Wikipedia talk:Requests for comment

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How to

Hi. I restored the RFC template at Talk:Vitamin_B3#RfC_Do_the_refs_support_this_content? per instructions at WP:RFC. Can someone here tell me how to get it relisted under the Math & science RFC topic? -SusanLesch (talk) 15:07, 8 June 2018 (UTC)

@SusanLesch: You don't have to do anything else. Legobot will take care of it within 24 hours, often significantly less. Watch the listing page and note that the listing will be re-inserted in chronological position according to its timestamp (in this case, that will probably be at the bottom of the listing page). ―Mandruss  15:27, 8 June 2018 (UTC)
OK, many thanks, Mandruss. -SusanLesch (talk) 15:35, 8 June 2018 (UTC)
@SusanLesch: Correction, I think you also have to remove the rfcid parameter, which I've done.[1]Mandruss  15:36, 8 June 2018 (UTC)
Legobot just decided to undo your edit and mine. How do I restore this RFC to its former status of open? -SusanLesch (talk) 16:45, 8 June 2018 (UTC)
Legobot looks for the first timestamp after the {{rfc}} template. If that is more than thirty days ago, the template is removed. If you want to extend an RfC, you need a fresh timestamp, like this (WP:RFCEND does say "To restart an RfC after Legobot has automatically removed the rfc template, reinsert the {{rfc}} tag and insert a current timestamp after the RfC statement, but before its original timestamp.", emphasis mine). Reusing the old |rfcid= is valid. --Redrose64 🌹 (talk) 16:59, 8 June 2018 (UTC)
Thank you, Redrose64. Pretty hazy but I guess it was your new timestamp on your edit "on behalf of" that I missed before. Looks great now. -SusanLesch (talk) 17:31, 8 June 2018 (UTC)

Suggestion: tag for for ci-devant RFC

Recently I was running through some talk page archives, searching for an unclosed RfC. Because the bot removes the RfC tag after a set time frame, it makes it very hard to determine which section was a proper RfC or not. I think i would be helpful if when the bot removed the RFC number tag, it replaced it with a small template saying "This was a RFC" or something like it, to make identifying these sections quicker and easier. For closed RfCs where a human editor removed the tag, it is not necessary, obviously. cinco de L3X1 ◊distænt write◊ 16:51, 18 June 2018 (UTC)

Nice idea, but unless you can get Legoktm (talk · contribs) to amend the bot, it won't happen. --Redrose64 🌹 (talk) 22:41, 18 June 2018 (UTC)
Well, maybe. User:Cunard, are you still looking at all the expired RFCs manually? If so, would you mind adding a little template, of the sort suggested here, to all of the ones that you aren't recommended for formal closure?
We could also put it in the directions for closing, as an optional nicety. WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:49, 20 June 2018 (UTC)
Yes. Some RfCs I take no action on because they are invalid (example). For nearly all of the other RfCs (it is possible I might miss some while manually going through them), I close it, relist it, or list it at WP:ANRFC. I can add an expired RfC template to the RfCs I close if that helps.

Cunard (talk) 06:58, 20 June 2018 (UTC)

Is there already a template for this? Thanks, cinco de L3X1 ◊distænt write◊ 01:38, 21 June 2018 (UTC)
I am not aware of a template for expired RfCs. Cunard (talk) 07:28, 21 June 2018 (UTC)
The two of you could boldly create one. If it's small-ish, I don't expect anyone to complain. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:44, 24 June 2018 (UTC)
Is this too large and too green? It's a repurposed infobox. cinco de L3X1 ◊distænt write◊ 15:10, 24 June 2018 (UTC)
What's wrong with the default size, colours and other styling of a {{tmbox|type=notice|small=yes}}? --Redrose64 🌹 (talk) 08:09, 25 June 2018 (UTC)
Just that I couldn't find it yesterday. cinco de L3X1 ◊distænt write◊ 17:11, 25 June 2018 (UTC)

Non-registered user closing RfC

An RfC on the Flag of Syria page was recently closed after a over month of discussion by an unregistered user who has been editing for six months. I think the grounds for closure might have been shaky. Can a more experienced admin take a look please? I checked out WP:NAC but am unsure of its status as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community, so want clarification on whether non-registered users can close. BobFromBrockley (talk) 12:03, 22 June 2018 (UTC)

According to WP:NACIP, IPs may not close a formal discussion, so I have undone the close. An univolved registered user can restore the IPs close if they agree with it, indicating that they are doing so with a signed note, and by doing so taking responsibility for the close. Beyond My Ken (talk) 02:39, 23 June 2018 (UTC)
I contest the unilateral reversal of the close done by above as breach of procedural WP:CLOSE guidelines on the matter. If the close is improper, then the proper place to contest it is here(oops, mistake) at AN, not by unilaterally removing it. (talk) 02:41, 23 June 2018 (UTC)
It has now been bilaterally removed.[2]Mandruss  03:58, 23 June 2018 (UTC)
Fair enough. Would an admin please check the close ([last amended], after discussion) and rule if it is improper? (talk) 04:11, 23 June 2018 (UTC)
The AN discussion should be sufficient. This page is certainly not the place to request admin attention for any purpose. ―Mandruss  04:24, 23 June 2018 (UTC)
Well sorry, just so confusing - the discussion has been fragmented between one, two (here), three places. Maybe this is an unintentional case of WP:FORUMSHOP? I'm just going to copy my last comment over at AN, then. (talk) 04:33, 23 June 2018 (UTC)

Flagging ill-composed RfCs

It is so frequent that I see RfCs not adhere to WP:RFCST that I wonder if it's a good idea to implement a system akin to {{Help me-nq}} or {{Edit fully-protected|answered=yes}}, i.e. allow users to flag a request as improperly composed and prevent it from being added to the lists by modifying {{rfc}}, showing a message along the lines of "A user has flagged this request for comment as not following the guidelines. An RfC statement must be brief and neutral, and followed by a signature." I think that'll smooth things. Nardog (talk) 23:32, 30 July 2018 (UTC)

"Must"? This page is not a list of absolute rules.
When people complain about RFCST "violations", they're usually (although not always) complaining that the question is not neutral – according to them, and interpreted in light of their own biases, of course. It is unusual for an allegedly non-neutral RFC question to result in practical harm. Either the editors see through it, complain, and the RFC gets withdrawn, or the editors see through it, and provide their true views despite the non-neutral starting point. It is rare that we have an RFC that actually manages to deceive editors with a significantly biased question. Even when it does happen, the solutions are not difficult; you just start another discussion. (Remember that RFC outcomes are not binding; WP:Consensus can change at any time, including immediately after an RFC ended.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:37, 1 August 2018 (UTC)

Formatting creep, yet again

See this perfectly good-faith comment at User talk:Bladebuster700#RfC format update. Our ==Example== instructions aren't getting the point across – failing so badly that the most common format is being interpreted as "not recommended". I'm going to go Be Bold. Please ping me here if you want to talk about it. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:31, 8 August 2018 (UTC)

Convenience links: before, after
@WhatamIdoing: The unstructured format is far from the "most common" format in my experience. In fact, the structure is one of the benefits of RfC. Where the structure isn't necessarily needed because the issue is so simple (how many issues are simple at Wikipedia?), it certainly does very little to no harm. One size can sometimes fit all adequately enough that the added complication to guidance is a cost-benefit fail. I would have made that formatting change myself, no question. ―Mandruss  00:00, 9 August 2018 (UTC)
To clarify and expand:
I would prefer the example text to include the Survey and Threaded discussion headings. Assuming that, here in 2018, a large majority of editors can successfully perform a copy-and-paste operation, that will not make it any harder to create an RfC; the only difference will be the amount of the copied text. Then I'd change the first paragraph at Wikipedia:Requests for comment#Example to the effect that the example text is "suggested", "a common format", or something equally non-prescriptive. It's far easier to remove part of what you copied (or not copy that part in the first place) than to add the two headings "manually".
I particularly object to the current language that the structured format is appropriate only for "major disputes"; per WP:RFCBEFORE, attempts to reach consensus outside RfC have already failed, so the dispute is somewhat "major" by definition of "RfC". And the Survey section is very effective for showing editors' positions in a clear and concise way, regardless of the magnitude of the dispute (a somewhat rare Wikipedia success story, in my view).
I think this solution would also address your valid creep concerns, still reducing the guidance to one example. ―Mandruss  18:23, 9 August 2018 (UTC)
I like having the survey/discussion format available in the example section, since it's so common.
"Consider creating a subsection" (the old text) couldn't be any less prescriptive. On the other hand, the first example (section heading, rfc tag, question, signature) is pretty much mandatory, so it would just be confusing to qualify it by saying it is only "suggested" or a "a common format" in introducing it.
It doesn't look to me like the editor who added survey and discussion sections to the baseball players RfC thought not having them was "not recommended". He did view survey/discussion as one recommended format, since this page says to consider it, but he said he would understand if the RfC writer wanted to go back to the simple format (that format is recommended too). Bryan Henderson (giraffedata) (talk) 20:56, 9 August 2018 (UTC)
Perhaps you are right, but words like "noticed the format was not typical" and "edited the layout to match the recommendation" doesn't sound like "That's totally valid, but I think there's a better way". WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:04, 9 August 2018 (UTC)
Mandruss, is your experience mostly in RFCs for project pages, or in RFCs for articles? I just surveyed a random sample of RFCs in articles. I think I opened about 20% of current RFCs for the mainspace (skipping anything in my quick sample that I had previously opened the page for, but that still left dozens to look at). A bit less than half are currently using the ==Survey== formatting. I haven't checked, but I assume that RFCs on policy pages, and especially for controversial changes to them, skew the other direction.
The bigger issue is that asking people to separate their "survey" response – which is really just another word for a "vote" – from their "discussion" points is not a neutral thing. You need to choose your format according to what the kind of response that you need. If you need !votes that support or oppose, and especially if you expect a high turnout in such a situation, then you should seriously consider a section named ==Survey== or ==Straw poll== or something like that. But if you don't – and I believe that WP:Consensus suggests that for the mainspace, that need should be tolerably rare – then you shouldn't be encouraging people to limit their responses to voting-style responses. For example, there's an RFC at Talk:Bipolar disorder#New RfC on the mask image that asks a pretty simple yes/no question about an image. It could have been written to encourage Support and Oppose responses, but what's the advantage to that? There's a better and wider-ranging conversation going there without the pseudo-voting.
Also, I think it's better for people who are doing anything in the not-so-simple range to go to the /Formatting examples page and actually look at multiple options, together with an appreciation of their strengths and weaknesses, instead of choosing between two here. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:19, 9 August 2018 (UTC)
@WhatamIdoing: My experience involving RfCs has been largely a mix of American social issues (eg Shooting of Michael Brown) and American politics (eg Donald Trump). I grant you that 95% of issues in those areas are "major disputes", even when they shouldn't be. But my previous points about that still apply.
I disagree with your comments about the Survey section being like voting: properly done, it's not-voting. Votes lacking some kind of cogent argument should be ignored when assessing consensus, although that doesn't happen as consistently as it should.
As I understand and interpret things, a straw poll is different as it doesn't require said arguments, and is used not to establish consensus but rather merely to "take a group's temperature" on an issue.
I think the "Formatting examples" page represents unjustified complication and instruction bloat, and relegating that to a subpage doesn't make it any less CREEPy. But I'm not inclined to put it up for MfD at this juncture. ―Mandruss  21:45, 9 August 2018 (UTC)
Whether votes-with-rationales should be considered more than votes-without-rationales depends upon the question. If your question is about what the participants want to name their WikiProject, or whether the community wants to black out the site SOPA-style, then you probably should have a straight-up vote on the question.
The problem with encouraging votes, including votes-with-rationales, is that RFCs (of typical sizes) usually work very well when people skip the "votes" part and just post the "rationales" part. If there's no section that says "Put your vote here!" then people will usually skip the bold-face voting part, and skip straight to "I think that...". Not encouraging someone to come out swinging with a bold-face Oppose means that it's easier for a conversation to develop, and for editors to remember that the goal is to develop something that everyone can consent to having in the article (the literal meaning of "consensus"), rather that polarizing the discussions with either/or decisions. IMO an RFC such as Talk:Stateless nation#rfc 17F6825 is not worse off in any way just because people didn't precede their comments with a bold-face vote. We need more discussions that involve less voting on a firm proposal and more working together to find solutions.
Part of the current polarization in RFC responses is doubtless my fault. The language that's been on this page about writing a simple RFC question that was amenable to yes/no answers – and therefore to bold-faced votes rather than discussion and finding ways to adapt other editors' ideas – is something I wrote some years back. (At the time, we were seeing more RFCs whose 'question' was "What do you think about this article?", which is less than optimally functional in other ways.) I think we need to back away from this kind of support-or-oppose thinking. Encouraging people to consider their format choice in terms of its pros and cons, rather than "Hey, there's the 'recommended' one that all the cool editors use!" is IMO one way that we can do that.
(I have basically no sympathy for the argument in favor of labeling votes and !votes to make it easy for an RFC closer to count the votes on typical-size RFCs. An RFC closer who needs help counting votes shouldn't be closing that RFC.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:44, 12 August 2018 (UTC)
@WhatamIdoing: more working together to find solutions. I wish that too. I've seen no movement in that direction in the 5 years I've been around, and not for lack of talk about it. So let's continue wishing all editors were like us, and maybe someday our wish will magically come true. But it's important to understand that we're talking about personality types, which change extremely slowly (ie decades) if at all. For the most part and with a very few exceptions, the collaborative, cooperative nature is not made at Wikipedia by reasoning with people, but rather in the home by the age of about 12.
Meanwhile we have to create article content, that requires consensus, and we've found that the only workable way to get there is via Survey not-voting. At least in the areas where I've worked. Given enough time, large groups naturally gravitate to what works, or perhaps what fails less badly than any alternative. It's Darwinian, and article talk pages are our experimental laboratories.
If you agree that the structured format works best for at least some situations, then I reiterate what I said above: It's far easier to remove part of what you copied (or not copy that part in the first place) than to add the two headings "manually".Mandruss  07:03, 12 August 2018 (UTC)
  1. People won't "remove part of what you copied" if they think that they're supposed to have those parts. Putting those parts on the main page says "You should use this!" Putting those parts on a separate page says "This is optional". IMO this page only needs to include the required parts: a section heading, the rfc template, a question, and a signature.
  2. There are long-term difficulties with the community's direction, and I don't have any grand solutions. For example, there's research that says the more you trust Wikipedia, then the more you will agree with it – and the less you will edit it (because disagreeing with it provides an incentive to click the Edit button). Net result: we get fewer editors, but more advocates. Another is that procedures are calcifying and bureaucracy is on an apparently limitless rise, with the result that we're optimizing for easy forms (e.g., fancy formatting and vote-counting) over significant substance (e.g., cogent rationales). I don't know if those problems are solvable. It's basically impossible to tell 30,000 people that they can't take the easy way out, day after day. What we can do is not push people towards any form of voting. Yes, the occasional (large) RFC is going to get a format that is good but perhaps not "best", and it sounds like those will disproportionately affect your favorite subject area. But a few are probably going to get better (and even more complex) formatting, and more (mostly smaller ones) are going to benefit from less needless structure, and especially from not having a "Please put your vote here" section.
As I said earlier, I went through a bunch of RFCs recently. I saw a lot of voting sections with responses, followed by discussion sections that were either empty or contained a comment from only one person. I did not see the opposite. I think that the logical conclusion is that, given a chance to vote (including votes-with-rationales), people will vote instead of discussing things. When we encourage that, we're failing at the primary mission of an RFC, which is to hold a normal talk-page discussion (just with more people involved than might happen without the RFC advertising mechanism). WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:06, 12 August 2018 (UTC)
The section heading is somewhat redundant if an RfC is started part-way through an existing discussion as a direct follow-on. Even the signature (four tildes) isn't required - provided that a five-tilde timestamp is present. This leaves: the {{rfc}} template; the statement or question; a timestamp. --Redrose64 🌹 (talk) 19:54, 12 August 2018 (UTC)
I'd thought about that, too, but I think that omitting the section heading from the directions might irritate the editors who argued in favor of not just its inclusion, but specifically encouraging the section heading to include "RFC" (so it's easier for them to find it in archived discussions later). WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:14, 12 August 2018 (UTC)
Editors are not doing that because we fail to encourage a better alternative. They are doing it because experience has shown them that threaded discussion is usually a waste of their time, almost always being just pointless bickering. Compromises are rarely reached, minds are almost never changed (I invite you to show otherwise). Precisely because of the "personality types" I referred to above. If you want to advocate a process that requires a certain personality/maturity level for it to work, you first have to exclude editors who don't have that personality/maturity level. Good luck with that. ―Mandruss  21:06, 12 August 2018 (UTC)
Here's a case in point: Endymion.12 (talk · contribs) opened an RfC which asks for "comments about this article, specifically regarding the NPOV policy" but followed it up by adding the two subheadings. Although the initial statement is (to my mind) valid, there is no question asked, so there cannot logically be a survey. --Redrose64 🌹 (talk) 10:50, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
I believed that it would be more productive to ask for general comments rather than have a vote for/against a particular version. Endymion.12 (talk) 10:59, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
Indeed, but that's not the point. The point is that having added a survey section, you are now asking people to !vote on something. --Redrose64 🌹 (talk) 11:17, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
This is a great example. We're trying to figure out what effect having the examples we have on the page has on people formatting RfCs. Endymion.12, please take us through your thought process in including survey and discussion sections on an RfC when you wanted general comments. Did you get the idea from the WP:Requests for comment page or did you copy some other example? And if it came from the page, how much of it did you read? Bryan Henderson (giraffedata) (talk) 16:25, 13 August 2018 (UTC)
@Giraffedata:@WhatamIdoing: I found the format here while searching for prior discussions before making this post. I used this format in this RfC, and copied it over when opening this RfC. Endymion.12 (talk) 13:55, 15 August 2018 (UTC)
Thank you, that's very helpful. I think that copying what you've seen elsewhere is a pretty typical approach. Endymion.12 was mainly copying what had been used for some larger discussions at contentious articles (ISIL and the Skripal poisoning) – perfectly reasonable approach, and very typical for Wikipedia editors. After all, when you want something in an article, you can just copy the wikitext out of another one that is already doing what you want. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:20, 15 August 2018 (UTC)
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