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RationalMedia Foundation

These are responses to questions frequently asked by very new users. They may be useful to you if you are either:

If you can't find what you are looking for here you should also try RationalWiki:Help - or just ask somebody.

Before reading this guide, new users may wish to read this page, which explains what a RationalWiki article is. It will also be referred to repeatedly in this FAQ.

Of course, in reality, we realize that no one only some people Read The Fucking Manual. But remember, down the road, when you are perplexed, there will be a marginally useful instruction somewhere in this file that might help.

All RationalWiki articles seem to have a specific point of view - why is this?

Yes, we have a rational point of view. We create our articles from this rational perspective, and we attempt to demonstrate the strength of science and the scientific method, and the folly of cranks. If you create an article yourself, please remember that we are not an encyclopedia and follow our mission statements:

  • Analyzing and refuting the anti-science movement.
  • Analyzing and refuting crank ideas.
  • Explorations of authoritarianism and fundamentalism.
  • Analysis and criticism of how these subjects are handled in the media.

Who writes these articles?

They are written by our international (mostly) English-speaking community. No single author "owns" any RationalWiki article although some may have (or have had) primary authors. A primary author has no more say in an article once it is in the community than any other member of the community. As a member of this community you have as much right to edit an article as anybody else.

However, before editing you might wish to read our description of a RationalWiki article, and read about our Point of view, as following these guidelines may help your prose to stay in the article. If you feel that you may be making a contentious edit, you might wish to raise the issue on the article talk page first.

Instructions for starting your own article may be found here.

I have read one of your articles and I totally disagree with it. What should I do?

First please check out our page on what is a RationalWiki article and read our Mission Statement as this may help you to understand where the article is coming from.

If you still have objections then you should raise them on the article talk page. It is better to point out specific errors in the article than it is to post something like, "This is all wrong!!!!" Please remember that if you are trying to change a controversial article, then your objective is to persuade people using reason and logic. If you adopt a condescending or aggressive tone then you are significantly reducing your chances of persuading others.

Under no circumstances simply write a new article on top of an existing article or delete the article. This will probably be reversed as vandalism and you will have reduced your opportunities to make a reasoned case. There are more suggestions about polite editing here.

When you wish to make an argument then you should present it in your own words. If you simply post a link to another website or blogpost saying the answer can be found there you will probably not be taken seriously. An even worse mistake is posting YouTube links as it is highly unlikely that people will spend half an hour listening to them. Remember - make the point yourself.

Our notes on constructive dialogue may also help you if you feel that you may be entering a controversial area.

What standards of behavior are expected?

Please read our Community Standards.

I've seen what looks like an in-joke. What does it mean?

Have a look at our special RationalWiki DysLexicon. It defines many of the terms we use.

How can I tell when you are being serious and when you are joking?

The vast majority of our articles are trying to make a serious point. We often use humour to help make that point. In some cases an article may have a banner at the top making absolutely clear that the article is serious—this is sometimes needed in articles about Conservapedia, where our point of view is almost always snarky. But, in general, just go with the flow.

What are articles and talk pages?

Every article has an "article page" (in some namespaces called other things, like "projects page", etc.) and a "talk page". The content of the article goes on the article page and debate and comment on the article should go on the talk page. Please do not put commentaries on the article page. They will probably be deleted and (hopefully) moved to the talk page for further comment.

What can I do with my user page?

You can put whatever you like on your user page. (With some obvious restrictions like obscenity, slander or racism.) Only you can edit your user page - unless you are arbitrarily convicted of vandalism in which case you will be put in the vandal category and your user page may be edited accordingly. You may appeal this conviction by contacting any RationalWiki sysop. Apart from these exceptions nobody else can edit that page.

Your talk:user page, however, can be edited by anyone and you may not delete items from this page, obvious trolling or spam excepted. (Although you may archive them periodically.) The reason for this rule is to prevent the retrospective re-writing of history which has been known to happen at other Wiki projects.

Most RW members reply to comments on the same page on which they originated. In other words if somebody writes on your talk page you may freely reply there. In other, other words, we don't usually engage in ping-pong conversations.

Why does my name always come up in red?

Your name will continue to come up in red until you (or someone else) put something on your user page. Writing anything on that page will stop your name being shown in red.

How do I put those cool userboxes on my page?

Full instructions can be found here: RationalWiki:Userboxes

How do I sign my posts to talk pages?

To sign normally, enter ~~~~. If you want to make a fancier signature, full instructions can be found here.

How do I indent talk pages?

You will notice that, on talk pages, each comment is indented to the right from the previous comment. This is not an automatic function but users make it happen by inserting colons before their comments. The first replier inserts one colon, the second two colons etc etc. It makes things a lot easier to read.

If you edit (comment) a long talk page, readers will find your words more easily if you edit by clicking on the Edit link on the section header. This gives a link directly to that section in "Recent changes" and "Watchlists", which is where most will find your contribution.

Is there some way I can see what's live at the moment?

Clicking on Special:Recentchanges in the Navigation box will take you there.

How can I keep an eye on articles that interest me?

Click the little star at the top of the page. They will show up in bold in "Recent Changes", and you can see what changes have been made to only those article by clicking on "My Watchlist". You can also edit your Preferences to automatically add any article/talk page you edit to your watchlist (it adds both). More instructions can be found in the help files.

Is there a "Talk about Anything/Everything" page?

If you just want to chat then you're sure to find a welcome in the Saloon bar (There's a link in the "Community" panel on the left on every page). If you wish to raise a subject of general interest to the Wiki and its operation then Talk:Main Page would be the best place to start. If it turns out that there's a more appropriate place, such as an article relating to the subject or WIGO, someone should point it out and the conversation can move to where it will be more likely to attract interested users.

If you want to talk about something which mainly affects you, then putting something on your own talk page may generate interest.

I am not a vandal but I keep running into this message when trying to edit

You are seeing this message because you are a newly registered user and attempted to make two quick edits in a row. In order to make vandalism less fun newly registered users can only make one edit every 15 seconds. This limitation will automatically be taken away from your account very soon. What is this?

This is an anti-vandal measure called the "Vandal Brake" applied to all new accounts. It should go away in two or three days.

What is an "edit conflict?"

As a wiki works by you editing a page and then saving the new version, if you take a long time to work, someone might get there before you! This means that the page - or sub-section - that you're looking at and editing will be out of date and it will produce an "edit conflict" when you try and save your work. You will then get a screen with two edit boxes - the top one will be the current version as saved by the other person, and the bottom one will contain your edit(s).

"Recovering" your efforts has to be handled differently on talk pages and on articles.

  • Talk Pages: Since usually people write discrete "chunks" of text, it's not that hard to copy your text from the bottom box and paste in the top one, remembering to add an extra indent if appropriate - if you are placing it after the new comment one more ":" is usually appropriate. If you are placing your comment before the new comment, one more ":" than the following comment makes the discussion easier to read. On busy talk pages, you might get another EC, so the best bet then is to return to the page without saving and just try editing the section you were commenting in again, pasting in your text as before. Don't just copy all the text from the lower box and place in the top box as you will remove the new comments. Often on talk pages people state that there's been an edit conflict, commonly by putting "(EC)" before their post to indicate that they probably haven't taken the previous post into account yet. Of course, in light of the new post, you might want to rewrite or add something new.
  • Articles: In the case of edit conflicts on articles, you need to be a little more careful and make sure you're not inserting information that hasn't just been put in, or possibly erasing or contradicting it, or generally making the article more of a mess. So, when editing articles, it's best not to edit entire articles at once, and instead go for multiple smaller and shorter edits of sub-sections (this also makes the individual diffs more concise and easier to follow). Don't worry too much, as edits to articles are more spread out in time, and usually less rapid than talk edits like at the Saloon Bar, edit conflicts tend to be very rare. The occasional exception is when someone drags in some wonderful pile of steaming woo to refute, and everyone jumps in to help out.

I was just blocked for a short period of time for no apparent reason - why?

The concept of a "friendly" or "welcome" block is perhaps unique to RationalWiki. New users and especially new sysops are likely to receive a short "friendly block", this is simply our strange way of saying hello. Unblock yourself and give a short block to the person who blocked you. If you've never blocked anybody before it's good practice.

A bunch of sysops are banning each other. Should I be worried?

Not at all. Sometimes, for no good reason at all, sysops will take up their banhammers and wildly attack everyone within range. These fun blocks last for a short period of time, and as the block war usually remains between sysops, no harm is really done. Don't worry, this wiki won't fall apart over the next block war Nods.gif

I created some red links and they were removed - why?

Please remember that RationalWiki is not an encyclopaedia; we have a specific mission and somebody probably felt that your links did not contribute to this mission.

If you create a red link, it is a good idea to also create a corresponding stub article. This is easily done by clicking on the red link and entering a short paragraph or a few sentences on the subject and adding the stub template. If in doubt, raise the issue on a relevant talk page to see what the community in general thinks about it. The odds are that the article will be kept and expanded upon in the fullness of time by the many editors on this site; however, please don't feel offended if the consensus is that the article/link doesn't have a place on the site.

See our full red links policy here.

Can I link to Wikipedia?

We link to Wikipedia articles in order to provide useful background information that falls outside the scope of our mission.

When you link to Wikipedia, use {{wpl|whatever article you're linking to}}, which will appear like this: evolutionWikipedia's W.svg.

In footnotes, you can use {{wpa|article title}}, which will appear like this: "See the Wikipedia article on Evolution."

It is possible to link directly to a Wikipedia page by using [[WP:article title|article title]] (e.g. evolution) but this should be avoided in articles (unless you make it very clear that you are linking to Wikipedia) as it looks like an internal page link rather than an external one and readers may not realise they are clicking on a link to another website.

Somebody has covered my article in [citation needed]s!

Assume good faith. They probably are not going after you, but are looking for citations for certain statements.

Where can I test something to see how it works?

Use the sandbox.

What does "Autopatrolled" mean?

Put simply, when you make edits from an account that isn't autopatrolled (i.e: an account that is new or from an unregistered IP address), the changes you make appear to a RationalWiki sysop or moderator in the page's history and in Recent Changes with a red exclamation point next to them. This means solely that the edit has not been reviewed and approved as acceptable by an administrator, but does not otherwise indicate the quality of the edit. When you are given "autopatrolled" status, it means that you have a consistent pattern of good edits to the point that either a sysop or moderator feels that, generally speaking, nobody needs to keep an eye on your edits anymore; that you have been affirmed to be editing the Wiki in good faith.

Doesn't RationalWiki just exist to promote vandalism at Conservapedia?


Although analysing Conservapedia falls well within our mission statements, we refer to it much less than we used to. We do not condone vandalism of other wikis, and most of us feel quite strongly on that point. Conservapedia is not really relevant to RationalWiki's current mission although there is nostalgia for it from some of our longer term editors.

See also