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What is a talk page?

A talk page is a special Wikipedia page containing discussion about the contents of its associated "subject" page. To view the talk page of an article, click on the "Discuss this page" link in the sidebar or at the bottom of the screen. When you are in the talk page, clicking on "View article" will take you back to the main article.

Inevitably, there will arise situations in which collaborators on an article can benefit mutually from discussing the article--thus we have designated a namespace specifically for such discussion.

What is it used for?

On Wikipedia, the purpose of a talk page is to help to improve the contents of the main page, from an encyclopedic point of view. Questions, challenges, excised text (due to truly egregious confusion or bias, for example), arguments relevant to changing the text, and commentary on the main page is all fair play.

Wikipedians generally oppose the use of talk pages just for the purpose of partisan talk about the main subject. Wikipedia is not a soapbox, it's an encyclopedia. In other words, talk about the article, not about the subject. It's only the habits we encourage that keeps Wikipedia from turning into another H2G2 or Everything2. See also: Wikipetiquette

That said, Wikipedians are fallible creatures, so it's entirely natural that a bit of partisan wrangling takes place on talk pages - and occasionally this even leads to improvements in the article! So there's a fair degree of tolerance, and most Wikipedians succumb to a bit of wrangling from time to time.

User talk pages

Your user page has a talk page as well, and that one has some special features. For one thing, there is a link to it in the header next to your name (if you use a "skin" other than the default it may be somewhere else). Also, if edits are made to it by others, the text You have new messages will appear at the top of the page. These pages can be used for occasional personal communication among users; but note that these pages are public. If you want to communicate privately, use e-mail (see Wikipedia:Emailing users).

To write in another user's talk page, click the Discuss this page link on your sidebar when you view the user page (which you can do by clicking on a user's nickname). On the list of recent changes and on your watchlist, you can directly access a user's talk page by following the (Talk) link behind the user's name / IP address.

Standards and conventions of writing and layout

A few community standards do apply to talk pages, these are not to be taken strictly as "rules" but were evolved by users to make the talk pages more useful and easier to read. Often the talk pages of controversial topics can be very heavily used. See for example Talk:Abortion, Talk:Capitalism, Talk:Socialism, Talk:Jesus Christ.

  • Sign your posts: To sign a post, type three tildes (~~~), and they will be replaced with your username after saving, like this: Eloquence. Type four tildes (~~~~), and they will be replaced with your username and time stamp, like this: Eloquence 03:44 Feb 17, 2003 (UTC). On wikipedia we recommend that you try to always Sign your posts on talk pages. You can also use a pseudonym, or just "--anon".

  • Use indenting to keep the conversation straight: The first contributor is all the way to the left, the next person starts with one colon (:), the next person starts with two colons. Then, when the first contributor responds, she starts at the left margin again, and the second and third persons continue to mark themselves with one and two colons respectively, In that way, who is saying what is clear.

  • Separate discussion topics: Use a solid horizontal line, ----, to change the subject. To make the change more noticeable, put in a headline or a few key words in bold.

  • Proceed vertically: The further down the contribution to talk, the later it was made.

  • Feel free to ignore typographical conventions: Do as you please to make your points clear. The Manual of Style is for articles.

  • Make links freely: Links to articles are as useful on talk pages as anywhere else, and links to non-existent articles can help get them onto the most wanted pages list.

  • Don't edit other people's words: Ever (except for obvious typing errors). Editing or deleting your own words is up to you.

  • Archive rather than delete: When a talk page's content has become extremely large or the discussion of the issue in hand has simply died down and no one has a reasonable chance of adding to it. Then create a new page. (See Wikipedia:How to start a page for details.) Place the page in a talk or wikipedia namespace. Give it an explanatory name. Often people simply add "archive" to the original name. Explain on the archive page where the text you plan to archive will come from and provide a link. Cut the relevant content from the original page and paste it into the new page. Replace the text on the original page with a link to the archive.

  • Summarize discussion (or refactor): After a discussion on a page has died down for several weeks or the discussion has become heated and long, you (if you can be smart and respectful at the same time) might replace the discussion with a summary of major points, as though you were (!) writing an encyclopedia article about the discussion. If the discussion entailed opposing arguments, present the arguments from an unbiased point of view. Where possible, distinguish the common ground from the points of contention. See Refactoring talk pages below.

  • Keep to the topic: Not layout, but worth keeping in mind. Talk page discussions can be much more humorous and POV than the typical article, but personal attacks don't do much to make articles better.

Example

This article is great. Ortolan88 18:20 Jan 30, 2003 (UTC)

No it isn't! --fish

Yes it is! --wojahowicz

I was talking to Ortolan88! --fish

I like wojahowicz better. Ortolan88

Now, now. Barney Miller[?]


Need this more?

We need an article on kindnesss more than we need this mess. --Alfred the butler

Yeah, but what about rubber baby buggy bumpers? -- Comissioner gordon


Refactoring talk pages

from editing policy

A point of terminology: the notion of refactoring, in the context of a wiki, means basically the rewriting of a page so as to preserve all the useful information on the page. It's relatively rare that one needs to entirely refactor a Wikipedia article--usually, edits and additions are what is necessary.

The purpose of talk pages is to assist in creating better articles. Therefore, the purpose of refactoring talk page discussions is to help create good encyclopedia articles, at least in the long run. A short-run purpose is to channel a discussion in a useful direction, that is, to help aim it at the future time when it can be used in an encyclopedia article.

There are a number of talk or other discussion oriented pages which could use a bit of traditional Wiki refactoring. There's useful content there, sometimes, that can be transferred to the article itself. Sometimes large chunks of old talk pages can be completely wiped out with no harm done--feel free to do so, unless you think there's some value in preserving the discussion. In refactoring a talk page, one solid recommendation is to use the traditional wiki refactoring technique of adding a summary with whatever consensus we've arrived at the top, grouping separate discussion items together, and placing them towards the bottom.

See also



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