The Roles Bots Play in Wikipedia
Bots are playing an increasingly important role in the creation of knowledge in Wikipedia. In many cases, editors and bots form tightly knit teams. Humans develop bots, argue for their approval, and maintain them, performing tasks such as monitoring activity, merging similar bots, splitting complex bots, and turning off malfunctioning bots. Yet this is not the entire picture. Bots are designed to perform certain functions and can acquire new functionality over time. They play particular roles in the editing process. Understanding these roles is an important step towards understanding the ecosystem, and designing better bots and interfaces between bots and humans. This is important for understanding Wikipedia along with other kinds of work in which autonomous machines affect tasks performed by humans. In this study, we use unsupervised learning to build a nine category taxonomy of bots based on their functions in English Wikipedia. We then build a multi-class classifier to classify 1,601 bots based on labeled data. We discuss different bot activities, including their edit frequency, their working spaces, and their software evolution. We use a model to investigate how bots playing certain roles will have differential effects on human editors. In particular, we build on previous research on newcomers by studying the relationship between the roles bots play, the interactions they have with newcomers, and the ensuing survival rate of the newcomers.
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