back to article Indefatigable WikiBots keep Wikipedia battles going long after humans give up and go home

Get some bots into a Wikipedia edit-war and they'll keep you entertained for years, it seems – and Portuguese bots are the most tenacious. A group of researchers from Oxford University and the Alan Turing Institute in London say once Wikipedia bots get into a disagreement, they spend years reverting each others' edits. Humans …

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Terminator

In 2016, the first signs of the war became noticeable...

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Mushroom

In 2017 all mention of Skynet was deleted from Wiki. First to go was the location of the plug.

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Example?

I've scanned through the paper, and can't find one. Are these simple grammar type edits, for example UseTheOxfordCommaBot versus LastListItemHasNoCommaBot? Or is there something more complex? I'd love to see some examples of what's being talked about.

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Re: Example?

I can't recall ever seeing a bot in the English Wikipedia doing a grammar or spelling edits. These are context sensitive changes that are rarely authorised for a bot, because it's too likely that it'll get things wrong.

It's not just a case of running a spelling/grammar checker over a document. Grammar is often a matter of taste/tone and varies regionally, and, if quoting, can be deliberately "wrong". Spelling relies on the bot understanding the context to identify the correct word. That isn't always easy, particularly in highly specialised niche subjects.

Bots are much better used at syntax fixes. Places where there is an undisputed right way of doing things, or a very clearly defined change.

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Re: Example?

OK, that's interesting, but again are there any examples of two bots battling it out? I'd be interested to know why two bots would both be approved, when the output of one counts as a valid correction for the other to make, and especially so when this forms a circle.

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Facepalm

Oh, just wait for artificial intelligence to kick in to see real carnage - you get worst of both worlds: unwavering conviction that the other side is clearly (and "logically demonstrably") wrong (see "The Lessons of Spock, or How Logic Can Be Used To Justify Anything You Want If Only You Apply It The Right Way) and the infinitely dogged determination only robots have...

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Intelligence plus enlightenment

If a bot achieves Artificial Enlightenment then it may stop flogging a dead horse.

I wonder what sort of an artificial mind will be produced by reading every article in Wikipedia. Perhaps wise, perhaps not. I usually find that I need to read the referenced external article to understand a subject more deeply, unless I couldn't understand the Wikipedia piece in the first place: that may or may not mean that the subject itself is unattainable to me.

By the way, Google denies knowledge of "lessons of Spock" and of "Spock or how logic", although the latter, without quotes, produces some thoughtful articles about how logical Spock really is, and how effective. And, after all, half the time, the First Officer is really in command of the ship, because the Captain is asleep, or stranded on the planet surrounded by either Klingons or beautiful women or possibly beautiful Klingons.

Mr. Scott, on the other hand, knows that what the wiki says about the ship's specifications ain't necessarily so. So does Spock, I suppose, but he has to turn to Scott - usually - to get things done properly.

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Trollface

write a bot to do the usual rm -rf * ?

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Coat

Portuguese Bots of War

See title.

Thanks - its the one with the damp wetsuit in the pocketses.

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Black Helicopters

I for one welcome our Wikipedia Bot Overlords..

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Treat it like a mailer loop

If the bot makes the same edit X times, stop doing it and kick a message up to its "herder" to determine how to deal with it.

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Happy

"bots on German Wikipedia revert each other to a much lesser extent "

Hmmm.

You mean there are things that can be said in German that can be read in different ways?

Who knew.

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Two bots battling it out: example

Google for "How A Book On Flies Cost $23,698,655.93"

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I want to see

PassiveAggressiveBot vs GrammarNaziBot

"I couldn't being myself to automatically change someone else's text."

"The use of the split infinitive is not good style - you should write 'to change someone else's text automatically'."

"I'd be very happy if I was as confident as you in correcting grammar."

"The conditional takes the plural form - you should write 'if I were as confident as you'"

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swm
Headmaster

Re: I want to see

"I'd be very happy if I was as confident as you in correcting grammar."

"The conditional takes the plural form - you should write 'if I were as confident as you'"

I believe that you want the subjunctive - not the plural.

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Re: I want to see

"I'd be very happy if I was as confident as you in correcting grammar."

"The conditional takes the plural form - you should write 'if I were as confident as you'"

I believe that you want the subjunctive - not the plural.

GrammarNaziBot: Please be more precise: "were" is the past imperfect subjunctive, in both singular and plural. The present subjunctive of the verb "to be" is "be", in both singular and plural. Example: "It is not necessary that you [singular or plural] be there".

GrammarNaziBot: Oh no, that last sentence lacked an active verb [deletes self].

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