Wikipedia talk:Reference desk

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To ask a question, use the relevant Reference Desk
The guidelines for the Reference desk are at Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines.
For help using Wikipedia, please see Wikipedia:Help desk.
This page is for discussion of the Reference Desks only. Please don't post comments here that don't relate to the Reference Desks. Other material may be moved.


Seeking an optimally helpful response to a member of the public trying to be helpful[edit]

From time to time someone (an IP, who shows no sign of having edited before) finds their way to a RefDesk and politely informs us that an article is wrong, and requests that we correct it. The most recent example is Gurkha Error. A RefDesk volunteer then responds politely that the querent can edit the article. Sometimes discussion follows, about whether the article really is wrong or not. Then someone else will point out that this belongs on the article's talkpage.

I have come to accept that most people who read Wikipedia will never, whatever the encouragement, edit an article; even editing a refdesk (i.e. asking a question) requires a certain mindset. The very fact that they've taken the trouble to report the issue, however they perceive it, is to be commended, in my opinion. My question is: do we have a consistent and positive way of responding to this situation? I'm thinking of two things - one, a response to the individual, and two, an improvement of the article in question. In other words, is it a given that one of us will now look at Gurkha, or might it just fall by the wayside? I'm not interested in this particular example; what concerns me is how we deal with this sort of query. Carbon Caryatid (talk) 14:17, 28 June 2017 (UTC)

IMO all we need to do is refer the user to article talk. I wouldn't want to trust that a reader who doesn't know the function of article talk is going to know anything about WP:V, WP:NPOV, etc, so I wouldn't even suggest that they can edit the article themselves. If anyone reading the thread here has an interest in the issue, they are free to go to the article talk and discuss it there. If they are competent to do so, they are free to edit the article. But the involvement of the refdesks should end at directing the user to the appropriate venue. ―Mandruss  14:31, 28 June 2017 (UTC)
We should tell people that the talk page is the best place to raise concerns, but I balk at those who try to tell people that the Refdesk is not a valid place to raise article concerns at all. There is already a lot of complaining that the Refdesk isn't "useful" to Wikipedia, and that kind of policy-mongering is deliberately designed to prevent it from being useful! We should feel pretty free to evaluate statements in articles here and provide references -- the only thing we need to do to keep this from being a forum shopper's nirvana is to make some guideline more like "consensus here doesn't apply to articles; use the talk page to gain consensus". Wnt (talk) 21:04, 28 June 2017 (UTC)
Yep, I agree totally. I recall a few places where a ref-desk regular has posted a question here and said something like "look I know the right place is the article talk page but that talk page has 3 entries, the last of which is five years old, so I'm asking for refs/correct info here."
Put another way, there's absolutely no reason why we can't help improve articles here, both directly and indirectly. So to Caryatid and and others, sure, we can tell OP to fix it, but we can also be bold ourselves, do the fixing, post on talk pages, project pages etc. SemanticMantis (talk) 16:10, 29 June 2017 (UTC)
From this I gather that no, there is no consistent and positive way of responding. It's all up to each individual editor. So be it. Carbon Caryatid (talk) 13:50, 4 July 2017 (UTC)

Copying others' posts when an editor deletes and adds during the same edit[edit]

This edit removes my post and the responses to my post while simultaneously adding an inflammatory post about some kind of anti-Semitic/racist conspiracy theory. My conjecture is that doing so will make the edit harder to revert, which brings me to my next question. Can one copy and paste back others' posts in this situation? Or should I just copy and paste mine? 50.4.236.254 (talk) 11:21, 1 July 2017 (UTC)

That was the Nazi troll screwing things up, compounded by the editor Golbez making a well-meaning but incorrect manual revert of the troll. I have reset it to where it was just before the troll edited. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 11:23, 1 July 2017 (UTC)
How does one make a correct revert? 50.4.236.254 (talk) 16:10, 1 July 2017 (UTC)
What he should have done is a straightforward automated revert. Instead, he simply deleted the troll's post without realizing that the troll had done an incorrect reversion too. So I opened the version just prior to the troll and saved it, thus resetting it. You can tell by the byte count. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:02, 1 July 2017 (UTC)
(edit conflict)If there have been no good edits since the trolling began you can revert to "last clean version", which means clicking in the history on the version above the start of the trolling and when it appears clicking "edit" and then "Save changes". If there have been subsequent good edits you can consider copying them from the versions in which they appear and then pasting them (in the appropriate places) into the last clean version. Alternatively you can work from the current version removing any troll edits and adding back any good edits removed by the troll. Watch out for good edits which might have been vandalised by the troll - you have to be careful to paste in the correct version. 94.195.147.35 (talk) 17:08, 1 July 2017 (UTC)
Well, the troll added back the Donald Trump discussion, which was reasonable in the circumstances. 94.195.147.35 (talk) 17:11, 1 July 2017 (UTC)
I don't think that was intentional, it was just blundering. At 3:22 he reverted back to the 3:05 version. On matters of history, the troll is a total moron, so it should be no surprise that he's also incompetent. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:15, 1 July 2017 (UTC)

This is not a BLP violation[edit]

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Humanities&diff=788388094&oldid=788387326

If we're going to remove a thread like that, let's do so because (say) it's opinion- or debate-based, not because of alleged BLP concerns. —Steve Summit (talk) 13:01, 1 July 2017 (UTC)

Medeis' justification "entirely unsourced" is incorrect, as several sources were listed. Also, it's not a valid justification for deletion, in any case. At best, it's a justification for boxing up the unsourced replies. I restored it. StuRat (talk) 13:09, 1 July 2017 (UTC)
Care to point out those several sources? All I see is Count Iblis's link to his own opinion on an off-wiki forum, and a couple of wikilinks that can hardly be called sources.
In my opinion that thread is about as blatant abuse of the desks as one can get. Right out of the gate it was a request for opinion, and a politically-biased one at that. And multiple regulars took the bait, completely unable to restrain themselves. Comical. ―Mandruss  13:33, 1 July 2017 (UTC)
There's the Donald Trump on social media link, which discusses the real world case and has 85 sources, and now my Wag the Dog link, which describes a fictional case. StuRat (talk) 13:48, 1 July 2017 (UTC)
That's an improvement, thank you. Now if responders can refrain from offering their personal viewpoints, we might have an actual legitimate use of the desk. ―Mandruss  14:13, 1 July 2017 (UTC)
Maybe the parts that are just unsourced opinions could be boxed up. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:00, 1 July 2017 (UTC)
At the very least, the parts which comment on his mental condition are, in fact, BLP violations - except maybe if they included sources which have made such comments. For example, the Washington Post item labeled "Trump is not well".[1] Albeit written by the targets of his wrath. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 15:02, 1 July 2017 (UTC)
Citing a Washington Post article is not a BLP violation. And if it were, that would be a damning indictment of BLP, not the editor. Some people here say they don't Refdesk responses to omit references. But if people's personal opinions of what is "wrong" to say about a politician override the references, then we are well and truly sunk. Wnt (talk) 17:42, 1 July 2017 (UTC)
The article is actually an opinion piece by the targets of Trump's wrath. But at least it's a source. Wikipedia editors calling Trump an idiot or mentally ill, with no backing reference, are off base in doing so. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:48, 1 July 2017 (UTC)

Exhibit A: Donald Trump is president of the US. That in itself answers the OP's question. We have to note that the sources are all being manipulated directly or indirectly by Trump, therefore they are all unreliable for this specific question. What we can do is analyze how the sources react to Trump's statements. When candidate Trump was down (locker room talk and then all these women came forward saying that they had been sexually harassed by Trump), Trump could hardly get his message through, he was on the defensive. He had practiced his last debate a lot, and he knew what he had to do. He went on the offensive "Donald Trump on Wednesday refused to say he would accept the result of the presidential election if he loses to Hillary Clinton, raising the possibility of an extraordinary departure from principles that have underpinned American democracy for more than two centuries."

The media didn't see through this, they gave Trumps ambiguous statements a lot of attention thereby drowning out the issue Trump had with women. Trump knew that this question would come up, he deliberately gave a politically incorrect answer to keep he media busy with that. That's better than the media discussing his locker room talk over and over again. Count Iblis (talk) 22:31, 1 July 2017 (UTC)

Even calling it "locker room talk" is accepting Trump's version, as "bragging about committing sexual assault" sounds far worse. StuRat (talk) 00:04, 2 July 2017 (UTC)
Indeed :). Count Iblis (talk) 08:05, 2 July 2017 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Speaking as someone who is apolitical and who doesn't give a rat's ass about the ongoing fight between two groups of US politicians, saying "we have to note that the sources are all being manipulated directly or indirectly by Trump" without also noting that the sources are all being manipulated directly or indirectly by Trump's opponents is a failure to follow WP:NPOV. This is ironic, because the original thread was also a failure to follow WP:NPOV. Could we all please just stop the soapboxing and editorializing about US politics? That sort of crap does not belong here. --Guy Macon (talk) 04:47, 8 July 2017 (UTC)

RD is not for internal WP:POLICY matters[edit]

Please be more careful distinguishing between RD answers about what our articles and their sources say about the external world, and what internal WP policies and guidelines say, especially when it comes to language matters.

This exchange, for example, resulted in the querying editor going around to literally hundreds of articles imposing anti-MoS changes, on the strength of a handful of style guides (conveniently only those that agree with the editor, and ignoring British ones that do not, like that of The Economist), and claiming that Reference Desk/Language agreed with him (or at least hadn't contradicted him).

This is by no means the first time that WP:RDL has incidentally encouraged someone to go on a style-changing spree across Wikipedia or to come "challenge" the Manual of Style on some tedious bit of trivia that has been discussed a zillion times already. It would be helpful if RDL included a statement that it does not address questions about the Wikipedia Manual of Style, and redirected people to WT:MOS for that.
 — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  04:14, 11 July 2017 (UTC)

The RD/L thread from April (now archived here) did not, to my eyes, "encourage" the would-be style-changing editor.
It did point him to the MOS talk page, where (as can be imagined) a spirited debate ensued, now archived here.
If that thread didn't dissuade the editor from his quest, I doubt we could have!
I'll grant that discussions like these (and the editing sprees that sometimes follow) are intensely annoying, but given that there will evidently always be people obsessed with such matters, it does seem like centralizing the madness at the MOS and its talk page is the appropriate thing to do. —Steve Summit (talk) 10:28, 11 July 2017 (UTC), edited 11:10, 11 July 2017 (UTC)
The ref desk was originally a splitoff from the help desk. This would be an example of a question that harkens back to the help desk. And you're right that an editor obsessed with fine points of punctuation and the like is going to find a way, whether we help or not. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:30, 11 July 2017 (UTC)
As a point of historical interest, Bugs is simplifying.
The original Help Desk was moved to "Wikipedia:Reference Desk" (And then years later became the miscellaneous RefDesk.)
It wasn't until over a year later that the current help desk, then called the "Newcomers' village pump", was created. So far as I can determine, there was no help desk in the interim period of about 13 months.
So it was less a spinoff, and more a case of "Let's rename the help desk the reference desk", and then later "I wish we still had a help desk."
What value this bit historical trivia has to anybody, I don't know, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. ApLundell (talk) 17:36, 18 July 2017 (UTC)
Thanks for the history lesson! ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 20:25, 18 July 2017 (UTC)

The 'is a former restaurant' and 'awarded a star in 1998-2002' topic at the Language desk[edit]

The topic started out as a good faith request for language advice but it has since decayed into a somewhat uncivil content dispute. Should the topic be shut down? Roger (Dodger67) (talk) 11:56, 17 July 2017 (UTC)

The topic looks legitimate, and should run its course. It looks like some people might have tried to hat some irrelevant content in the middle and were reverted - in this case it definitely is irrelevant. The Refdesk isn't the place to argue about who is following who around. People can and should weigh in on specific proposed edits in terms of technical accuracy, but this is not the place to decide consensus about the article or debate Wiki behavior. I feel like the question is a little simple and might have been asked as part of an argument, but if people were going to answer it they could have done a better job -- I mean, the best wording depends on a lot of little specific issues. For example, "awarded a star in 1998-2002" might actually make sense if the Michelin Awards are only given every four years, and "is a former restaurant" would work beautifully if followed by ", now a ----". Now the Refdesk trying to be useful to Wikipedia tends to mean bringing Wikipedia knock-down-drag-outs here; that can't be stopped. But we should try to slow it down a bit, keep our ivory tower chic at least partially intact. Wnt (talk) 00:34, 18 July 2017 (UTC)

I object to your behavior on the science desk.[edit]

complainant now blocked←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:36, 25 July 2017 (UTC)
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

You removed a question of mine which was exceedingly well-phrased for "trolling" and suggested I run my own experiment. My question was very well-phrased and completely practical. I object to your behavior on this forum. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2a02:ab88:2481:fc80:48bb:ee48:34f:334a (talk) 01:51, Today (UTC−5)

First, you didn't sign your post here. Second, you didn't sign any of your posts on the science desk. it says clearly at the top of the edit window how to sign posts, so please do it in future. Thirdly, your post here is addressed to User:DMacks, but you should be posting it on his talk page, not here on the ref desk talk page. Diff, in case anyone else is interested. --Viennese Waltz 08:37, 25 July 2017 (UTC)
No, my post here is addressed to everyone at the science reference desk. I did not sign my posts due to your vindictive behavior in bad faith. that's a plural you. I had a poor experience. a glance at the talk pages shows that others also have a poor experience with you. (again a plural you.) I object to the behavior of all of you on the science reference desk. I had my time wasted, my question removed, was accused of trolling by different people despite an exceedingly well-phrased and clear question, and had a negative experience with you. (a plural you.) — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2a02:ab88:2481:fc80:c524:fa0b:c48a:bfb3 (talk) 06:55, Today (UTC−5)
I'm also curious why this question was removed. It wasn't the best written or thought-through question ever, but it seems to be earnest and on-topic. ApLundell (talk) 14:19, 25 July 2017 (UTC)
On the contrary, I put a very large amount of thought into writing the question very carefully. Based on the vindictive behavior, in bad faith, by multiple contributors, even the "best written or most thought-through question ever" could generate a poor experience for the person asking. I put a huge amount of effort into asking the question and following up on it such that I would be able to receive a helpful answer, which I was denied. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2a02:ab88:2481:fc80:c524:fa0b:c48a:bfb3 (talk) 10:06, Today (UTC−5)
NB: someone just attempted to delete this report: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk&diff=prev&oldid=792274744 (i.e. this very comment), calling the above good-faith report "trolling". This report is made in exceedingly good faith. This is a talk page for this project and I have a right to report my experience. Now you understand why I did not name names and simply honestly and anonymously reported my experience. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2a02:ab88:2481:fc80:51b3:ad84:d8de:4c7 (talk) 11:40, Today (UTC−5)
  • @ApLundell: Are you seriously going to humor a troll while chiding other editors who refused to do so for humoring a troll? Keeping this thread open is contributing to the trolling, it's feeding the troll by encouraging people to comment and to to stir up drama exactly the way you are doing by reverting two other editors. Come on. Just delete or archive this thread and let's all move on, FFS. ᛗᛁᛟᛚᚾᛁᚱPants Tell me all about it. 16:55, 25 July 2017 (UTC)
OP here. I am sympathetic to removal of the link if you like, which I did not include. I can assure you my participation was in good faith. I would like some form of the present note to remain up, however. You may leave the following version up: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia_talk:Reference_desk&diff=792283812&oldid=792283159 -- To elaborate, what I meant with this phrasing is that such a note would allow my objection to be voiced without "stirring up drama" and so forth. It is very brief and non-specific. I feel I should be allowed to voice such an opinion about my experience, on the project talk page, given that my experience was a negative one. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2a02:ab88:2481:fc80:51b3:ad84:d8de:4c7 (talk) 17:13, 25 July 2017 (UTC)


It's not clear to me that the original question was an intentional troll.
But 'regardless, the original question could have been asked,answered and done and forgotten by now. Regardless of whether the question-asker was a troll as some people suspect, or a child, or just someone who has trouble with English. Instead people have been dogmatically edit-warring to keep it deleted. ApLundell (talk) 17:14, 25 July 2017 (UTC)
OP here. As you write, yes, the original question could have been asked, answered, done, and forgotten. This is why I reported, here on this talk page, the negative experience I had with the reference desk from multiple contributors. At any rate you have my permission to replace this entire thread with a 1-line report in which I report vaguely and in general terms my negative experience. Thank you. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2a02:ab88:2481:fc80:51b3:ad84:d8de:4c7 (talk) 17:18, 25 July 2017 (UTC)
  • Yup. Keeping this thread going by reverting removals while using blatantly untrue edit summaries is going to put a stop to it. That's the trick right there. Good job. One begins to wonder if there's more than one troll at work here. ᛗᛁᛟᛚᚾᛁᚱPants Tell me all about it. 17:22, 25 July 2017 (UTC)
  • The IP-hopping troll, in addition to not ever signing his posts, has also made insults and demands toward the ref desk users. That's why his garbage keeps getting reverted. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:16, 25 July 2017 (UTC)