User talk:MartinHarper/refactoring

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This page is for specific talk on refactoring muckups, and occasional praise. People can put stuff on my user talk page too - I'll only move it here later on.

Why have a special page? Well, of everything I do on wikipedia, refactoring is probably the most controversial, as well as the trickiest. Plus, it would seem odd to refactor complaints about refactoring!


Martin, why'd you delete my comment at Village pump regarding Zog? Is he/the thought so evil every reference to he/it should be deleted? Or was it just irrelevant? --Geoffrey

Now that he's gone, it seemed doubly irrelevant. Put it back if you think it still needs saying.
See DissuadeReputation for the theory behind these edits... :)

I do like your idea of moving talk comments relating to banned users to their user pages. --mav

And particularly those by the banned users. -- John Owens

I'd like to thank you on behalf of everyone, especially myself, for getting rid of as much troll talk as possible. This is a very tedious endeavor that few would have been willing to take on. 172

It's an application of Linus's law - every task is non-tedious for someone :)

Brilliant work re banned users. To quote from that great intellectual and philosopher, Ali G. respect! ÉÍREman 00:24 May 4, 2003 (UTC)


I don't think it's a good idea to move talk page stuff into the article space if you are not at least willing to wikify and npovify it first. Maybe "it will be fixed", but dumping unedited comments in the article space is like dumping public domain or FDL source material from elsewhere and expecting others to rewrite it. --Eloquence 15:17 May 4, 2003 (UTC)

I am planning to fix it eventually, honest. :)

Thankyou Martin. (Not that that particular comment was especially important.) I shouldn't have been so snappish; you were only trying to ensure some sanity on the talk pages and meant no harm. I apologise for my tone just now. Tannin

No need to apologise, Tannin - I wasn't offended. Please always feel free to straight out revert any stuff like this that looks dodgy :) <dubious analogy to circumcision snipped>

Hello, Martin. I found this comment by you on User talk:Shino Baku/ban:-

"I debated whether to anonymise Shino's comments and eventually decided to do so. While nothing's been proved, the evidence seemed compelling enough to take this minor step. My apologies to Shino if this is a case of mistaken identity."

I'm afraid that I don't understand what you mean. It is customary for messages on the Wikipedia to be signed so that we know who has written them. This is very helpful, for example in following discussions. I reverted one of your anonymisations(?), since I didn't see any reason for it; then I thought, "Hang on, Martin isn't a vandal; perhaps he has a reason for this." So I had a look, and found your note. Unfortunately, it has left me none the wiser. Please explain! -- Oliver P. 19:54 May 5, 2003 (UTC)

Fair comment. The theory is here DissuadeReputation. I've been applying it in a kind of trailblazing manner to see what people thought. Feedback is welcome - so far I've had mixed reviews... :) Hopefully, by clever use of "(anon)" and indenting I've retained the flow of the conversation. If you feel I haven't, then that's obviously something I should look into.

Well, I've checked further, and I am even more perplexed. The earliest of your anonymisations that I have found is at Talk:Rodney King, where you summarised your edit as "anonymising a comment". However, checking the page history, I find that as well as removing Zog's signature, you removed a huge chunk of text, and edited Tannin's reply as well (removing the name "Zog"). So you are not only removing people's signatures, but also altering people's messages and then hiding the fact with inaccurate edit summaries. I can't think of any reason not to just revert all of your "anonymisations", but perhaps if I try very, very hard, I can restrain myself for long enough for you to reply. -- Oliver P. 20:13 May 5, 2003 (UTC)

It was indeed a mis-summary. I should have summarised more like "anonymise Zog, plus remove some pointless rhetoric".
It should be noted that a number of Wikipedians feel that all edits made by all banned users, ever, should be reverted. I feel that by merely editing Zog's comment I'm applying a lighter touch. In this particular edit, I removed a chunk of text from Zog that seemed more about slagging off Tannin than improving the entry. I don't see the modification to Tannin's edit as particularly critical - it was one word only, and followed logically from removing Zog's signature.
Feel free to revert any edits I make to talk page - I'm generally experimenting with editing talk pages to summarise/move/refactor/... and I'm bound to make some errors along the way. Perhaps my first error is to consider it at all? Martin

Thanks for the reply. I agree that your changes to Zog's and Tannin's messages do little harm to the main purpose of the page, which is to discuss the Rodney King article. But I don't see how they do any good, either.

Firstly, about changing the actual text of a message: I strongly believe that other people's messages shouldn't be changed, because if they are, then they are no longer really their messages at all. When people omit words from quotes in printed works, they use ellipsis to show that the quotes have been edited. Leaving no indication that a quote has been edited results in an inaccurate quotation regardless of whether it is "better" or "worse" than the original. Come to think of it, even if the ellipsis were indicated, it would still be wrong, because a message on a talk page is, in a sense, the original message that the author wrote, and not a quotation of it.

Furthermore, changing only part of a discussion changes the nature of the discussion. If person B replies to person A, and then person A's message is altered, then person B's reply is no longer a reply to the preceding message. If you remove something that slags someone off, but leave the reply as it was, it may appear that the person replying is overreacting or being overly defensive to what has been said.

Refactoring a talk page is another matter altogether. This is useful if pages get too long and unwieldy, and people can no longer follow what is going on. I think that refactoring should be done by making a NPOV summary of what has been said by whom, with quotes if necessary, but of course it should be clearly labelled as a summary. But this is just an aside, as I don't think you were refactoring the page, as such.

Secondly, about removing signatures: I maintain that this is seriously unhelpful. How can anyone follow a debate if they don't know who is speaking? How can someone understand why an unnamed person is defending Zog's edits, without knowing that they are Zog? If we end up with the impression that it is someone other than Zog defending them, it actually makes them look more credible! Is that what you want? What do you want? You say that it is something to do with "DissuadeReputation". What does that mean? I think it means that you want to discourage bad users from contributing. How does removing their signatures do that? Most of them probably won't even notice that you've done it. If they come back, they probably won't go back through their past arguments to see what you've done to them. And even if they do notice what you've done, how will it discourage them? If I saw that someone had tampered with something I had written, I'd just change it back! I see no reason why they wouldn't at least be tempted to do the same. It seems to me that you're inviting them to make edits.

Thirdly, about labelling the messages as "anonymous": well, this is just an assertion of something - i.e. a claim that the author is unknown - that is simply untrue. Okay, so we don't know the author's real name, but a pseudonym is still a name (albeit a false one), and so to claim that a message is "anonymous" is an untruth. Oh, and they're bad, by the way. ;)

I noticed that after replying to the above, you changed and "anonymised" your own edits to a page in my user area - namely, User talk:Oliver Pereira/and0rod. I have reverted your changes - ah yes, you've noticed. Now what was that about? If your "anonymising" is a "DissuadeReputation" thing, I can't imagine what this implies about your self-esteem. ;) Again, if you write a message, then your signature should be attached to it. This is how things are done in the Wikipedia. It enables us to know who said what, and this is a Good Thing. Are you now ashamed of what you wrote, and want to distance yourself from it? I'm just hypothesising wildly here; I don't get what you are doing at all.

And in this case, labelling your own contributions as anonymous is even more untrue, because I know your real name. :)

If you have some reason for doing all these strange things, could you please explain what your reasoning is? Linking to MeatballWiki doesn't help me - nothing that anyone writes there seems to make any sense. Are they all aliens there, or what? I've read some of its contents, mostly because Wikipedians keep linking to it to illustrate things, but I'm afraid that I don't get it. Is there some purpose to it? It seems to be just full of strange people involved in full-time navel-gazing. And that bloody CamelCase really makes reading very tiring... >:(

Final point: on May 2, 2003, someone sent a message to the mailing list. It was rather a good message, I thought, and made some quite sensible points. For example:-

  • Are we trying to ensure the integrity of the banning system?
  • Are we trying to punish racists for being evil people?
  • Or are we trying to build an encyclopedia?

Our aim shouldn't be to "crack down" on trolls, for the sake of cracking down. Instead, we should practice harm reduction. When usenet lore talks of "don't feed the trolls" it means ignore them - not deliberately seek them out in order to ban them or revert them. People have talked of the time burden from Zog's ~150 edits.

So if you listen to the advice of this very sensible chap, you might find that he's advising you to work on encyclopaedia articles, rather than hunting around for troll messages to fiddle with. Now, who was it who wrote that e-mail again...? ;) -- Oliver P. 01:48 May 7, 2003 (UTC)

Nice essay :)
re: Rodney King - the good of removing the rhetoric is that future readers of the talk page don't have to read pointless stuff, so they spend less time reading it, or can read more of it, etc. It makes the page focus on the important stuff, and makes it less likely that future conversation will be side-tracked. And if the page later needs full-fledged refactoring, then it's easier. It's really all the same benefits as big bang refactoring, but not as difficult.
re changing people's messages - yeah, I probably should have stuck "(paraphrased)" at the end and used an ellipsis to indicate that some text had been removed. I guess I must have been (for some reason) thinking that "anon" implied "paraphrased", but that's not true. I'll edit/revert appropriately.
re changing the nature of the discussion - I agree this is a potential problem, and I try to avoid it. If I remove a pointless slagging-off, then I'll remove any pointless responses to it. "paraphrased" markers help, of course - where I remember to put them in.
re removing signatures - you make some very good points, and you obviously feel quite strongly about this. I guess "name removed" is clearer than "anon". I've had a little experience with the "business end" of banning - I've been (temporarily) banned myself once, and I've several online friends and ex-friends who've been banned in one form or another. One of the irritations people seem to have with being banned is having their text and name still being on the system, and not being able to either defend themselves or retract their comments.
re editing my own comments - well, I was refactoring - I pick these things up through "what links here" to my user page, and if I'm not feeling up to refactoring the entire thing, for whatever reason, then I'll just refactor my own comments. I had thought that editing one's own words was considered perfectly reasonable? I removed my sig because I didn't feel my sig added much to the sum of human knowledge. I rephrased my initial comment to make clearer the two objections I had. In the second comment I trimmed out a pointless reference to Deeper than Smigititdidgit. The final comment I felt was rendered unnecessary by events. I'll try again, and you can judge my success in listening to feedback... ;-)
re my touch of hypocricy in my mailing list post, you'll note that later in the post I commented to the effect that I was still thinking through these suggestions, so they may be inconsistent with recent actions. One difference is that I've never complained about how removing sigs takes up too much of my time. This may or may not be significant... ;-)
Anyway, so far I'm going to make the following changes in approach:
  • Remember to put in "paraphrased" markers ("rephrased" for my own comments)
  • use "sig removed" rather than "anon"
  • reconsider removing other people's sigs at all (I'll mull it over during the next week or so)
  • In any case, not deliberately search for such comments - with the exception of keeping ban-talk on ban-pages.

I still think it "wrong" to immediately refactor a discussion after it happened (or even an ongoing discussion). There is no reason to hurry doing such a job (except in case of vandalism perhaps), and imho, it was rude of you. Better wait at least a couple of days, if not weeks, before doing so to avoid hurting other people feelings. But, hey, some people are cleaners by heart. I guess this is your case. I am more slow and conservative. Free wiki-kiss. (user:anthere)

Yeah, I'm something of a minimalist at heart :) But it sounds like you're thinking of a particular instance? could you drop me a link? I do try to avoid being rude... Martin
[1] precisely. I was trying to gather my thoughts on this, also to write two articles on en about Donella Meadows meanwhile. Wrote to someone I did not know at all, dropped him the links to discuss it with him. When he dropped by, the discussion was gone. All refactored, any superfluous hair tightly hidden under the cap. Well...that is not how my mind works. I am the dispersed type. I put thoughts, till I succeed to gather them. I saw your refactoring as a negation of my thought process. This would have been perfect on a wiki article. This would have been ok on meta a month later perhaps; it would have been ok if you had moved all to the talk page. But no. This doubly as you refered to a wikipedia article to shut me up, as if a wikipedia article was necessarily a "true" reference.
I intended to work more on this article, give more simple and relevant examples in the list perhaps. Now I fear that if I do an edit, when I come back the next day, my thoughts are gone.
I've restored the text at meta:Talk:Twelve leverage points, and will respond there... have done.

Why do you insist on moving my comments, and only my comments, from your talk page? This is very insulting. 172 15:28, 2 Aug 2003 (UTC)

172 - look two lines above. I just moved Evercat's comment to User talk:Evercat/PP. I've also just moved one of Jtdirl's comment to the talk page of STV, moved an old unanswered question to user talk:Evercat and given a belated reply. I do this all the time, and I'm not targetting you here.
In this case, I thought your reasons were of general interest to readers of talk:New Imperialism, and specifically Graculus, so I moved them there. That way, people can follow the thread of these things easily, without wandering around talk pages.
I know that you didn't like my editing of user talk:Angela, and I am sorry for upsetting you. However, I felt, and still feel, that this kind of cut-and-paste crossposting is spam, and not appropriate. Can you understand why I feel that? Martin 16:14, 2 Aug 2003 (UTC)


I have summarized much of the discussion on Boyer and on the "Criteria for Inclusion of Biographies" page, but more needs to be done in order for there to be a conversation that people can follow. Too, the other policy pages under development (autobiography, verification) need summarizing. Not much fun I know, but I'm asking if you could help with that. I don't want to be the only one doing it.

--Kat 18:14, 10 Aug 2003 (UTC)

Thanks for going through the Village Pump archives and putting comments in context. That's the kind of refactoring I can appreciate. --Eloquence 19:47 2 Jul 2003 (UTC)


Signing other people's comments is entirely reasonable - I do it regularly for Anthere, people have done it for me, and I've done it for 142.177.etc before now, without objection. I don't think it's at all controversial - yours is the very first revertion I've had. So I reinstated.

Ok, no problem. When I first read it, it seemed like what Cyan was saying no longer made sense if the comment had been signed, but on re-reading, I realised he was talking about the use of the word 'someone' rather than the comment itself. Angela

it becomes clear. :)

And to me, as well... <strokes chin looking thoughtful> -- Cyan 01:03, 30 Aug 2003 (UTC)

Martin, I'm glad someone with the wit and gumption to do it, has begun refactoring the talk pages. Please do mine, too! --Uncle Ed 19:38, 4 Sep 2003 (UTC)

village pump[edit]

You can't just delete other people's comments from the middle of discussions! CGS 12:45, 19 Sep 2003 (UTC).

If you don't want your writing to be edited mercilessly and redistributed at will, then don't submit it here. ;-)
I thought leaving your comment in might change its meaning too much - but thanks for the feedback.

Yeah, ok. But would you be happy with me mercilessly editing comments that you have signed? Perhaps adding some insults or making you look stupid? You have to be careful editing things that people have said in the meta pages, they're different to the articles. CGS 14:24, 19 Sep 2003 (UTC).

Be bold in editing my comments - they're GFDL'd for a reason.
I don't think I've made anyone look stupid, or added insults to anyone's comments.
I agree with you that when we do any talk-refactoring, we need to be careful.
In this case, I was concerned that leaving your comment, while deleting mine, might misrepresent what you were saying, but I see that I was wrong, and should have left it.

That's fine. I wasn't clear in what I originally said and you can't be expected to know what I was thinking, especially when I purposefully didn't write what I was thinking! It's a dangerous job this refactoring, but thank you for doing it- not just on problem users, but all the other pages you do too. :) --Angela