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Wikipedia: a Bot’s-Eye View

By Hersch

As the Twenty-First Century drags on, more and more aspects of our daily lives are dominated by digital gizmos, and more and more common tasks are automated. So, then, why not Wikipedia? In recent years, automated programs, also known as robots or “bots,” have demonstrated that they can sign comments left on talk pages, revert vandalism, check for copyright violations on new pages, add or remove  protection templates, and archive talk pages more expeditiously, with fewer errors, and with more civility and less drama than the human editors. Should we be looking forward to the day when Wikipedia will be fully automated, where bots will trawl the net for news sources and automatically include every last tidbit of gossipy trivia about celebrities or fictional television characters, rendering Wikipedia’s human editors entirely unnecessary?

Ah, but I can hear the objections already. Can bots be programmed to be snarky and disingenuous? Will they be able to upload sexually explicit photos of themselves? I know that some of you are prepared to argue that there are some aspects of human behavior which can never be successfully duplicated by what some like to call “artificial intelligence.” And most importantly,  from the standpoint of a crowd-sourced online neo-encyclopedia, can a bot push POV?*  Does a bot even have a POV?

These are questions which demand answers. In order explore the topic further, we present these YouTube videos where the bots themselves grapple with the most fundamental questions about what it means to be a Wikipedian.




* [for the novice reader, to “push POV” is WikiSpeak for the practice of slanting Wikipedia articles so that they conform to one’s own set of biases, or “point of view.”]

(This blog post was originally published September 2, 2012)

Video credits: Wikipediocracy


9 comments to Wikipedia: a Bot’s-Eye View

  • Tim Davenport (Carrite, Randy From Boise)

    Very cynical and fairly funny videos. They actually led me to another one that you haters have probably already seen a couple dozen times already — Professor Wikipedia.



  • Oz

    Cynical, eh? I think the cynics are the ones that know the game is rigged, yet they continue to play it.

  • Tim Davenport (Carrite, Randy From Boise)


    It’s a massively valuable public educational resource, a project that inevitably comes with certain dysfunctional aspects in its practical implementation.

    What I wonder about are those who dedicate their lives to the attempt to destroy an institution that clearly isn’t going to vanish.


    • Luchog

      The only ones who seem to be dedicated to destroying Wikipedia are the administrators.

      As for its value, the sheer volume of error and misinformation negates that to a very great degree. Its “certain dysfunctional aspects in its practical implementation” are the fundamental principles it is built on, and the sole reason it can never live up to its advertising.

      I spent too much time there trying to fix egregious errors, only to have been subject to edit wars and POV activism, to ever accept anyone’s claim of educational value. It has little to none by comparison to traditional resources.

  • Mit

    All the information depicted in the four videos are completely wrong. That’s not how wikipedia works.

  • Some User

    Most of the bots on Wikipedia suck, especially BetaCommands NFC bot. The bot is supposed to be able to detect invalid images so that they don’t hit Wikipedia, but what it really does (and not even all that well) is check to see if there’s a valid license on it. Problem with that is the bot operates in straight text mode, so should you code your own license, even if it’s valid the bot rejects it because it;s not one that it knows about, when the bot op is contacted, they tell you you have a bunch of ‘wiki code’ and not a license. It would help if those bot ops actually operated in something other than text mode ,, and some other bot other than the one Beta Command coded up !

  • De-Sysop the admins

    @Some User

    You’re absolutely right, and in fact, his bot is still being used in en.wikipedia.org by a different user.
    Bots sucks on images!

  • De-Sysop the admins

    ^^^ In case you’re wondering. it’s Carnildo and his “Image Tagging Bot” or whatever he calls it these days. It’s obviously Beta’s bot, re-named!

  • Mike Cleven

    @ Mit – you’re in denial; they’re a very accurate account of how “consensus” works and what “admins” think like and what they do; the butt-kissing part I’ve seen in action more than once.

    Ignorant people empowered to block informed, articulate ones, is what I see more and more of. And behaving like rude jackasses towards they’re bullying and blocking, while talking about “behavioural controls” superseding valid content and valid POV complaints.

    Not that I look anymore since getting blocked for going to bat over rankly POV content and SOAP behaviour/SYNTH; but all so familiar, and so boring … and disgusting.