Wikipedia:Bots are annoying

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Bots are annoying. Not only bots are annoying, but also scripts and certain forms of automated editing.

A boy gazes at robots; perhaps he is looking at their blank faces and wondering "are they friend or foe?"

Currently (March 2008), Wikipedia reverts vandalism in about under a minute, so if you create and run an anti-vandalism bot, you aren't actually contributing any content to the project.

Wikipedia also presently has a massively increasing quantity of content (over 5.4 million articles), which is not being offset by an overall rise in quality.

So, if you are mass-generating directory entries, even if your work goes undisturbed by the community and isn't deleted under WP:DIRECTORY, you are paradoxically hurting Wikipedia's credibility by spamming mass amounts of content without any regard for the article's quality and without ever making any attempt to expand it beyond an article stub.

Bots often do more damage than they fix[edit]

Often, poorly designed bots or scripts can create massive problems which may take a substantial amount of time to undo or may even require another person to program another bot to undo the damage by the first. Even assuming bots are well-designed, they can still be extremely vexing for a new or unregistered user who has to fill out a tedious form to prevent their edits from being auto-reverted by a bot.

Right now, the bot approval process is sloppy. Bots are approved by a handful of users, who are bot-owners themselves, in the Bot approvals group and aren't officially obligated to adhere to the will of the community. The records of bots at Wikipedia:Bots/Status are inaccurate and out-of-date. Such records don't actually correspond to those with bot flags and those with bot flags may not even by on the list. Many bots don't likely have bot flags nor are recorded. Worst of all, the old records at Wikipedia:Bots/Status have yet to be properly archived. Many bot-owners also aren't apparently aware that they have to seek approval, while currently approved bot-owners make substantial revisions to their bots without re-applying for approval for such modifications.

Bots are a risk[edit]

In conclusion: Bot usage must be carefully regulated by the community because of the potential risk they pose. Currently, Wikipedia's main problem is lack of high-quality content, not typos, vandalism, or lack of obscure directory entries.

So, if you are running bots to perform these tasks, you may be a good programmer, but you aren't being very useful to Wikipedia.

But if you want to program bots...[edit]

Aside from these basic, annoying and arguably not-too-useful bots, here are a variety of ways in which programmers could contribute to Wikipedia:

  • write innovative scripts designed to identify unreliable sources or fringe views
  • identify tabloid sources in biographies which could signal WP:BLP violations
  • expanding the features of Twinkle (and combining the features from other scripts), and
  • cleaning up the bot status records, and much of the Wikipedia data framework, period.

Much of this is not done, however, because it's actually hard work and isn't something that would enable you to generate the highest edit count per every line of code written. Yes, WP:editcountitis is a goal for some editors!

So, if you are a bot programmer or bot-owner, please don't be careless.

See also[edit]