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Wikipedia talk:IRC/wikipedia-en-help

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New helper policyEdit

The following discussion is an archived record of a request for comment. Please do not modify it. No further edits should be made to this discussion. A summary of the conclusions reached follows.
There is consensus for the changes. The majority opinion is that it is a low bar for helping and would be helpful when dealing with unhelpful members of the IRC channel. AlbinoFerret 19:29, 16 January 2016 (UTC)

It has been proposed that the Who can help? section be replaced with:
Voiced (+v) channel members provide assistance to those who need help. A user may request to be voiced if they meet the following qualifications:
  1. The user must have at least 250 total edits on Wikimedia projects (check)
  2. The user's Wikimedia account must be at least 3 months old
  3. The user must be in good standing on Wikimedia projects and related IRC channels

Inappropriate conduct, including poor and incorrect answers or incivility, may lead to the removal of voice and the expectation that the user stop trying to help other users. Failure to do so, or further inappropriate conduct, may result in removal from the channel.

Users who are currently blocked and/or banned from English Wikipedia will not be permitted to help or idle in the channel.

Rough consensus was reached in the #wikipedia-en-helpers connect channel, but the proposal will remain here for a week in case other channel members wish to comment. GorillaWarfare (talk) 21:58, 26 April 2015 (UTC)


  • Noting here that the consensus in -helpers included that this will be selectively enforced. --L235 (t / c / ping in reply) 23:49, 26 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Well, I was helpfully assisting in the channel before I met those criteria. In the past I have witnessed unhelpful advising from voiced users that did meet the criteria, indeed even ops. If someone is helpful they should be encouraged to stay, if they are unhelpful they should be shown the door - not sure the bureaucracy helps much. --nonsense ferret 00:15, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
    • The "bureaucracy" here is largely because the requirements explained here have largely been what we've enforced when it comes to new helpers in the channel who are new to Wikipedia. The channel operators, including myself, have been struggling somewhat with referring to what has been practice for some time, but what is not actually recorded anywhere. GorillaWarfare (talk) 00:32, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
      • does the proposal bring it into line with who can respond at the helpdesk or who can respond to {{help-me}} templates on-wiki, why would the rules be substantially different? --nonsense ferret 01:07, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
        • The behavior patterns on enwiki and on #wikipedia-en-help are different. This proposal is a response to specific problems that have been observed on IRC and not with users responding voluntarily to {{help-me}} templates. —Tim Pierce (talk) 04:50, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
          • Which raises the point that a proposal has been brought forward here with no indication of what has changed, or what the specific mischief being aimed at might be. As is often remarked hard cases make bad law, and I expect that raising the bar to helpers much higher than it seems to be on-wiki will discourage rather than encourage new helpers. I note that Chzz's comments have now been archived and it is a shame we are no further forward in resolving the questions he/she raised. IRC is, as far as I can see, still not part of wikipedia other than using its name. Those who decide who can and can't help are not chosen or removed by any wikipedia process. --nonsense ferret 12:47, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
            • Not entirely true. To be an IRC op is tied to being an on-wiki admin or functionary (or staff). So, the processes are still connected and tied together. The whole purpose of the IRC channel is to support on wiki questions in real time as opposed to using talk pages. People aren't required to have an account to help on a talk page, nor are they required to reveal their IP to everyone. As such, they also shouldn't be required to do those things to help on IRC if they are in fact helping. — {{U|Technical 13}} (etc) 12:58, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
              • Since when has it been tied? Are there no ops that aren't on-wiki administrators? --nonsense ferret 13:03, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
                • Since always and not that I'm aware of. The solution to stopping trouble people on IRC is to +qb those people, not to set limits to drive away new potential helpers. — {{U|Technical 13}} (etc) 13:17, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
                  • "Since always and not that I'm aware of" - you may be unaware, but that doesn't change the reality. There is no formal tie, and there does seem to be ops that are not administrators according to official list. Nonetheless I agree with you that setting these limits are not that helpful. But maybe IRC is risky and in which case it might be possible to implement the same rules as the Wikipedia Volunteer Response Team, so all helpers must be registered as helpers there. --nonsense ferret 13:24, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Does one not currently require a wiki cloak to be auto-voiced which also carries it's own requirements before it is granted, which are identical? If so what would this extra level of bureaucracy going to accomplish? Or can we just write it to require a cloak to be a helper? As for anti-idle and less then helpful users I can agree with and having something written, but will help only justify it for the people doing the kicking as I'm sure about 90% of people don't read the page in the first place.- McMatter (talk)/(contrib) 01:24, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
    • We do not currently require helpers to be voiced. Similarly, there are requirements (e.g., email address) for cloaks that are not necessarily useful for -en-help. The idling and unhelpful users bits are largely identical to the current policy. GorillaWarfare (talk) 01:32, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
ok So now my next point if you don't want to use cloaks how are you going to be able to enforce this? You are not required to login into your Wikipedia account to be on IRC and one could claim to be almost anybody on Wikipedia, once on IRC. This is nothing more then smoke and would only stop the honest people. I would propose a more straight forward idea of simply putting if you are asked to stop or warned by a voiced user, you face being kicked or banned from the channel by an OP, if the behavior does not stop. We shouldn't be putting up road blocks to new helpers, but should be supporting the helpers that are there now.- McMatter (talk)/(contrib) 16:44, 28 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Sounds ok, and it's at least good to have things written down rather than just agreed on within IRC because it reduces the chances of people needing to have them explained. ekips39talk 02:44, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
    However, the current explanation of why blocked/banned users aren't allowed to help should stay. Removing that makes it sound like we're just trying to shun them. ekips39talk 02:56, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
  • I am in full support of this. I dream of horses (T) @ 02:52, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Support. WP:IAR would be okay in special cases (unusually competent users). — kikichugirl oh hello! 03:08, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Support. This is, frankly, no less than I expected of the existing formally designated helpers. I'm in support of any measure that would codify those expectations and would give ops the authority to kick disruptive users who don't meet even this very low bar. —Tim Pierce (talk) 04:53, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
  • I Oppose an arbitrary edit count requirement since edit count is just a number and a person with 0 edits can have read and understand all relevant policies. We are also excluding IP editors who may have years of experience and thousands of edits more than our existing helpers but there is no verifyiable record of it. — {{U|Technical 13}} (etc) 09:41, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
    • It's not "arbitrary" as it was borrowed from another process. And in response to your comment on IP addresses - can we not play hypothetical? Also note that channel ops can voice people they feel should be, despite not meeting the above guidelines. They are meant to be a starting point to curb some of the issues the channel has been facing lately. Rjd0060 (talk) 09:51, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
      • Doesn't change the facts that people have to not only have a Wikipedia account to help, but they have to release personally identifying information if they want to help. Yes, I keep hearing "but we can grandfather in all the people that don't meet the current requirements because they don't want a cloak or they don't want to identify or...", and knowing how actual helpers start and come and go in that channel, this proposal bottlenecks our already limited actual helpers. There are only two helpers that are currently active on a regular basis in the channel that were there when I started. And very few helpers when they started would have met the requirements in this proposal. This suggests to me that within 6-12 months there will only be a few helpers actually helping and the channel will die because new helpers won't be able to help as they will not meet the requirements. This makes me sad. — {{U|Technical 13}} (etc) 10:37, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
    • The reason that the IP address thing would not fly is because the other day we had a disruptive user claiming to have over 100k edits, yet they still made newbie mistakes and were unable to verify their requisite experience. Some of their answers were not very civil or helpful, and as a result, the user had to be banned. That is the catalyst for this. In effect, Articles for Creation - many of the questions that are asked are for AFC - which requires 90 days and 500 edits, so some relevant experience (the bar lower) would be good. The problem was that this specific user complained that there was no rule that they were violating and thus had the right to remain in the chat, although they were being unhelpful. We were a bit at a loss for words since the policy is unwritten, and it would be good to have a policy to refer a disruptive editor to in order to be able to reasonably enforce the policy. As mentioned before, there is always WP:IAR. — kikichugirl oh hello! 19:08, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
    • T13, if this proposal is implemented it will serve as a test of your prediction, and if it proves true we can always change it back. ekips39talk 00:08, 28 April 2015 (UTC)
  • I tend to agree with Technical 13, while many processes use them, edit count and account age metrics are really a poor stand in for editor competence. If we acknowledge that there have been good helpers in the past that did not meet the requirements, we should make sure the guideline doesn't foreclose the chance for future such helpers to be identified and allowed to help. Maybe throw in a proviso along the lines that While it is intended that most help come from voiced helpers who have met the guidelines, individuals are permitted to provide help without being voiced, but should be careful to make sure they have the requisite knowledge to provide high quality help. The voicing criteria are designed as a benchmark for when most people reach that point, so please be particularly careful in offering help if you do not yet meet them ? Monty845 14:04, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
    That could be good too. ekips39talk 00:08, 28 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Comment. If the objective is to provide a good mechanism for ops or admins to kick or mute unhelpful or disruptive users, it might be better to take a step back and look at other ways we might achieve that goal. If we do, then suggestions from people who disagree with this proposal would be especially helpful. —Tim Pierce (talk) 16:20, 27 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Support I don't buy most of of T13's objections. These requirements are better than nothing and even if arbitrary, they've served their purposes in other areas. And also, to avoid confusion I think only voiced users should be able to help.--Jasper Deng (talk) 00:19, 28 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Support. Quite a low bar for potential helpers. APerson (talk!) 13:41, 28 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Support Opppose without modification - provided some leeway for especially competent users, and new helpers shouldn't be shooed off if they're help isn't good, instead they should be guided by other helpers. Darylgolden(talk) Ping when replying 13:57, 28 April 2015 (UTC) I originally placed my vote as support, but I am particularly disturbed by this statement: "Inappropriate conduct, including poor and incorrect answers or incivility, may lead to the removal of voice and the expectation that the user stop trying to help other users.". I am in full support of removing voice and asking helpers who are uncivil to leave, but not helpers who provide poor help. If helpers provide poor help, they should not be shooed off, instead they should be guided and mentored. Everyone starts off as a poor helper, and if this statement is taken literally, then there will be no more new helpers as all of them would have been shooed off when they were starting off. In addition, I dislike the use of "must" in the first two criteria. Even RfA has no official edit count and age criteria, though nominations who do not meet a certain number of edits and of a certain account age are likely to pass. Helpers who show their competence but do not meet the first two criteria should still be voiced and allowed to help. 250 edits and three months should just be a general guideline. Thus I propose the following changes.
  1. Inappropriate conduct, including intentionally malicious poor and incorrect answers that harm the project or incivility, may lead to the removal of voice and the expectation that the user stop trying to help other users. Failure to do so, or further inappropriate conduct, may result in removal from the channel. Assume good faith of helpers who provide poor answers, while guiding and teaching them to be better helpers.
  2. "The user must have at least 250 total edits on Wikimedia projects; The user's Wikimedia account must be at least 3 months old""It is unlikely that users with less than 250 edits and a 3 month old account will be voiced."
Thanks, Darylgolden(talk) Ping when replying 09:49, 29 April 2015 (UTC)
    • Darylgolden, a question: is there any degree of poor or inaccurate help that you think would justify asking an editor not to help? If an editor consistently and sincerely provides wrong, confusing, or questionable help -- which has happened before -- that doesn't have a substantially different effect from a user who is deliberately trolling editors with wrong answers, so it's not clear to me why we wouldn't apply the same rules here. It certainly is reasonable to want to guide and mentor a user who doesn't have the knowledge to help effectively, but that mentoring is likely to take the form of "please don't help just yet but spend some more time learning about Wikipedia first." —Tim Pierce (talk) 12:01, 29 April 2015 (UTC)
      • Tim Pierce, I do believe there is indeed a level of incompetence where editors should be told not to help. I should have been more clear that I was referring to editors who are relatively familiar with the policies, but not so familiar with helping users, thus explaining things poorly, or some other mistake. If an editor is not familiar with our policies, then of course they should gain more experience before helping. However, I think the policy doesn't make it abundantly clear about this - "poor or incorrect" answers make it seems that a user who made only one mistake can be told to leave. I believe adding "consistently" in front of "poor or incorrect" will help alleviate some of the concerns I have, and possibly T13's. And "stop trying to help other users" makes it sound permanent, so adding "until the user gains more experience" in front of that will again make me feel more at ease. So I think the only reason I am currently opposing the policy is because my interpretation of it makes it seem overly harsh, so I think adding those words, as well as stating that 250 edits and 3 months is a general guideline, would make me change to support, and perhaps help T13 change his opinion as well. It seems most of T13's opposition comes from these two points as well. Darylgolden(talk) Ping when replying 13:15, 29 April 2015 (UTC)
        • Is it really true that everyone starts off as a poor helper? I can see starting as a mediocre helper, but someone who knows this place well probably won't give poor or incorrect answers. Other than that your suggestions sound good. ekips39talk 22:34, 29 April 2015 (UTC)
    • If this is a policy, no leeway can be provided or there will be accusations of playing favorites and not following policy. We can't let RANDY do it and not let the EXPERTS do it. — {{U|Technical 13}} (etc) 15:08, 28 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Support Support, but it needs to be clearer as per Darylgolden (talk · contribs), as we should not shoo them off, rather take them an train them a bit untill they can help in the channel. TheMesquitobuzz 18:32, 28 April 2015 (UTC) I still support it, but i think the point that kelapstick made is vaild as the current wording it would just shoo people away that might be a good helper. Just because someone does not have 250 edits does not mean they are not a good helper and we should be able to determine our self's as if they are going to be good helpers, and this can be used so an OP has something to point to on-wiki if someone needs to be shown the door. TheMesquitobuzz 01:34, 30 April 2015 (UTC)
    • This proposal means that if they don't meet the minimum requirements they will be shooed off. It will be policy, plain and simple. — {{U|Technical 13}} (etc) 18:40, 28 April 2015 (UTC)
      • Actually, it doesn't say a thing about what happens if they don't meet the minimum requirements. It probably should. I think the idea is to let them help if they're helpful but don't meet the requirements; that seemed to be the gist of what people were saying on IRC. ekips39talk 03:26, 29 April 2015 (UTC)
        • except this proposal says only people who are voiced can help and only people who meet these requirements can be voiced. It also says anyone who gives any advice that not everyone agrees with (bad advice) for any reason will be devoiced and disallowed from helping. If they try to help again they will be kickbanned. — {{U|Technical 13}} (etc) 03:37, 29 April 2015 (UTC)
          • I've read the proposal. My point stands. ekips39talk 04:54, 29 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Support - Mlpearc (open channel) 18:41, 28 April 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose without modifications: Just because someone has 250 edits and a 3 month old account, doesn't mean they necessarily know what they're doing enough to be able to help someone else. You should be judged on how well you do what you do, not on how long you've been able to try and do it. CharlieTheCabbie|paġna utenti|diskussjoni 23:46, 28 April 2015 (UTC)
    • This is what I've been trying to say. It's not how many minor edits you have (spread across all the projects) or how long you've had an account (didn't use mine for almost two years), it's how well you are actually helping and how willing you are to accept when a senior helper says something different. — {{U|Technical 13}} (etc) 23:56, 28 April 2015 (UTC)
      • All I hope is that common sense and reason will prevail, and that we won't wind up excluding people who may actually be able to help other users, simply based on some silly criteria which may put them off. Remember that they can come into the helpers channel without +v anyway, so they can help regardless. What you gonna do? Kick them all out, or quiet everyone who isn't +v? CharlieTheCabbie|paġna utenti|diskussjoni 00:04, 29 April 2015 (UTC)
        • The plan seems to be to kick select persona non grata attempting to disrupt -help with dodgy advice, and point to this policy as a fair and open justification for the kick. The criteria to be used to determine when to apply the policy and when not have not been enumerated --nonsense ferret 00:18, 29 April 2015 (UTC)
Vetting ? mini-RfH ? Mlpearc (open channel) 00:47, 29 April 2015 (UTC)
  Works for me @Mlpearc CharlieTheCabbie|paġna utenti|diskussjoni 00:05, 30 April 2015 (UTC)
  • I totally agree. Having a hard rule on who can help will not be helpful. Even RfA doesn't have a hard rule for number of edits and account age, so why should this have one? If a user doesn't meet the 250 edit and 3 month criteria but still turn out to be competent to help other users, they should be allowed to help. One of such unusually competent users is Quinto Simmaco, who has only been here for two months but have turned out to be an excellent editor, and excellent helper. I've regularly seen him helping new users and his help is perhaps better than most of the helpers currently. Darylgolden(talk) Ping when replying 00:02, 1 May 2015 (UTC)
  • If an editor cannot handle being told politely "you need some more experience on Wikipedia before being able to dole out advice on how to edit Wikipedia" without huffing off and quitting, they probably are not very well suited for helping on IRC at this time. Changing the must to should in the first two criteria is fine for leaving an IAR contingency for people who don't strictly meet the criteria, but are suitable enough to help. If someone comes in brand new, but wants to help, let them hang out and see how it is done, where better to learn. We really shouldn't be coddling people here, and you should have some semblance of maturity to do this sort of thing. Having the "I am going to take my ball and go home forever" attitude if they don't get their way immediately does not match well with that. --kelapstick(bainuu) 23:21, 29 April 2015 (UTC)
I would agree that the must in the criteria would benefit from being changed to a should. Quite simply, IAR is absolutely needed in this process. As you say, let new visitors wishing to help, watch and learn. We really must be happy to teach those who want to be taught, and happy to accept help from those who have the skills to provide it. CharlieTheCabbie|paġna utenti|diskussjoni 00:05, 30 April 2015 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of the debate. Please do not modify it. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Share your thoughts on moving away from IRCEdit

Hi all. About two years ago I jotted down some thoughts on the IRC help channel and how we might improve it with a purpose built tool at User:Samwalton9/Live help. Recently I've been giving it some more thought and would like to make at least some progress towards researching and developing an improved system. I think there would be innumerable benefits to creating a better tool for helping users; IRC is far from the ideal platform for us. I wanted to invite you to read through my (somewhat disjointed) thoughts there and edit and comment as you want. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Sam Walton (talk) 09:45, 19 November 2016 (UTC)

We should keep in mind the big negative – that many "casual" helpers won't be on such a live help area. For instance, I only stick around in the helpers channel because I'm on other IRC channels (admins, revdel, commons, otrs-en, bag, etc), but people semi-regularly grab me for issues that an admin is needed for or that I have some special knowledge of (templates, etc). Some of that specialized help might be lost if you move to a new platform. I doubt I would pop open a second program just to be available. ~ Rob13Talk 09:59, 19 November 2016 (UTC)
@BU Rob13: This is a good point - do you think it might be offset by the increased visibility of the live help facilities, which in turn might lead to an increase in the number of helpers? Sam Walton (talk) 10:33, 19 November 2016 (UTC)
@Samwalton9: Yes and no. Yes, you may get new helpers. No, they may not be the kind you want. First, I doubt the more "specialized" helpers will be drawn in by a new platform. Second, the "difficulty" of navigating to IRC (and it really isn't that difficult) is perhaps a barrier against new or incompetent editors "helping". I think you'd get more helpers, but they may not be the kind of helpers you want. ~ Rob13Talk 10:35, 19 November 2016 (UTC)
Against. As it is, I'm mainly in -en-help because I'm in other freenode channels, and I've no inclination to use a different client WMF has worked on after the VE and Flow debacles. I will also note that this doesn't solve a major issue we have with -en-help - we have a few "regular" banned users who come on specifically to give us a runaround while other users are seeking help, such as User:Supdiop. The IP addresses being public knowledge on IRC are a boon, because it allows us to quickly suss out potential problem users if their IPs on Wikipedia are already proxy blocked. And given that -en-help work is a very thankless task (though this is mainly due to most of the helpees coming in wanting to use Wikipedia to self-promote) and we have a dearth of active users during dead-of-night/early morning hours (when we get flooded with Subcontinent-based helpees) and that this doesn't solve those issues, this proposal isn't feasible. —Jeremy v^_^v Bori! 10:08, 19 November 2016 (UTC)
@Jéské Couriano: I'm not sure the banned users/IP topic is an issue, because we have plenty of processes here to deal with that; I would see the help feature only being available if you're not blocked on Wikipedia, so I'm not sure that this would be an issue. As for the lack of night/morning editors; one aspect of this idea would be that the tool would provide sensible "There doesn't appear to be anyone available, here are some links (Help Desk, Teahouse) where you can get help." style message. That's difficult to do in IRC, especially since we don't have a good idea of how many helpers are present and active at any given time because of the amount of idlers. Sam Walton (talk) 10:42, 19 November 2016 (UTC)
@Samwalton9: Most of the sorts of people who come in during the night/early morning tend to be paid (or at least irreconciliable COI) editors whose only interest in Wikipedia is its Google exposure. For every one Subcontinent user with a reasonable question we get about 50 who're looking to use Wikipedia for promotion, and about five of that group (on average) has a poor grasp of English or refuses to take no for an answer. Shunting them to the Help Desk or Teahouse directly won't help, since they'll just ignore those and start right to work on creating their article directly. We need knowledgeable live helpers for this. —Jeremy v^_^v Bori! 17:57, 19 November 2016 (UTC)
@Jéské Couriano: While I don't disagree with anything you said, isn't providing them with another venue to get help only an improvement on the current situation? I think the broader concern comes down to where we will have more helpers - would we get more on IRC or on-wiki? That's something I don't know the answer to, but I would argue (based on limited evidence) that we would have more helpers through the proposed tool than on IRC as a result of the increased exposure to the facility and improved ease of access. Sam Walton (talk) 18:02, 19 November 2016 (UTC)
Return to the project page "IRC/wikipedia-en-help".