FamilySearch Wiki:Talk Page Guidelines

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Nearly every page on FamilySearch Research Wiki also has a Talk page. A Talk page is a space for editors to discuss improvements to articles and other pages. Talk pages are named the same as their associated pages, the only difference being that they have "Talk:" before their name.

When writing on a Talk page, certain approaches are counter-productive, while others facilitate good editing. The prime values of the Talk page are communication, courtesy and consideration. The following list is designed to help the contributor use talk pages effectively.

Wikipedia has more about this subject: Wikipedia:Talk page

Maintain policy[edit | edit source]

The policies that apply to articles apply also (if not to the same extent) to Talk pages, including verification and neutral point of view policies. There is of course some reasonable allowance for speculation, suggestion and personal knowledge on Talk pages, with a view toward prompting further investigation, but it is usually a misuse of a Talk page to continue to argue any point that has not met policy requirements.

How to use article Talk pages[edit | edit source]

  • Communicate: If in doubt, make the extra effort so that other people understand you. It is equally important for you to understand the viewpoint of others. Being friendly is a great help. It is always good to give an explanation of your views. It is less helpful for you to voice an opinion without explaining how you came to have that viewpoint. Explaining an opinion and listening to the opinion of others helps all to reach consensus.
  • Keep on topic: Talk pages are for discussing the specific article, not for general conversation about the article's subject or more periforal topics. Keep discussions focused on the improvment of the associated article. Irrelevant discussions are subject to removal.
  • Be positive: Article Talk pages should be used to discuss ways to improve an article. The Talk page is not a venue used to criticize, pick apart, or vent about the current status of an article or its subject. If you feel something is wrong, but are not sure how to fix it, then by all means feel free to draw attention to this and ask for suggestions from others. 
  • Stay objective: Talk pages are not a forum for editors to argue their personal point of view about a controversial issue. They are a forum to discuss how the different points of view obtained from secondary sources should be included in the article, so that the end result is neutral and objective (which may mean including conflicting viewpoints). The best way to present a case is to find properly referenced material.
  • Deal with facts: The Talk page is the ideal place for all issues relating to verification. This includes asking for help to find sources, comparing contradictory facts from different sources, and examining the reliability of references. Asking for a verifiable reference to support a statement is often better than arguing against it.
  • Share material: The Talk page can be used to store material from the article which has been removed because it is not verified, so that time can be given for references to be found. New material can sometimes be prepared on the Talk page until it is ready to be put into the article.
  • Discuss edits: The Talk page is particularly useful to talk about edits. If one of your edits has been reverted, and you change it back again, it is good practice to leave an explanation on the Talk page and a note in the edit summary explaining your actions. The Talk page is also the place to ask about another editor's changes. If someone queries one of your edits, make sure you reply with a complete, helpful rationale.
  • Make proposals: New proposals for the article can be put forward for discussion by other editors if you wish. Proposals might include changes to specific details, page moves, merges or turning a section of a long article into a separate article.

Good practices[edit | edit source]

  • Sign your posts: To sign a post, type four tildes (~~~~), and they will be replaced with your username and time stamp, like this: User:Example user 13:21, 9 May 2008 (UTC). Please note that it is impossible to leave an anonymous comment because your user name or IP address is recorded in the page history.
  • Avoid excessive markup: Well-reasoned arguments are undermined with the appearance of force through Italic text, Bolded text, and especially CAPITAL LETTERS, which are considered SHOUTING, and RANTING!!!!! Italics, however, can be usefully employed for a key word, to distinguish quoted text from new text and, of course, book titles etc.
  • Be concise: If your post is longer than 100 words, consider shortening it. Long, rambling messages are difficult to understand, and are frequently either ignored or misunderstood. If you need to make a detailed, point by point discussion, see below for how to lay this out.
  • Keep the layout clear: Keep the talk page attractively and clearly laid out. Avoid repetition, muddled writing, and unnecessary digressions. Talk pages with a good signal-to-noise ratio[1] are more likely to attract continued participation. See WP:Talk_page_layout
  • Keep discussions focused: Discussions naturally should finalize by consensus versus fatigue.
  • Read the archives: Many article talk pages contain links to archives, which contain earlier discussions. If you are a new editor to an article, be sure to read them, as they often deal with common content disputes and resolutions to them. You may well find your questions and/or objections have already been answered.
  • Use English: No matter to whom you address a comment, it is preferred that you use English on Talk pages in the English version of the wiki. This is so that comments may be comprehensible to the community at large. If the use of another language is unavoidable, try to also provide a translation of the comments. If you are requested to do so and cannot, you should either find a third party to translate or use an internet translator.
  • Centralized discussion: Avoid posting the same thread in multiple forums. This fragments discussion of the idea. Instead, start the discussion in one location, and, if needed, advertise that in other locations using a link. If you find a fragmented discussion, it may be desirable to move all posts to one location, and linking to it. Make sure you state clearly in edit summaries and on Talk pages what you have done and why.
  • Be welcoming to newcomers: People new to wiki may be unfamiliar with policy and conventions. If someone does something against custom, assume it was an unwitting mistake. Politely and gently point out their mistake, reference the relevant policy/guideline/help pages, and suggest a better approach.
  • Comment on content, not on the contributor: Keep the discussions focused upon the topic of the Talk page, rather than on the personalities of the editors contributing to the Talk page.

Behavior that is unacceptable[edit | edit source]

Please note that some of the following are of sufficient importance to be official FamilySearch Wiki policy. Violations (and especially repeated violations) may lead to the offender being blocked or banned from editing.

  • No personal attacks: A personal attack is saying something negative about another person. This mainly means:
    • No insults: Do not make ad hominem attacks, such as calling someone an idiot or a fascist. Instead, explain what is wrong with an edit and how to fix it.
    • Do not threaten people: For example, threatening people with "admins you know" or having them banned for disagreeing with you.
    • Do not make legal threats: Threatening a lawsuit is highly disruptive, for reasons given at the linked page.
    • Never post personal details: Users who post what they believe or the personal details of other users without their consent may be blocked for any length of time, including indefinitely.
  • Do not misrepresent other people: The record should accurately show significant exchanges that took place, and in the right context. This usually means:
    • Be precise in quoting others.
    • When describing other people's contributions or edits, use diffs. The advantage of diffs in referring to a comment is that it will always remain the same, even when a talk page gets archived or a comment gets changed.
    • As a rule, do not edit others' comments, including signatures. Exceptions are described in the next section.
    • DO NOT ask for another's personal details.
  • Do not impersonate other editors
  • Do not claim to be an administrator or claim to have an access level that you do not have, as this can be highly disruptive and may cause other editors trouble in the cleanup process. User access levels can be checked at Special:ListUsers by anyone.
  • Do not use the talk page as a forum or soapbox for discussing the topic. The Talk page is for discussing improving the article.

Editing comments[edit | edit source]

Others' comments[edit | edit source]

It is not necessary to bring Talk pages to publishing standards, so there is no need to correct typing/spelling errors, grammar, etc. It tends to irritate the users whose comments you are correcting. The basic rule is: Do not strike out or delete the comments of other editors without their permission.

Never edit someone's comment to change its meaning, even on your own Talk page.

Editing others' comments is sometimes allowed, but you should exercise caution in doing so. Some examples of appropriately editing others' comments:

  • If you have their permission
  • Removing prohibited material such as libel and personal details
  • Deleting material not relevant to improving the article (per the above subsection ).
  • Removing personal attacks and incivility. This is controversial, and many editors do not feel it is acceptable; please read WP:RPA and WP:CIVIL#Removal of uncivil comments before removing anything.
  • Unsigned comments: You are allowed to append {{unsigned}} or one of its variants to the end of someone's comment if they have failed to sign it. The form is {{subst:unsigned|Example user|DATE AND TIME}}, which results in —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Example user (talk | contribs) DATE AND TIME.
  • Interruptions: In some cases, it is OK to interrupt a long contribution, either with a short comment (as a reply to a minor point) or with a heading (if the contribution introduces a new topic). In that case, add "<small>Heading added for (reason) by ~~~~</small>"). In such cases, please add {{subst:interrupted|USER NAME OR IP}} before the interruption.
  • When a long comment has formatting errors, rendering it difficult to read. In this case, restrict the edits to formatting changes only and preserve the content as much as possible. Generally, page formatting can be fixed as well. This could include moving a new comment from the top of a page to the bottom, adding a header to a comment not having one, and providing wikilinks if it helps in better navigation.
  • On your own user talk page, you may remove others' comments, although archiving is generally preferred.
  • If a signature violates the guidelines for signatures, you may edit the signature to the standard form.
  • In the past, it was standard practice to "summarize" talk page comments, but this practice has fallen into disuse. Minor refactoring of talk page comment edits are still appropriate.
  • If a thread has developed new subjects, it may be desirable to split it into separate discussions with their own heading. When this is done, the new thread should start by explaining what has been done and why, with a link to the original thread. A note should be placed at the original location, with a link to the new thread(s). Some reformatting may be necessary to maintain the sense of the discussion to date: it is essential that splitting does not inadvertently alter the meaning of any comments.
  • Section headers: Because threads are shared by multiple users, the original title becomes communal property. To avoid disputes it is best to discuss changes with the editor who started the thread, if possible, but it is generally acceptable to change section headers when a better header is appropriate. This is under the purview of threads themselves being shared property rather than a single editor's comments.
  • Disambiguating or fixing links (if the linked-to page has moved, or a talk page section has been archived, or the link is simply broken by a typographical error, for instance).
  • Hiding or resizing images: You may re-size over-large images; or hide an image (e.g. change [[image|foo.jpg]] to [[:image|foo.jpg]] by adding a colon) once discussion of it has ended.
  • De-linking categories: you may make category links inactive (e.g. change [[Category: foobar]] to [[:Category: foobar]] by adding a colon) to prevent the page from being added to a discussed category.

Own comments[edit | edit source]

It is best to avoid changing your own comments. Other users may have already quoted you with a diff (see above) or have otherwise responded to your statement. Therefore, use "Show preview" and think about how your amended statement may look to others before you save it.

Substantially altering a comment after it has been replied to may deny the reply of its original context. It can also be confusing. Before you change your own comment, consider taking one of the following steps:

  • Contact the person(s) who replied (through their Talk page) and ask if it is okay to delete or change your text.
  • Use strike-through or a place-holder to show the comment has been altered.
    • Strike-through is typed <s>like this</s> and ends up like this.
    • A placeholder is a phrase such as "[Thoughtless and stupid comment removed by the author.]". This will ensure that your fellow editors' irritated responses still make sense. In turn, they may then wish to replace their reply with something like, "[Irritated response to deleted comment removed. Apology accepted.]"
    • Please do not apply strike-through to other editors' comments without permission.
  • When modifying a comment, you can add a parenthetical note pointing out the change. You can also add an additional timestamp by typing ~~~~~ (five tildes).

Disputes[edit | edit source]

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If you have a disagreement or a problem with someone's behavior, please read FamilySearch Wiki:Dispute resolution.

See also[edit | edit source]

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

  1. Signal-to-noise ratio is a measure used in science and engineering to quantify how much a signal has been corrupted by noise