Wikipedia is probably the most impressive crowdsourced endeavour in history, but if you think that every little edit is being clacked out in the basement lair of some volunteer, you’re very wrong. Wikipedia relies on an army of bots to keep the quality of articles high and the online army of trolls at bay.
The BBC has a great look at the bots that buzz around behind the scenes of the mammoth encyclopedia. Consider ClueBot NG, which is used to detect vandalism on Wikipeida. It’s a sophisticated program administered by five volunteers that uses algorithms — not a list of dirty words — to detect when an illegitimate edit has been made to an article. According to its developers ClueBot NG catches 55 per cent of all vandalism. Not bad!
Bots are as old as Wikipedia itself, and they’re absolutely necessary for its continuity. The encyclopedia is getting bigger every day, and as we pointed out last week, the number of human editors and admins is declining. Sure, maybe it’s a little troublesome that bots have so much control, but as the BBC points out, they’re not allowed to write articles, and only admins with the highest privileges could send a bot out to delete articles wholesale.
That’s all well and good, but what happens when they do become self-aware?! [BBC]