Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Archive 98

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Archive 95 Archive 96 Archive 97 Archive 98 Archive 99 Archive 100 Archive 105

trolling by sneazy and User talk:

Can someone with checkuser knowledge look at these edits by user:sneazy and (talk · contribs)? Thanks. μηδείς (talk) 22:44, 3 March 2013 (UTC) I changed your link. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:12, 3 March 2013 (UTC)

I've unhatted the question by 86, which was absolutely fine. --Viennese Waltz 22:46, 3 March 2013 (UTC)
Well, no, defaming a business is not fine, which you would know if you had any knowledge of British law or their happiness to bring defamation suits against foreigners for claims published in foreign venues. μηδείς (talk) 23:24, 3 March 2013 (UTC)
Sneazy is vearing into LC territory with its questions, which may or may not be coincidental. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:12, 3 March 2013 (UTC)
LC? μηδείς (talk) 23:25, 3 March 2013 (UTC)
User:Light current, who's been banned for ages but keeps on making appearances under other guises. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 23:32, 3 March 2013 (UTC)
I wish I had whatever psychic power it is that let's you folk identify these trolls. For instance, I knew from his first post that Kotjap was a sock. But you guys even seem to have some way tp track who's a sock of whom. μηδείς (talk) 00:23, 4 March 2013 (UTC)
That's Baseball Bugs' special preserve. I was just explaining who LC is, after BB claimed to have fingered him. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 00:28, 4 March 2013 (UTC)
I have not in the many years I have been here ever identified a sockpuppet's puppeteer, although I have identified many puppets. (My ability to identify trolls of all sorts, commercial and editorial, when I worked at Christopher Street Magazine was legendary.) In any case the link above to Light Current seems invalid. Can we get Light Current's actual link? Thanks. μηδείς (talk) 00:35, 4 March 2013 (UTC)
This is the ANI ruling. Tevildo (talk) 00:47, 4 March 2013 (UTC)
Wow, I just read that at length, and have to say I am surprised I largely agree with StuRat. But not having read many of the diffs, I have to leave everything at AGF. μηδείς (talk) 01:54, 4 March 2013 (UTC)
Thanks, once again, guys. I still have to express myself entirely confused as to why these apparent trolls cant just ask real and interesting and even answerable questions, and stay away from the nonsense. I cannot fathom how the bee ess is more interesting than the real stuff. μηδείς (talk) 01:36, 4 March 2013 (UTC)
If their minds worked on any basis of what is practical, they would not be trolls. Snow (talk) 12:41, 5 March 2013 (UTC)
Yes. That's one of the reasons why it's helpful to differentiate trolls from other sorts of problematic editors. A troll generally won't have much interest is asking 'real and interesting and even answerable question', except perhaps to bed in an identity, since the reaction and time spent by others generally won't give them the rise they desire or at least not for long. Someone who isn't trolling may ask slightly better questions because they're generally genuinely interested in the answer (although they don't always seem to have much ability to learn). Of course not all people with trollish behaviour are trolling all the time and some people may not be trolling but still have no real interest in an answer, e.g. those soapboxing. Nil Einne (talk) 14:53, 5 March 2013 (UTC)

math desk slow?

As reported both on the desk and at the village pump, posting to the Math desk has been extremely slow lately. I noticed it because the archiving bot has had problems for the past two days. In my experience, the problem is specific to the Math desk -- is there some pathologically complicated template expansion happening there just now, or something? —Steve Summit (talk) 15:28, 7 March 2013 (UTC)

blatant request for medical opinion

I'd have removed this rather than hatting it, but I don't know the template. μηδείς (talk) 18:58, 8 March 2013 (UTC)

I may have an unconscious bias because of μηδείς/Medeis' long history of dodgy removals and collapses, but does anyone else think that the question was a "blatant request for medical opinion"? The only actual question I saw was "tell me about this very interesting mechanism." He didn't ask whether to take the drug. He didn't ask how to treat the condition. He specified that this was an over-the-counter pill he took in 2011. ("Over the counter" meaning "the government says that you don't have to ask your doctor before taking this pill".) I don't see this as being a request for a medical opinion at all, much less a "blatant" one. Am I wrong? --Guy Macon (talk) 19:53, 8 March 2013 (UTC)
I agree with the hatting. I don't know if I would call it blatant or not, but we're talking about a specific person's interaction with a specific drug. The OP's family physician is obviously not only the best source of information regarding side-effects, reactions, recall, and so on, but also is aware of the patient's medical history. While we're grasping at straws and making guesses, they could flip through a few charts and find similar incidents from the patient's past or family history or etc. etc. that point to a more reasonable answer. Matt Deres (talk) 21:14, 8 March 2013 (UTC)
Good hat. Too close to asking about his medical condition. He should see a doctor. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:48, 8 March 2013 (UTC)
Certainly hatting is an appropriate response, and my personal view is that deletion would be justified - the OP is asking for a diagnosis of the condition which he developed after he took the drug. I would _also_ be concerned about the next question on the board (about changes in the OP's voice), but that's not so far over the line. Tevildo (talk) 23:12, 8 March 2013 (UTC)
Oh, incidentally, the template is {{RD-deleted}} on the board, and {{subst:RD medremoval}} on the talk page. See WP:RD/G/M. Tevildo (talk) 23:15, 8 March 2013 (UTC)
On reflection, I agree with all of the above. Thanks! --Guy Macon (talk) 02:44, 9 March 2013 (UTC)


Given I closed the question on the judge as worded in violation of BLP, and given Osman chose to edit it and reopen it (which I don not oppose) I have taken the further step of this edit: [1] which I think is justified, rather than taking this to revdel or BLP noticeboard or whatever. μηδείς (talk) 02:28, 2 March 2013 (UTC)

I'm not convinced, Medeis. That's basically pretending the OP did not write what they wrote. We don't mess with people's actual words, and they either pass our BLP filter or not. In this case, presumably the BLP issue is the claim he beat his daughters. Whether he did so "atrociously" or "kindly" or any other way seems hardly to be the point, to me. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 02:51, 2 March 2013 (UTC)
Saying, as if it were known fact, that he atrociously beat his daughters is a defamatory statement if not proven or made in court. Saying that "I think what he did is atrocious" is opinion and OR. It's not my place to school the OP on his wording, and I am curious why you are not saying that Osman was wrong to remove "vicious". The second, OR statement wouldn't be worth reverting unless were to turn into an attack page, per WP:ATTACK. But the first is indeed defamatory, and if you want it restored, that's fine, but then I think it should go to the BLP noticeboard. That's why I have placed it here for comment first. μηδείς (talk) 03:11, 2 March 2013 (UTC)
Adverbs are rarely encyclopaedic. HiLo48 (talk) 03:20, 2 March 2013 (UTC)
If Osman fiddled with the OP's wording, then what I said applies to him, too. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 04:48, 2 March 2013 (UTC)
I agree with Jack. Leave other people's comments alone. StuRat (talk) 04:43, 2 March 2013 (UTC)
How to handle the BLP violation? If the characterization of the beating is defamatory (which I question, but that's another matter), then it has to be dealt with in some way. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 18:48, 2 March 2013 (UTC)
  • Does that mean it's OK to edit another user's comments, as opposed to simply deleting the entire comment? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 08:05, 3 March 2013 (UTC)
It's never OK to edit another user's words. The words the editor writes should appear in their entirety, warts and all. It's all about what they say, not what someone else says they said. There's minor stuff like removing leading spaces to make it actually readable, or adjusting the number of colons or even relocating it within the conversation to make it make sense in the context, or perhaps adding a "citation required" tag (but some users consider even this beyond the pale). Now, there are some extreme cases where we remove another editor's post in its entirety, e.g. because it's blatant trolling, or intentionally incomprehensible. But we never remove only part of a post, and as I say, we never edit the words at all. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 19:43, 3 March 2013 (UTC)
In particular, Medeis claims that the rules for when it is OK to delete a user's comments (unambiguous BLP or copyright violations, for example) mean that it is OK to edit that user's comments in those situations. This is not allowed. When any of us read a comment signed by, say, Jimbo Wales, we need to have confidence that those words are exactly what Jimbo wrote, not what someone else thinks he should have written. Even if Jimbo goes completely off the rails and posts "(Name of real person) lives at (real address). Smite him, my minions! Bwahahaha!!!" We are allowed to (and required to) delete that post and can ask for a WP:REVDEL, but we are not allowed to edit it to say "..lives at [address deleted]" or even "..lives at [address deleted by Guy Macon]". The specific situations when you can remove another editor's comments and the even more restrictive situations when you can edit another editor's comments are clearly defined at WP:TPOC. --Guy Macon (talk) 21:52, 3 March 2013 (UTC)
(ec) It's certainly permissible to redact information that ought not to be exposed, such as an email address or information that outs an editor. But a marker should be left in that case to indicate that something has been redacted. I also feel that it ought to be permissible to fix spelling errors in a section title, because the search function of the Ref desks will fail if terms are not spelled correctly. Looie496 (talk) 21:55, 3 March 2013 (UTC)
What you find to be "certainly permissible", a lot of editors believe to be completely forbidden. Section heaeders, on the other hand, are fair game. Nobody owns a section header, and it is not signed. --Guy Macon (talk) 00:41, 4 March 2013 (UTC)
Agree with much of what's been said since my prior comment. In particular, Guy Macon appropriately cites WP:TPOC, which cites as one example of appropriately editing another person's Talk page comments (3rd on that list): "Removing prohibited material such as libel, personal details, or violations of copyright, living persons or banning policies." I agree with Looie496 that this should be done in a way that indicates something has been redacted, though wholesale removal is probably preferred to avoid calling attention to the violation. -- Scray (talk) 22:35, 3 March 2013 (UTC)
What would be really nice would be a set policy expressed here and published in the ref desk guidelines, regardless of the arguments above that people don't read them. μηδείς (talk) 23:33, 3 March 2013 (UTC)
This has been explained to you several times [2][3][4][5][6] including warnings by blocking administrators, you have been blocked for violating it,[7] and you promised to stop as a condition of unblocking [8][9]. --Guy Macon (talk) 00:57, 4 March 2013 (UTC)
It seems that virtually everyone is on the same page here, but this issue is of critical enough importance that I'd like to add my voice. It is never acceptable to edit another editor's comments in a community discussion space, not even for issues of minor emphasis. Not only is this prohibited by overwhelming and long-standing community consensus, it's a simple matter wiki/internet/general decency. The only time I've ever adjusted another user's posts here is to re-align it with another statement which it was clearly meant to follow but which it got disconnected from by a missing colon. Even then, I make sure to note the change explicitly in my edit summary and apologize in advance if the party feels I acted out-of-turn. Again, this is clearly what policy demands and the only way work can progress on a project like this. Snow (talk) 12:19, 5 March 2013 (UTC)
The problem with these sort set in stone claims about it never being acceptable is they ignore actual community consensus and practice. We remove email address and phone numbers from comments both in the RD and elsewhere in wikipedia all the time without deleting the comments. (This extends to links to copyvios although the frequency of that is far lower.) We also have a template Template:RPA who's use by other parties to remove personal attacks without deleting comments is discussed by in the template doc and Wikipedia:No personal attacks#Removal of text. BLP violations and outing are similarly sometimes removed and we even have a templated sometimes used by oversighters for this purpose Template:Redacted. The TPOC linked by Scray also discusses the acceptable editing of comments. This sort of stuff even happens at places like ANI, as well as in article talk pages and yes even in Jimbo Wales' talk page.
Great care should be taken as the number of cases when it's acceptable is small, particularly when it's removing part of a comment rather then stuff like an email address, phone number or unacceptable link. (Definitely it should never be done for grammatical, spelling or adding stars.) And as others have mentioned it nearly always needs to be clearly indicated. I say nearly always since sometimes it may be necessary to ask an oversighter for suppression and in such cases it's usually better to remove the info without drawing attention to it, at least until the oversighter has done their thing. And perhaps some people may have such a poor record of editing comments that they probably should never do so. But anyone who has been around wikipedia enough knows, removing the whole comment often leads to just as many arguments both from the person who posted the comment and by others who argue the whole comment should not have been removed just for one issue. (And sometimes people just want to have a rant. While removing the rant is often justifiable, getting in to an edit war over it even if it may lead to a block of the person ranting is not always the smart course of action if it's not unduly disruptive even if it's necessary to edit the rant to remove certain stuff which is highly problematic.) This doesn't mean that deleting the whole comment is not often the better idea (and sometimes the only acceptable option), often it is. And sometimes it's far better to ask the person to voluntarily redact whatever is contentious. But they key point is that these are not always the better idea. And sometimes there is overlap where while it may not have been what person X would have done, it doesn't mean it's wrong for person Y to do so. Getting back to my first point, removing a genuine query from a newbie just because they posted their personal email or personal phone number is going to be seen as biting (and note sometimes this includes cases like a living person requesting correction). And just leaving it there when the person may not appreciate the implications and may never be back to check any messages warning them of what they did would be seen as similarly problematic.
As for this specific case, despite being a BLP hawk, I do agree I don't see much point for this deletion. Yes the extraneous description of the beating was not necessary and therefore not ideal and may have made the BLP violation slightly worse but it doesn't seem as bad μηδείς suggests and considering that involved editing someone else's comment, probably should not have been done. The real problem is discussing what happened at all, particularly with the link to the name, more so since the person and case are apparently not notable Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/William Adams (judge), Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Beating of Hillary Adams. Unfortunately I don't see much we can do. With the video, I don't think there's any question that the beating happened. Removing the name or description would make the question more confusing and I suspect one of the followups would have brought up whatever was excluded. The only real option would be completely excluding queries about living people involving negative or private information which isn't already in a wikipedia article. While I wouldn't personally be opposed to that I doubt it will achieve consensus here and I'm not sure if there would be agreement by the wider wikipedia community it's required by BLP.
Nil Einne (talk) 15:27, 5 March 2013 (UTC)
The word "atrociously" does not in itself violate "BLP" for this purpose because it only gives the commenter's opinion, without making the act sound any better or worse or different in impartial terms than it would be otherwise. It is, of course, not NPOV language, but this isn't an article. Wnt (talk) 20:50, 10 March 2013 (UTC)

Lua archive system

With substantial assistance from User:Dragons flight, I've managed to cobble together a Lua indexer for the Refdesk at Template:RDIndex. It is designed to produce monthly indexes that include title, desk, length of discussion, and editors who contributed. With manual editing of the daily archives it would be possible to establish a category system i.e. by tagging individual questions with {{rdcat|physics}} somewhere in the text. I am starting to think about going ahead and replacing the present monthly indexes with these files - or if preferred, setting them up in a parallel series of pages. The category tagging shouldn't really go forward until people think about and agree on the categories, since many people should do it - the idea is to get a set of links all in one place for all the biology questions, etc. (Actually, the template and script acknowledges subcategories, if people can agree on them, i.e. {{rdcat|physics|electromagnetic theory}} ...) Wnt (talk) 09:40, 10 March 2013 (UTC)

I prefer that the present monthly indexes be kept, even if a new indexer is available.
Wavelength (talk) 18:08, 10 March 2013 (UTC)
I searched on Template:RDIndex for my user name, and found User:Wavelength/About Earth's environment/Climate change in the column "Editors". Do you want to include user subpages?
Wavelength (talk) 19:01, 10 March 2013 (UTC)
Hmmm... I wasn't sure whether it would be a good thing or a bad thing to leave those in. I suppose I could truncate matches at "/" if desired.
Starting new pages is the easier option for me, because there's no need to compare right away to make sure that no headings were somehow lost in the mechanized processing. Wnt (talk) 20:39, 10 March 2013 (UTC)

The return of Kotjap/Timothyhere

bagged and tagged. --Jayron32 21:45, 11 March 2013 (UTC)
The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Please see this old post about Pacific islands and Israel by the blocked User:Timothyhere (also known as User:Kotjap) and this new question (diff) by the new User:FMicronesian whose only activity since his account was created March 4 has been posting at the ref desks.

Can someone advise on how to run a sockpuppet investigation? Thanks. μηδείς (talk) 15:55, 10 March 2013 (UTC)

The fact is that I have nothing to do with those users. It seems to be a witch hunt. FMicronesian (talk) 17:25, 10 March 2013 (UTC)
The fact is that you will soon be indef'd like your other socks. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:27, 10 March 2013 (UTC)
The fact is that I will keep creating accounts until you leave me alone. FMicronesian (talk) 17:31, 10 March 2013 (UTC)
The fact is you will keep getting blocked until you leave US alone. There are many of us and only one of you. Why don't you go pester Conservapedia for awhile? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:33, 10 March 2013 (UTC)
You can see in the archive of Wikipedia:Sockpuppet investigations/Timothyhere that the user has many guises and claims to be from many different places. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:35, 10 March 2013 (UTC)

I don't understand what harm do I cause. But well, block me. I have ten accounts to play. FMicronesian (talk) 17:46, 10 March 2013 (UTC)

And they will all get blocked, as the above now is. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:47, 10 March 2013 (UTC)
Do I understand correctly that if a checkuser is done, other socks from the same IP will be identified and blocked? Is it necessary to comment in support of that being done, or is it just a matter of time? μηδείς (talk) 19:05, 10 March 2013 (UTC)
Ten accounts? This starts to remind me of an communal counting exercise at a college Terminator-watching session in which someone said, "You're perfectly safe. We've got thirty cops in this building..." Wnt (talk) 20:45, 10 March 2013 (UTC)
Psychologically it could have been worse - you could have been watching a Police Academy marathon. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:06, 10 March 2013 (UTC)
They have blocked 11 "sleeper" socks. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:29, 11 March 2013 (UTC)
As I guess people have realised by now, I noticed FMicronesian a day or so before this thread and opened an SPI. At this stage there behaviour was highly suspicious but had not yet reached the level where they were asking about serial killers. Once I saw the question about a serial killer I deleted it (it didn't have any replies) since I considered it quacking loudly enough, although I left the original question about uploading photos (of said serial killer) as it already had an answer.
The way to open an investigation is discussed at Wikipedia:Sockpuppet investigations, but basically just fill in the name 'Timothyhere' in to the box and then click on the button to open a case. You should get a page explaining what to do, but basically add the name of any socks in the appropriate places and then provide some evidence preferably in the form of diffs. Partially because I expected this to be a reoccurring problem, I made one of the previous cases fairly detailed so there may already be evidence of the previous behaviours, you should just need it from the new identity. When filing a case also remember to request a checkuser with the reason given the history of sleepers (it's disabled by default). Alternatively checkusers who dealt with previous cases are often willing to run a CU if you give them a decent reason and ask on their talk pages without opening a case. I should mention I don't actually have that much experience with SPIs particularly frequently reoccuring sockpuppets.
If a sock is quacking loudly enough I think people should feel free to remove any posts which haven't been replied to (as I've done twice now). Because of the history of controversy surrounding deleting replies, I won't recommend it when there have been replies and I also suggest strong caution because of the recent controversies surrounding deleting comments. Other then that, I don't know if there is much we can do but report/block where necessary. It seems rather likely the editor is trolling since they are not only pretending to be from different places but continually (as the KotJap identity showed) asking questions relating to those places, a new one every identity, strongly suggesting they don't care about the answers.
I presume an IP block isn't feasible for the range involved. In fact, I have a suspicion our friend has (intentionally I guess) given away some details about that range. Earlier, I noticed [10] by an Argentinian IP which looked suspiciously familiar. While searching for that post I came across another Canadian question [11] by an IP assigned to the same Argentinian ISP where the IP removed the signature [12] (I added it back). Of course a CU will never link the IP to the accounts but presuming they aren't using a proxy, it suggests that the current location of the person behind the accounts is not the US or Canada as I admit I suspected (nor any of the other places they claimed to be from which I didn't really suspect).
P.S. As funny as this may seem given my long post, per WP:DENY I don't think we should discuss this more then necessary.
Nil Einne (talk) 15:23, 11 March 2013 (UTC)
Hmm and yet another question related to Canada (and Venezuala) from our Argentinian friend, this one resulting in part of the discussion being closed and a bunch off offtopic discussions (both closed and unclosed). Nil Einne (talk) 19:40, 11 March 2013 (UTC)
I don't know if the guy has been pinpointed to a specific geographic area, but if he keeps asking such questions under IP's, he'll make the job easier. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:24, 11 March 2013 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Nine sections

If there are going to be nine sections on the Reference Desk, they should be arranged in three rows of three. Having two rows of four and one row of one just looks silly. 03:59, 11 March 2013 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

Alternatively, "Archives" could be centered, making it clear that it's distinct from the others. I think the current appearance is better than silly, in any case. -- Scray (talk) 05:50, 11 March 2013 (UTC)
Alternatively, that "travel" thing could be expunged. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:09, 12 March 2013 (UTC)
Meh. It's a new member to the family; I'm okay with giving them some extra exposure. Frankly, the "I'll be visiting X in October, what should I see?" that we sometimes see really need to go somewhere else. At Wikivoyage, those questions might actually be germane somewhere. As I've argued previously, the Ent desk is the one that should go. As for 3 x 3 or 4 x 2 + 1 on the front page, I'm afraid I couldn't care less. Matt Deres (talk) 22:43, 12 March 2013 (UTC)

Travel Desk links

I notice that at WP:RD there is a link to the Travel reference desk on a sister project. But, there is no link to that desk in the sidebar that shows up on the RD pages (ie: on the left of WP:RDM). Is that intentional, or can we get the Travel desk added there, also? I like to browse through all the RDs perdiodically, but I usuallly start on one, and then just follow the sidebar links to get to each on in turn. This makes it easy to overlook the Travel desk. RudolfRed (talk) 22:33, 10 March 2013 (UTC)

Agreed. And if the argument against is that it isn't "our" desk, then it shouldn't be on the main list, either. I'd be happy to see it on the sidebar. Mingmingla (talk) 00:05, 11 March 2013 (UTC)
You can also scroll up and down on Wikipedia:Reference desk/all.
Wavelength (talk) 05:11, 11 March 2013 (UTC)

With the link moved, it is very hard to find. Is the new location what people want, because I prefer it to be with the group on the top? Falconusp t c 23:53, 12 March 2013 (UTC)

I tried to add a line (linking to the Tourist Office) between the eight Reference desk links and the row of three links "For help specific to the operation of Wikipedia", but I was not able to manage the wikicode satisfactorily.
Wavelength (talk) 00:28, 13 March 2013 (UTC)
I've moved the travel link back to the group at the top. A link within the desks would be nice too, if it were do-able, but I think the template is protected so I can't do it myself. --Nicholasjf21 (talk) 22:59, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
(It's at Wikipedia:Reference desk/header/nav if anyone fancies a go at it) Whilst I'm personally completely fine with the Tourist Office having a link in the sidebar, I think so far we've only agreed to the link on the main RefDesk page, so this probably needs a bit of further discussion. - Cucumber Mike (talk) 23:35, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
Absolutely, yes - we'd need another consensus to spread it to other pages but it is a nice idea. --Nicholasjf21 (talk) 00:00, 18 March 2013 (UTC)


The banned Timothyhere is back with this new sock. Note the "otaku" theme and the standard questions about North Korea. I am closing his threads, please don't feed him. μηδείς (talk) 16:42, 16 March 2013 (UTC)

Note also this unsigned request for medical advice. μηδείς (talk) 16:51, 16 March 2013 (UTC)

WTH, I just signed up and you're banning me?. Besides, this is a rather controversial Wikipedia's policy, it forces the troll to create more accounts. Hyerotaku (talk) 16:58, 16 March 2013 (UTC)

If you really want to contribute, in stead of disrupting, you can place a sincere request on one of your accounts, admitting you have used socks, admitting you know you have been disruptive, promising not to post questions at the reference desk or nominations at ITN where you have been most disruptive, request to be unblocked under those conditions, and limit yourself to contributing to articles. That's likely to be a much more successful strategy than your current one. μηδείς (talk) 19:07, 16 March 2013 (UTC)
Obvious sock (M.O. is the same) and probably will have to have other socks looked for, as usual. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:36, 16 March 2013 (UTC)
Already done, in fact. That user is either ItsLassieTime or is doing a good imitation. ILT is too old to validate, though. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:38, 16 March 2013 (UTC)

Interstellar Bomb

I have closed this fictional discussion. Interesting to know who it's creator User:AlaneOrenProst is. μηδείς (talk) 17:53, 18 March 2013 (UTC)

I pass no judgment about the OP or their intensions (nor, really, should you) but the fact that the science question is hypothetical is not a valid reason to hat it. One can give a good scientific answer to a hypothetical situation, and if people don't want to answer such questions, they are free to ignore it. I see no rule violations. --Mr.98 (talk) 19:02, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
Per Mr. 98, question does not appear on the face to be disruptive, and as such, should not be closed. If Medeis is uncomfortable answering it, Medeis is not forced to answer it. --Jayron32 19:12, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
He's fretting over some alleged "prophecy" that's supposed to happen 2,000 years from now. Silly but harmless. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:38, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
There is no request here to answer a scientific question, the request is advice on how to put off the "prophesied multiverse war". That's simply utter bullshit in violation of WP:CRYSTAL, WP:OR, and WP:NOTAFORUM and probably a dozen other policies--Including WP:NOHARM, Bugs. I am not surprised the usual suspects want to play with this. But I am surprised an admin thinks it needs reopening for the possibility of further bullshit to be added. μηδείς (talk) 19:40, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
While the OP may be bullshitting us, there are quite good and well-founded answers by several other participants. Please leave them alone. --Stephan Schulz (talk) 19:44, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
Which closing a conversation does not delete. μηδείς (talk) 22:39, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
Hmmm. For once I agree with μηδείς on this one. Although everyone has been answering in good faith, the OP's latest posts now make it clear that either (a) we are being royally trolled or (b) they have serious delusional issues. In either case we should move along and leave this one alone. Gandalf61 (talk) 19:59, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
Concur with Medeis and Gandalf. The initial question isn't all that suspicious (various "how would I get to another star" questions aren't uncommon), but the rest of it degenerates. I think boxing it is a reasonable answer. — Lomn 20:18, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
Concur with the above two and μηδείς. The OP's latest post [13] seems to confirm their views/behaviour. Whether the OP is trolling or just has a 'unique world view', history has shown that such people are best shown the door to the RD, and quickly. Nil Einne (talk) 11:49, 19 March 2013 (UTC)

AlaneOrenProst has definitely read a lot of science fiction. Based on his latest post, it looks the OP's only intention is attention-seeking and harassment of other users under the veil of non-stop argumentation and the use of sci-fi phraseology. It is just disruptive editing under a disguise. --PlanetEditor (talk) 18:44, 19 March 2013 (UTC)

After so many wrongfully hatted question, Medeis managed to correctly hat one. Amazing. OsmanRF34 (talk) 00:02, 20 March 2013 (UTC)
I wonder if Medeis was ever threatened with a wrongful hat suit? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:49, 20 March 2013 (UTC)
I was wondering why my labia were burning. Love that thread on your talk page, Bugs. Forgive me for not participating. μηδείς (talk) 01:06, 20 March 2013 (UTC)
That's OK, I think we're about at the endless-loop stage: "Can!" "Can't!" and so on. Meanwhile, you need to give us more details about those hot labia. (Unless it veers into medical advice.) ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 01:25, 20 March 2013 (UTC)
I am fairly certain I meant to say auricula. μηδείς (talk) 01:30, 20 March 2013 (UTC)
Close enough. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 08:48, 20 March 2013 (UTC)

Oxford commas

This is, in my thinking, a really minor issue. Some of the descriptions of the links on the project page used Oxford Commas and some did not. For consistency, I have added the Oxford Commas to the ones that don't have it. I just thought I'd mention it here in case someone has an opinion. Falconusp t c 00:13, 20 March 2013 (UTC)

Thanks. SemanticMantis (talk) 20:09, 24 March 2013 (UTC)

Wikivoyage Tourist Office Link

Hi! I've just noticed that the Wikivoyage Tourist Office link has been moved to the very bottom of the page, out of sight to most users. I know that it is an external link, but its previous positioning made this very clear. It's now been reduced to neither use nor ornament. Could it perhaps be moved back to its previous position? Thanks, Nicholasjf21 (talk) 18:59, 17 March 2013 (UTC)

I hope you don't mind, but I've reinstated it as per the previous discussion, but with 3 rows (see above). If unpopular, please feel free to edit or revert. Thanks! --Nicholasjf21 (talk) 19:28, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
Looks good, except that the link is incorrect (it goes to but should go to Looking at the code I can't see how to fix it - any ideas? - Cucumber Mike (talk) 19:32, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for letting me know! I've sorted it out now - it's quite an odd looking link: 'Wikivoyage:Wikivoyage:Tourist Office'! --Nicholasjf21 (talk) 19:39, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
Nice one. Yeah, that is an odd link. Is that prefix the same for all Wikivoyage pages?
Also, whilst we're on the subject, is there a way to add the Tourist Office to my Wikipedia watchlist? I'd be happy to help out over there, but since it's not on my list I keep forgetting to check the page. I've had a poke around, but couldn't see a way to do it. - Cucumber Mike (talk) 19:43, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
Thanks very much! I think you can use 'voy' as a prefix as well, but as the page is in the project space it has a second 'Wikivoyage' prefix - or at least I think so! Unfortunately I'm not sure there is a way to add the Tourist Office to your Wikipedia watchlist, though I have checked the MediaWiki page to see. It's really nice of you to be interested in the project and if you ever do have a chance to get involved we'd be really grateful! Hopefully unified watchlists will come to Wikimedia projects soon - they would be a great thing to have! --Nicholasjf21 (talk) 20:03, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
Never mind then. I'll just have to try and train my muscle-memory to click there every so often! - Cucumber Mike (talk) 20:34, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
I thought that eyesore was gone, but you've put it back. Spam is against the rules, except when it's another wiki site that's the spam. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:32, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
That's a little unfair. We did have a discussion about it, and in my recollection there was a general consensus towards allowing the link to be there. When it was taken away, I don't remember the same level of consensus in favour of removal. - Cucumber Mike (talk) 23:38, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
I don't think much of anything was said about it when it went away, which shows how important it was in the first place. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:49, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
What do you mean nothing was said when it was taken away? What do you call this discussion? WP:CONSENSUS states that a user needs a new consensus to overrule one that was made previously (in this case, only days ago). You cannot simply act unilaterally and do what you personally think is right. JamesA >talk 10:27, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
Maybe you haven't heard of "bold-revert-discuss". Regardless, the spam link on travel is at the lower left, so it's pretty much out of the way. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 11:51, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Powers T 14:38, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
OK, Sr. Montoya, I don't see a pictured link there for wiktionary, nor wikimedia commons, for example. So what's so special about this wikitravel thing? Only thing I can figure: that you're trying to advertise it. Hence, it's spam. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:32, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
Hi Bugs, you can read the previous discussion and decision to add it here (talk) 17:01, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
Consensus approval of spam doesn't make it not spam. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:48, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
Simply being "advertising" doesn't make it spam either. Or did you not even read the definition I linked? Powers T 21:22, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
So why aren't there links to other wikimedia sites, like commons, wiktionary, simple-English, etc? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:18, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
Because no one has suggested them... likely because their scopes don't intersect with any of the listed topics of general inquiry. The only one that might is Wikispecies, but I don't think they have a question forum set up to which we could point users. Powers T 14:30, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
Well, by bringing up the subject, I'm suggesting them, but as you indicate, I'm nobody. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 11:14, 21 March 2013 (UTC)
Are you telling us that you and User:Medeis are sockpuppets of each other? That would certainly explain many things ...... -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 11:31, 26 March 2013 (UTC)
Har-dee-har. So, are you telling us that Medeis is also "nobody"? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:15, 26 March 2013 (UTC)
Not me. That's what Medeis means. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 02:31, 29 March 2013 (UTC)
I have no clue what you're talking about. I must have stumbled into a parallel universe version of this page. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:36, 29 March 2013 (UTC)
I thought we'd covered this ground more than once before. The Greek word μηδείς means "no one, not anyone, nobody, nothing". -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 06:33, 29 March 2013 (UTC)
I don't recall the subject coming up. And it's a shame to have to explain a joke to an ignoranimus. But now that I have the explanation... That's funny. Jolly good! :) ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:52, 29 March 2013 (UTC)
You may have missed this. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 00:08, 30 March 2013 (UTC)
You're right, I hadn't seen that, and it looks as if you had Medeis just as baffled as you had me here. Sometimes that Aussie humor can be very subtle. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 02:27, 30 March 2013 (UTC)
I was baffled at her bafflement at the time, particularly as she chose the name specifically because of its meaning, and the subject had come up on at least 2 earlier occasions. That would make this at least the 4th time we've talked about "medeis" meaning "nobody". -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 03:58, 30 March 2013 (UTC)
Should be an external link.--Moxy (talk) 17:14, 18 March 2013 (UTC)

I wasn't aware that consensus made on another Wikimedia project (Wikivoyage) had any say on this project. Surely a discussion about placing a link at the ref desk should have been done here, and any consensus made on Wikivoyage is null and void regarding actions taken here? Also, could somebody provide a link to the particular page on the ref desk that this Tourist office is placed on, I haven't seen it yet? --Saddhiyama (talk) 14:41, 19 March 2013 (UTC)

You can find the Tourist Office here: voy:Wikivoyage:Tourist Office; the link to it is here wp:rd. The consensus was made on this project as you can see from this talk page's archives here: Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk/Archive_97#Wikivoyage_Tourist_Office. It was discussed thoroughly on Wikipedia (and Wikivoyage) before implementation. --Nicholasjf21 (talk) 14:47, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for the link, though I had been there already. I meant where on the ref desk is this link placed? I can't find any sign of it, and thus cannot judge whether it is obtrusive or not (it seems to be an awfully big template on the page you link). The consensus (and general participation) in that archived ref desk talk page discussion is far from impressive. As far as I can see only 1 or 2 ref desk regulars participated with short comments. It should perhaps have been allowed to continue a little longer (I hadn't noticed it when it was ongoing). --Saddhiyama (talk) 14:52, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
Perhaps so, but it was initially added by a WP user. The link is on the main page of the reference desk, 1st column of icons, 3rd row down under 'Travel'. I've done all I can to make it fit in with the existing links as much as is possible. --Nicholasjf21 (talk) 14:56, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
Ah, I see the link now, disguised as a regular ref desk link. Well, that is certainly not very obtrusive in any way (and most likely why I have never noticed it before). --Saddhiyama (talk) 15:03, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
That was, I believe, the point -- to add a new Desk to the Reference Desk without any additional effort required on the part of Wikipedians. Powers T 19:18, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
Except there IS additional effort. Unless you want your IP exposed to the world, you have to create a logon. Bah. Humbug. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:32, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
If you have an account here, your account will be created automatically upon visiting Wikivoyage. You may be familiar with this feature. And besides, what I meant was no additional effort on the part of Wikipedians answering questions. Powers T 01:14, 21 March 2013 (UTC)
How does that "automatic" feature allegedly work? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 11:12, 21 March 2013 (UTC)
You're seriously unfamiliar with unified login? Powers T 14:39, 21 March 2013 (UTC)
Never heard of it. I'll check it out sometime. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:17, 21 March 2013 (UTC)
Yes, I believe I already said that, it's not very obtrusive indeed. Hence I have no objections to it. But I still think the original consensus, being established with such a low number of commenters, is wobbly enough to be overturned by a regular BRD process. --Saddhiyama (talk) 00:58, 20 March 2013 (UTC)
If it is going to be displayed among the links to Wikipedia Reference desks, then I suggest that it have a colored background distinguishing it from them.
Wavelength (talk) 19:25, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
To draw further attention to it, hence making it even more spam-like? No, leave it as-is, stashed in a corner. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:30, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
I ask you to cease referring to the link as "spam" unless you can justify how that pejorative applies. To qualify as spam, advertisement must be both unsolicited and repetitious; this link is neither. Powers T 01:14, 21 March 2013 (UTC)
External links are removed all the time as being "spam". This one fits that bill. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:10, 21 March 2013 (UTC)
So you refuse to justify the use of this pejorative term against a link to a sister project. Noted. Powers T 14:39, 21 March 2013 (UTC)
So you refuse to justify spamming that link. Noted. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:17, 21 March 2013 (UTC)

I am the editor who originally added it, per Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk/Archive_97#Wikivoyage_Tourist_Office. I did not add links to WikiQuote or Wiktionary, as I left messages on their discussion pages about the discussion here, and they did not show any interest. As I said in the previous discussion, I feel that "we should only add those desks if they are 1. Actively supported and 2. Willing and able to handle going more mainstream ... but until people from those projects weigh in, I personally am disinclined to add Wikiquote and Wiktionary." Feel free to add them (if you think that there is consensus to do so), but I'm not sure how often they are patrolled, and it would probably be polite to let them know before we send more traffic in their direction. Falconusp t c 23:46, 19 March 2013 (UTC)

I also tweaked the description to be slightly more concise, and changed the link in the description to the internal WikiVoyage. I did the latter because I think that it could be more benificial to have a link for people on this page who are curious as to what WikiVoyage is to have the opportunity to read about WikiVoyage instead of simply a direct link to the main WikiVoyage page. Feel free to revert if you disagree with my logic. Falconusp t c 00:05, 20 March 2013 (UTC)

After seeing a few people ask questions at the help desk as to why they could not find there way back to were there questions were asked it should be removed. The problem is peoples cant add the page to there watchlist here on English wiki so are forced to stay at WikiVoyage refreshing the page hoping someone will answer soon. This is the opposite of helpful to our readers and I think the link should be removed immediately. All the desks here are educational - we should not be telling people were the best places to get a beers is - WikiVoyage is separated for a reason. Moxy (talk) 17:23, 21 March 2013 (UTC)
The link has only existed since 4 March [14] so I'm surprised there have already been so many people having problems finding their questions there on the helpdesk. But how many people who can't find their questions again even use their watchlist or know it exists? Did anyone on the helpdesk who was having problems finding their question mention the watchlist at all? Looking at the current wikivoyage page, about half the questions are from IPs who don't even have watch lists. It's possible some of these weren't using SUL so had accounts here, but as with Nicholasjf21, I'd like to see some of these responses first since whyever they're having problems finding their questions, I'm not sure the watchlist has anything to do with it. (After all, we've had problems on the RD with people finding questions which are a few questions above where they asking.) Nil Einne (talk) 14:01, 22 March 2013 (UTC)
Hi - could you perhaps direct me to some of these questions so I can help these users out? If you think it would be better we could make it clear on WV how they are to rediscover their lost questions. I'm not sure we need to remove the link just yet; perhaps just make it clearer. Users can just as easily add it to their WV watchlist and can easily check up on their question's status simply by retracing their steps at a later date. --Nicholasjf21 (talk) 23:07, 21 March 2013 (UTC)
I think the point he's making is that because that page is elsewhere, you can't add it to your watch list here, and for some users it could be hard to remember where they were when they asked the travel question. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:51, 22 March 2013 (UTC)

Joke/BLP deleted

I've deleted this non-question / attempt at humour / attack on a living person. {{uw-joke1}} has been applied to the user's talk page. Tevildo (talk) 14:48, 28 March 2013 (UTC)

Good removal of ignorant comments. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:53, 28 March 2013 (UTC)
Agreed. Matt Deres (talk) 02:11, 29 March 2013 (UTC)

Deletion of Questions

What's going on with the language desk? Twice in the past few days, I have joined in a long discussion about such-and-such, given a lengthy answer full of useful information, only to send it, and find out that while I was writing my answer, the question had been deleted, even though there was nothing harmful, no personal attacks, no copyvio, nor anything bad at all in any of the previous posts. If it happens again, I will start writing shorter answers, just in case, because I don't want to waste my time. Why is this happening? FWIW, the last one was a question about whether to revise grammar or vocab before an exam. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 11:01, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

Could you provide some diffs for these deletions? Except for autoarchiving I can't see any deletions of questions on the language board in the edit history of the last 3 days. --Saddhiyama (talk) 11:05, 13 March 2013 (UTC)
Weird. The question is still there: Language learning and explicit vocabulary instruction. The message I received (in a big red box) when posting my edit was that the question (and not my answer) had been deleted. However, my answer is not there. There must be something wrong with the system. In future, I will CTRL+C all my answers, just in case, because I can't be bothered writing all that again. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 11:12, 13 March 2013 (UTC)
I'm trying to remember when I've seen a big red box on an edit error. Best guess, your answer happened to coincide with the autoarchiving process. When you edit a section, you may notice that the URL includes "section=somenumber". Particularly if you're answering a new question, that number will be large, and if an archive processes in the interim, there will no longer be a section with a number that large when you submit (because everything automatically re-numbers from 1), and so MediaWiki reports that you're editing a section that doesn't exist (the section is still there text-wise on the page, but it now has a different section number, and so the edit box loses track). You can get a similar error if you're answering the very newest question and any section above it gets deleted. — Lomn 13:22, 13 March 2013 (UTC)
Yet the question is still there, not archived. A pity, I would have liked to read KageTora's answer, and I'm sure the OP would have too. Itsmejudith (talk) 13:26, 13 March 2013 (UTC)
I've sometimes had a message about the session data having been lost, or some such thing. I always do that ctrl-C you're talking about, just in case something goes wacko. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:06, 13 March 2013 (UTC)
The error I get is "Section not found". That doesn't actually say it was deleted, but can easily be misinterpreted as such. StuRat (talk) 01:35, 25 March 2013 (UTC)
There is a bug in the software. I've noticed occaisonally the posts I've made to Ref Desk have dissappeared when I've logged in again a little later to see what other posts have been made, and found mine apparently missing. Upon going into Edit, I've found it still there. When this happens, changing a single character fixes the problem. Sometimes vandals delete things, which can be detected by scanning the history log. See Ref Desk | Science question about science organisations. Ratbone (talk) 01:13, 31 March 2013 (UTC)

legal advice question hatted

Hi, first time I tried this. Put a hat on a question on the Humanities desk that asked for legal advice and was turning into a discussion (both in my opinion of course). Diff. Please review if valid move. Thanks. (talk) 14:36, 31 March 2013 (UTC)

Yes, he's clearly asking for legal advice. To be blunt, I'm starting to question the motives of that poster. Matt Deres (talk) 20:11, 31 March 2013 (UTC)
That's surprising, given the obvious sincerity of the username. μηδείς (talk) 20:21, 31 March 2013 (UTC)

Who can diagnose my mother, and does she need to take medicine for life?

We can neither tell a user who is competent to diagnose a person's disease: "my question is: What type of doctor is liable to determine the illness of my mother?" (advice), nor how long that person "my...surrogate question is: ...Is it necessary to take a lifetime medication?" (prognosis) may need to medicine. μηδείς (talk) 03:10, 1 April 2013 (UTC)

Medical advise occurs when we advise people on what action they should take. The question you are referring to did not ask for that and it was not given. There's a difference between stating "I drank windex what should I do?" and asking who deals with cases where someone has drank windex. Ryan Vesey 03:21, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
As rare as it is, I'm going to agree with Medeis on this one. His mother is sick, and he wants to know information related not to Lupus in general, but her lupus. We can't do that. Someguy1221 (talk) 03:35, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
It's possible that what he wants is medical advice; however, as is evidenced in that discussion, we are able to answer that question without providing medical advice. In addition, I think hatting that is a misunderstanding of policy. We have a note on the reference desk page saying that providing medical advice is prohibited, which means of course, that I cannot tell him how to treat lupus. It doesn't mean that I can't describe to him how lupus is often treated or point to how long most lupus patients are on medication. Furthermore, outside of that one message, I can find no Wikipedia policy that even comes close to prohibiting us from answering that question. Wikipedia:Medical disclaimer means that Wikipedia and its contributors are not liable for any advice given to him. Ryan Vesey 03:42, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
It's a question that needs to be directed to a doctor and hence is a request for medical advice. Medeis was right to shut it down. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:40, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
(ec) That question is absolutely a paradigm case of the sort of medical advice we must not give. Even trying to provide general information is a bad idea when dealing with somebody whose English is so poor. Some of the responses, by the way, presume that the doctor in the case is licensed and competent, which is not necessarily the case in the Philippines, where the question comes from. Looie496 (talk) 04:41, 1 April 2013 (UTC)

Medeis' disruptive hatting of questions

I assume editors here are aware enough of the situation that I don't need to pull out all of the diffs, but I will if editors feel it is necessary. In any case, Medeis has a habit of hatting questions unilaterally. In many instances, Medeis doesn't like the question, but other editors have seen fit to comment. This is gotten disruptive enough to a point that I think we need to come to a consensus not to allow Medeis to hat any questions in the reference desks. Ryan Vesey 03:32, 1 April 2013 (UTC)

No. Requests for medical advice must be curtailed. If someone closes a discussion too quickly, it can be dealt with here, on a case-by-case basis. This particular case was a request for medical advice, which we're not allowed to give. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:41, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
Added Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines/Medical advice to header - Moxy (talk) 04:52, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
I'll pull up some links tomorrow, I wasn't referring to the medical advice one. Ryan Vesey 04:53, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
Regardless of Medeis' possibly overzealous hatting in general, no one should be prevented from shutting down stuff that violates ref desk rules. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:59, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
Regarding the Christianity question (and apologies for temporarily screwing it up), that question seemed like it could reasonably answered based on experience, though finding references for it could prove challenging. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:09, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
  • I remind users that hatting is not deletion. The responses that have been made are still there. If there is consensus to unhat material far be it from me to argue against it. μηδείς (talk) 17:15, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
  • I agree that Medeis hats many things inappropriately. However, anyone who disagrees with the hatting can remove it, as I often have (hatting isn't protected from the "don't edit the posts of others" talk page rule). It's not like deletion, where nobody may ever notice the Q was ever there to restore it. If I'm not quite as certain that the hatting is inappropriate, I will leave it but respond anyway, either inside or outside the hatted portion. StuRat (talk) 17:58, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
  • I fail to comprehend why Medeis even has the urge to hat so many questions. Enough of the hats are reverted that it's clearly a problem. In any case, it gets worse when Medeis edit wars to restore them [15] [16]. Calling the questions trolling and stating "Dear god, get a job" are unfounded and are personal attacks. Ryan Vesey 18:13, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
Medeis is a compulsive hatter, which doesn't mean she's always wrong. However, it seems it causes more problems than it solves. OsmanRF34 (talk) 18:54, 1 April 2013 (UTC)

I agree that Medeis is over-doing it - and I agree that she is sometimes correct. I would propose the following guidelines:

  1. Unilateral hatting of prohibited responses (specifically: medical or legal advice, personal attacks, legal threats) is justified because of the urgency of taking action. However, if that hatting is disputed, then unhatting pending further discussion here is the expected response.
  2. In other cases, where it is the opinion of an editor that the question is inappropriate or that the resulting discussion has gone off the rails in some other manner - then since little to no on-going damage is being done, the matter should be discussed here. The response may then be speedily hatted if there is immediate and obvious consensus on this talk page. If there is any degree of opposition, then don't hat until a full consensus has been arrived at.

Why? Simply that the ref-desk is a time-limited service and it's used by inexperienced people.

If people don't get a response within a day or two at the most, they'll assume that we failed them. We also have some VERY computer-illiterate users (and a few who are just plain illiterate!) we also have a lot of people for whom English is not their first language. For them, "hatting" is indeed as bad as deletion. Hiding the response (and indeed the question too) behind a scarey "official"-looking banner destroys our ability to provide that answer - so it should only be done as a matter of urgency in the case of medical/legal advice. Situations where we're prohibited from answering. IMHO, in those circumstances, deletion of the answers and hatting of the question would be an acceptable response too. Deletion is also nothing more than "hiding" because Wikipedia has comprehensive mechanisms to revert such deletion. But if the urgency to shut down a thread isn't there - then we should discuss it here and gain consensus before taking precipitate action that (in the view of at least some editors) will deny the OP their answer in a timely manner.

In my opinion, hatting is a poor response anyway. If the information shouldn't be here, then we should delete it. If the information is allowed to remain here then "hatting" is a useless way to suppress it. If hatting is effective at all, then it is a discriminatory practice because it permits access to the computer-literate and denies it to those who are not...and that's VERY wrong and strongly contrary to the standards by which Wikipedia operates.

SteveBaker (talk) 13:13, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

The main problem I see with your proposal is that it assumes an editor's judgment with respect to "prohibited responses" or "matters of urgency" will be better than their judgment under the current (lack of) guidelines, where presumably only things that should not be on the Desk are hatted/deleted (one might say those are things the editor considers prohibited). This isn't so much a case of the wider RD needing to define a consensus on hatting as it is Medeis' persistently poor track record with regard to hattings and removals in a manner consistent with the wider RD consensus. To that end, I concur with Ryan Vesey's initial point: I think Medeis should be enjoined against policing the desks and its participants on the front pages (i.e. not this talk page) of the Ref Desks.
And yes, generally, I concur with your thoughts on hatting being undesirable (despite the fact that I use it myself from time to time). As best I can tell, it evolved a couple years ago when removals of medical, etc, advice were reverted by an editor or two (I no longer remember who) if the deletion wasn't accompanied by a heated discussion of right and wrong here on RD Talk. Hatting was seen as the 90% solution that didn't require the RD Talk drama, and so it's grown and, if I had to guess, has now overtaken removal as the primary means of enforcement. However, despite its various shortcomings, I think it is worth noting one significant upside of hats over removals -- they make it much easier for the community to do checks and balances, since it's evident that editorial activity has happened without going to the history. — Lomn 15:25, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
Hatting is better than deleting, in general, for the reasons you describe. Some things are blatantly obvious: "I have this peculiar symptom. What sickness do I have?" Others, apparently, less so. There's one problem, though: The idea that consensus is needed for hatting something. NO. Hatting is being cautious and conservative. UN-hatting is what should require consensus. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:33, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
A "guilty until proven innocent by tedious debate" policy where any user can act as judge would be WAY too open to abuse.
Act quickly to hide any questions that contravene the rules. If there's an obvious problem it's OK to assume that you have consensus behind you and just be bold.
But if there's opposition to the removal, especially opposition from established RefDesk editors, then you need to acknowledge that (rightly or wrongly) you don't have the consensus you thought you had, and that consensus must be formed before removing someone's question.
The bottom line is that it's OK to assume you have consensus, but once you know that you don't have it, then there's no excuse for moving forward without it. APL (talk) 17:37, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
Then you shouldn't be unhatting those things here, as there is no consensus to do so. As for my own statements, feel free to hat any statement of mine that you believe violate the rules against giving medical advice. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 18:28, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
What about "opinions"? Medeis has been hatting those too. As you'll see (way below here) - every single statement you've made on the Science desk for the past three days has been blatant opinion - with not a single reference or even google-searchable-fact to back even one of the answers you gave - just your opinions over and over! You should think hard about that...quite frankly, it's not good enough...but I wouldn't hat or delete them...some opinion is a natural consequence of the debates that sometimes break out here.
I am happy to see hatting (or downright deletion) of *OBVIOUS* breaches of the "No medical questions" rule - per Kainaws criteria. Not-so-obvious ones should be debated here...neither hatting nor deletion being appropriate in corner cases until/unless consensus is reached.
Because of the time-sensitive nature of RD answers, we can only be trigger-happy in OBVIOUS cases - and much more cautious in not-so-obvious cases where hatting something for a day or two for discussion is more than enough to render the answer useless because the OP will typically have gone away by then. SteveBaker (talk) 20:48, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

Medeis' change of heart regarding medical advice

See here. Count Iblis (talk) 16:57, 1 April 2013 (UTC)

What in the world is that? Is this an April Fools joke? Hehe. Not that I approve of people using someone's signature or putting a false claim next to his name. μηδείς (talk) 17:17, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
That's hilarious! :D KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 19:21, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
That's very funny :) I like "tell us what part of your body" and "Don't post your personal contact information unless you desire a house call by one of our volunteers" (talk) 20:06, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
I have nominated this for speedy deletion, but not out of ill will or upset. If I have done the nomination incorrectly, please let me know. μηδείς (talk) 20:45, 2 April 2013 (UTC)
Well, you've removed your name, but it's definitely not nominated for SD. I'm assuming you've changed your mind? I'm not sure it's really worth immortalizing. Matt Deres (talk) 11:20, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

Medeis is off-duty today, we need more volunteer for today! Count Iblis (talk) 12:56, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

Is there some sort of communicable mental illness

that requires editors to provide medical prognoses at the help desk? μηδείς (talk) 20:02, 2 April 2013 (UTC)

I see no problem with linking to and summarizing an article on the efficacy of drug testing methods. Sticking a personal attack in your section header further undermines your attempt at dialog. This does, however, provide yet another example of a reverted hat. I noticed your point above that "hatting is not deletion", but I think that misses the wider point: poor-quality editing is to be discouraged, and a pattern of edits that is frequently reversed is a fairly non-controversial definition of "poor quality". — Lomn 21:38, 2 April 2013 (UTC)
It's a request for medical advice, and cannot be allowed to stand. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:10, 2 April 2013 (UTC)
But what in that do you see as medical advice? By Kainaw's criterion I can't see a diagnosis (you have X) (not even an implicit or assumed one), a prognosis (you could develop X) or treatment advice (you should do X) (also not implicit). Can you explain where the advice is? (talk) 23:00, 2 April 2013 (UTC)
"I have a drug test in a week... Will I pass?" That's a question no one here is qualified to answer. It calls for both a medical opinion and prediction of a future event, neither of which is allowed. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:15, 2 April 2013 (UTC)
That did not actually answer 184.147's point. What is the diagnosis or prognosis? (Hint:There isn't one.) APL (talk) 05:28, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
No one here is qualified to answer the OP's question. It is not a permissible question here. Unless you've changed the rules and forgot to tell us. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:30, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
Speaking of "changed the rules" I would be interested in a link to any policy that says we make this decision based on what we're "qualified" to answer.
I would also like you to answer 184.147's question since he apparently does know the rules and is asking you to satisfy them. APL (talk) 05:32, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
The OP's question "Will I pass?" is unanswerable without a doctor personally examining him. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:33, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

For the record, this was part of the answer to the OP: "...So I guess you're probably going to be in the clear if they do a blood or urine test - but not if they do a hair sample test".... μηδείς (talk) 03:00, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

We've now got an edit-war over the hatting, thanks to certain editors who insist on trying to allow medical, legal and predictive advice. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:19, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
That's a clear assumption of bad faith. You are automatically assuming that I am intentionally contravening the rules, when it should be clear that we have different interpretations of those rules. APL (talk) 05:24, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
Neither you nor anyone else here is qualified to answer the question. Your insistence to the contrary is bad faith your part. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:29, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
That is both a misunderstanding of what I've said and the concept of "bad faith" as it applied to wikipedia's rules of conduct.
I have not once claimed that anybody here has special qualifications. I have claimed that our rules do not require such qualifications, and that lack of such qualification is not what makes a question a "medical advice" question. I would defend this statement, but not the one you keep claiming I'm making.
You believe that I am misinterpreting the rules. If that were true, it would be unfortunate. But unless I'm doing it on purpose it is not "bad faith" as defined by Wikipedia's rules of conduct. APL (talk) 05:38, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
NO WIKIPEDIA READER ANYWHERE is qualified to answer the OP's question "Will I pass?" Such a question is not permitted. What part of that do you fail to understand??? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:48, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

(After EC with bugs)

Thanks to the non-descriptive subject line I did not spot this discussion. There is obviously no medical advice being asked for or given here.

Medical advice is defined as diagnosis or recommending a course of treatment. That has clearly not happened here.

Whether Steve Baker is qualified to answer a scientific question is not usually in dispute, but even so unless he's diagnosing disease or recommending a course of treatment your judgment of his qualifications do not enter into it.

It's also obvious that there is no consensus to hat the question. So I'm unhatting it again, pending an actual consensus. APL (talk) 05:23, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

You're dead wrong. How can you say that "I have a drug test in a week... Will I pass?" is a permissible question? THERE IS NO ONE HERE WHO IS QUALIFIED TO ANSWER THAT QUESTION. WHAT PART OF THAT FACT DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:28, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
What are you talking about?
I'm not qualified to answer questions about the airspeed velocity of a 747 either. But if I look up the information, I am allowed to answer with it.
So unless you can argue (logically argue, I mean, not by yelling with bold-caps) that this is medical advice, I don't understand why it should be removed. APL (talk) 05:30, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
The OP's question, "Will I pass?" is unanswerable without a doctor personally examining him. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:32, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
Even if it were true, it would not be sufficient to make this a "medical advice" question. APL (talk) 05:48, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
  • Diagnosis. Prognosis. One of those must be present for this to be a medical advice question. This is the long standing rule of the reference desk guidelines.
  • Several people here have argued that neither is present in this question/answer. The opposition has not disputed this fact.
  • Bugs has tried to introduce a new standard that medical advice should be defined as questions we're "not qualified to answer." As far as I'm aware there is no documented consensus for this idea.
  • Bugs has also restated his opinion in bold all-caps. That has failed to be more convincing.

I'm going to bed. There's clearly no consensus to hat the question. (Neither a logical consensus, or even a simple majority.) I'll be very disappointed if I find tomorrow that Bugs has decided to pretend that there's a consensus to hat the question. (or that he's so right that he doesn't need one.) 05:48, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

You refuse to deal with the fact that the OP'S QUESTION IS UNANSWERABLE BY ANY WIKIPEDIA READER. It calls for information that no Wikipedia reader can possibly possess. What part of that is eluding you??? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:49, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
I wasn't aware I needed to "deal with it".
I'm not aware of any rule that prevents us from providing references to "unanswerable" questions.
I'm only aware of a rule that prevents us from answering "medical advice" questions, which this clearly is not.
Good night. APL (talk) 05:52, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
There is no possible Wikipedia article that can answer his question "Will I pass?" You continue to refuse to address that fact. Only a doctor, maybe, can answer the question for him. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:54, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
I don't see the need to get up in arms over it. It's not a request for medical advice as I read it. Is it strictly answerable? No. But we can provide references on the general subject, which is well researched. In any event, the references need not be on Wikipedia. Someguy1221 (talk) 06:00, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
Well, I get "up in arms" because I get fed up with some editors twisting the rules to justify giving medical advice. And if you don't buy that it's a question only a doctor might be able to answer by examining the OP, how about the rules against predicting future events? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 06:04, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
The thing is that Steve Baker made no attempt to answer the question with any sort of "Yes/No" response. He said:
This is equivalent to saying:
  • "We have no possible way of knowing, because there are too many variables. But if you want to read more about what might happen with the testing, here's a handy table".
That would not have been any kind of medical advice, and what Steve actually wrote is not any kind of medical advice either. I don't even agree that the OP's question was a request for medical advice. But even it is, we can sometimes still provide some sort of response that does not veer anywhere near medical advice territory, which Steve's response didn't. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 07:51, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

My response is simple: This was not a request for a medical diagnosis or prognosis - and my answer did not give a diagnosis or prognosis. My response was based on simple reading of an existing Wikipedia article - which I referred to clearly at the outset.

Medical Diagnosis is something like "I keep sneezing - do I have a cold?"...this is not that. I didn't say whether this person has some kind of medical condition or not. Medical Prognosis is more like "I have a cold. Am I going to die from it?"...this isn't that either. My response quite clearly fell far outside of Kainaw's Criterion - and that's the long-established line that we're not allowed to cross.

Furthermore, please consider the REASON behind our "No medical advice" rule. We seek to avoid being accused of "Practicing Medicine without a License" - which is a crime in many places. Also, it's a potentially life-threatening matter to tell someone that: "That lump can't be cancer"...(Diagnosis) - or to say "You'll recover from your cancer if you take two asprin and go to bed" (Prescribing treatment) - or to say "You'll recover from your cancer...don't worry about it" (Prognosis). Those are the kinds of thing that we're seeking to avoid here.

Hatting the response was unnecessary - so I unhatted it and directed further discussion here with minimal disruption to the thread.

I make no apologies - I'll answer similar questions in similar ways in the future - and unless there is consensus to change the rules, I'll continue to back out incorrect efforts to suppress those answers.

SteveBaker (talk) 12:47, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

(sticking this down here so that it's not lost in the various subthreads) The all-caps and bolding hysterics of Bugs' "no one here is qualified" complaints aren't really necessary, but I think his point is worth discussing. Yes, Bugs is correct that "Will I pass a drug test?" falls into WP:CRYSTAL and is not answerable. Bugs would be correct noting that we tend to discourage such questions at the RD. However, he's incorrect in concluding that everything that brushes up against this guideline must therefore be expunged -- we frequently see questions that are themselves unanswerable, but for which a similar-but-answerable question exists, and answer that secondary question. That's what SteveBaker has done here: supplied relevant useful referenced information. If you strenuously object to providing relevant useful referenced information to questioners, though it may not be the exact letter of what they think they're asking for, then perhaps participating at the Ref Desk isn't for you. — Lomn 13:07, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

You people are hopeless. You've now declared the rule against medical advice to be invalid. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:27, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

No, absolutely not. The rule against giving medical advice is solid - as embodied by Kainaws' Criteria. I absolutely uphold that rule - but I neither diagnosed, suggested treatment or gave a prognosis for a medical condition. I merely explained how good drug testing kits are at doing their jobs. Those are sometimes used in medical contexts - but this is for a job interview...this question was no different than asking how good lie detectors are. SteveBaker (talk) 20:33, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

Would Bugs refuse to let the police perform a breath test for alcohol on him, because they are not qualified to issue a medical diagnosis? If not, would he then not agree that the result of the test is independent of patient specific details to such a degree that it's possible to make definite statements without knowing the details of the person in question? Count Iblis (talk) 16:13, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

That's a bogus comparison, unless you've discovered some law that compels wikipedia to answer medical questions. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:28, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
You can also conclude that the standard drugs tests that have legal validity in many countries are sufficiently independent of the medical details of people that you can answer general questions about them. Count Iblis (talk) 17:50, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
The breathalyzer test is administered by the police, and the one taking the test is free to challenge that test in court. There is no such recourse for users here, so your comparison remains bogus. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 18:30, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

(I just realized that in my bullet-pointed summary I only mention two of the three prongs of Kainaw's criterion. The third is "Treatment Advice" which this question neither asks for nor receives. It doesn't change the outcome of the discussion, but I wanted to acknowledge my omission. ) APL (talk) 18:09, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

The guy is asking strangers on the internet whether or not he is going to pass a drug test. If that's not a request for medical advice, then nothing is. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 18:32, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
I hate to agree with Bugs on this one since the question was fine- right up until the end, when it was asked, "will I pass?" Everyone has answered the first part correctly, which is basically a question about drug persistence. But the deal breaker is the "will I pass". We can't answer a question like that. If it isn't a request for medical advice (and I don't think it is), it is requesting an opinion, which we also don't allow. But seriously, Bugs, while I agree with you, this is hardly a gateway to bigger violations. Mingmingla (talk) 19:48, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
My answer was absolutely not my opinion - it was condensed from an article in Wikipedia, which in turn was referenced by the manufacturer of drug testing kits - which is a WP:RS and therefore adheres to Wikipedia's standards for "The Truth". That's NOT an opinion. To the extent that I offered a conclusion at all, I couched it in terms of strong uncertainty ("I guess you'll probably pass...") - which is a reasonable conclusion from fact.
  • FACT: The OP said he gave up smoking 30 days ago and won't take the test for another week (37 days total).
  • FACT: The manufacturer of the drug test kit says that the blood and urine tests are only effective up to 30 days.
  • CONCLUSION: From the facts we have at hand, he should pass the test.
Where in all of that was my "opinion"? I don't see it. If you're arguing from a perspective of WP:SYNTH - that I took two facts and made a third fact from them - then you're correct. But it's long been held that the reference desk does not have to obey WP:SYNTH = because it would be impossible to answer almost all of the questions posed to us.
Let's look at some real opinions posted recently on the science desk:
  • "Developments in biotechnology have or will have the potential to defeat microbes. And libertarians will argue that "managing" economics is inherently bound to fail."
  • "Prevention and punishment of fraud or other criminal activity doesn't really qualify as "managing the economy". Punishing successful individuals and companies by taking away their incentive to produce, definitely qualifies."
  • "I think you would have a hard time finding any libertarian theorist who believes that defrauding consumers is OK."
  • "And you'd have a hard time finding any theorist, outside of anarchists, who believe in no regulations. The regulations people and businesses have disagreements with are those regulations that stand in the way of sincere people being able to make progress. In fact, a libertarian friend of mine has pointed out that many of the regulations are actually favored by business, because they serve to keep competition down."
  • "One reason new technologies are more expensive is that the developers of those technologies need to recoup their research and development costs. Shortening the length of time a patent is in effect could reduce the incentive to create those new technologies."
...OK - enough...who said all of those things? was Bugs. In fact I have a challenge: Can you find ANY statement that Bugs has made on the science desk in the last three days that has references, or which could remotely be said to be anything other than an opinion? Well Bugs? Do any of your posts meet this standard that you think I should uphold? I don't think so. SteveBaker (talk) 20:33, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
Unlike some of the folks here, I don't regard my answers as sacrosanct or untouchable. So feel free to hat any responses I make that you think are unreferenceable. Only be sure to also hat the comments that prompted my responses, as they are likely also opinion-based. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:02, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
Really, so, to pick an example at random if I went back and hatted your strange, offensive, and absolutely not referenced, claims[17] that if a rape victim becomes aroused, it's not a "real rape", you would not be offended?
I'm going to try that right now. APL (talk) 21:54, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
I'd like to step in and note that I don't want the ref desks liberally cluttered with hats around Bugs' unreferenced and off-topic comments. Please just delete them instead, provided it can be done without much disruption to following responses. — Lomn 22:18, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
I agree - no hat wars please! I strongly disagree about deleting his responses though - for that we need consensus - and probably some admin oversight. If it is perceived that Bug's input is not up to our standards then let's discuss that in a separate thread from this one and if the assembled masses agree, ask him nicely to adjust his behavior accordingly or get the heck off of these ref desks. HOWEVER: I will not put up with someone who's responses are almost entirely opinion whining about my response that was entirely fact-based and contained not one shred of opinion. Really - if you're going to start complaining about my behavior here - you'd better be pretty damned sure of your own. SteveBaker (talk) 23:29, 3 April 2013 (UTC)
Yeah, I know. The side-conversation I hatted had to go away anyway. It was offensive, and even basic googling would have shown that it was ignorant.
I don't actually intend to go around hatting everything unreferenced bBugs posts. APL (talk) 02:00, 4 April 2013 (UTC)
Jeez, Bugs, look at yourself. You're all-capsing over nothing, arguing about science with SteveBaker (you just aren't going to win), and your sole argument re: policy is just repeating the same thing over and over again despite people telling you they disagree with you and asking for better reasoning. Time for a Wikibreak? You're over-stressing and acting like a fool. It's made for some amusing reading, I have to admit, but really, do yourself, and us, a favor, and just relax a bit, take a day off or something. --Mr.98 (talk) 02:55, 4 April 2013 (UTC)
Well, I admit it's stressful being right all the time. Also, note the many followup comments from the IP that originally posted the question. He was likely trolling, just to see how many editors would break the rules against medical advice. And he won. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:39, 4 April 2013 (UTC)
I didn't follow up because I didn't want to pile on you, there seemed enough as it was. If you would like it on the record, I do not think it was medical advice. The question was not trolling; I was willing to believe you had a good reason and thought if so, it was better stated. (talk) 22:05, 4 April 2013 (UTC)
No, not you, the user (talk · contribs), who posted the question in question, and then disappeared. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:12, 4 April 2013 (UTC)
Ah, sorry! Thanks for clearing up. Cheers, (talk) 22:47, 4 April 2013 (UTC)
It's surprisingly common for people not to respond after their question has been satisfactorily answered.
There's no reason to assume this indicates trolling. (Besides, you can't have it both ways. If he had continued posting you would say that he was trying to goad us into prolonging the discussion.)
I would, however, be interested in understanding why so many question-askers never reply with so much as a "thank you". Do they even remember to come back to check for replies? I wish there was some technical way to measure the percentage of answers are seen by question-askers. APL (talk) 22:55, 4 April 2013 (UTC)
Also, notice that the question is tagged as a "mobile edit". His IP address almost certainly changes, so there's no way to know his contribution history. APL (talk) 23:12, 4 April 2013 (UTC)
Bugs, if your stance is that "I am right, all the time, by definition", then there is no point ever discussing anything with you. Almost everyone else here is taking a contrary position to you, but somehow you're still right. How does that work in the context of a project that operates entirely by consensus? -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 22:57, 4 April 2013 (UTC)
You see Bugs, this is your guess. In this case, you're guessing that people who don't reply after their question is answered must be trolls or some other kind of low-life. Right now, on the Science desk, I count twenty seven of the questions up there that have no response from the OP after we posted our answers - and only seven of them that do. Is it your position then that 75% of our OP's are trolls? If you believe that to be true then you truly shouldn't be here answering questions from them because you have so little respect for them...our users...who are the sole reason for us to be here. It is our job to provide a good service for them. If you believe that 75% of them must be trolls - then no wonder you respond to them with a pile of random opinion, original research and flat out guesswork. I can only believe that you are shooting from the hip again - making wild assertions without taking the 3 minutes it took me to go and gather some actual evidence for the position you espouse.
When I answer a Ref Desk question, I almost always spend around 90% of my time looking for solid evidence and doing research and about 10% typing a response. With you, I'd like to suppose that you have the ratio reversed...but based on the posts you've made over the set of questions still up there - I have to say that you seem to spend 0% of your time doing the research because hardly any of your replies are based on anything other than your own, frequently wild, opinions. Why do you think that anyone here is going to respect your stand on this issue if you can't get the most basic role of a "Reference Desk Librarian" down correctly? As other have said, you need to take a Wikibreak - and carefully rethink your role here. Either learn to be a careful researcher or find some other place to push your opinions.
SteveBaker (talk) 01:38, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
As your time here increases, you will discover that I'm in the right. :) ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 02:27, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
Everyone knows that if a thing isn't worth doing properly, it's not worth doing.
If you're so world weary that you believe that the reference desk isn't worth doing properly then why do you keep doing it half-assed? Purely for entertainment value? APL (talk) 03:39, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
Thank you, as always, for your valuable input. It's like this: Some of you folks are always looking for somebody to yell at. The last week or two it was Medeis. This week it's me (Medeis needed a break). Next week or so, you'll go after somebody else. SOP. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:49, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
Oh, don't be so tiresomely juvenile. This thread started out quite reasonably, but it disintegrated because you kept insisting you are right, in the face of a strong consensus to the contrary. You and you alone have brought this on yourself. It has nothing to do with anyone needing anyone else to yell at. And you know it. This reminds me of something I read today: Scott refused to come clean. Instead, Canute-like, he simply ignored the waves of reality lapping at his burlesque fantasy world. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 04:59, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
There's a rule against giving medical advice. Defying that rule is juvenile. And I don't mind being in the minority when I know I'm on the ethical high ground. P.S. Canute??? Who or what is that, pray tell? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:02, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
[18]. We have an article on the guy, too.—Emil J. 10:41, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
The question was closed [19] by Wehwalt. Obviously, Bugs does not stand alone with his concerns (include Medeis and Wehwalt in this) thus I reopened this thread for further discussion. I was troubled when I read Steve's admission that he just researched the topic and concluded that the OP would pass the drug test. Ugh. It took all but three seconds for me to find a reliable source that said that urine tests can be positive for heavy pot users for up to sixty days. The OP's question regarding their drug use was asked and answered, and then closed as inappropriate. I tend to agree with this. -Modocc (talk) 15:18, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
I still don't understand the objection. If you're arguing that Steve Baker was wrong, well, then correct him, but I don't understand the argument that this is a medical advice question.
Certainly we can agree that not all scientific questions involving a specific person's body are medical advice. ("If I jump off a bridge, how long will it take me to impact the ground?")
So, can someone please explain how this question contravenes our long-standing criteria on what is or is not a medical advice question : Kainaw's Criterion.
(Or if Kainaw's Criterion is being dismissed as incorrect or obsolete, please actually say so, so that we can form a consensus for or against that idea.)
So far not one person has even attempted to explain this. (Besides Bug's "No one is qualified" thing, which has never been part of the rules.)
APL (talk) 18:40, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
We've tried over and over. You just won't listen. He asked for a medical judgment, which should have been removed immediately, but instead you all insisted on keeping it there and arguing about it. So now he's gotten contradictory information from different users, and could find himself in big trouble if he guesses wrong as to who's advice to follow. If that isn't clear as a bell, I don't know what more to tell you. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:19, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
Oh, excellent! If you could just give me the diff of the post or posts where you explain how this falls afoul of Kainaw's Criterion or where you dismiss that long-standing guideline as inadequate, that would be much appreciated. APL (talk) 19:32, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
Uh, It just occurred to me that I should say that my following of the RefDesks for the past year or so has been off and on. If Kainaw's Criterion has been superseded by some new rule, then I'm arguing from a position of ignorance and someone please tell me so. Thank you. APL (talk) 20:16, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
Steve wrote "So I guess you're probably going to be in the clear if they do a blood or urine test..." This is a prognosis of the medical condition being tested for, possible drug abuse. --Modocc (talk) 20:57, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
That about matches my reading of it. The first part, where the question was basically "how long will drugs last in the system" is fine. The bit about "will I pass" is not. That is predicting the results of a specific individual's blood test. If the "will I pass" part wasn't there, then there would be no issue, but he asked us to predict the outcome of his personal medical test. Not okay. I said above that I didn't think it was strictly speaking a medical advice question, but the more I think about it, it is. It's asking to predict the results of his test, not a generic test.
But seriously, this isn't going to open up a flood of cancer diagnoses and suggested treatments for gaping wounds. The world isn't black and white. If it was, we wouldn't need lawyers. Mingmingla (talk) 00:42, 6 April 2013 (UTC)
This is a key distinction: discussion of the performance characteristics of a medical test is quite different from performing medical diagnosis. The latter may involve inference from the former, but don't conflate them. If someone asks, "I am about to get a nasal swab test for the influenza detection by RT-PCR, but I just used a steroid nasal spray; will the result be affected?" we can reasonably answer that if there are reliable sources (even if it requires a little synthesis, as Steve Baker noted above). That's not medical advice. In contrast, if someone asked, "Could I still have influenza even though I have a negative RT-PCR test for influenza?" - that would be medical advice. Does that distinction make sense? A positive test does not, in and of itself, establish a diagnosis. It's interpretation that we must avoid. -- Scray (talk) 23:26, 6 April 2013 (UTC)
There's a key distinction to be made here. If someone asks, "Could I have this-or-that despite a negative test?" and someone says "No", that's medical advice. If they say, "Maybe", then that means "Go see a doctor." Similarly, if someone asks, "Will I pass the drug test?" and someone says "Yes", that's medical advice. If they say "maybe not", that means "go see a doctor". The key distinction is whether the answer could led to the OP making a bad decision. If you think you might have a medical problem, "go see a doctor" is not medical advice. Trying to act in place of that doctor is medical advice, and can't be allowed. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 23:55, 6 April 2013 (UTC)
Bugs, you have invented this criterion: "The key distinction is whether the answer could led to the OP making a bad decision." If you can find that criterion in our policies or guidance, please provide a very specific reference. -- Scray (talk) 00:25, 7 April 2013 (UTC)
I'm telling you what medical advice is and isn't. Pre-empting the role of a doctor equates to giving medical advice. Telling someone to see a doctor is avoidance of giving medical advice. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:21, 7 April 2013 (UTC)
OK, it is crystal clear that Steve and I did bring up useful sources regarding drug test performance, but since we did so because of a mere undetermined test of unknown outcome to be taken by the OP, I'm not enlightened... Consider then questions such as this: "My blood pressure is really low today, might that affect my open heart surgery tomorrow?" I'm sure a direct reasonable sourced statistical answer can be given by a doctor, based on their hospital's records (and they would not even need to diagnose this heart patient's underlying problem), but as Bugs puts it, we are not doctors. To me, this means that we should not be assessing or predicting an individual's medical needs, procedures, tests or condition no matter how benign or serious these happen to be. Its my understanding that the usual response is either removal or closure of the question with something like "We do not answer medical advice questions, please consult with a doctor, but here is some information regarding this test, procedure, or condition." -Modocc (talk) 04:51, 7 April 2013 (UTC)
Bugs: your impression is not based on WP policy, guidance, or consensus here. Modocc: Your example question, "...might that affect my open heart surgery tomorrow?" is obviously a question of medical judgment/standards - and therefore violate our guidelines (and is a nice example of the utility of Kainaw's criterion). That is fundamentally different from asking, "does the size of a blood pressure cuff affect the reading one obtains?" The latter is closer to the question that launched this discussion, and answering directly (from references, and without drifting into disease interpretation) would not require a doctor's judgment or opinion - it can be answered based solely on measurable quantities - and would not violate our policies or guidance. -- Scray (talk) 14:46, 7 April 2013 (UTC)


The problem I'm having here is that I don't think that a drug test, taken for the purposes of getting a job, is a medical matter at all. The person who administers that test doesn't have to have any medical qualifiactions, the person who interprets the results does not either. Aside from getting or not getting a job, the person who is taking the test gains no prognosis, no treatment and no diagnosis from it - they already know whether they take drugs or not!

In this context, it's really no different from taking an IQ test (which measures something about your brain) or a strength test (which measures something else about your body), or a polygraph test (which much actually) as a part of a job interview - or being asked to walk in a straight line by a cop when you're suspected of drunk driving. In this context (and context matters), this is more like looking up someones resume or checking out their references. If a drug test were being taken for the purpose of deciding whether some medical procedure were to be undergone - then I'd certainly have abstained from giving a response to the OP. But this categorically isn't that. He knows he's done drugs in the past and claims that he isn't doing them now - the test is merely there to allow a prospective employer to determine whether that's true or not.

You might argue that it takes a doctor to determine categorically whether someone will or will not pass a drug test - but I didn't tell the OP categorically. I did what anyone can do - which is to read what the manufacturer of the drug test kit says.

I simply cannot connect with the idea that this is somehow a medical treatment/prognosis/diagnosis...and that's Kainaw's criterion.

SteveBaker (talk) 15:07, 7 April 2013 (UTC)

OK Steve, you already said that these drug tests are used in medical settings, thus here is the dif to the question: [20]. There is no mention or implication by the OP that the test is for a job interview, so there is no point dismissing their potential medical issues. By our own criteria which we have agreed upon, we cannot and do not have complete information of these to answer the OP's specific question regarding their test. BTW, some substances can and do cause permanent damage which can be detected by tests.-Modocc (talk) 15:50, 7 April 2013 (UTC)

I think we need to write up a new no-nonsense medical advice policy based on Kainaw's text. Then, because a few here do still think that this question shouldn't be allowed, (and they are not going to be convinced that they are wrong, it seems), that text must necessarily be such that they won't support it. Otherwise it won't deal with the heart of the matter and you will get the same discusssions over and over again. Count Iblis (talk) 15:54, 7 April 2013 (UTC)
I think the guidelines are useful, and perhaps this entire thread is just us being too dense to realize this, but the implications of what constitutes "complete" seems to get obscured with cases such as this. Perhaps the guideline simply needs to be improved upon to make the distinction between advice and information somewhat clearer.To elaborate on what I said above about not assessing individuals' medical needs, etc., we can certainly direct various questions to medical information, such as typical dosages, cuff sizes relative to body size... But requests such as: "Is this shirt, tool, dosage, cuff size, procedure, test correct for the person in question?" are not OK. For instance, if they tell us they are an adult and we tell them that according to X, they need an adult dosage, we would be breaking the complete knowledge rule (for instance, do we know that the person's body size meets the criteria for an adult?). This rule and its strict application is fine of course, but its corollary might be something like: "In general, requests to evaluate or predict an individual's medical needs, procedures, tests or condition are requests for medical advice.". -Modocc (talk) 16:53, 7 April 2013 (UTC)

I'd like to toss out two thoughts for both sides of this particularly polarized debate:

  • To those who really like to answer questions, no matter what: Please remember that many here are very sensitive to the issues enshrined in our guidelines, especially those concerning medical advice. Whenever a question involves people's bodies or the law, make sure you're offering facts, not interpretations of those facts tailored to the questioner's situation. In the case of the answer at the center of this thread, most of it was purely factual (as has been passionately defended by its poster), but one sentence (emboldened here) offered interpretation:
Depends on what you were smoking and what kind of test they give you. There is a handy table here: Drug_testing#Detection_periods that suggests that urine tests can pick up Benzodiazepines for 4 to 6 weeks, Cannabis 30 days later (but only if you have high body fat), Methadone and Steroids 30 days later. However, if they are testing your hair, then they can pretty much detect everything out to 90 days - or even longer if they use slow-growing body hair rather than head hair. Blood tests only work for a few days. So I guess you're probably going to be in the clear if they do a blood or urine test - but not if they do a hair sample test. Hair testing is still relatively rare - except in high-responsibility jobs and in the legal system. [21]
Notice that this answer would have been almost exactly as useful without the one bold sentence, and would have been much less likely to arouse objection. We don't do people's homework for them -- we offer helpful facts and information, and let the questioner work out the answers for himself -- so why not do that here? (There's also a bit of AGF involved: grant your reader the intelligence to work out such conclusions; don't assume he's an idiot who has to have everything spelled out.)
  • To those who care deeply about making sure the guidelines are followed: Please make sure you're enforcing the spirit of the guidelines, not just the letter. If there's a question or answer which is truly problematic, it needs to be dealt with. But if there's no scenario under which any actual harm could arise, you don't need to use a broad application of the guidelines in order to declare that there's a problem.

Steve Summit (talk) 18:20, 7 April 2013 (UTC)

Archive problem?

It seems that April isn't listed: WP:Reference_desk/Archives While I can fix it, I wonder if I'm missing something obvious, and also figure it's better to fix the tool than apply a temporary fix. -- Scray (talk) 13:54, 7 April 2013 (UTC)

You're not missing anything. Those still are updated by hand. I went ahead and did it. Regards, Looie496 (talk) 16:19, 7 April 2013 (UTC)

Consult a <professional>?

Forgive me, but I'm going to reiterate my own pet peeve. I just read a response that says, "No, I'm afraid we can't give you legal advice. You should consult a lawyer." The first part is fine, the second part is not. Very often consulting a professional is a waste of money. We shouldn't be telling people that, but we shouldn't be telling them the opposite either. It is enough to say that we can't give advice. There are many sources of information about legal, medical, and other matters, and it is not our place to tell people that the only way to get information is to spend thousands of dollars to consult a professional. Looie496 (talk) 16:13, 7 April 2013 (UTC)

I'm sorry for giving that answer. I've replaced the question and my reply with the standard template; which, I should point out, says "please see a qualified professional" in boldface. Tevildo (talk) 16:38, 7 April 2013 (UTC)
Yes, I'm aware of it. I don't think you are to blame, you are just doing what everybody else does. I just feel it's my duty to emit a squeak every so often. Regards, Looie496 (talk) 17:32, 7 April 2013 (UTC)
"Qualified" professional is good. It still leaves it up to the OP to decide who is "qualified", and that's as it should be. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:41, 7 April 2013 (UTC)
I see the point - "You need to see a doctor _right now_" would undoubtedly be prohibited medical advice, although the distinction is rather less clear-cut in this case. Would "How do I find a qualified lawyer?" count as a request for legal advice? I'll stick to the template in future. Tevildo (talk) 17:49, 7 April 2013 (UTC)
No, advising someone to see a professional is NOT medical or legal advise, because you are deferring to someone else. Advising someone NOT to see a professional IS medical or legal advice, because your are pre-empting professional advice. But advising to see a qualified professional is better than just advising to see "a professional". ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:56, 7 April 2013 (UTC)
I find not suggesting anything even better than that. It might be OK according to the basic rule to tell someone to see a professional, but some people will construe that as "my case is serious, I need to see a professional." So, I suggest just keeping the first part: No legal/medical advise. And nothing else. No one is here to take care of legal or medical problems of others. OsmanRF34 (talk) 01:20, 8 April 2013 (UTC)
The more fully worded version is something like, "We cannot help you - if you want help, seek qualified professional help." That is not medical advice, nor is it "taking care of" someone else's legal or medical problems. We're not dragging them to the doctor, that's their choice. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 02:36, 8 April 2013 (UTC)
It's not a waste of money if it answers the OP's question; they're under no obligation to do anything we say, least of all shell out $$$ they don't want to. If you have a question about the legality of something, there is no better resource than a lawyer, expensive though they may be. If your dog is crapping worms, a veterinarian is the best person to examine the animal. Telling people what the best resource is for their problem seems like the preferred option to me. If they choose to not go with that option and instead consult an online astrologer or homeopathic healer, that's entirely their prerogative, but I'm not going to just leave them entirely in the dark. Matt Deres (talk) 21:52, 9 April 2013 (UTC)
Well-stated. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:07, 9 April 2013 (UTC)
And what kind of people needs to know that if their dog is sick, then it needs a vet? These people cannot be helped. And sometimes it can be even the wrong advise. For example, someone comes with a legal problem, but he needs a tax advisor and not a lawyer to solve it. Not doing anything can be the best option sometimes. OsmanRF34 (talk) 23:37, 10 April 2013 (UTC)
In the case of a sick pet, we would probably tell them to see a vet. The questioner is typically not going to be so dumb that he doesn't know to do that. He's just trying to save some pennies. Telling him "we cannot answer, you must see a professional" covers those bases. Telling him "we cannot answer, nor are we willing to advise you on who to see" is contemptuous. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 01:50, 11 April 2013 (UTC)
Very simple. Trying to give authoritative advice as if we speak for Wikipedia or its ref desk is wrong. Advising someone to seek authoritative advice is not professional advice. Duh, or no duh? Frankly, violations need to go to legal, unless we have voted ourselves the legal department? μηδείς (talk) 02:17, 11 April 2013 (UTC)
Interesting idea. Before actually doing that, we should probably consult the Wikimedia legal department and see what they think. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 10:11, 11 April 2013 (UTC)
@OsmanRF34 - if he needs a tax adviser then why would we send him to a lawyer? That's a straw man. Just as with anything else that directly impacts real life (medical, legal, dental, veterinary, etc.) there is some information we can provide and a point at which we would say "This is beyond our remit. See an accountant or tax preparer that's familiar with your local laws and regulations." To my mind, that's more helpful than just saying "Nope, can't help you." These are folks who are confused or ignorant enough to think asking random strangers on the internet is a sound plan; why not point them in the right direction? Matt Deres (talk) 11:30, 11 April 2013 (UTC)
It does bother me a little that giving someone the information that they should see a doctor/lawyer/whatever is a form of advice. If we were asked: "I have a slight headache, what should I do?"...then "Go see a doctor" is advice - and it's almost certainly very bad advice. Take a legal situation: "I dropped a penny on the sidewalk yesterday - and this morning I saw someone pick it up and walk off with it! What legal recourse do I have to get my penny back?". Well, "Go see a lawyer" is ridiculous advice there too.
It seems to me that just "We're sorry, we can't give you advice on this matter because our site rules prohibit it." is quite sufficient. SteveBaker (talk) 12:48, 11 April 2013 (UTC)
You've just made some bad medical advice yourself there. A headache could be nothing, but it could be a symptom of some major problem. "Go see a doctor" is good advice. What's the worst that could happen? The doctor says, "Take two aspirin and call me tomorrow?" Or maybe, "We need to run some tests, because you have other symptoms that could suggest a serious problem." ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:44, 11 April 2013 (UTC)
The problem with this sort of reasoning is that it treats doctors as a zero-cost resource -- an unfortunate result of our insurance-based medical culture, where people can't directly perceive the costs of their actions. Given the supply-demand situation for doctors, each time you use a doctor for something trivial it means that the doctor is not available for something important. If doctors were just sitting around reading magazines and waiting for patients, the story would be different, but that's not what happens. Looie496 (talk) 15:07, 11 April 2013 (UTC)
I've heard that argument before, and it's also very bad advice. If you think there's something wrong with you, see a doctor. If you're more worried about money than about your own health, you need to see another type of doctor, to get your head examined. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:15, 11 April 2013 (UTC)
But then even if you have no complaints at all, there could be something serious wrong with you which the doctor has a chance of detecting. So, we should then give anyone, even if they don't ask medical questions or for that matter any questions at all, always the advice to seek medical attention. So, Buggs, why are you not at the doctors office right now? Count Iblis (talk) 15:22, 11 April 2013 (UTC)
Regular checkups with your doctor are good. That fact could be added to the "no medical advice" template, if it seems appropriate. Meanwhile, if someone raises a medical question, they should be told that if they're concerned about their medical condition, they should go see their doctor. It is not our place to decide that for them, by making money-based arguments such as Looie is making above... because we are in no position to know whether he needs a doctor or not. Only the doctor can tell him that. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:39, 11 April 2013 (UTC)
Agree with Bugs. Worrying about our OP's cashflow is a stupid reason not to advise them to see a doctor. And in many jurisdictions, there is no financial disincentive or barrier to seeing a doctor (including in the US; I presume there are free clinics there, too, for those in need), so not telling them based on that is dumb. At this point, we're just getting nit-picky. Mingmingla (talk) 19:21, 11 April 2013 (UTC)
Late thoughts. If you were in the supermarket doing your shopping, and a total stranger came up to you and said "I have a headache. Do you think I might have a brain tumour?", what would you say? A perfectly appropriate response would be: "I'm sorry, but I am the wrong person to be asking about this. You need to see a doctor or at least a pharmacist if you're worried". Well, that is the sort of response we should give here for similar questions.
Cost would only become an issue if the stranger volunteered that they can't afford the medical treatment you've just suggested. Then, you might suggest whatever options for free or cheap care that you're aware of in your country. But not till then. You certainly would not decline to recommend a doctor on the hypothetical basis that the stranger might not be able to afford it, or that their visit might reveal there is no underlying major medical condition but simply a transient headache that we all get from time to time. That would be taking caring for people to an absurd and counter-productive level. When we go for regular checkups, we don't go hoping the doctor will find some major problem, to justify his time. Quite the reverse; we go hoping they can confirm there is no major problem. And nobody ever says a regular check up that simply confirms you're in good health is a waste of either your time or the doctor's time. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 03:54, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
Likewise, though, if the person came up to you and said "I have a headache. Which works better: aspirin or ibuprofen?" it would be inappropriate and irresponsible to say "I can't answer that question! You could have a brain tumor for all I know! You *need* to see a doctor *now*!" and then go chastising other customers who point out that both bottles have "good for headaches" on the label, accusing them of practicing medicine without a license. - I certainly agree that in such situations answering definitively one or the other would probably be inappropriate (because the answer is unclear and depends on the person), as would presenting lopsided facts that might make it appear that you were tacitly recommending one. But I'd also maintain that telling the person to see a doctor in such a fashion that you imply - either explicitly or tacitly - that their condition *requires* consultation with a doctor is also inappropriate. It's medical advice to the extent that you've implied that you've evaluated their symptoms and reached a diagnosis that their condition is likely severe enough to require professional medical intervention. - I think the key distinction is the "if you're worried" or the "if you want advice" bit. They don't necessarily *need* to see a doctor in an absolute sense (as implying dire consequences from a failure to do so would be a diagnosis of their condition), it's that if they're looking for someone to give them medical advice, the appropriate person they should be asking is a doctor/pharmacist rather than a bunch of yahoos on the internet/supermarket. -- (talk) 17:02, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
And that's why I agree with Looie496 and SteveBaker that we should simply say "Sorry, we don't answer personal medical questions" and that's enough. (talk) 19:26, 16 April 2013 (UTC) (my IP changed again, it was most recently (talk))
That's basically saying "F.U." to the user. Is that really what we should do? As for the example of someone in a store, even if it's a normal headache, it's unanswerable. Forget the brain tumor drama - what if they have an ulcer and can't take aspirin? "See a doctor" is still good advice in that case. As opposed to your "F.U." response. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:16, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
Huh, I do not see any FU in it at all. I agree being rude to people should not happen though. (talk) 00:33, 17 April 2013 (UTC)
Technically, it's not FU. The refusal to answer these questions is actually the bureaucratic-language translation of "FOAD". Wnt (talk) 18:00, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
We're still picking nits, I see. The term should be medical professional, which pharmacists are. How about this: "We cannot answer questions relating the treatement or diagnosis of your medical condition or what is most appropriate for you personally, or about the treatment or diagnosis of any specific individual. For any such question, please ask a qualified medical professional." This does not disallow general medical questions. Mingmingla (talk) 23:06, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
If we are worried about verbiage being abrupt, we can simply say wikipedia policy does not allow us to offer professional advice. To the point and puts the responsibility on us to obey the policy, not the OP to fuck off. μηδείς (talk) 01:32, 17 April 2013 (UTC)
We claim to be like a library reference desk. If someone comes in and says, "What illness do I have?" what will the librarian say, "Go away"? No, they'll say, "See a doctor", or whatever professional. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:17, 17 April 2013 (UTC)
I think we're all agreed that, whatever we might say, it should not include telling the OP what they "need", and it should not inject any sense of possibly inappropriate urgency. Also, just saying that WP is not the right place seems a little incomplete. It's not breaching our medical advice guidelines to suggest that a health professional - as distinct from a diesel mechanic or an astrologer or a military historian - would be the appropriate source of help for someone who raises a personal medical issue. The OP can sort out whether they need a GP or a physiotherapist or a chiropractor or an eye doctor or a dentist, and if they can't, they can always ask more questions. I'd amend my suggested wording above, as follows: "Wikipedia policy does not allow us to offer professional advice. A health professional would be the best person to consult if you're worried". -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 08:44, 17 April 2013 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── But then if the person collapses, the librarian may well end up giving first aid to the person. So, I would suggest striking down our "no medical advice policy", we should just give the best answers we can, even if that amounts to giving medical advice. We should simply put the disclaimer: "The statements on this site have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration." on top of the page. Count Iblis (talk) 17:39, 20 April 2013 (UTC)

Only if someone collapses on Wikipedia and an editor can reach through the internet cables and administer CPR. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:07, 20 April 2013 (UTC)
On other forums where I'm sometimes active where we don't have this policy against giving medical advice, I've seen plenty of examples where the advice we gave was important for the patient to get the right kind of medical attention from doctors. Without our intervention in these cases these patients would have suffered problems, so this is analogous to the librarian not giving first aid.
Imagine a situation where you do have enough medical expertise here on some subject to see that a patient is potentially being treated by his own doctor in a wrong way which can have fatal consequences. E.g. suppose that a patient has been diagnosed with severe vitamin D deficiency and is being treated for this in the usual way. If the patient comes to the Ref Desk, complaining about issues that where never previously discussed with his doctor and are consistent with sarcoidosis but the patient would not go to the doctor because of the complaints (and thus the doctor would not find out anytime soon), then we should tell the patient to go to the doctor asap, because of the risk of hypercalcemia when taking high dose vitamin D supplements while having sarcoidosis. This would allow the doctor to look into this possibility and rule it out or take appropriate measures.
So, in the end, all that we would be doing is to give the patient the advice to go to the doctor in some cases (or in extreme cases the advice to find another doctor). We're obviously not going to hand out prescription for drugs or perform surgery on the patient. But if we happen to stumble on some problem we should give the appropriate help, just like if you walk on the street and see someone collapsing, you should give first aid and call 911. Count Iblis (talk) 13:13, 22 April 2013 (UTC)
That's still very dubious though. If one person complains about vit.D deficiency and we decide that it's NOT sarcoidosis - so we just say "Sorry, we can't answer" and another one seems to have sarcoidosis, so we tell him to "Go see a doctor IMMEDIATELY" - then we've made a diagnosis and proposed a treatment (of a sort)...and that's a clear violation of Kainaw's criterion. The problem being that by establishing that we say "Go see a doctor" for situations where the person is (in our estimation) sick - and saying "Sorry, we can't answer" when the person seems to have only some trivial condition - then we're actively practicing medicine...and that's illegal in many jurisdictions. Only by giving the exact same response to everyone who is seeking a diagnosis/treatment/prognosis can we be sure that we're not causing harm by omission. SteveBaker (talk) 15:45, 22 April 2013 (UTC)
Count Iblis, the flaw in your argument is the assumption that we'd be provided with the same information that a doctor in his surgery would be given. That is manifestly not so. A doctor can use his eyes and ears to observe things about a patient that they don't mention explicitly. Conversations in those places are complex dialogues, not the one-dimensional snippets on info we get here. Whatever medical expertise any of us here might happen to have, we are in no position to be assuming the doctor-patient role. If a user comes here and says they've been treated for X but they're still unwell and the treatment seems not to be very effective, it is not up to us to question them and decide what their next plan of attack might be, based on our personal experience of the condition. We might perhaps suggest they get a second opinion, but it would be the opinion of a health professional, not the opinion of a Wikipedia editor, not even if the Wikipedia editor just happens to be a health professional by day. Interesting you mention sarcoidis. I spent two weeks in hospital when I was 24 for a condition they couldn't initially diagnose. Various possibilities were canvassed, their best guess was rheumatic fever, but after doing a mediastinoscopy, the scar of which I still proudly wear on my manly chest, they confirmed it was sarcoidosis. So, I have a little more direct experience of that condition than most people, but I would never in my wildest dreams use my personal knowledge to assume the role of a medical adviser, which is exactly what you're proposing. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 04:11, 23 April 2013 (UTC)
This has nothing to do with whether we can give good diagnosis, and everybody knows it. If someone says they are having dizziness and we say "here are some conditions associated with dizziness you might like to read about", that's not a diagnosis, just an effort to help someone learn. But you will get keelhauled if you try, believe me! This has absolutely nothing to do with what is right, everything to do with trying to protect the profits of the medical cartel. Wnt (talk) 16:52, 24 April 2013 (UTC)
Your prejudice against the medical profession disqualifies you from any meaningful discussion on this topic. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 18:30, 24 April 2013 (UTC)
Bugs, excluding people from these discussions - whether it be based on your perceptions of their prejudices or anything else - is not how we operate here. We're not some exclusive club where the qualifications for membership are "You must think like me". That said, ...
Wnt, you seem to be confusing a desire to be helpful to people in apparent need, with what's appropriate for a reference desk to be saying. If an OP specifically asks for some resources on the causes of dizziness, there's no problem with providing the links. It may be for some research project they're doing, who knows. Maybe they make that clear in the question, maybe not. BUT when someone comes here reporting dizziness personally, and asks what's wrong with them, that's where we have to be very careful. It's a question to be asked of a health professional, or even one's mother or a trusted and mature friend, NOT a question to be asked of a reference desk manned by anonymous internet jerks. Best we can do is suggest they get the advice of a health professional. Because the moment we cross the line into what we think is helpfully offering information on possible causes, we're inviting them to self-diagnose by choosing the cause from among the ones we offer, that seems the most likely. And it may have absolutely nothing to do with any of them, but everything to do with some other cause we haven't mentioned. There's always the risk that they will consider it to be an authoritative canvassing of the possible causes; and the risk that they will place the same value on the information they would have if it had come from a health professional. But only a health professional can check out the patient in their totality and make a proper assessment. Even the professional may have to run a number of tests, ask hundreds of questions, and take a considerable amount of time before they're sure of the cause, depending on how the patient presents and what other medical circumstances they're in.
These days, people often turn up at the doctors with some knowledge of their possible condition that they've obtained online. I say "possible condition" because it may not be that condition at all, but something quite unrelated. In the meantime, they may have scared themselves to death because they read online that retrostimulated phagocytes are a symptom of brain cancer. The doctor will put them right about that, but Wikipedia must never contribute to that misinformation. We have a certain function, which we perform brilliantly - but it has its limitations; we are not all things to all men. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 00:20, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
On many occasions he has demonstrated his contempt for both the medical profession and for the rule prohibiting giving medical advice. His reasoning (so to speak) reminds me of the folks who say that it's possible to be killed in a car accident while wearing a seat belt, therefore they shouldn't have to wear a seat belt. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 01:49, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
The omniscience attributed to physicians by this site seems utterly at odds with the typical physician on the ground who gets visibly anxious and not soon afterward openly antagonistic if you spend so much as ten minutes of his precious time asking about this that and the other thing. When easily I could go on for hours about all the things I wonder or worry about that you people ban from the Refdesk! They only take so much history, they frequently miss diagnoses, and the patient can only rely on himself to figure things out. I have narrowly averted disaster by doing my own research and then getting a second opinion after being told by one of these doctors, in no uncertain terms under threat of being 'discharged' as a patient and hence forfeiting the unrelated drug my payment was originally supposed to get me, to take something that would have been very, very bad for me.
Of course, random medical paranoia is an occupational hazard of all those who study medicine and biology, but ... it's not really that bad a thing. I might as well be mad at the makers of Jaws for making me worry about wading in the ocean. Their paranoia today will save someone ten or twenty years from now. Information is not a bad thing; in the end it will all work out for the best. Wnt (talk) 04:36, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
There is no reliable information we can give to someone with a medical condition. Only a doctor can do that. I've had many doctors over the years, and they're almost always willing to answer questions. (If not, I go to another one.) But I'm an American. Maybe your medical system is inferior to ours. But whatever your system is, it's still far superior to trying to diagnose over the internet. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 06:43, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
If you were Hungarian maybe you'd have a leg to stand on, but I'm talking about a clinic attached to an American hospital with the doctor demanding I take Cipro right away for a routine ingrown toenail, days after my Achilles tendon had been in agony from a gout attack, when I have most of the risk factors listed in the black box warning. And only because I was stupid and let her know about it, otherwise she'd never have noticed - I was only there for the allopurinol. When the podiatrist had at it it took him maybe half an hour to chop out a hunk of nail and send me on my way with some regular old cephalosporin. And the laughable part - the way she had pooh-poohed my mention of a podiatrist claiming that the infection had to be tackled first. No, I shall not be trusting American doctors. Wnt (talk) 15:02, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
And you won't be wearing your seat belt either, because they don't always protect you. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:42, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
There is a difference between "wearing a seat belt" and being locked into one with the only key being in the hands of a self-important bureaucrat who cares only about his own profit. I'm not telling people to ignore their doctors in favor of Wikipedia; I merely think it would be useful to help people learn about medical conditions just as they learn about anything else, even if they happen to be affected by one.
My experience with doctors was bad, but my grandmother's was worse. She fell victim to a "hospital policy" demanding that everyone use the hospital's insulin rather than their own when admitted, even though she had told them repeatedly that they were getting the dosage screwed up. Result: coma and death. To be fair, I don't know how much they knew about immune buffering of injected insulin back then, but they should have known something, and they should have listened to her anyway! And above all, what I didn't realize as a child I realize now, namely that this was probably not some pointless bureaucratic regulation, but probably some contract with a preferred supplier, and for a couple of beans she could have been spared. Medical ethics == profit. Wnt (talk) 19:39, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
You have allowed some bad luck with specific situations to poison your attitude toward the entire profession. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:07, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
Not at all. There are individual doctors (such as that podiatrist) who I generally approve of, nor is my resentment against "the profession". My resentment is against being told that it's wrong for me to share information I know or ask for information. Well, that and the existence of drug laws, prescription laws, and all the other barriers that exist to personal control over health, but on Wiki, just the first part. Wnt (talk) 23:22, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
You cannot possibly know what a user's condition really is, so you cannot possibly have any "information" that you can reliably give the user... except, "if you're concerned, see a qualified professional." ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 00:14, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
Wnt, nowhere has anyone ever been told it’s wrong to ask for information.
Sharing information you know is a very loaded issue. Wikipedia has a general rule about No Original Research.
The Reference Desks in particular exist to provide citable information to people in need of such information. They do not exist for anyone to come here and wax lyrical about their own personal experiences. There is some flexibility with that, because some things are simply not available in a formal reference but are still generally known to people. But recommending the quickest and most hassle-free route from Stockholm to Cambodia is not in the same league as talking about medical matters. You may have experienced any number of medical conditions, but does that make you an expert on those conditions? No, it does not. Your experience may be quite unlike someone else’s; your symptoms, ease of diagnosis, your treatment, your response to the treatment, allied conditions, the whole bit. It is not open to you to be a source of information about the condition in general, because your insight into it is totally subjective, and limited, and a function of the doctor you had. Had you had a different doctor, your experience may have been totally different. There are people who study these things for years, become qualified, and become licensed to practise medicine and dispense advice, drugs and other treatment. We call them doctors. You’re entitled to have any negative opinion you like about individual doctors or the medical profession generally, but that does not entitle you to claim to know more than the profession does, which is effectively what you are seeking to do. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 00:25, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
At no point have I ever suggested we should claim to know more than the doctor. I have only suggested that we should be free to offer what we know, without misrepresenting it as professional advice, for someone to use as they see fit. Wnt (talk) 13:16, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
You have not physically examined a questioner, so you can't possibly "know" anything about what the questioner needs. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:27, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
Nonsense. The way it usually works is somebody says "I've got anencephaly. Can anybody tell me what that means?" And we answer "See anencephaly". And then someone redacts that response because it's medical advice. And the poster says, "well wait a minute, can't I just re-ask what is anencephaly?" And then we have this huge argument about how it would be immoral and unethical and illegal and altogether improper to tell someone that they can look up anencephaly at anencephaly when we know they have anencephaly. If it were free rather than a few dollars to trace their IPs and download their commercial spy-service profile, you'd probably be insisting we vet all the questioners first just to make sure they're students in a proper biological course and that they don't really have anencephaly before we answer! Wnt (talk) 18:06, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
Gimme a break. If someone is smart enough to find their way to the ref desk, they're smart enough to use google and/or wikipedia to find out about "anencephaly" or any other ailment that they've been told they have. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:21, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
Wnt, you're strawmanising wildly. If someone asked that exact question about anencephaly, there'd be no problem in giving them the link. None whatsoever. (We might be wondering why their doctor who diagnosed the condition didn't explain it to them, but there could be language issues, who knows.) Anyone who says the mere provision of a responsible* link about a condition, even to someone who tells us they have that condition, is medical advice, has a strange concept of the meaning of words. (* I say 'responsible', because I imagine there are sources that tell people how to cure themselves with all manner of unorthodox methods. I'm talking about links that simply describe the condition, such as Wikipedia articles.) -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 21:43, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
But then the parents have to use his own judgement on whether or not to take their child to the doctor. So, while the Ref Desk is no substitute for a doctor, it can play the same role as any other person can in helping to decide whether or not to seek medical attention. Count Iblis (talk) 14:46, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
We are not the parents of the user, nor are we physically in the user's presence as a parent would be. Hence your analogy is incorrect, and we are in the wrong to try to diagnose a user's medical condition. Only a qualified professional can do that. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:51, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
  • I sympathize with Wnt ideologically and based on experience. I'd be dead at least twice over if I hadn't taken action against medical advice from idiots. (I'd also have died in early infancy and childhood several times over since then if not for competent medical treatment.) But the point here is that Wikipedia is a private institution that is subject to civil litigation. In order to reduce its risk it has a very reasonable policy of not offering professional advice. Wikipedia is not the government, and opposing its policies is not civil disobedience--it's grounds for losing one's editting privileges. μηδείς (talk) 01:22, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
    • To be clear: speaking out on discussion pages in disagreement with policies is not as problem. Acting in violation of policies is. --Jayron32 04:32, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
    • IHerb is safe from litigation even though they are actually selling products to people that could do them serious harm without proper medical evaluation, because of this disclaimer. IHerb sells its products to most countries of the World. If you live in a country where a product is illegal, you can still buy it from IHerb, they are not legally liable for the consequences (I often buy such products from IHerb or other US webshops precisely because they can't be bought where I live). Then I don't see what we're worrying about on the legal issues here. I do agree with there being potential problems with juist allowing medical advice without a good policy to prevent harm. But that doesn't mean that the only such policy that is possible should necessarily forbid any sort of medical advice. Count Iblis (talk) 12:13, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
So if the policy here is based on fear of some kind of legal action, can we at least agree to amend the notice to redirect people with medical questions to sites in other countries with more commitment to freedom of speech, perhaps the People's Republic of China? (This is rhetorical - I already know the answer -- any action that potentially reduces the odds of someone shelling out money for a doctor for unneeded consultations is by definition a violation of medical ethics) Wnt (talk) 13:28, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
There you go with your personal prejudice again. And you should know better than to talk about "freedom of speech" here. There is no constitutional right to edit Wikipedia. "Freedom of speech" does not apply here. And you are in no position to know whether any questioner would have an "unneeded" consultation. It's not our place to make that judgment. As regards potential suits, supposedly we're protected, but I'm not convinced of it. But in the past, the argument has been made that it's not so much fear of suits, but rather of being ethical. It is unethical to give medical or legal advice to an anonymous internet user, because it is impossible to know what the user's true physical or legal condition is. And you've been told this, time and time again, by multiple users, and it's just not getting through, due to your prejudice against professionals. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:33, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
The moment you start going on about "legal action" freedom of speech applies. Wnt (talk) 17:55, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
How do you figure? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:21, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
As an aside, I'll note that the policy against giving medical advice on the reference desks isn't based principally in a fear of legal action. Of course, Wnt already knows this, because he's been banging the same drum since at least 2010: Wikipedia talk:Reference desk/Archive 78#Removed request for medical advice. (That's just the first hit I got searching for Wnt medical advice in this talk page's archives; there are many others.) Continuing this discussion may amuse and entertain individuals who wish to polish their rhetorical skills, but be aware that it will neither change minds nor have any meaningful effect on a broadly supported rule. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 14:05, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
I didn't start this discussion. One reason why it's so easy for some of you to go on about your "consensus" is that each time you make it sound like anyone who disagrees with you is violating policy, and anyone who repeatedly disagrees with you -- no matter how many times you repeat yourselves - is simply biased and should be ignored. Even Kainaw's criterion has gone out the window, not because there was ever any agreement to deprecate it, but simply by means of outshouting the people who were going by it. Wnt (talk) 17:55, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
Unfortunately, the OP is making a similar assertion. The right approach would seem to be "if you're concerned, contact a professional." That's not an order to the OP, merely a recommendation. We cannot ethically give professional advice, but there's no ethical problem in recommending that a user see a professional if they've got concerns. It's up to the user to decide about the money part of it. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:19, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
What if someone is not concerned but given what he wrote, should be, and therefore should seek medical attention? Granted, this is not going to happen often, but then pedophiles don't visit Wikipedia often either, and we don't have frequent cases where people say that they are so depressed they want to kill themselves. In those cases we do have a clear policy that says that we should intervene using a special email address. So, why not have a similar policy when an editor (on the Ref Desk or anywhere else) has good reasons to believe that someone faces a medical risk? Count Iblis (talk) 16:02, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
We are in no position to know for sure whether a user "should be" concerned, and we are not their parents. If there is an obvious sense of urgency, then the recommendation should be obvious. Example: "I've got this crushing pain in my chest and I can't breathe!" Something like that could well be a hoax. But just in case it's for real, my answer would be: "What the bloody L are you doing yapping on the internet? Call 911 immediately!" Then the folks at 911 can take action if necessary. Now, if we want to create a special intervention process for something that appears to be an emergency, that could be considered. Maybe even that same e-mail address could be used. But that's a rarity. Most of the requests for medical advice are more along the lines of, "I have this symptom... What illness do I have?" And no one here is in a position to answer that question. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:28, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
Yes, I was referring to these rare cases. E.g. you could think of someone asking about some strange spots on her skin, not knowing that (given what she writes) it can in theory be skin cancer despite having a dark skin. If she is thinking of this as a purely cosmetic issue, we should tell her that she should actually first go to a doctor to rule out skin cancer. It seems to me that given our current policy (where we want to be 100% sure we don't do any harm), this is something that we need to address. The discussion about changing our policy to open the door for medical advice is a different discussion. Count Iblis (talk) 18:09, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
This is (mutatis mutandis) the situation which kicked off this thread. The original question, to which I made the unacceptable response, was along the lines of "How do I draw up a proper contract for a loan?" In an unrestricted environment, I would still say that "You should see a lawyer" is the only reasonable answer to that question. On the basis of the above discussion, I can now see clearly why that response was wrong for the ref desk. However, is this an area in which our policy should change? Tevildo (talk) 20:38, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
No, "See a lawyer" is the right answer. Contract law varies from place to place, and it would be easy to lead a user astray. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:21, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
This is my point. "See a lawyer" is (currently) the _wrong_ answer, because it's "legal advice". Should we allow "See a lawyer/doctor/chiropodist" as a legitimate answer under some circumstances? Apparently not, at the moment. Tevildo (talk) 21:27, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
No, no, no. Telling someone to "see a professional" DOES NOT constitute giving "professional advice". ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:38, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
That's right. "Professional advice" is the sort of advice you would receive from a professional. When you go to your doctor with a symptom, they may say many things, but they would not say "See a doctor". They may say "I think you need to see a specialist, and I'll give you a referral". -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 21:54, 26 April 2013 (UTC)

Improper use of Science Desk by Ryanspir

We seem to be getting a lot of posts about justifying religous faith lately on Science Ref Desk. Ryanspir is currently the worst offendor - his posts are about proving the existence of God (presumably by the capitalisation, the Christian god) and are incitements to debate, they are not questions about some aspect of science that he needs help on. Unfortunately, folk keep responding and encouraging him. There's nothing wrong with theology debates, but this isn't the place for it. Can we not hat all his posts currently on Ref Desk? Ratbone (talk) 11:17, 22 April 2013 (UTC)

I would certainly support that approach. His questions are simply not appropriate for the Science Desk. HiLo48 (talk) 11:21, 22 April 2013 (UTC)
Oppose general hatting. Ryanspir's posts are somewhat verbose, but his question about models of an eternal and/or infinite universe is in Science Desk territory and has been answered appropriately. By the way, if you are singling out one editor's posts for comment here, it would seem only polite to place a note on their talk page. I've done that for you. Gandalf61 (talk) 11:30, 22 April 2013 (UTC)
But what IS his question? He seems to be putting up a line of reasoning as soap box or rant. And if it was just about whether there the universe is eternal, that would be fine on Ref Desk, but that's just a step in his (dubious to say the least) reasoning that there is a god. There is no objection to Ryanspir having that personal basis for believing in a god, but Science Desk isn't the place to promulgate it. Ratbone (talk) 12:04, 22 April 2013 (UTC)
He posted the same editorial on one article talk page, and it was reverted. He posted it on another talk page, and some discussion ensued. He then went back to his normal topic, which is something to do with metals. The various responses do serve a purpose, as they illustrate the flaws in his reasoning. I suppose it's on the science page because he's asking about the universe and extraterrestrials and such stuff as that. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:12, 22 April 2013 (UTC)
I see he's added a couple of new editorials just this morning. So I concur that they should all be hatted, and maybe if he continues with this stuff, it should be deleted rather than answered. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:03, 22 April 2013 (UTC)
These decisions should be made on a question-by-question basis, without regard for who posted the questions, and certainly without any religious bias one way or the other. Wnt (talk) 14:26, 22 April 2013 (UTC)
I'd strongly oppose hatting for the moment. The questions (so far) have sufficient science content to warrant answering them as science questions. However, if they veer much further in the trollish direction, I'd support giving the OP a strong warning and treating subsequent posts as disruptive editing. I don't think we've reached that point yet. SteveBaker (talk) 15:39, 22 April 2013 (UTC)
  • Well, what, are you all waiting for me to do it? μηδείς (talk) 15:49, 22 April 2013 (UTC)
    • Please don't. --Jayron32 17:17, 22 April 2013 (UTC)
The answers have science in them, but all this proof of God stuff is a right turn off for most people. I think reducing the number of arguments for God on the Science Desk will make more science questions get posted - that is why it should be discouraged. However, so far we have:-
  • Three people (myself, HiLo48, BaseballBugs) agree it should all be hatted or deleted
  • Three people (Gandalf61, SteveBaker, Jayron32) oppose any hatting or deleting
  • A couple of people don't seem to have a clear opinion one way or another.
Can we at least agree Ryanspir should be given a strong warning?
Ratbone (talk) 22:49, 22 April 2013 (UTC)
My concern is that he keep raising the same question after his editorial has been challenged point-by-point. At the very least, the 3 sections should be lumped into one, and then the question arises, Is there any new information to add, or is the subject pretty well addressed? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 01:44, 23 April 2013 (UTC)
Ratbone - you are misrepresenting me. I didn't say I opposed any hatting. I said I opposed a general hatting of all of Ryanspir's posts. This was in response to your original blanket proposal "Can we not hat all his posts currently on Ref Desk?". If you want to "warn" Ryanspir, just go ahead and post a note on his talk page. If you want to propose hatting of specific posts, let's look at them on a case-by-case basis. Gandalf61 (talk) 07:38, 23 April 2013 (UTC)
If the discussion is scientific (SteveBaker has covered this succinctly) then it doesn't really matter whether it's a turn-off or not. The science desk will survive a discussion or two of scientific views on questions that stem from religious beliefs. Of what should the editor be warned? That you don't like their questions? I say move on if you don't like the discussion. If it's a violation of policy or law, or tendentious, that's another matter. -- Scray (talk) 03:31, 23 April 2013 (UTC)
He wasn't exactly asking questions, he was writing editorials. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:42, 23 April 2013 (UTC)
I do hold an opinion that God if he exists, could be eventually explained in some extent by science. If He is doing anything or has any influence, these changes can be observed. Same as dark matter, noone seen it, but we observe it's via it's influence. I'm not a religious person, and though I do believe in God, I also believe in science. I'm very much interested if there are any reliable sources that have reasoning similar to mine, and that could be included on the article Existence of God. (With a line of trying to use scientific methods to observe God indirectly, if he indeed exists). Thank you. Ryanspir (talk) 11:11, 23 April 2013 (UTC)
"I'm not a religious person, and though I do believe in God..." is not a logical statement, thus not a good starting point for a discussion here. You're really wasting our time. HiLo48 (talk) 11:27, 23 April 2013 (UTC)
Whoa, that seems a bit harsh. Being religious usually implies belief in God, but the reverse does not hold. Plenty of people are not remotely "religious" in the sense of being a member of a church, participating in church activities, sending their kids to church-run schools, praying, studying sacred texts etc etc - but they still believe in God. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 22:10, 23 April 2013 (UTC)

Nobody is making you (pl.) respond. Unless a post is clearly right off-topic, I oppose us telling anyone to shut up and bugger off. Just ignore it if you can't or don't want to answer it. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 11:33, 23 April 2013 (UTC)

Since you're clearly smarter than the rest of us, maybe you could discern what question he's asking the ref desk to answer. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:44, 23 April 2013 (UTC)
I'm not smart, BB. It sounds like it's off-topic for this board, though. I guess I'm more responding to complaints above that he's somehow wasting people's time. He's only wasting your time if you engage with him. If it's clearly off-topic, delete it and explain nicely why. If there is significant uncertainty about its relevance to this board, and you're not interested in it, ignore it. --Anthonyhcole (talk · contribs · email) 14:43, 23 April 2013 (UTC)
Oh, just unilaterally delete it, without discussion? That's funny. Tell us another one. P.S. You still haven't identified what question he's asking. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:56, 23 April 2013 (UTC)
(moved my comment because it's not related to Bugs') I don't object to questions about religion. I'm not anti-religious in the least. But these "questions" as asked are simply editorials and/or just fishing for debate. I don't find them offensive or wrong, just not appropriate for our desks. Mingmingla (talk) 14:26, 23 April 2013 (UTC)
What is not logical please? I believe in God and I'm not shy to say that. I don't believe in any current religion and not a follower of any, and I'm not shy to say that too. And, I have met a number of people who are the same, so I'm definitely not alone in my approach.
The questions being asked: Is it possible that our time-continuum is eternal in time and infinite in volume/space? If to assume that we are living in a world without God, shouldn't we been observing lots of extra-terrestrial activity? Could we consider the absence of such presence as indirect prove of Existence of God by His acts? Are there any reliable sources that show the same reasoning? (For the consideration to be included in the article Existence of God?) Ryanspir (talk) 16:51, 24 April 2013 (UTC)
Ryanspir, this is the clearest you have asked the question so far. The problem before was that the questions were quite difficult to sort out because of all the background you posted, some of which could be considered to be what we call soapboxing, or invitations for debate. You are obviously not looking for that based on the rephrasing you've posted here. Sometimes simpler is better. Mingmingla (talk) 20:01, 24 April 2013 (UTC)
I had no trouble taking that meaning from his question as originally written. Wnt (talk) 19:42, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
Good for you. Mingmingla (talk) 23:02, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
Okay, that was a bit snarky, but seriously, not all of us saw it as an innocent question. To some of us, most of it really appeared to be philosophizing to no end. Mingmingla (talk) 23:06, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
Well, I'm happy it's all clear now and the horse may rest in peace :). Ryanspir (talk) 10:43, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
Hopefully that's a pale horse. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 16:29, 26 April 2013 (UTC)

"Help:Score" for musical notation

Editors can use "Help:Score" for musical notation.—Wavelength (talk) 16:32, 25 April 2013 (UTC)

Excellent! Thanks. (talk) 19:59, 28 April 2013 (UTC)

Intermarriage in Israel

This legitimate and carefully worded question is clearly about Jewish-Arab intermarriage, particularly between Jewish women and Arab men (and stated as such). Then this remark appears:

*How much support is there for gay marriage among the Orthodox? It would offer an in-house alternative to those who Jewish men might otherwise consort with Arabs or seculars. On the other hand gay miscegenation might be seen as weakening Israel's enemies. And what about the rights of Stan? μηδείς (talk) 06:31, 5 May 2013 (UTC)

I - as a frequent contributor to queries on Israel/Jewish content - find this only tangentially related to the query and moreso: flippant, disrespectful to several minority groups, inciteful given the volatile nature of the subject (certainly in today's Israel, if anyone here follows the news), and disruptive to the WP:RD process, especially on the Humanities desk. The response politely expressed confusion as to User:Medeis' point; rather than state my objections there, I've brought them here. Is there a consensus that it can be hatted or whatever would isolate it from the discussion? I don't know the rules about this; if I'm overreacting please explain how the remark is within the bounds of good-faith discourse and helping the querant. Thank you! -- Deborahjay (talk) 11:35, 5 May 2013 (UTC)

That comment does seem to be kind of off-the-wall, but I don't see any comments in that section that resemble a practical answer to the OP's question. And the OP is missing the obvious - if an ethnic group's leaders have declared their intentions to destroy you, that tends to trump other considerations. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 14:07, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
I'm not easily offended, so I personally don't see a problem with Medeis' post (other than its lack of relevance to the OP's question). That said, I'm concerned that the OP has received no useful responses, and that his question was hatted because of the immaturity of Reference Desk volunteers. If there's something wrong with the OP or his question, that's a legitimate reason to hat the question, but "we can't control ourselves" shouldn't be a legitimate reason. --Bowlhover (talk) 21:49, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
It's a flippant comment and could be hatted per Deborahjay. My jaw drops at Bugs' level of ignorance. Itsmejudith (talk) 21:59, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
My jaw drops at those who defend nations who have vowed to destroy Israel. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 02:24, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
George W Bush vows to destroy Saddam Hussein's regime, would that then justify any Iraqi coming around to do all sorts of nasty things to any American? I hesitate to say you are behaving like the stereotypical prejudiced racist American, because you don't normally, but these comments cut pretty close. --PalaceGuard008 (Talk) 09:28, 8 May 2013 (UTC)
Don't you dare play the race card, son. While I'm no fan of Bush, he never threatened to destroy Iraq itself, but only to remove that dictator Saddam. Whether that was a good idea remains to be seen. I haven't heard Iran talk about removing the leader of Israel, but only about destroying Israel itself. Israeli Jewish wariness is fully justified from an emotional and practical standpoint, even if it seems intellectually narrow-minded to those who aren't in their shoes. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:14, 8 May 2013 (UTC)
You do know that Iran is not an Arab state, right? --Stephan Schulz (talk) 21:20, 8 May 2013 (UTC)
The article cited by the OP makes it very clear that the marriages being considered were of Israeli Jews to Arab citizens of Israel. Iran has absolutely nothing to do with it. It is not a neighbour of Israel either. Itsmejudith (talk) 22:32, 8 May 2013 (UTC)
  • The OP has asked for unbiased confirmation that his shock at the uncivilized opinions of Jews in this day and age is correct. Funny how no one has yet provided him with an unbiased reference commenting on the correctness of the contents of his mind. μηδείς (talk) 23:45, 6 May 2013 (UTC)
I wish I could help him. I don't know enough about current public opinion in Israel. In the meantime Bugs must apologise to me for the unfounded assertion that I have in any way defended any government that has vowed to destroy Israel. Itsmejudith (talk) 05:44, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
I could, but I'm too ignorant. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 07:15, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
It's not shameful to be ignorant about some things, but it's nothing to be particularly proud of. --Stephan Schulz (talk) 07:23, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Yeh, yeh. When these various radical Islamist groups stop threatening to destroy Israel, then get back to me. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 07:26, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Bugs - the OP asked about attitudes to Jewish-Arab intermarriage. You leap from "Arab" to "radical Islamist" seems to be completely unjustified. There are many Arabs who are not radical Islamists (and, indeed, many who are not even Muslims), and there are radical Islamists who are not Arabs. I believe you are stereotyping. Gandalf61 (talk) 08:49, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
More discussion spoiling by them at Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Humanities#Link_between_watching_porn_and_sexual_violence with:

That may be obvious, but what is confusing is why someone would preferentially name non-men and non-animals as the victims of pornography readers? Are only children and women sympathetic enough? μηδείς (talk) 03:20, 7 May 2013 (UTC)

They should not be diverting off questioners good questions this way. If they really think there is something useful that should be added to the question then just say it without this posturing and sniping at the questioners. In this case what good were the contributions to anyone? Dmcq (talk) 09:59, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Look, in the past I have hazarded answers when I didn't really know. In my defence, they were usually awkward questions, and I did have some knowledge that would put the OP on the right track. Here, Bugs, you had absolutely no information to supply. So why chip in? All you have done is shown yourself as, well, so far I have just said ignorant, but your comments could easily be read as both antisemitic and islamophobic. Don't do this again, if you believe that Wikipedia has a reputation to be upheld. Itsmejudith (talk) 12:12, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Did anyone actually supply any information to the OP in that discussion? (Excluding VW and others whose agenda was strictly to make personal attacks.) And did any of the critics follow up on your complaint about Medeis' obscure comment? Or has this shifted from yell-at-Medeis week to yell-at-Bugs week? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:30, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
The responses to the query appear to be back on track. In my case, it was a matter of too much knowledge on the topic and it took me two days to decide how best and briefly to provide a meaningful picture of what the Macquarie University graduate anthropology paper didn't include in its narrow focus on expat intermarried couples. So much is written about Israel, Jews and Palestinians, I didn't want to provoke a daisy chain of my-source-your-source, including scriptures. I appreciate the input here, and hopefully I understand the RD dynamics better now. -- Deborahjay (talk) 21:56, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Just today, in Egypt: "The people want the destruction of Israel."[22]Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:10, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
Is that your best shot? -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 22:17, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
It's got to do with someone recently claiming that no one was calling for Israel's destruction. I think this is the second time in a week that I've posted a recent reference proving that claim wrong. The original OP asked why "intelligent" Israeli Jews would have such strongly negative views of intermarrying. The constant threat of anhiliation is one factor that keeps Israeli Jews wary. That should be as obvious as the nose on the OP's face. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 22:37, 10 May 2013 (UTC)

Is Batman ergonomically efficient? Hatted by Medeis

Diff [23]. I respectfully disagree with the hat when there are numerous references available. A simple Google search for "the science of batman" yield roughly 92 million results. End Result [24] with OP InedibleHulk's Edit summary (Reverted past own apparently stupid question. I think it was valid, but no point making something out of it.). Thoughts? Royor (talk) 05:14, 9 May 2013 (UTC)

Trolling by a new account from an obviously experienced user.

An user obviously familiar with Wikipedia has started a new account, and after getting it autoconfirmed with some minor edits, has dived into trolling the ref desks. [25]. I can't place this particular user into any sock drawers yet. Does anyone recognize this person? --Jayron32 23:33, 9 May 2013 (UTC)

Who cares, really? If he puts it back again, apply an indef. Looie496 (talk) 23:45, 9 May 2013 (UTC)
The M.O. kind of fits with the many socks of Timothyhere (talk · contribs). ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:18, 10 May 2013 (UTC)

Questions about "newborn" pics at Wikipedia

At least two IPs ( and have complained that they're seeing photos of their kids on Wikipedia without their permission. They're mistaking a Facebook page (which hosts Wikipedia content) for Wikipedia. Send them to WP:HD#Re: pictures of my child without my permission. -- Finlay McWalterTalk 08:51, 10 May 2013 (UTC)

Wickwack ( and flagrant WP:AGF violations.

I know that several admins frequent the reference desk talk page. Would someone please take appropriate action against Wickwack (User: and other IP accounts) who has now violated WP:AGF on at least a couple of occasions. I warned that this is not allowed - but Wickwack replied with further personal attacks and AGF violations both on the public-facing Science ref desk and on my own talk page. I think it's time to institute some kind of response. If nobody here feels able to help, I can take it to the admin's noticeboard in a couple of days - but it just seems easier to keep it here as a RefDesk matter if a refdesk-knowledgable admin can help. Here is one diff [26] - I can provide more if needed. SteveBaker (talk) 17:33, 11 May 2013 (UTC)

SteveBaker, Wickwack's response which you supplied the dif to was to a serious accusation by you: "And please, you are required to WP:AGF in your conversations here...your continual accusations that I'm deliberately lying or fabricating some story or other is not acceptable here - and I won't put up with it. You've done it several times now - and if you do so again, I will call in the admins and demand some kind of disciplinary action against you." [27] Did he ever say you were lying? No, please provide evidence he did if I missed it. Did he break wp:AGF prior to your accusation he did? I just don't see it because from what I understand of Wickwack's previous posts, he didn't say you were personally lying nor was his assertion that your assessment of the illusion is wrong unjustified....he has a right to express his disagreement, for disagreements between respondents are par for the course. Thus, I found your initial accusation of wp:AGF violation on Wickwack's part disturbing, even more so than Wickwack's curt reply. --Modocc (talk) 18:39, 11 May 2013 (UTC)
"Or maybe you jiggled the answers to fit your pre-determined theory." SteveBaker (talk) 19:43, 11 May 2013 (UTC)
Such things can in deed happen unintentionally. You know that, because if editors bring up personal experience and research on these boards, its fair game to various criticisms,like confirmation bias (even if what is being said is true and is in support of the findings of others), especially personal anecdotal evidence that is brought up on the science board. -Modocc (talk) 19:57, 11 May 2013 (UTC)
I think that's generous assessment with that wording, particularly in the context of the rest of that exchange - I found it consistent with a personal attack in that context. That said, all involved needed to take a breather. -- Scray (talk) 20:18, 11 May 2013 (UTC)
We don't know for sure, do we? AGF. -Modocc (talk) 21:56, 11 May 2013 (UTC) "I don't think I'm too forgiving. I am more so than a stubby stubborn Vogon perhaps, but there is plenty of pseudo-tea and some hand-waving towels available to consider. -Modocc (talk) 21:56, 11 May 2013 (UTC)
I can assure you that I do assume good faith, then I describe what I see. -- Scray (talk) 23:29, 11 May 2013 (UTC)