To date, I have not been a major contributor of content to Wikipedia--I have contented myself to browse, learn, and correct grammar, spelling, NPOV, and facts where I know them. In doing so, I am bound at some point to make someone mad. If so, please post a comment on this page, which I read. So you might understand why I say and do some of the things I say and do, a little about me:
- I believe that Wikipedia should allow people to learn and find answers to their questions quickly. For this reason, I try to make pages smaller, where that makes sense; I myself find it easier to find my bearings among many small pages whose relationships are clear, than in one big page.
- I am not interested in flame wars. I think that to be part of Wikipedia, it is necessary to believe that there is a large body of concepts, people, things, and events about which we agree and can say useful and interesting things. When we step away from that realm, discussions begin to revolve around which person or group of people are right, rather than what statements are true. I am still trying to learn to stay out of those discussions--I'm never pleased with myself when I contribute.
- I think one of the things that drives many flame wars are discussions around the definitions of words. When discussing ideas and truths, words are only important for communication--we can use any words we want, as long as they get us both to the same idea. When the discussion becomes about people, words and their definitions become much more important. Words are important territory to hold in a flame war--if I can get you to define a word my way, then suddenly all the people who have ever used the word become my unwitting accomplices. If you win the definition battle, then many quotes using that word--some of them perhaps my own!--become your ammunition against me. I try to always remember that if my beliefs are true and useful, they will be strong even after every word has been twisted.
- For all the above reasons, I find /Talk pages to be often unhelpful. If I had my way, before editing a page, I could pop over to the /Talk page, and find out several things:
- What edits to the page have been made or proposed, and their status: whether the edit has been made, and whether the edit is disputed.
- For disputed edits, a _summary_ of the thoughts of each side.
- Discussion, none of which is more than a week old, directed toward an eventual resolution to be included in one of the two sections above.
- Archived discussion, for points that are settled or passe.
- The point is that /Talk pages should strive for to the same objectives as Encyclopedia entries: concise, interesting, and meaningful content, and a neutral point of view. In this case, the subject is not the history of England, but the history of a single Wikipedia article.
- I find that many /Talk pages on Wikipedia are instead long, hard-to-read collections of thoughts and criticisms, many unsigned, with an eye to the benefit of the writer, not of the reader. Thus, I will refactor these pages where I can easily do so, and ignore them in other cases, in favor of better helping to build the true content.
Please let me know if you believe these principles are wrong, or if I have misapplied them in any given case. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Thank you.
Hi David and welcome. I like your ideas, but am not sure about refactoring Talk pages. You are absolutely right in much of your commentary regarding them, but I think that they should be left intact until a satisfactory article is posted. Also, the talk pages occasionally do end up with interesting stuff that could eventually be posted to standards or FAQs, so refactoring might make that more difficult. I definitely think you have a great idea about reading the talk before jumping into an article, though. -- Anonymous.
Anonymous, thanks for your thoughts. Based on your feedback, I've added the comment on "Archived discussion above". I think it is best to focus on adding summarizing content at the top of /Talk pages, rather than deleting discussion. Perhaps my use of the term "refactoring" confused that issue. Let me know if I've understood you. Thanks. -- DavidSaff