Everything Food & Drink:Bot policy

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Bot policy covers the operation of all bots and automated scripts used to provide automation of edits, whether completely automated, higher speed, or simply assisting human editors in their own work

Definitions

Shortcut:
EFD:BOTS
  • Bots (short for "robots") are generally programs or scripts that make automated edits without the necessity of human decision-making.
  • Assisted editing covers specifically lower-speed tools and scripts that can assist users to make decisions but leave the actual decision up to the user (see Assisted editing guidelines below). Any program or tool which does not allow the user to view each edit and give an instruction to make that edit (that is, one which can edit without the operator looking at and approving the change) is considered to be a bot.
  • Scripts are personalized scripts (typically, but not exclusively, written in JavaScript) that may automate processes, or may merely improve and enhance the existing MediaWiki interface.

Bot usage

Because bots:

  1. are potentially capable of editing far faster than humans can;
  2. have a lower level of scrutiny on each edit than a human editor; and
  3. may cause severe disruption if they malfunction or are misused

the community expects high standards before a bot is approved for use on designated tasks.

Operation of unapproved bots, or use of approved bots in unapproved ways outside their conditions of operation, is prohibited and may in some cases lead to blocking of the user account and possible sanctions for the operator.

Administrators blocking a user account suspected of operating a unapproved bot or an approved bot in unapproved ways should block indefinitely.

Note that high-speed semi-automated processes may effectively be considered bots in some cases, even if performed by an account used by a human editor. If in doubt, check.

Bot accounts

Contributors should create a separate account in order to operate a bot. The account's name should identify the operator or bot function. Additionally, it should be immediately clear that its edits are made by an automated account; this is usually accomplished by including the word "Bot" at the beginning or end of the username. (Bots active on other wikis may need to use other means to indicate this.) Bots must only edit while logged into their account, bots which often attempt to edit while logged out should use AssertEdit, or a similar function. Tools not considered to be bots do not require a separate account, but some users do choose to make separate accounts for non-bot but high-speed editing.

The contributions of a bot account remain the responsibility of its operator, who must be prominently identifiable on its user page. In particular, the bot operator is responsible for the repair of any damage caused by a bot which operates incorrectly. All policies apply to a bot account in the same way as to any other user account. Bot accounts are considered alternative accounts of their operator for the purposes of the user account policy.

Bot accounts should not be used for contributions that do not fall within the scope of the bot's designated tasks. In particular, bot operators should not use a bot account to respond to messages related to the bot. Bot operators may wish to redirect a bot account's discussion page to their own. Bots operating outside of the tasks they have been approved for will be blocked on sight.

The 'bot' flag

Bot accounts will be marked by a bureaucrat upon DeltaQuad's request as being in the "bot" user-group within MediaWiki. This is a flag on their account that indicates the account is used by a bot, and reduces some of the technical limits usually imposed by the Mediawiki software. Edits by such accounts are hidden by default within recent changes.

Historically, being flagged as a bot account was distinct from the approval process; not all approved bots had that property. This stemmed from the fact that all bot edits were hidden from recent changes, and that was not universally desirable. Now that bot edits can be allowed to show up on recent changes, this is no longer necessary.

Bot requirements

In order for a bot to be approved, its operator should demonstrate that it:

  • is harmless
  • is useful
  • does not consume resources unnecessarily
  • performs only tasks for which there is consensus
  • carefully adheres to relevant policies and guidelines
  • uses informative messages, appropriately worded, in any edit summaries or messages left for users

The bot account's user page should identify the bot as such using the {{bot}} tag. The following information should be provided on, or linked from, both the bot account's userpage and the approval request:

  • Details of the bot's task (or tasks)
  • Whether the bot is manually assisted or runs automatically
  • When it operates (continuously, intermittently, or at specified intervals), and at what rate

While performance is not generally an issue, bot operators should recognize that a bot making many requests or editing at a high speed has a much greater effect than the average contributor. Operators should be careful not to make unnecessary Web requests, and be conservative in their editing speed. Sysadmins will inform the community if performance issues of any significance do arise, and in such situations, their directives must be followed.

  • Bots in trial periods, and approved bots performing all but the most trivial or urgent tasks, should be run at a rate that permits review of their edits when necessary.
  • Unflagged bots should edit more slowly than flagged bots, as their edits are visible in user watchlists.
  • The urgency of a task should always be considered; tasks that do not need to be completed quickly can and should be accomplished at a slower rate than those that do.
  • Bots' editing speed should be regulated in some way; subject to approval, bots doing non-urgent tasks may edit approximately once every ten seconds, while bots doing more urgent tasks may edit approximately once every five seconds.
  • Bots editing at a high speed should operate more slowly during peak hours (1200–0400 UTC), and days (middle of the week, especially Wednesdays and Thursdays) than during the quietest times (weekends).

Good communication

Users who read messages or edit summaries from bots will generally expect a high standard of cordiality and information, backed up by prompt and civil help from the bot's operator if queries arise. Bot operators should take care in the design of communications, and ensure that they will be able to meet any inquiries resulting from the bot's operation cordially, promptly, and appropriately. This is a condition of operation of bots in general. At a minimum, the operator should ensure that other users will be willing and able to address any messages left in this way if they cannot be sure to do so themselves.

Restrictions on specific tasks

Spell-checking

Bot processes may not fix spelling or grammar mistakes or apply templates such as {{ww}} in an unattended fashion, as accounting for all possible false positives is unfeasible. Assisted spell- and grammar-checking is acceptable when done with due diligence, and may or may not be considered a bot process depending on the editing rate. Such processes must not convert words from one regional variation of English to another.

Cosmetic changes

Scripts that apply cosmetic changes should be used with caution. Cosmetic changes should only be applied when there is a substantial change to make at the same time.

Mass article creation

You may not operate a bot that does any large-scale automated or semi-automated article creation task must be approved. Bot operators must ensure that all article creations are strictly within the terms of their approval.

Approval process

Approval

All bots that make any logged actions (such as editing a page, uploading files or creating accounts) must be approved before they may operate. Operators may carry out limited testing of bot processes without approval, provided that test edits are very low in number and frequency, and are restricted to test pages such as the sandbox. Such test edits may be made from any user account. In addition, any bot or automated editing process that affects only the operators', or their own, user and talk pages (or subpages thereof), and which are not otherwise disruptive, may be run without prior approval.

Bot approval requests should state precisely what the bot will do, as well as any other information that may be relevant to its operation. The request will then be open for some time during which the community or members of the Bot Approvals Group may comment or ask questions. The decision to approve a request should take into account the requirements above, relevant policies and guidelines, and discussion of the request. The "bot" user group will be assigned by User:DeltaQuad.

In addition, prospective bot operators should be editors in good standing, and with demonstrated experience with the tasks the bot proposes to do.

Should a bot operator wish to modify or extend the operation of a bot, they should ensure that they do so in compliance with this policy. Small changes, for example to fix problems or improve the operation of a particular task, are unlikely to be an issue, but larger changes should not be implemented without some discussion. Completely new tasks usually require a separate approval request. Bot operators may wish to create a separate bot account for each task.

Accounts performing automated tasks without prior approval may be summarily blocked by any administrator.

Appeals and reexamination of approvals

Requests for reexamination should be discussed at User talk:DeltaQuad. This may include either appeal of denied bot requests, or reexamination of approved bots.

Such an examination can result in:

  • Granting or revoking approval for a bot task;
  • Removing or placing the account into the bot user group; or
  • Imposing further operational conditions on the bot to maintain approval status.

Bots operated by multiple users

Accounts used for approved bots that can make edits of a specific designated type, at the direction of more than one person, are not likely to be a problem, provided:

  1. operator disclosure – the user directing any given edit will always be identifiable, typically by being linked in the edit summary, and
  2. operator verification – users able to direct the bot to make edits must be positively identified to the bot at the time of edit, in some manner not readily faked and unique to that user that cannot readily be bypassed or avoided (e.g. non-trivial password, restricted IP, wiki login, irc hostname), so that the user directing any given edit and identified above, may be considered verified.
  3. operator trust – if anyone other than the bot creator is likely to operate the bot, then there must be outline measures to reassure the community that they will have the requisite skill and knowledge to operate that bot to an appropriate standard.

User scripts

The majority of user scripts are intended to merely improve, enhance, or personalize the existing MediaWiki interface, or to simplify access to commonly used functions for editors. Scripts of this kind do not normally require approval.