Each page or article has an associated "Talk" page which is accessed through the "discussion" tab at the top of the page.
The main purpose of these talk/discussion pages is to allow people reviewing the page to make comments or suggestions without modifying or disrupting the existing content of the main article. This is especially useful in the case of "protected" pages. A protected page can only be edited by an administrator; however, the associated Talk page can still be added to, so comment can still be made.
Mostly, editing the Talk page is just like changing a "regular" page, but there a few differences.
Monobook and other older wiki skins
When you edit a Talk page, you will see a tab with a "+" symbol at the top of the page. It is not immediately obvious what this is for, but it allows you to create a new heading to go along with your comments. These headings work very much like the headings you might use in the main article, but there is no need for the Talk headings to match those used in the article.
OpenUru and Vector wiki skins
The default wiki skin used here and other skins employing the Usability Initiative enhancements handle Talk page headings in exactly the same way as the main article: In the Editor, type your heading text into the required position on the page, highlight it, then open the Advanced menu, drop down the Heading list and select the required heading level.
Try to avoid creating a new heading if there is an existing topic on your subject; it is probably better just to add to the existing discussion in such cases.
If several people are making comments and replies, then the Talk page can become very confusing to read! But the Talk page has a solution - signatures! If you type in ~~~~ after your comment then the wiki will sign and date your remarks. For example, typing:
I just wanted to make this comment. --~~~~
will appear as:
I just wanted to make this comment. --UserName 16:42, 31 January 2009 (UTC)
The two dashes in the example are optional - they just help space things out.
To make this even easier, the toolbar above the editing box has a "Your signature with timestamp" button, usually the second button in from the right, which inserts
Talk pages can collect a vast amount of feedback and exchange, especially if large pages or topical subjects are involved. Over time and as the article develops, some of the discussion will become obsolete and possibly confusing to a new reader. So, once you reach concensus on a point you may want to tidy things up, but bear these things in mind:
- Deleting old, redundant discussion will simplify the Talk page, improving accessibility for other users. However, this is at the cost of losing some of the history that shaped your article as it now is, although that history is preserved on the "history" tab, albeit in a less accessible form. You also need to be careful that you don't delete any active discussion matter or material that current discussions depend on for intelligibility.
- Leaving all comment on the Talk page is the simple option as it essentially requires no effort! The down side is that a reviewer may not spot an existing discussion in amongst a busy Talk page and start a duplicate commentary somewhere else, diluting the value of the effort, and leaving you with the choice of merging the discussions or maintaining the "hands-off" policy.