Wikipedia:Bot owners' noticeboard

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This is a message board for coordinating and discussing bot-related issues on Wikipedia (also including other programs interacting with the MediaWiki software). Although its target audience is bot owners, any user is welcome to leave a message or join the discussion here. This is not the place for requests for bot approvals or requesting that tasks be done by a bot. It is also not the place for general questions about the MediaWiki software (such as the use of templates, etc.), which have generally a best chance of being answered at Wikipedia:Village pump (technical).

General question about semi-automated editing[edit]

A couple of years ago, I learned to use Macro Express at work (it's a simple keyboard-and-mouse macro), and having need for the same functionality, I bought it a few days ago. Even when I was using it frequently, it often made seemingly random mistakes, so even in my own offline work, I tend to instruct it to wait for an "okay" from me before it saves anything.

I've thought of using it when doing some editing here (e.g. if I've uploaded a bunch of photos that should be added to articles, I set up a macro to copy the files onto the relevant articles), using the following process: the script loads a page, performs the specified modifications to the code, prompts me to approve or reject the edit, and (if I approve it) hits "Save changes" and goes to the next page, or (if I reject it) the macro stops until I reactivate it. I'd like some input:

  1. Because I'd require the macro to wait for my approval on each edit before saving, do I understand rightly that this would be considered semi-automated, comparable to AWB?
  2. It seems that AWB requires no permission to use on specific tasks: you just get added to the approved-users list, and there's no requirement that you get anything comparable to a WP:BOTR before using it, as long as the task won't be controversial. Would that be true of my situation?
  3. Would this kind of process require me to register a separate account, or would it be okay to run on my main account?
  4. Would it be necessary to use an edit summary that mentions that it's not a fully manual edit?
  5. Do we know of anyone in the past who's used keyboard-and-mouse macros for automated or semi-automated editing, and/or anyone who's currently using them? It would help if I could read about their experiences, or ask them if they're still active on-wiki.

I don't think you'd have a way of noticing anything unusual with what I'm thinking of doing, unless you checked my contributions and observed that the edits are going too fast to be manual; that's the only reason, aside from a desire to abide by relevant policy, that I'm bringing this up. Thanks for your input! Nyttend (talk) 00:46, 2 January 2017 (UTC)

@Nyttend: In order:
  1. Yes. If you're approving every single edit, it is considered semi-automated. You still must edit at a reasonable rate. See WP:BOTASSIST.
  2. Yes, assuming reasonable edit rates and no mass changes. If you're going to make identical changes on a massive scale which would require little oversight, you may wish to consider WP:BRFA and the use of a separate bot account with a bot flag.
  3. Again assuming reasonable edit rates and no changes on a massive scale, you could edit from your main account. You may also set up a legitimate alternative account if you prefer, which may be helpful to segregate your edits using this script for review. That's up to you. Note that whatever account you edit from, you are responsible for every edit made using the semi-automated script.
  4. It would be strongly encouraged to aid in transparency. As per WP:BOTASSIST, "Contributors using assisted editing tools may wish to indicate this, if it is not already clear, in edit summaries and/or on the user page or user discussion page of the account making the contributions."
  5. I don't, but others may be aware of this. It isn't normal, but someone must have tried it in the past.
Basically, the goal is to not clog up recent changes, be transparent in how your script operates, and take full responsibility for every edit you make. The rest tends to follow from common sense, but please do ask if you have further questions. ~ Rob13Talk 00:58, 2 January 2017 (UTC)
Thanks for the input (of course I'd welcome additional input from anyone else, too); what you said is what I was guessing, but I've never really paid attention to automation-related things (aside from making bot requests), and aside from the nominate-for-deletion links in the Commons toolbar and the update-this-page link at WP:NRHPPROGRESS, I don't think I've ever made a scripted edit. In my photos example, the process would go as follows:
  1. Macro starts with a Windows Notepad list of filenames and URLs
  2. Take a URL (https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pagename&action=edit, not https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pagename), activate Internet Explorer, put the URL into the browser bar, go to the page, and wait a few seconds for the page to load
  3. CTRL+F to find the spot in the infobox where the photo goes
  4. Back to Notepad, copy filename, back to IE, paste filename
  5. Six tab characters, hit "enter" for "Show changes", wait a few seconds for the page to load, prompt me to decide whether the change is good, and do nothing until I approve or reject the edit
  6. If I approve it, paste an edit summary (something like "Adding photo; semiautomated edit using Macro Express"), four tab characters, hit "Save changes"
  7. Wait a few seconds for the page to load, back to Notepad, get the next URL, and start over.
Does this sound likely to be too fast? I do this kind of task manually anyway on occasion, and always in small batches; go to [1] and look for Burleigh (Concord, North Carolina), together with a few edits immediately before it, for a typical example. Nyttend (talk) 01:11, 2 January 2017 (UTC)

It looks fine to me. -- Magioladitis (talk) 01:42, 2 January 2017 (UTC)

@Nyttend: There's looking fine and actually acceptable. Even though it's already covered by consensus, I would strongly suggest securing a BRFA for this task. I would also suggest that if you're doing this from some proceduraly generated list, why not format it to be done with AWB or get a Bot Author to craft the script for you to drive on (i.e. why are you re-inventing the wheel). I would also suggest making sure you are crystal clear where you're getting data from and where you're inserting this data so that other editors have less landmass to make objections on. Hasteur (talk) 01:48, 2 January 2017 (UTC)
What data? I'm talking about uploading a bunch of images to Commons myself and then using the macro to add these files to specific articles; I'd manually generate the list and just use the macro to do the actual adding. Nyttend (talk) 02:02, 2 January 2017 (UTC)
PS, on the "why" question — I don't want to bother someone else whenever I want to save a little time on inserting a dozen or twenty images into articles (I upload a lot; Commons:Category:Files by User:Nyttend has nearly twenty thousand images), I can save the macro so I won't have to write it anew the next time I do this, I use this macro software at work (and further use makes me better and better at it) as well as potentially on-wiki, so I can use it easily, while I have no idea how AWB works and absolutely no reason to use it on- or off-wiki, so learning to use it for this kind of task would be a waste of time. Nyttend (talk) 04:17, 2 January 2017 (UTC)

Anyone tempted to use this kind of software might like to look at AutoHotkey, a similar, but free, utility for Windows. I have blogged about one aspect of its use, but it's far more powerful than that suggests. I've also just started Wikipedia:AutoHotkey to faciliate discussion. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 13:46, 12 January 2017 (UTC)

I use AutoHotkey all the time, but merely to enter strings like "{{subst:uw-|}} - ~~~~" and "~~~~" (having no "~" on my non-US keyboard), and, normally needing the right Alt-key to type "[", "]", "{", "}", I have redefined less used keys for them. Very nice and free tool, and capable of much more, no doubt. - DVdm (talk) 14:32, 12 January 2017 (UTC)

Removal of data, and Wikidata[edit]

Please see Wikipedia:Village pump (policy)#Removal of data, and Wikidata, which suggests a change to bot policy. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 13:29, 12 January 2017 (UTC)

WP:BOTPOL update[edit]

I've updated the WP:BOTISSUE section of our bot policy. I don't believe the changes to be controversial, but discussion of the changes is certainly encouraged at Wikipedia_talk:Bot_policy#Changes_to_.27dealing_with_issues.27_section. Headbomb {talk / contribs / physics / books} 16:18, 20 January 2017 (UTC)