Encyclopedia > Wikipedia:Bots

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One of Wikipedia's rules to consider: avoid using bots.

Wikipedia bots are automatic processes interacting with Wikipedia over the web. Bots could be used to generate articles and others could be used to edit or even destroy articles: see types of bots and history of Wikipedia bots. Well-designed bots can provide concrete benefit to the Wikipedia project. However, because the system was not designed to handle bots, even a good bot has some drawbacks.

Table of contents

Current rules to consider For the current situation, the burden of proof is on the bot-maker to demonstrate the following:

  1. The bot must be useful
  2. The bot must be harmless
  3. The bot must not be a server hog[?]
  4. The bot must be approved by someone

You must get permission from an administrator before using a bot or you can have the bot move slowly so that no one notices it is not actually a human being.

Benefits and drawbacks

Benefits bots can offer

  • Provides a good template of pre-formatted data for contributors (see how the Newton, Massachusetts entry has been expanded; imagine if the Periodic Table were used to start the 100+ articles for the elements Note: This has already been done)
  • Potentially provides a unique resource not directly available elsewhere on the web (the small-town bot is a good example of a well-designed bot--see Ram-Man's description of the data acquisition process - uck!)
  • Provides full coverage in cases where an a priori undeterminable subset of the data has a high likelihood of being (or becoming) interesting even though a randomly chosen entry has a low probability of being interesting / useful.

Inherent drawbacks of using bots in current system

  • Adds tens of thousands of entries to Wikipedia that are unlikely to see a human edit any time soon (in fact, we could probably extrapolate the nearly exact rate at which they will get edited by seeing how many have been edited so far)
  • Artifically inflates the perceived activity of Wikipedia
  • Can be perceived as tilting (and possibly could tilt) the purpose of Wikipedia away from being an encyclopedia and towards being a gazetteer / Sports Trivia Reference / etc.
  • Danger of abuse by "vandal-bots", or just "clueless-bots". A bot running out of control could potentially cause heavy server load or even a denial of service attack.
  • General complaints about interference with normal contributor operations, esp. Special:Recentchanges.
    • In response to popular demand, a feature has been added to hide edits by registered bots from display in Recentchanges; currently Rambot is the only such. To include bot edits in Recentchanges, manually add hidebots=0 to your query string (/w/wiki.phtml?title=Special:Recentchanges&hidebots=0). A smoother RC filter will be added in the near future.

These pros and cons apply to bot additions in the aggregate--individual bot entries raise issues similar to those of stub entries. In fact, they're often one and the same.

Any graceful solution would provide the automatic functionality of the pros without the negative consequences of the cons.

Currently Running Bots

  • The rambot will be running periodically in the next days and weeks. See User:rambot for the bot's IP Address.

See talk.

See also Wikipedia:types of bots and Wikipedia:history of Wikipedia bots.

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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