence of anyone outright "playing doctor". What I do see is a genuine disagreement about what would constitute a breach of our guidelines. This is just more evidence for the need for a thoroughgoing overhaul of said guidelines. Because they really need to be unambiguous. As they stand, they provide ample fuel for nauseatingly endless debates about what they mean, and that is a complete turn-off for many of us, and no good for anyone else, be they regulars or OPs. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 07:52, 11 October 2012 (UTC)

Move request discussion that may have interest broadly to this desk

See Wikipedia talk:Just Edit The Friendly Article#Requested move. --Jayron32 02:09, 11 October 2012 (UTC)

archiving issues

If you've noticed the pages getting longer, it's because I haven't been able to archive them for a couple of days, and the reason for that is that something has changed, and the archiving bot isn't working.

The problem seems to be that Wikipedia is now defaulting to / requiring https for logins, and the http fetcher my bot uses didn't have https support enabled. I think I've got https working, and now it's getting farther, but there must be something else different about https logins, because the bot still can't log in.

If anyone knows of a way to circumvent the recent change, that might help.

It may also be time, I fear, to pursue a new / different archiving solution for the Reference Desks, because it may not be possible to fix the current bot. —Steve Summit (talk) 03:45, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Hmm does anything at Wikipedia:Creating a bot help? I think the problem must be because of defaults because I don't think https is being forced, at least I would have thought there would be some notice at Wikipedia:Bot owners' noticeboard or some other sign somewhere but I didn't find any. I did come across this bug [17] but I don't think it's related. Nil Einne (talk) 04:06, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
Aha! That bug log includes the comment "all our users now get forcefully redirected to https *after* logging", which seems to be what's happening. —Steve Summit (talk) 11:56, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
This is mentioned in a short thread here at VPT. It refers to the same Bugzilla report. Gandalf61 (talk) 13:34, 10 October 2012 (UTC)
The MediaWiki bug has now been fixed; the bot can log in again. PleaseStand (talk) 00:36, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
Excellent. StuRat (talk) 19:21, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
NOT EXELLENT! The pages have 10 days worth of questions still on them (talk) 13:37, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
the archive bot is shit — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 18:57, 17 October 2012‎
Have a bit of patience, please, or fix it yourself. Complaining that a volunteer isn't fixing a bot quickly enough (which worked fine for years until an external change broke it) is inappropriate. StuRat (talk) 20:10, 17 October 2012 (UTC)


Just to note that the archiving systems seem to have stopped working, causing 10, as opposed to 5, days worth of questions to be on the main page of the miscellaneous archive. I have moved, bot not sorted them, over to the archive page. I basically mean that the moved questions don't have their own page, but are on the main archive page instead. Also note for the record that the service mistakenly filed new questions on the wrong date, for example, October 11 questions were under the October 10 heading. (talk) 17:30, 11 October 2012 (UTC)

Thanks, but this is already being discussed higher up on the page. Looie496 (talk) 18:01, 11 October 2012 (UTC)
There are instructions somewhere in the WT/RD archives (which I don't even have time to search for at the moment) on how best to do the archiving by hand. We'll probably have to do a certain amount of this. —Steve Summit (talk) 15:46, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
I have completed the Misc desk archiving that began, and manually archived a couple days' worth of the Science, Humanities, and Computing desks.
It would be good if others could help with this. Some editing experience is required, and although there are instructions here (see also here) they might be seen as a bit cryptic. —Steve Summit (talk) 06:10, 13 October 2012 (UTC)
I've started Archive 96 for the talk page. I tried to only remove threads with no comments in the past week (no promises, I just eyeballed it). Jeez, we yammer a lot in here, don't we? :) Matt Deres (talk) 03:40, 14 October 2012 (UTC)
Using Steve's instructions, I have archived all the refdesks to date. Creating archive pages (including the archive header) up to and including October 10, adding links to the month's archive list (though I didn't create links for each question - just too much work!), and trimmed each desk to include 4 active days and transclude a further 4 day's archives. I looks OK to me but I might have missed something. And... it will probably need doing again in a few days unless SCSbot is fixed. Astronaut (talk) 13:21, 14 October 2012 (UTC)
I've done a week's worth of indices for Science and Computing, but that leaves 5 other desks without them - not sure how heavily they're used, so it might not be worth the effort to do manually. If you care to, here are the steps I used (and try not to laugh at my weak POSIX kung fu; also, if these are completely obvious, or someone's posted these steps somewhere already, then please just ignore me). I used notepad++, and started from the main archive page, opening Oct 2012 for a desk and then having two windows open - one for the monthly index (which I was editing) and one for the daily archive (from which I grabbed the question anchors):
  1. Copy daily archive content (not the first line that contains date) to text editor
  2. Replace ^[^=].*$ with null (blanks any lines that are not section headers)
  3. Replace \r\n with null (deletes blank lines)
  4. Replace ==== with ==\n== (de-concatenates section headers)
  5. Replace \[\[|\]\] with null (removes any links from headers - this does not break links but avoids problems later)
  6. Replace ^== (.*) ==$ with # [[Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Archives/%%deskname%%/2012 October 4#\1|\1]] (obviously, edit the replacement expression to show the correct desk name and date)
  7. copy this back into monthly archive as the index for that date
  8. test a link or two to make sure they work
Hope this helps -- Scray (talk) 17:10, 14 October 2012 (UTC)
Have created a more complete record of these steps. Edits welcome, of course. -- Scray (talk) 23:44, 17 October 2012 (UTC)


I have hatted some of I do agree entirely that Jayron came on too strong with the "invitation" to edit--but he did also explain to the OP why the info was not in WP yet, and did give an external link to a relevant source. For that reason I left his response outside the hat. The answers following his were solely comments on his comment, and had nothing factual to do with the OP's question--that conversation can continue here on talk. μηδείς (talk) 17:36, 12 October 2012 (UTC)

The user was not asking why information wasn't on The user was asking why information that used to be here wasn't now. Nothing about Jayron's response was useful. If you want to cap conversations, cap the whole of it. --OnoremDil 17:41, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
Well then, apparently the proper answer to the OP would simply be "nothing" in the case of Camden, since the info was never there. Given this is the reference desk, Jayron's giving the reference that provided the info the OP was interested in was fine. He could just as well have lectured the OP that the question belongs on the Article's talk page and perhaps at the Help Desk, but not at the Ref Desk. μηδείς (talk) 17:51, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
Why would a lecture be appropriate? Answer the question or don't. The ref desk is not a recruitment center. Maybe they were thinking of a different article. In any case, go do it yourself is not the right response...and hatting part but not all isn't acceptable to me. Hat it all? Fine. Hat part? No fn chance. --OnoremDil 17:59, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
There's still no question that Jayron addressed the OP, however poorly some may think, while all the hatted comments addressed Jayron. The hat has nothing to do with anyone's opinion of Jayron's response, just the fact that side discussions belong here on the "not in front of the children" principle. I suggest we wait for other comments rather than resorting to obscenity tossing.  :) μηδείς (talk) 18:05, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
The proper answer would be to explain why the information that used to be included in the article had been removed...or a polite question about what said information was if a particular article never had that info. --OnoremDil 18:07, 12 October 2012 (UTC)

I see StuRat has reverted Onorem's last reversion. I have placed a 3RR warning on Onorem's talk page. I am sure we all have more constructive things to be doing. μηδείς (talk) 18:32, 12 October 2012 (UTC)

I love when people on the other side of a "3rr worthy" warning are so smug about being right that they spout off about having better things to do. --OnoremDil 18:45, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
"Spout off"? "Big middle finger"? I really do think that even you, Onorem, do have better things to be doing. Leave this for others to discuss. I see and accept that you strongly disagree in good faith. I myself disagree with everyone all the time, but I don't have a problem with awaiting and accepting consensus. μηδείς (talk) 19:33, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
I'm sorry. Why is your opinion more valid? Why is this topic for others to discuss? --OnoremDil 19:34, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
I have not expressed any opinion here. My opinion is that if Jayron had answered me as a newbie the way he answered the OP, implied criticism first, answer second, I'd have been offended if my skin were tissue thin. But it is a matter of fact that Jayron did address the OP directly, while the criticisms of his response were not answers to the OP, but matters that should have been discussed here. Again, you seem to think this has do do with agreement and disagreement. Not at all. Calm down, step back, take a deep breath, and realize that this has to do with what sort of discussion is appropriate where, not with who is right in the discussion. μηδείς (talk) 19:40, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
someone asked a question on the ref desk and they were told to look it up is the point of the desk? [onorem]
To answer questions which can't be answered by simply googling. StuRat (talk) 21:58, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
I don't see anything wrong with Jayron's initial comment. If the followups had added to the list of things the OP could do, that would have been fine. Lecturing the initial respondent is not fine. Don't try to "show up" other editors in front of the OP. That's rude. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:19, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
I have no interest in "showing up" other editors. But if other editors make what I consider to be unhelpful comments, I will point it out, not for the benefit of the OP, but in the interest of having other editors think a little bit about their responses before plopping them down. I still maintain that Jayron's answer wasn't helpful whatsoever to the OP and that the thread would have been improved without it. The "then fixit" reply is aggressive in and of itself (and a certain type of person responds well to that kind of challenge, but I think one shouldn't assume such a thing), but it certainly isn't appropriate when an OP is asking where existing content has gone to."
I welcome inviting other editors to edit — but only when it's clear they have something at their fingers to contribute. If the OP had said, oh, this article is wrong, I know better, I have sources — that's an appropriate place for WP:FIXIT. If the OP says, I don't know about this, and your article doesn't explain... that's a bad source for the same.
It was my hope that, perhaps, being called out for a lazy response, Jayron might have done the little bit of digging that the OP asked about regarding where the content went, but alas, no, it took later people to do that. Hope the OP bothered to come back for the answer. Anyway, I'm not unhappy with Jayron — by and large he's a good editor. I just thought this response was particularly lazy and should have been reconsidered. --Mr.98 (talk) 00:54, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
And how did that strategy work for ya? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 01:50, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
  • The only people deserving to be complained about there are whoever was using show/hide boxes on article illustrations. That's supposed to be a no-no, even for Muhammad images and such controversial material. Because the format here, the end product, is supposed to be a single, visible article with fixed content, not a Javascript choose-your-own-adventure book. Wnt (talk) 23:04, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
  • Chuckle. --Jayron32 23:06, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
Nothing said here explains it as far as I'm concerned, but I'm glad that you that stopping by to 'chuckle' was worthwhile. Thanks for yet another worthless response. --OnoremDil 19:17, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
You too. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:12, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
And you too. This is fun. All of this pointless commentary is so useful. No you. No you. No me...and you. No my mom. WTF. --OnoremDil 03:43, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
We are not candy.
I know we are, but what are we? —Tamfang (talk) 05:51, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
Chuckles. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:22, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
And here I was thinking of the definition from 30 Rock, where a "chuckle" is defined as "a delicacy, the part of the hog found between the tail and the anus". StuRat (talk) 01:29, 18 October 2012 (UTC)
Further illustrations not needed, thank you. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:10, 18 October 2012 (UTC)

Please hat me.

This question is an open invitation to debate and argument posing conspiracy theory nonsense in the form of questions and has yet to be answered with an actual reference. Can someone please hat it? μηδείς (talk) 22:10, 14 October 2012 (UTC)

  • It is a set of valid, answerable questions. Don't hat it just because you don't agree with the OP's POV. (Arguably some of it could be hatted/revised, like the ludicrous bit about "don't answer if you're a government agent", which we know they're duty bound to honor) Wnt (talk) 01:40, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
I don't know if you are requesting that:
(1) the entire section be collapsed or,
(2) just your contribution. hydnjo (talk) 02:27, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
I agree 100% with Medeis. Whether or not it is trolling, it is neither valid nor answerable. It boils down to "how do we know the government isn't deliberately failing to remove toxins from food, in order to cause autism in more children so they don't reproduce?". If the OP produced citations to support the farrago of unreferenced and dubious assumptions contained in this question then we might be able to consider it, although proving a negative (how do we know they aren't?) is always tricky. Other than that, it's no more valid and answerable than asking how we know the powers-that-be aren't brewing tea every Friday afternoon in Russell's teapot. - Karenjc 14:31, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
Agreed. This is asking for us to prove the impossible. Mingmingla (talk) 16:47, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
Forget the fact that it's about the (US?) government. The question boils down to "How do we know what we don't know?" It's nonsensical. It's unanswerable. It demands speculation. The only reason it hasn't been hatted so far must be that speculating about government conspiracies seems to be a national sport in some countries. (Well, at least one that I can think of.) HiLo48 (talk) 17:20, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
The question is strictly an invitation to debate, and deletion would be appropriate. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:16, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
Well, I have hattedf it based on the above, but do feel free to delete it. μηδείς (talk) 23:18, 15 October 2012 (UTC)
I actually think the responses to it were fine — they addressed the question of plausibility, how we can and can't prove negatives (epistemology), and addressed the main contention of the OP's confusion (relating to autism and fecundity, much less the alleged autism "epidemic"). Many of the answers provided references to the related concepts. The OP did not return and get involved in some kind of lengthy debate. What's the problem, again? I guess I don't see one, really. I tend to see the OP here as being somewhat misled and confused, not trolling — trolls work a little harder, in my experience, at drawing to get people riled up. This question doesn't rile you up; it just makes the OP look pitiable. --Mr.98 (talk) 00:58, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
I'm partially with Mr.98 here. The history of the OP suggests they have a lot of odd ideas, e.g. that the people servicing their car have sabotaged it, tasering (or threatening with one) people who yelled at them in gas stations, joining the Free Syrian Army to fly drones and make lots of money easily and safely etc. While it's possible they are trolling in some or all cases, it seems to me most of their posts over the past 2 or 3 years show a fairly consistent outlook and story, and likely reflect their genuine world view. The post in particular is a prime example, as Mr.98 highlighted it's wacky enough that people just think it's wacky, it doesn't lead to any debates except perhaps whether to delete it.
However in terms of deleting it, I'm not actually opposed as I think I've said before regarding other questions from the OP. It isn't a question suitable for the RD, as with quite a few of their questions. And history suggests we don't actually help the OP much, it's not unusual the OP comes back asking some question again even when we've likely already given them the best answers they're going to get for us, or even if not asking the same question ask another question which seems to indicate they didn't really take on board a lot of what was told them before. (Not as bad as the demographics person perhaps, but getting there.) And they do seem to have a fairly poor understanding of how to interact with people (from their posts, it's not just a problem on the internet). So I'm fine with nudging them away from the RD.
Nil Einne (talk) 14:42, 16 October 2012 (UTC)


11 days of questions are still not archived. Can you PLEASE sort it out. Or will you just continue to be stupid and pretend that the bot is fixed when it clearly isn't! (talk) 18:32, 17 October 2012 (UTC)

A word of advice: When asking for help, pre-insulting people before they have come to your help is unlikely to generate positive results. --Jayron32 18:59, 17 October 2012 (UTC) (talk · contribs) - (talk · contribs) --> Same user, obviously. I wonder why he's so hung up on this minor issue? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:44, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
Well, to be fair, the page does need archiving because for many users on many devices, it can become too large to load. So, the complaint is valid. Calling people stupid, however, is one way to assure that it won't be fixed in a timely manner. --Jayron32 23:45, 17 October 2012 (UTC)
Have archived and reduced all RD pages to a week. -- Scray (talk) 01:32, 18 October 2012 (UTC)
You're a rock star. Thanks a mundo! --Jayron32 02:05, 18 October 2012 (UTC)
It would perhaps help if the OP would read more carefully and ask questions when they are confused. No one ever said the bot was fixed. As explained to the OP above, should have been clear from reading that thread before the OP replied, and just to repeat here, the bot itself was arguably never broken. A bug in the mediawiki software made the bot stop working. While it may have been possible to fix, the volunteer running the bot didn't have the time and it's questionable if there was a point once it became clear it was a mediawiki bug which would hopefully be fixed. After the bug in the mediawiki software was fixed this was noted above along with the comment the bot could now log in again. (Or at least in theory.) However this still requires the volunteer bot maintainer to run it and as others have said, random IPs insulting volunteers isn't helping anyone. Nil Einne (talk) 13:53, 18 October 2012 (UTC)
An update: I am making some progress, albeit slowly, in figuring out why the bot can't log in. It's a very strange problem, and there are indications it's not solely related to the Mediawiki issue (meaning that I can't be sure that an eventual fix for that issue will also fix the bot).
Thanks very much to the volunteers who are doing the archiving by hand. —Steve Summit (talk) 01:23, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
Whooops guess I spoke to soon above, still my main thesis was correct. Nil Einne (talk) 05:26, 19 October 2012 (UTC)


Is this an advert? --Dweller (talk) 09:02, 18 October 2012 (UTC)

I don't know what it is, but it doesn't have any place on the RD and has now rightly been deleted. --Viennese Waltz 09:41, 18 October 2012 (UTC)
Good removal. It may also be that the "contributions" of (talk · contribs) will need to be scrutinized in future. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 11:40, 18 October 2012 (UTC)
The same question popped up on the Ents desk. I removed it. I've posted on the IP's talk page ('twas a different IP) inviting them to discuss why it is not advertising before posting again. - Cucumber Mike (talk) 22:32, 18 October 2012 (UTC)


You misconstrued. Adverting was never the intent. I plan to get an ocular app like this when they come around, probably in the hindsight year. If I don't have a wife by then, would this "Wingman"-style app really get a lifelong love partner? THAT is the question I hope is answered.
I'm genuinely only trying to get insights and analyses, etc. about this app-to-be. I'm not part of "Sight" nor Vimeo. Thanks. -- (talk) 01:57, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
I have deleted this again[18]. It is one half spam, one half request for opinion, and one half request for medical advice--please take it to an internet forum. μηδείς (talk) 03:41, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
I'd have to say Medeis got this right. There's nothing about this question that is proper for the reference desk. If it isn't a bald attempt to get people to click the link to that site, then it is a request for opinions of others, and that isn't good either. Good removal. --Jayron32 03:45, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
Well then, ┌∩┐(◣_◢)┌∩┐. -- (talk) 08:12, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
Keep digging. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:42, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
That does have to be the coolest emoticon ever. I'd give it a star if I could do so without causing certain parties to stroke out. μηδείς (talk) 21:29, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
Kind of a cross between Kilroy and a vulgar Martian. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:33, 25 October 2012 (UTC)
Did they just say ‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› to us? hydnjo (talk) 21:29, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
I thought the previous one was cool until I saw yours. -- Scray (talk) 22:08, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
See, and I've just been doing ( )*( ) to be rude, but I guess I have a lot to learn! --Jayron32 01:18, 20 October 2012 (UTC)
Dont you mean (_*_) ? Some might view that as a come-on. μηδείς (talk) 20:59, 20 October 2012 (UTC)

Another removal

I removed a daft non-question that has no place here. Hoping others concur, --Viennese Waltz 19:14, 4 December 2012 (UTC)

Well, technically it is a question. And try to have a little sympathy for those folks slithering around west Texas. The abundance of heat and the lack of water can make 'em plum loco. (That's cowboyspeak for "daft"). ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:43, 4 December 2012 (UTC)
  • concur. Daftness most egregious. --Jayron32 21:46, 4 December 2012 (UTC)

what action re legal and medical advice all in one

The last question at the bottom of this thread involves a medical and legal question that I don't think we should answer, given the risks both of not acting on one hand and of making a false accusation on the other. As a ref desk editor I would like to hat, or, in this case remove the question. As a person, I would like to say seek legal advice if you have evidence of actual self-harm and do nothing that might get someone denied treatment that he needs by making accusations on suspicions that may be unfounded. This is a tuffy. μηδείς (talk) 20:46, 6 December 2012 (UTC)

I don't think we need to either hat or remove the question. We can simply tell the OP that it's beyond the brief of the Ref Desk to get into it at all, and leave it at that. Not every question that doesn't get the response the OP may have hoped for is deserving of hatting or removal. Those actions are for extreme cases, and we're supposed to see extreme cases very infrequently.
It's only a "tuffy" if one assumes we have any responsibility in the matter. We don't. Bottom line is that we're not even responsible for the lives of others who are around us or are known to us personally, let alone around or known to our OPs. We might care, but that doesn't mean we have any right or responsibility to get involved just because someone asked a question. It's essentially a moral question (What should I do?) and that's not something a reference desk should be involving itself in at all.
If one cares enough as a person, one is free to get in touch with the OP privately outside the ref desk. But that would also be an extreme response. We may be unpaid volunteers here, but that doesn't mean we don't practice professional detachment. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 21:15, 6 December 2012 (UTC)
Well, then I will tell him what I am tempted to tell him. Thanks. μηδείς (talk) 21:17, 6 December 2012 (UTC)
Maybe you could go to Bubba73's talk page and ask him what his question was about. He's been here a lot longer than you have. Don't treat him like a jerk. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:12, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
What in the world are you talking about treating anyone like a jerk? Did you read my response to him? Why would I even discuss this here and not remove the question if I didn't think it was in good faith or wasn't concerned? Please do get back to me. μηδείς (talk) 03:11, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
I can't speak for Bugs, but there does seem to be a bit of a disconnect between your obvious desire to be helpful to the OP (I've read your response) and your talk of removing the question. The two actions seem to be a somewhat ill-matched pair. Whatever purpose the removal of the question might have had, it would not have demonstrated helpfulness on the part of the ref desk towards the OP. More likely the opposite. Maybe Bugs is picking up on that. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 07:02, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
I have asked Bubba73 to come here and discuss. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 09:57, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
It's very simple. I am not sure if the question should not be removed, but if it is not, I have a response and have made it. I don't think its problematic (unless the question itself is) and think it's clearly enough expressed that it doesn't need further parsing here. Bubba can always contact me, but as far as I am concerned this matter has been addressed. μηδείς (talk) 18:07, 7 December 2012 (UTC)

New NeptuneKH94 sockpuppet nonsense

Isn't this User:Venustar84 the same person who keeps asking about autographs and erasing posts? Seems to be at it again. See this post, the original one at the misc ref desk, the fact that the post was erased at the miscellaneous desk, and the new user's user page with planetary-number name citing his autograph collection? μηδείς (talk) 02:38, 7 December 2012 (UTC)

Down the hall, third door on the left. --Jayron32 04:47, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
Unless any of these Venus and Neptune "alternate accounts" are currently blocked, I doubt a checkuser would give an SPI the time of day. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 09:52, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
I mostly agree with BB. Per our current policy (or my understanding of it), nothing's likely to happen unless one of the accounts is blocked. Presuming this is NeptureKH94 again, their habit of creating new accounts may be annoying but for better or worse isn't forbidden unless they are doing something which itself is forbidden. You could perhaps argue they are trying to avoid scrutiny, but really the best first instance here would be ask then why they feel the need to create so many accounts. If their questions and behaviour on the RD is getting too annoying, again it would be best to approach them about it. I believe some attempts were made to approach them about the deleting questions bit, but I'm not sure if there has been any general approach. Now if they refuse to change and we come to a consensus to topic ban them from the RD and they deny some or all of the accounts are theirs or we see another account which we suspect is theirs, then a SPI would likely be useful but otherwise there's most likely no point. As is stands, this case isn't likely to get permission for a checkuser so all a SPI is likely to say is it's probably all them based on behavioural evidence (presuming the case isn't rejected outright) but nothing is going to happen. Nil Einne (talk) 16:04, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
Looking more carefully I noticed one of the accounts does have a block log, including a one year block [19]. However, at least from the accounts shown so far, there doesn't seem to have been any editing while blocked. This does further reenforce the idea the editor may be attempting to avoid scrunity so I'm going to suggest they stick with one account. Nil Einne (talk) 16:17, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
BTW the block summary here [20] has some informative discussions about this editor. The last link doesn't work, it's here Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/IncidentArchive714#Neptunekh2. Their RD issues has had some minor discussion before but the main reason for the block was mainspace competence issues including copyvios, poor categorisation behaviour and creating lots of stubs which they then ask people to expand on the help desk. Their mainspace contribs seem to have been short and a quick look suggests they're mostly categorisations (including creating some new cats). So I doubt copyvio or creating poor article problems are reoccuring but it may be helpful to check out their categorisation to see if it's been helpful or they're reverting to the same poor behaviour. Nil Einne (talk) 16:45, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
The repeated deletion of answered questions and conversations on other people's talk pages is problematic (see such an action more recent than this thread) and it's been explained to the user by me at User talk:Neptunekh94 and by Jack elsewhere that it shouldn't be done. I think an indefinite (but conditionally temporary) block of the user at both the most recent Neptune and Venus accounts suggesting he stick to one account and to be removed immediately once he acknowledges he understands he's not to delete material once it has been responded to would do a whole lot of good. I am putting a final warning on the two recent pages given his knowledge of being blocked, his warnings by Jack and me, and his creation of a new account immediately after those warnings. μηδείς (talk) 18:03, 7 December 2012 (UTC)

I've changed my user accounts many time because I have moved many times and I keep forgetting passwords.Venustar84 (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 01:00, 8 December 2012 (UTC)

When people in RL use many different aliases, others have a funny habit of suspecting their motives. Just sayin'. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 02:02, 8 December 2012 (UTC)

I will be sticking to this account/username. Don't worry. Venustar84 (talk) 02:44, 8 December 2012 (UTC)

Closure of posts

I would like to ask the admin who keeps closing questions to step forward and say "I do close the posts", so I can rush Jeffrey Dahmer on him. Not really, just a joke, but why are posts closed? why? Keeeith (talk) 13:02, 9 December 2012 (UTC)

I suspect without checking this is primarily μηδείς who is not an admin but is noted for frequently and sometimes controversially closing posts. In this particular instance I can't say I fault them. You've recently been asking a lot of questions which are one or a combination of questions not suitable for the RD (i.e. personal advice questions that we can't plausibly answer with a reference like whether you left too many 'voice mail' messages for the governor general) or which you should be able to find with a simple search or possibly even reading our article (like repeated questions about dual citizenship policies of various countries, at least one of which you asked again after already being given the answer a few weeks ago) or questions based on supported assertations (like the one about murder and suicide) or questions which don't actually seem to be questions but just intended to tell us how bad Philipp Bouhler or Nazis are. Now if you'd only ask one or two of these, probably no one would care, but given that this is most of many contributions to the RD in the last few days, it seems I'm not the only one you're annoying or in fact are making think you're a troll. Nil Einne (talk) 13:46, 9 December 2012 (UTC)

Yes, I've changed my mind and will stop asking not needed questions, but I can assure you that I'm not a troll. Thank you. Keeeith (talk) 13:53, 9 December 2012 (UTC)

Removed hat

I have removed a hat here: [21]. While I agree that the tenor of many of the responses was incorrect for the reference desk, some people hatted did provide references to back up their (in my opinion) incorrectly toned responses. As I have stated before in different terms, it is not appropriate to hat or shut down discussion in these cases. The correct response when faced with a bad answer to a question is to refute the bad answer with better sources or with more rational interpretations of those sources, not to stifle the discussion. We combat ignorance with knowledge, not with making people shut up. --Jayron32 18:08, 3 December 2012 (UTC)

If you always have to refute bad answers we won't hat any answer. Medeis won't be happy with this. OsmanRF34 (talk) 18:15, 3 December 2012 (UTC)
I'm not saying that we never hat or remove anything. What I am saying is that this specific kind of thing is not how we hat things. Merely being wrong is not, in itself, enough of a reason to remove it. --Jayron32 18:30, 3 December 2012 (UTC)
Ah, yes, so now I should go back and talk about what stuck-up jerks Brits are and quote some blog and link to the article arrogant so I can claim my debating "refuting" on a totally non-encyclopedic topic is "referenced"? Or how bout I ask the OP why he hangs out with stupid people? Such "refutation" is debate, not answering a valid question, and is expressly against the policy quoted when that nonsense was hatted. "Why are the people I meet stupid?" is simply not a reference desk topic and the answers are worse. Hey, but we're all bored and maybe this will help the ratings, so why close it. μηδείς (talk) 18:42, 3 December 2012 (UTC)
It doesn't help to set up strawmen to knock down here, Medeis. You know that the scenario that you outline is not what is being proposed. If people ask questions with bad assumptions, or give answers without references or rational responses, the proper action is to provide references and draw rational, dispassionate conclusions from those references. No one has proposed what you are above. So, you can quit acting like people who object to your hats do so because they want people to behave badly. Instead, hatting is not the best response to this sort of bad behavior, the best response is to provide references with dispassionate, well reasoned conclusions. --Jayron32 19:18, 3 December 2012 (UTC)
Seeing the gravitas with which Jayron the Administrator addresses the issue of what is a correct response when one is faced with a bad answer, dare one still ask whether Jayron is amenable to well sourced refutation of what Jayron posts, or is such impertinence to be stifled? SkylonS (talk) 10:22, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
You're the only person talking about stifling things, and impertinence. What Jayron wrote bore no relationship to either of those things. Maybe you should read it again. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 10:54, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
I read Jayron's post again. "Not to stifle discussion" it says. Yupp, just the same as I read the first time. Now there are 3 of us all talking about stifling things but no visible answer from Jayron. I worry about your interest JackofOz because I saw your declaration that you would "fight to the death" for free speech on a Ref. desk, and I would hate for that to happen. SkylonS (talk) 11:35, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
And that was my point. Jayron is saying that we do NOT stifle discussion, but "refute the bad answer with better sources or with more rational interpretations of those sources". This thread seems overloaded with strawmen, for some odd reason. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 12:19, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
Stifle discussion by hatting: bad.
Refute bad arguments with better ones: good.
Setting up strawmen: bad.
Steve Summit (talk) 13:50, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
SkylonS (talk · contribs) - A fake newbie is not good either. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:52, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
Especially, come to think of it, if the fake newbie is a sock of a blocked user. Hmm. —Steve Summit (talk) 02:41, 8 December 2012 (UTC)
Now blocked as a likely sock of Cuddlyable3. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:52, 11 December 2012 (UTC)

Gratuitous abuse

At [22] I asked a sensible and relevant follow-up question about whether the written and typed forms of 心 differ more than is the case with other characters, but merely received idiotic abuse from KägeTorä and μηδείς, who apparently had not even bothered to read what I wrote. (talk) 12:58, 10 December 2012 (UTC)

From my point of view, KägeTorä had answered your question already when you both exchanged insults. On a side note, I want to know what does μηδείς have against Rice University? OsmanRF34 (talk) 15:14, 10 December 2012 (UTC)
KägeTorä gave a fair answer to the original question. But the OP then asked a different question: But there is no reason to think that the written and typed forms of 心 differ more than is the case with other characters, right? In fact, I would imagine that they typically differ less than most other characters.
KägeTorä's answer to this did not seem to address it at all. It was just reiterating that the written and typed forms are different, something the OP already knew and never disputed (his opening question took that as a given).
The OP responded that the answer bore no relevance to what was being asked. (I agree, it bore no relevance to what was being asked.)
KägeTorä's answer to that comment included the expression "idiotic questions". Medeis then misquoted this as "stupid questions".
While it was wrong of the OP to allow himself to be provoked into referring to KägeTorä and Medeis (or anyone) as "idiots", it was equally wrong of KägeTorä to be so dismissive of a sensible and reasonable follow-up question, one that he seems to have failed to notice was significantly different from the original question. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 17:52, 10 December 2012 (UTC)
Your followon question "there is no reason to think that the written and typed forms of 心 differ more than is the case with other characters, right? In fact, I would imagine that they typically differ less...", while sensible and relevant, is complicated, so I'm not surprised it was misunderstood by someone who read it carelessly. When it was, in fact, misunderstood, your observation that the exchange "does not seem to bear any relevance to what I wrote" was almost perfectly unobjectionable. The abuse you then received was over-the-top, and completely unnecessary. (And, yes, gratuitous.) I share Jack's wish that you hadn't stooped to calling people idiots, but given that they certainly started it, I'd say you're excused. —Steve Summit (talk) 22:43, 10 December 2012 (UTC)
I basically agree with Jack and Steve, though put-downs generally happen too frequently at the desks, in my opinion. This is but one example, and not that spectacular. Yeah, I wish it happened less often.
Another thing that happens often is misunderstanding (or misreading, or incomplete reading) of posts, including questions. In my experience, the least escalating and most fruitful way to progress from a misunderstood post, is to point out what you meant in other words, or using bullet points or examples, expanding or summarizing, depending on what might have led to the misunderstanding in the first place. Yes, it's annoying when you feel like people didn't even bother to read your post, but you'll get more out of trying to re-explain what you're seeking, than merely pointing out that the question hadn't been addressed at all, or "read what I wrote" (not quoting you, paraphrasing from observations all over WP).
Just my personal advice, I too think you shouldn't be or shouldn't have been berated for anything. ---Sluzzelin talk 23:01, 10 December 2012 (UTC)
  • I have the impression that some people are assuming that the editor who opened this section is the same one who asked the original question on the Language page. But that's probably not true, since one of them geolocates to Rice University (in the US) and the other to Surrey, in the UK. This seems to be turning into a bit of a comedy of errors. Looie496 (talk) 23:08, 10 December 2012 (UTC)
Not I. I assumed the OP of this thread was the same who asked the follow-up question: "But there is no reason to think that the written and typed forms of 心 differ more than is the case with other characters, right? In fact, I would imagine that they typically differ less than most other characters...". I assumed was the same person as, none of which geolocate to Rice University, unlike the editor who asked the initial question. ---Sluzzelin talk 23:15, 10 December 2012 (UTC)
In any case, that's a red herring, Looie. It's very common for editor A to ask the initial question, and editor B to ask a more nuanced question somewhere down the thread. B deserves no less respect than A. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 00:54, 11 December 2012 (UTC)
I think Looie's primary point is that it's helpful for us to be clear who we're referring to, to avoid confusion, not that it should make a difference in how we threat the IP. Note that the lack of respect primarily seems directed at the original IP, not the IP who asked the follow up questions even if the comments were in reply to that IPs comments. In any case, is there some history concerning Rice University IPs and the language desk I'm missing? Nil Einne (talk) 05:17, 11 December 2012 (UTC)
In my defence, I shall say that my answer about 'write this down, and see if it differs from the font on your computer' was completely relevant, as we were talking about the difference between written and typed forms. The second IP seemed to refuse to understand this, repeatedly. This is why I made my heavy-handed comment (which was actually directed at the OP, not the IP), for which I can apologize here. Making a post just saying 'idiots', with no other information related to the thread is unwarranted, unhelpful, and unacceptable, in my view. Bear in mind, too, that my comment was written in small, as it had no relevance to the topic. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 07:30, 11 December 2012 (UTC)
Forgive me if I misunderstand you, Kage, but that reads as if you still haven't grasped what we're talking about. The follow-on question was not simply about the difference between the written and typed forms of characters in general. It was about the difference between the written and typed forms of the character that looks like this --> <-- , compared with the differences between the written and typed forms of other characters. The questioner's position is that in this specific case, the difference is no more, and may even be less, than the difference in other cases. I have absolutely no idea whether he's right or not, but you still don't seem to have addressed this point at all. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 08:02, 11 December 2012 (UTC)
I have studied Japanese since I was 18 - I am 40 now, and work professionally full-time as a Japanese translator, and I can tell you quite simply that all handwritten forms of any character (in any language, in fact) will be different from the computer font. I can agree that it may be no more or even less different, depending on the writer. This is all I was simply trying to say. The IP could not grasp this simple fact, and then called me and Medeis 'idiots'. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 08:16, 11 December 2012 (UTC)
If you had wanted to say 'I can agree that it may be no more or even less different, depending on the writer', you should have said it. Your response about writing out stuff apparently did not say that to either me, JoO, Ummit, Sluzzelin or the IP. To me at least and I think the others all you seemed to be saying was that in general written characters will differ from those in computer fonts which no one seemed to be questioning including the second IP (as most others here seem to agree including from what I can tell, the person who actually wrote the message) so was irrelevent as a followup to the IP. In fact, it seems clear to me (and again I think others here) that the IP did in fact accept that computer fonts would generally differ from the written form, otherwise their question would not even make sense. (If someone does not accept that written forms will generally differ from computer fonts, the question of whether a specific character is likely to differ more between written and computer fonts on average then most other characters would not even arise.) Your comment may have been relevent to the original question but that had already been answered and in any case should not have been indented as a followup to someone who already accepted that, particularly not if you were going to write it in the way you did. Nil Einne (talk) 09:32, 11 December 2012 (UTC)
So, Kage, you finally come to the party - sort of. But only sort of. When someone is not understanding the "simple facts" you're presenting, it's possible the fault lies somewhere other than with them. Maybe it's the way you're telling the story. Or not telling it, in this case. Because whatever may have been in your head, it's taken till now for you to begin to share it.
I think it's just a tad disingenuous of you to highlight their use of the word "idiots" while making no mention of your own earlier use of the term "idiotic questions". That may not technically be a comment about the OP personally, and hence may not technically breach our Wikipedia:No personal attacks rule, but it's the next best thing. For my money, it breached the rule in spirit and intent. You have to own that. And the reaction it spawned (which is not to excuse the OP). -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 11:42, 11 December 2012 (UTC)
Jack, I have already apologized and given my explanation here. Let's leave it at this. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 15:25, 11 December 2012 (UTC)
Sorry, I didn't read your "I can apologize" as an actual apology, but if you say that's what it was, so be it. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 03:13, 12 December 2012 (UTC)

As for Rice University, we have a huge number of trolling questions that originate from IP's located there, probably a few thousand times what you'd expect from a random sample, and certainly enough to merit blocking their IP submissions, if someone cared to take up the subject. I don't. μηδείς (talk) 17:41, 20 December 2012 (UTC)

Ref Desk contributor User:Franamax has died

Just wanted to let everyone know. See Wikipedia:Deceased_Wikipedians#Franamax_.28Franamax.29. StuRat (talk) 22:11, 30 November 2012 (UTC)

Vale, Franamax. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 22:33, 30 November 2012 (UTC)
Dammit. Terrible news. We only corresponded a few times, but I'll certainly miss his cheerful contributions. Matt Deres (talk) 02:55, 1 December 2012 (UTC)
We should all be as well remembered. μηδείς (talk) 05:39, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
Yikes. That is indeed bad news, and by definition, it's now too late to express my appreciation for all the good work he did here. —Steve Summit (talk) 13:51, 2 December 2012 (UTC)
What a shame. My condolences to Franamax's family and friends. --TammyMoet (talk) 20:41, 6 December 2012 (UTC)
PLEASE archive this!!! (talk) 16:48, 20 December 2012 (UTC)
You do realise that unless someone decides to manually archive it you've just extended the time before it is archived since the bot archives based on most recent time stamp? In any case, I don't see any good reason to manually archive this (but I'm not going to object if someone does so). There's nothing in this thread now that seems disrespectful, to the contrary. Franamax's death is sad but it happened. And if you can't handle death, I don't think wikipedia is the best place for you. Nil Einne (talk) 19:23, 24 December 2012 (UTC)
That IP has been blocked for block evasion, so perhaps there was some kind of history. Matt Deres (talk) 01:39, 28 December 2012 (UTC)

People who can't find their Q's

We seem to have a continuing problem with people who can't find their own Q when they return: Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Humanities#amphigory_2. The problem may be as simply as the Q being at the bottom of the page when they post, but no longer at the bottom when they return. Would it help if we posted instructions on how to find their Q, using Find ? (We could also include instructions on how to find them in the archives, but that gets rather ugly.) StuRat (talk) 08:41, 20 December 2012 (UTC)

I wouldn't object to that per se, but I think part of the problem is the huge amount of boilerplate we have at the top, to which this would only add more text. In general, I'd to see us remove virtually all the non-bolded text in the header and reword the remainder into two sections of prose: "How can I get my question answered?" and "How can I answer a question?" (or similar). Right now, the whole thing is summed up as TL;DR. Matt Deres (talk) 16:56, 20 December 2012 (UTC)
If they are smart enough to edit the page to place a question they are smart enough to scroll down to find it. Most questioners seem simply never to acknowledge they've been answered, let alone say thanks. μηδείς (talk) 17:43, 20 December 2012 (UTC)
I always balk at the "if they're smart enough to X then Y" reasoning. We can go to the moon and take mugshots of atoms, but we're still stupid enough to watch reality TV. In this case, asking a new question only requires the click of a button, while finding an old question requires people to actually look. Matt Deres (talk) 13:37, 22 December 2012 (UTC)
We can go to the moon and take mugshots of atoms, but we're still stupid enough to watch reality TV. I love it.
And you're absolutely right; there are more different levels of computer savviness out there than are dreamt of in your or my or Medeis's or anyone's philosophy; and I can easily imagine a user who is "smart enough" to ask a question but then not able to find the answer.
(Anyway, we've got existence proofs. And users who are "smart enough" to ask a question but not even aware that they're not on the "contact us" page of the product/company/university that they merely blundered onto Wikipedia's article about.) —Steve Summit (talk) 15:48, 22 December 2012 (UTC)
Aren't there editors who edit the entire desk page, rather than section-editing? (it took me at least a week to notice that feature when I first edited here accountless). I thought there were even editors who read stuff in that mode. In these cases, the archived questions, though visible on the page, wouldn't show for the person wishing to respond but unaware of section-editing and transcluding templates (or whatever, sorry, I really am a dodo with all thing Computerese.---Sluzzelin talk 07:35, 27 December 2012 (UTC)
You can probably make a fair guess at how people are creating new sections by looking through the edit log and seeing the summary for new sections. If you add a section via editing the entire page, editing the last section or using the new section link these will by default leave distinctive edit summaries (empty, section title of the most recent section or new section title with the words new section). While in the first 2 cases you can leave your own edit summary, it's probably fairly uncommon people don't use the 'new section' function but do add exactly the same summary. And even more unlikely someone edits the whole page then adds the most recent section title while adding a new section. So any with those two most likely come the way you think. For those with custom edit summaries, you obviously can't be sure whether it was from editing a section or the entire page but you can count them seperately. My guess is the number is small. I don't think editing the entire page is actually that common but editing the bottommost section is. Nil Einne (talk) 12:00, 27 December 2012 (UTC)
Whoops misread the earlier comment, thought it was about adding sections. Still you can do something similar. For any comments added to an existing section there's a high chance any of them with the section title came via editing the section. Those with completely custom edit summaries either came via editing the page or editing section. Those who have a blank edit summary probably came from editing the page, but you can less certain of it. If you look at the log, the number is fairly small. Nil Einne (talk) 12:03, 27 December 2012 (UTC)

Archiving issue

Do me a favour and go to the top of this talk page and click on one of the archives for past discussions. Check out the NavBox at the very top of the page. What's up with the sequencing there? If you pick Archive 89, it will show link to 84, 87, 88, 90, 91, and 94. If you pick 94, it will show links to 89, 92, 93, 95, 96, and 97. What's up with that? Why is is skipping over some and not others? Is the NavBox created by Misza or is it part of MediaWiki (or something else)? Matt Deres (talk) 21:56, 20 December 2012 (UTC)

What it's doing is giving you the two on either side of 89, plus the pages 5 steps away on either end. It makes it slightly quicker to skip pages by large amounts if browsing to a particular date. It's not a sequencing error. I think that's what those arrows are trying to suggest.Mingmingla (talk) 23:20, 20 December 2012 (UTC)
Okay, so that's what it's doing (I prolly shoulda figgered that out myself). But why? Who peruses the archives and decides they need to skip ahead five archives? I could kind of see the point if the archives were more discrete, like if it was month by month or something, but here five spaces might skip you ahead a week or four months depending on activity. Matt Deres (talk) 13:33, 22 December 2012 (UTC)
First, remember the archive headers are generic talk headers. Second, I would expect it can't be uncommon people decide they may want to go fairly far back or forward for whatever reason and this greatly speeds it up particularly considering the limit number of numbers. That sort of thing is a very common element of navigation control. Remember while there are other ways to visit something further back, e.g. modify the URL or go to the whole navbox and click on the number you want it may not always be something people know how to do, or it may simply not occur to them. Nil Einne (talk) 19:18, 24 December 2012 (UTC)

Suggested Ref Desk Header Revision

Per Matt Deres’s comment above in “People who can’t find their Q”. I like this idea of drastically shortened boilerplate very much. Here's a suggested new version along the lines suggested by Matt Deres. (talk) 16:31, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

Want a faster answer?

("Search reference desk archives") ("Search Wikipedia, exact match") ("Search Wikipedia, advanced")
NB: No extra text here, just the text on the buttons)

How can I get my question answered?

  • Explain what you need to know. Tell the volunteers what part of the world your question applies to. And please, type ~~~~ (four tildes) at the end - this signs your contribution so we know who wrote what in the conversation. We’ll answer here within a few days. (Don’t post personal contact information – it will be removed.) Note:
    • We don’t answer (and may remove) questions that require medical diagnosis or legal advice.
    • We don’t answer requests for opinions, predictions or debate.
    • We don’t do your homework for you, though we’ll help you past the stuck point.

("Ready? Ask a new question")
NB: no extra text here, just the text on the button

How do I answer a question?
Main page: Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines

  • The best answers directly address what the questioner asked (without tangents), are thorough, are easy to read, and back up facts with wikilinks and links to sources. Please assume good faith, especially with users new to Wikipedia. Don’t edit others’ comments and do not give any medical or legal advice.
Could we add:
How do I find my question ?
Do a Find (Control F) and type in any part of the title, question, or your name, if posted.
If that didn't work, and it's old, check the archives: (archive link here).
StuRat (talk) 06:47, 22 December 2012 (UTC)
I like it! Yes, that's exactly what I'm talking about; even more concise than what I'd come up with previously. Here is what it looks like in the markup we currently use on the header, with a couple of small changes on my part (for one, I don't recall how to split the search between exact match and regular!) I'm not 100% sold on the need for StuRat's suggestion above, so I didn't include it, but I wouldn't object if there's further support for it. All are welcome to edit my sub-page. Matt Deres (talk) 14:13, 22 December 2012 (UTC)
In a similar vein, I'm not sure we need the "welcome" line either. It's friendly, and it's only one line, but it's overshadowed (and made redundant) by the large header just above it which already specifies which desk you're on. Matt Deres (talk) 16:54, 22 December 2012 (UTC)
Ok, I'm sold either way. I guess I'm used to the huge billboard full of letters and fat words at the desks, but I don't mind a change and see your points. Go ahead, no one seems to care :-P ---Sluzzelin talk 07:37, 27 December 2012 (UTC)
I'm fine with it, except for the part suggested by StuRat above. --Viennese Waltz 09:52, 27 December 2012 (UTC)
I like it too! Falconusp t c 15:50, 27 December 2012 (UTC)
One reason why questioners may have problems finding their questions, is the Stale pages bug, which appears to affect IP editors only. Depending on how they access a page (via a redirect vs via a direct link, I think), they may get an old version of the page, a version which does not include their question. See previous discussion. --NorwegianBlue talk 14:38, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
  • I support it only (1) as long as there is a search field, rather than a button that opens a new page or link, and (2) as long as we retain the warning that requests for medical advice, etc., will usually be removed, and (3) a line advising strongly to use a search engine is retained and even emphasized. μηδείς (talk) 03:53, 1 January 2013 (UTC)
We should amend that wording anyway. We hardly ever remove questions seeking medical/legal advice. Lots of other things happen, but removal is the option that almost dares not speak its name. Except in our warnings; which makes it a hollow-ish threat. I'd prefer we say we "may" remove such questions rather than "usually" remove them. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 04:06, 1 January 2013 (UTC)
This really doesn't stress the use of search functions. Feel free to add whatever you think it worthwhile. Matt Deres (talk) 04:23, 1 January 2013 (UTC)
I've added my ideas. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 05:05, 1 January 2013 (UTC)
Hi Jack, I wonder why you feel the line "Provide a short header that gives the general topic of the question" is necessary - on the few occasions where the OP hasn't done this, I've noticed that Ref Desk volunteers simply add one - no fuss. Do you think we really need this? Is it as important as the rest? (talk) 21:54, 1 January 2013 (UTC)
It may not be as important as some of the other instructions, but it's still a good idea. Yes, we can simply change it, but 1) there's no reason to add to the burden and 2) changing the header can "break" the direct link from the OP's contributions list and 3) they need to create some kind of header or there's a real risk of their question simply being lost or overlooked, so they might as well be told to make it something useful. Matt Deres (talk) 23:24, 1 January 2013 (UTC)

English is the only Reference desk split?

I noted that the Math Reference desk is in Category:Pages automatically checked for accidental language links. This means to me that there is no proper iw link for the Math Reference Desk anywhere. Is English the only wikipedia that divides up the reference desk into pieces like Math Reference Desk?

Also, whatever robots make sure the interwiki's are all connected, don't appear to be working on the various reference desks. For example, the English language Reference desk has about 30 iw links, but the one for Hungarian has less than 20. Do these iw links all have to be done by hand?Naraht (talk) 01:07, 31 December 2012 (UTC)

I'm sure someone can come along with a more definitive answer shortly but, yes, so far as I know, this is the only Wikipedia with multiple desks. In terms of number of articles, German, French, and Dutch are the closest to English and their RefDesks are much smaller than ours, with only a fraction of the the questions, respondents, etc. we see. The German one at least separates each day; the French one goes by weeks. There's just no need to split desks with such little traffic. Of course, smaller Wikipedias just leave their "RefDesk" as part of the help desk (as the English one was for the first few years). Matt Deres (talk) 01:46, 1 January 2013 (UTC)
Thanx, I know each Wikipedia is separate, the German Language Wikipedians could decide to split off a Reference Desk for topic involving South American Spiders and it would be their decision...Naraht (talk) 02:54, 1 January 2013 (UTC)
I completely missed your last question. Yes, the interwiki links are all done by hand. If you go to the main RefDesk page and click "edit", you can see the interlanguage links across the bottom. I think adding them to articles is an unfortunately low priority for most people, so if you can add or repair them, you'll be helping out in one of the background areas that often gets overlooked. Matt Deres (talk) 19:24, 1 January 2013 (UTC)
The Spanish reference desk is split in two: a general reference desk, es:Wikipedia:Consultas, and a language desk es:Wikipedia:Consultas_lingüísticas. Both have appropriate interwiki links. --NorwegianBlue talk 21:03, 1 January 2013 (UTC)
And further inspection shows that the Language desk has several working interwiki links to corresponding pages on other language wikipedias, whereas the other desks have none. --NorwegianBlue talk 00:34, 2 January 2013 (UTC)

Russia Today verus CNN

Is Russia Today banned as a reference source on Wikipedia? I've encountered an editor who claims CNN is ok but Russia Today is not. Not sure if this is the right place to post this query, I did not readily identify anywhere else from the list. Frenchmalawi (talk) 01:08, 4 January 2013 (UTC)

You want the reliable sources noticeboard. I recommend you search through their archives before asking. Regards, Orange Suede Sofa (talk) 01:15, 4 January 2013 (UTC)
Thanks, I did indeed find many megabytes of discussion in the archive....but no decision - so I've raised my query. Frenchmalawi (talk) 22:15, 4 January 2013 (UTC)


The user Venustar84 has admitted previously to being the sockpuppet of an indefinitely blocked user, but has promised to be on his best behavior. Now he's suggesting in a thread on amateur tattoing [23]that he's suffered septicemia before (a normally fatal condition which requires emergency hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics to have any choice of saving one's life--a claim I overlooked at first or I would not have answered his question in good faith) and is requesting advice on how to repeat the procedure. We've previously had an admin suggest the user would be watched closely, and that a check user might be done if he were blocked. I think it's time someone seriously consider blocking this character and running a checkuser on his accounts. I am removing the thread entirely, telling the user, and going to let the issue be discussed here and someone else restore the thread if they find it merits it. μηδείς (talk) 02:36, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

I advised Venustar84 aka Neptunekh, et al., that he might want to explain his disruptive editting here. μηδείς (talk) 02:40, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

==I will refrain for asking useless questions in the future. Please forgive my intuition and embarrassment. By the way, I'm female. I think good faith is a good idea. Venustar84 (talk) 06:07, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

That's not the first time you've said that, nor the first time you've deleted archived material: See the deleted question I am curious why we have no action by admins on this. μηδείς (talk) 07:47, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

==Perhaps a mentor is good Idea. I'm taking going on vacation therapy for a week anyway. I just don;t want to ask irrelevant questions anymore. Venustar84 (talk) 08:59, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

Since Neptune/Venus seems not to know what a relevant question is, maybe they should post their questions here first, and let the readers decide? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 11:38, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

I'm not sure what official Wikipedia policy is on the matter, but in my opinion, the way to come back as a "reformed" reincarnation of a banned or indef-blocked user is to not admit to it, to not display any of the distinctive traits or make any reference to the old user at all. If anyone can tell you're a sock of of a banned or indef-blocked user, it means you are displaying those traits, and you're therefore a prime candidate for getting blocked or banned again. —Steve Summit (talk) 14:23, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

AFAIK Venustar84 is not a indef-blocked user. In fact, as I pointed out last time this was discussed, although they have used several accounts it's not entirely clear if they've even violated our sockpuppetry policy as from what I can tell, they never used another account while blocked, even during their one year block. The most likely possible violation would be that they could be seen as attempting to avoid scrutiny. Nil Einne (talk) 00:40, 10 January 2013 (UTC)
Oh! Thanks for the clarification. Apologies for seeming to impugn Venustar, then. (Oh, and Venustar: Equals signs == are for section headings, not ordinary messages. To indent your message, use colons :: or asterisks **.) —Steve Summit (talk) 01:02, 10 January 2013 (UTC)
My fault on the indef block accusation, I was going by memory. By I remember there being something significant, no? μηδείς (talk) 02:21, 10 January 2013 (UTC)

==thank you carrott. I do want to be positive. I'm a female by the way. == 18:02, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

Maths desk

I found a discussion from back in November about the efficacy of the Mathematics RD, but it was incredibly silly (one user advocated the creation of a "Math and Free Porn" desk). But indeed, it seems to be by far the least active desk. I'd like to see the issue explored further, but does anyone else think deprecating it, perhaps merging it with the science desk, is a good idea? --BDD (talk) 21:58, 8 January 2013 (UTC)

No. It gets enough use, and is a sufficiently separate topic. StuRat (talk) 22:09, 8 January 2013 (UTC)
I am fairly certain the result of that discussion was to make a combined Mathematics and who blindly supports Israel? desk. Unfortunately, though, I think one of our "Who blindly supports Israel?" regulars was recently indeffed. μηδείς (talk) 02:45, 10 January 2013 (UTC)


Shouldn't psychology be mentioned among the subjects for the science desk? Lova Falk talk 14:50, 9 January 2013 (UTC)

Ask your question at whichever desk you believe will get the attention you which it to. There's no need to fret overly about whether or not to ask a psychology question in science or humanities or miscellaneous. Indeed, as long as the desk isn't obviously inappropriate (i.e. psychology on the computing or mathematics desk) then it doesn't really matter. Also, it isn't really feasible to list every single possible topic on the introduction page that someone could conceivably ask a question about, the current list is sufficient to direct people to the correct places. You won't be abused, blocked, insulted, or beaten with a wet noodle if you ask your question at the wrong desk, indeed for many questions there are multiple desks they could be asked at, reasonably. So don't fret over little things like this. It's really not that important. --Jayron32 15:43, 9 January 2013 (UTC)
Even the Computer Desk might make sense, in the case of ELIZA. StuRat (talk) 19:46, 9 January 2013 (UTC)
And how does that make you feel, StuRat? μηδείς (talk) 02:20, 10 January 2013 (UTC)
I do not fret overly, I just wondered. While it is pretty obvious that subjects like chemistry, physics, engineering and technology belong to science, they are all mentioned, but the less obvious ones are not mentioned. So I thought we could add psychology to science. But it's okay. Face-smile.svg Lova Falk talk 18:15, 9 January 2013 (UTC)
I think a lot of scientists would immediately reject psychology and some related fields as having little or nothing to do with science. I've certainly seen disparaging commentary of them on these pages. And they may have a point (not that they're necessarily disparagementworthy, but that they rely on an understanding of feelings as much as anything empirically measurable). -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 02:29, 10 January 2013 (UTC)
Being "close enough" is usually good. Sometimes questions get bounced from one ref desk to another. Like if someone turns up on the math desk asking about Huckleberry Hound, it will probably get re-routed to the entertainment desk. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:55, 10 January 2013 (UTC)
Here's a very recent example of a "wrong ref desk" posting that was sent to another desk.[24] Fairly politely worded, though. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:46, 10 January 2013 (UTC)

A returning problem user

FYI, Kyxx (talk · contribs) has just been blocked as a returning account of Keeeith (talk · contribs), who I recall was causing some trouble here a couple of weeks ago (and on occasions before that). The account didn't have any contributions but to ask a string of odd questions here, many on past recurrent themes (serial killers, etc).

I never quite understand why people keep doing this! Andrew Gray (talk) 14:21, 12 January 2013 (UTC)

...didn't see that one coming.</sarc> μηδείς (talk) 19:41, 12 January 2013 (UTC)

I've been on discussion boards and newsgroups for nearly twenty years - before there was even a web to surf on - and I've never understood troll behaviour. I don't condone vandalism, but I at least understand the juvenile need to "mark your place". Wasting people's time? Getting people riled up? They're not exactly a difficult accomplishments... Matt Deres (talk) 23:50, 12 January 2013 (UTC)

I just reported User:Jonharley667, almost definitely a sock of User:Wrk678 and the so many identities besides they had before that. I noticed them a few days ago and even mentioned them without name on the RD but was lazy to file yet another report. Meanwhile I'm fairly sure User:Republicanism is a sock of User:Bowei Huang but am still lazy to file a report, particularly since I'm not sure if checkuser info will be available so it may need to be entirely behavioural. Sadly I doubt these are the only 3 banned or indef blocked users still socking on the RD. Barring one editor who appeared to behave reasonably (well except for one kerfuffle with another editor over signing a few years back), many of these socks end up getting blocked partially because they finally annoyed someone enough to report them (or annoyed someone enough to notice them), e.g. this was the case with the Wrk678 identity itself which I was reasonably sure was a sock several months back, in fact their behaviour was bade enough they were indef blocked without me properly establishing they were a sock. Nil Einne (talk) 15:07, 13 January 2013 (UTC)

Troll (internet) Psychology

I have long suspected Republicanism of being a troll. I even used to deal with trolls when I worked for Christopher Street Magazine, with callers, and would-be contributors and advertisers. But what I don't get is the boring repetitive posting of the same topics over and over. I've reads our article on trolling, but it doesn't go into motive or psychology. Can anyone point to the point of being a boring troll? Thanks. μηδείς (talk) 03:41, 15 January 2013 (UTC)

I can't speak of reference psychology, but since this isn't the RD itself hopefully it's okay if I point out not all problematic users are necessarily trolls, at least according to the definition used in our article. In the case of Bowei Huang it's entirely unclear to me if they're mostly trolling or genuinely believe most of what they post and are genuinely interested in what they ask about but instead just are unable to understand that most of their questions do not belong on the RD (and those few that do would probably better be answers by searching themselves) and in fact many of them are not really unanswerable since we can't know what people are thinking. There may be some soapboxing thrown in but how much of it is genuine trolling I think is hard to say. Ditto for the Wrk678 etc fellow. Even with some of their more silly or outrageous posts like about a celebrity's nipples, unsupported accusations of a rape victim, their immunity to choking or their desire to speed on a suburban street without getting caught [25], I'm not so sure if they were primarily trolling or instead genuinely interested and/or soapboxing again with an apparent unwillingness to search and read themselves before asking. Meanwhile we still have the other unbanned people on the RD asking unusual (to say the least) questions. Like the Kansas IP with their questions about making money, some future technology they want or think we should have (and the occasional post about some current technology they think isn't popular enough like bidets). And the named editor 3 subject headings above is another one who has people calling them a troll because of some of their posts but IMO could potentially be genuine most of the time. Then of course there's those who's questions aren't so much as odd as boringly repetitive (and with an apparent inability to learn how to find stuff themselves). Like the one who keeps asking about Muslim or other immigrants in a variety of generally western countries. Again I'm not sure if there's any reason to assume trolling as opposed to a fairly fixated interest combined with an apparent inability to learn how to find stuff themselves. (We had someone fixated on interracial marriage who finally told us they were planning such a marriage. Although they were banned for purposely disruptive editing, incivility and death threats on the encyclopaedia long before that so there was likely some trolling. But I'm not sure if the interracial marriage stuff was.) I personally suspect that for quite a few editors considered trolls, trolling is obviously only one component and not always that significant, with other things like soapboxing and genuine interest a probable component. Nil Einne (talk) 08:42, 15 January 2013 (UTC)
I saw from this edit an interest in a particular Christian socialist thinker, and that indicated some logic to the questions. Some regular questioners are probably just bored or lonely, others get into a habit of using the refdesk to inform their studies or some project they are doing. It is less damaging than making thoughtless edits to mainspace. Itsmejudith (talk) 10:41, 15 January 2013 (UTC)
Compare the "community" of Wikipedia to the community in a traditional "conventional" institution, like a university or a think-tank. In those organizations, new members are invited by the resident members. New members must often pass an entrance exam or otherwise demonstrate qualification; the new member must be able to conform to established institutional norms, or they are not permitted to participate in the institution's community.
Wikipedia does not work this way. Part of the downside of the free exchange of information is that unwanted discourse also occurs; and we lack a centrist, authoritarian mechanism for expelling the miscreants. We don't vet newcomers; so that means some newcomers are troublemakers, and some are just idiots.
So, what can we do to adapt? We can endure the miscreants for as long as possible; and each individual contributor must make their own assessment that the greater good of free information exchange is still outweighing the downside. And, if any individual contributor ever feels that this is no longer the case, that contributor can return to more conventional institutional knowledge communities - things like corporations and universities and think-tanks - where the information is less free, but the authority-structure keeps out the lumpenproletariat. And, Wikipedia loses a contributor.
This is not the end of the world. New contributors, fresh with enthusiasm, dynamically enter (or re-enter) the contributor-pool, and they are able to tolerate all the undesirables; and we reach a sort of steady-state or equilibrium: old contributors "burning out" and new contributors coming in with fresh ideas and higher tolerance levels. Wikipedia is over a decade old, and is widely regarded as a successful hallmark of the proliferation of free information. This model works, and anyone who is actively trying to disrupt it is failing badly. Nimur (talk) 16:42, 15 January 2013 (UTC)
Given the above thoughtful comments I think the point most relative to my question is that "trolling" can be in the actual intention or in the unfortunate appearance. I was assuming that what looks like trolling (say, repetitive questions about how to pronounce various words that obviously rhyme in a certain dialect) was actually the result of intentional disruptiveness instead of the symptom of some other issue. Thanks. μηδείς (talk) 18:55, 15 January 2013 (UTC)
It can certainly be complicated when you try subcategorizing all the various unwanted behaviours against all the possible reasons for that behaviour. Two people with apparently similar behaviour may in fact have completely different reasons for it, which makes it all the more difficult to either (pardon the bluntness) shut them down (kick them out) or shut them up (give them what they need with a minimum of fuss and effort). Matt Deres (talk) 02:18, 17 January 2013 (UTC)

Single Purpose Trolling

We've got a single purpose account Sagittarian Milky Way asking an undefined, and, if serious, suicidal question about heating an specified house with an unspecified car, How Hot?, as if we could rationally point him to, and another single-purpose account, Modocc, reopening the thread, not with an actual answer, but with his assertion there's a question there somewhere. So far as I am concerned, the only question is, do we have two trolls here, or the same one with two names? I am reclosing the thread and invite the OP's to explain themselves here by posting coherent questions and coherent answers, if they have them. μηδείς (talk) 02:25, 17 January 2013 (UTC)

I've been editing long enough, to enough articles and on enough topics as to not be labeled a special purpose. This particular repeated closure is foolish and abusive. That Medeis wants to deride the OP's question and the considerate answers given is beyond me and needs to stop. The OP's question can be answered simply by a simple comparison of engine fuel consumptions with the fuel consumptions of marketed gasoline furnaces. Furthermore, the particulars of what permissions, local building codes, or safety requirements that Medeis might be worried about are not relevant to answering this question or its possible applications. -Modocc (talk) 02:37, 17 January 2013 (UTC)
I've seen SMW around and a check of their edit history shows a variety of contribs to the desk, ITNC, a variety of articles and talk pages unrelated to the question so I'm fairly confused by what token they can be considered a SPA. Nil Einne (talk) 02:48, 17 January 2013 (UTC)
Medeis closes a question and refuses to assume good faith on the part of the asker, though such closure is not supportable by any policy or consensus. In other news, the sun rose today. Seriously Medeis; stop closing discussions. As with this one, you have repeatedly displayed a lack of discernment in properly closing discussions. Yet again, you've applied your own criteria and made a bad decision which is not borne out by community standards. Because you display a poor track record in this regard, it would be best if you just stopped doing this. --Jayron32 03:03, 17 January 2013 (UTC)
The question is clearly a thought experiment, and not necessarily an unreasonable one. Getting a car inside a house is not practical, so there's no risk of danger. (Let alone suicide! Where'd that notion come from?) I've reopened it. —Steve Summit (talk) 03:30, 17 January 2013 (UTC)
Clearly a thought experiment, like, "Could I have women mounted by ponies, if I enjoyed fisting them, but their genitalia were not stretched enough?" Or "What sized bombs should I use in major American cities to send seismic SOS messages to spies in the remaining Marxist countries?" You may not be a troll, Streve, but neither do our guidelines encourage random answers to half-baked "though experiments". I am really surprised at you. μηδείς (talk) 04:09, 17 January 2013 (UTC)
Strawman much? --Jayron32 20:45, 17 January 2013 (UTC)
Medeis, your contributions are not helping toward our collective goal, which is to answer questions by providing references to encyclopedic content. If you can't provide references, and you cannot communicate in a civil way using an appropriate encyclopedic tone, you should consider taking a break from editing until you can contribute in a positive way. Nimur (talk) 04:15, 17 January 2013 (UTC)
No, Medeis, it is clearly not a thought experiment anything like "Could I have women mounted by ponies, if I enjoyed fisting them, but their genitalia were not stretched enough?". (Not sure where that analogy came from, either.)
Thermodynamics and heat transfer are interesting subjects. If more people understood them better, the world would be a better place. The amount of waste heat emitted by an internal-combustion vehicle, the amount of energy required to heat a house, the role that insulation and outside temperature play in determining how much energy it takes to heat a house, these are all concepts with real value and practical applicability. Shoving those three concepts into one thought experiment is perhaps a little odd, but it's certainly not rude or outrageous.
And do you know, last night as I was reading the question and reopening it, I thought to myself, "this is the kind of question that good ol' Steve Baker could have a field day with, and teach the rest of us a lot in the process, if he were still around." And, wonder of wonders...[26]
Steve Summit (talk) 16:16, 17 January 2013 (UTC)
In my final year of high school in the UK, we completed the required physics curriculum about a month ahead of schedule. For revision, our physics teacher decided to give us homework questions which we'd discuss in class later - collaboration on our homework answers was encouraged. He made up the questions on the spot - and they were generally silly. One question that I vividly recall was something like: "A gibbon swings through the trees and a fruit falls from above and hits him on the head. Estimate the rise in temperature of his head. You may assume that g=9.81102ms-2"...and in the following lesson, we'd discuss the answer and the sources of error in our estimates - and the precision with which we could give our answers. This question involved finding out where gibbons live, what fruit grows in high treetops in that region - estimating the approximate height of those trees, guessing how fast a gibbon moves...then there would be some quick kinetic energy and thermodynamics calculations and an answer. In class later, we'd have to ask follow-on questions? "What time of year is it?"..."Why do you need to know?"..."Because the fruit of the mumbo-mumbo tree is ripe between June and November - so it would squish and transfer more kinetic energy to the gibbon than if it bounced!"..."Are you sure about that?"...and so forth. Some of us would be dispatched to the library to find needed data.
Rinse, repeat several times a month until exam time.
Did we get the answer right? Hell no! Did anyone care what the answer was? No. Did it stretch our brains? Yes. Did we retain the knowledge of things like the equations of motion, kinetic energy, heat capacity better than we otherwise would have? Undoubtedly. Did we gain a better understanding of the lives of gibbons and their environment? Of course! Did we all come out wanting more? Yes!
I learned more science and math than I had all year - and gained an enduring love of searching for answers. Of course back then, we only had Encyclopedia Britannica and whatever the school library had to offer...but now we have Wikipedia and Google.
These "dumb" questions offer us the opportunity to pass on knowledge in a practical way. If the OP reads our answers and thinks about them carefully - then we have materially improved the world by answering them. In that regard, there is no such thing as a dumb question. If you think they are a waste of your time - then don't answer them...that's OK, there is no quota system enforced here!
SteveBaker (talk) 17:22, 17 January 2013 (UTC)
I still don't get the SPA accusation and I note none appeared to have been offered above. I didn't mentioned Modocc but I was reminded by the thread in the RD that Modocc is the one who claims to have invented a device which violates the second law of thermodynamics. Even so, a quick search suggests they do have some involvement in the RD in unrelated areas and most of their RD contribs have also as far as I can see and remember have been largely unrelated and often somewhat different. So the SPA accusation just seems bizarre for both editors. Nil Einne (talk) 11:43, 18 January 2013 (UTC)