The Bots Who Edit Wikipedia (And The Humans Who Made Them)
Wikipedia is one of the most remarkable creations of our time. The free encyclopedia compiles the entirety of human knowledge through a collaborative approach that has proven just crazy enough to work.
Let’s take a look at some of the most active bots on Wikipedia, what they do, and who created them.
Cydebot Updates Lists
Responsible for 4.5 million edits to date, Cydebot is the most active bot on Wikipedia. Its contributions usually involve moving and deleting categories and updating listified pages of categories. These repetitive edits would be quite tedious for a human being, so it makes sense to automate them.
Cydebot is operated by Wikipedia administrator Cyde Weys, who has been editing Wikipedia for 13 years. Professionally a software engineer, Cyde has put those skills to use at Wikipedia by writing three GPL programs as well as Cydebot.
Yobot Tags Almost Everything
Yobot is another very active Wikipedia bot, responsible for 3.7 million edits to date. It handles a number of regular tasks, including tagging articles about fictional characters as such, tagging people who have died as dead, and tagging those who have not died as alive. It also handles some one-off tasks to remove or replace specific content across a large number of pages.
ClueBot NG Detects and Removes Vandalism
Considering that anyone can edit Wikipedia’s content, vandalism is a major concern. ClueBot NG exists to combat this problem, detecting and reverting wiki vandalism quickly and automatically. Using a machine learning system, the bot looks at previous edits that were determined to be vandalism and applies that data to classify new edits as either vandalism or constructive. For each edit, ClueBot NG generates a probability of vandalism. Edits with a probability above a certain threshold are considered to be vandalism and reverted.
Behind ClueBot NG are Chris Breneman (Crispy1989) and Cobi Carter (Cobi). Breneman designed the detection algorithm used by the bot, as well as the core of the bot itself. Carter wrote the interface code for the bot.
RussBot Helps Repair Links and Redirections
RussBot, which has made nearly 1.1 million edits, performs a number of different tasks. One thing it does is repair double redirects: for example, when the page XYZ is a redirect to ABC, and ABC is a redirect to DEF, RussBot will bypass the middleman and point XYZ directly to DEF. Another function it performs (with the help of a human operator) is bypassing links to disambiguation pages, instead linking to a more specific article — like, for example, changing a link from Mercury to Mercury (planet) or Mercury (element), depending on the context.
RussBot is operated by Wikipedia editor R’n’B, who has been widely praised for his disambiguation and anti-vandalism work.
COIBot Reports Potential Conflicts of Interest
Allowing people to edit pages about themselves or their companies can compromise Wikipedia’s all-important goal of objectivity. With over 800,000 edits under its belt, COIBot‘s chief responsibility is reporting such potential conflicts of interest. It monitors edits on Wikipedia and reports link additions where the account name has a significant overlap with the domain of the added link, as well as edits of users whose username is similar to the name of the page being edited. The bot reports possible conflicts of interest to a special page on Wikipedia and in its IRC channels.
Wikipedia editor Dirk Beetstra created and maintains COIBot.
CmdrObot Fixes Common Mistakes
CmdrObot is a correction bot that makes a variety of edits, including correcting spellings based on a growing list of misspellings, correcting the capitalization for the abbreviations for Hertz (kHz, MHz, GHz, THz, etc.), removing unnecessary spaces and adding spaces where appropriate, correctly capitalizing proper nouns, changing a to an and vice versa, replacing U.K. with UK, and correcting malformed HTML.
Behind CmdrObot is “recovering Wikipediholic” Cmdrjameson. “I haven’t added much in the way of new articles,” he writes on his user page, “but Wikipedia acts as a vast playground for my inner pedant; I’ve done a lot of spelling, punctuation and grammar corrections, along with miscellaneous cleaning of markup.”
Sometimes Bots Do It Better
Any resource as massive as Wikipedia demands a great deal of maintenance. And while Wikipedia is very much a human creation, some tasks are simply too repetitive and tedious for any person to do. Bots are great for this , though — and it’s fascinating to see what an impact they’ve had on the world’s largest encyclopedia.
What do you think of the bots that edit Wikipedia? Can you think of any other tasks Wikipedia editors could outsource to bots? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Image Credits: in hand of robot via Shutterstock