Categories: WikiTree Help
What is a Bot?
On wikis, a bot is software that automatically makes changes to profiles.
The WikiTree Team never edits content directly in the database. For example, the team would not do a global search-and-replace to change the word "geneology" to "genealogy" everywhere it appears on WikiTree, even if everyone in the community agreed that it's a spelling mistake that should be fixed.
Directly changing content in the database would corrupt the integrity of the change history. You would never know who made the change and when. Even worse, it would look like the next person who edited a profile was the one who made the change.
To preserve the integrity of the change history, bots can be used for simple search-and-replace actions. Bots have accounts, as if they were human members. This allows anyone to see what changes they made.
Controls on Bots
Even though the software writers who create a bot are accountable to the community through change histories, they could still do a lot of damage. Bots can operate much more quickly than human members. Therefore, WikiTree requires that bots and all their actions are approved by the community.
It is a violation of WikiTree's Terms of Service to run a bot from a member's personal account.
Bot accounts should have the Last Name at Birth "WikiTree".
A bot needs approval from the community before it is run. Generally speaking, this is secured in the same way that a new policy is established. This might sound complex but the team will help with it.
Permission must be obtained before any new run. For example, a bot that changes spelling errors would need approval for every typo it corrects. Permission for changing "geneology" to "genealogy" would need to be obtained independently from permission to change "ancesty" to "ancestry" etc.
Permissions and privacy controls
Since bots operate from regular accounts, they are automatically subject to the same permissions and privacy controls as members. For example, a bot cannot edit a private profile without being on the Trusted List. A bot could not edit Pre-1700 Profiles without the Pre-1700 Certified badge.
No bot should make more than one change per minute. In addition to limiting the damage they can do, this prevents them from putting too great a burden on the server and interrupting members.
New bots are likely to be subject to much stricter rate limits. When a bot is new and experimental the team and community will want to see its actual behavior in a test run before it operates normally.
Current and Inactive Bots
MatchBot is currently inactive.
In 2015, Jon Wainwright ambitiously and generously created the ForoTree Bot. His creation of the bot and the careful, community-centered way in which he developed it are the reason we have the bot policies described above.
Jon connected the bot to an independent website/project. Here's how it was described: "Forotree is a website that provides bots and tools to help manage your profiles on WikiTree, helping to grow the free family tree. All bots are run on their server, meaning all you have to do is register, select your bots and then sit back and relax. You can also use the forums to make suggestions, discuss, get help and more."
Among the ForoTree's abilities:
- Global Family Reunion Bot: Checked how many steps away a person is from A.J. Jacobs (the organiser of the Global Family Reunion), then added the "Global Family Reunion" template to the top of the profile. This bot could also automatically update profiles that already have this template on it if the number of steps has changed since it was added.
- Global Family Reunion Removal Bot: Removes the above.
- FamilySearch Citation Cleaner Upper Bot: Checked all profiles on a Watchlist for FamilySearch citations and moved the bloat into the ources section rather than leaving in the main part of the profile, thereby making profiles much easier to edit. If you used the <ref name="..." attribute, the bot would use the same name for linking to the citation in your sources section. This bot could also tidy up other citations that are in a similar format to FamilySearch citations.
Jon isn't currently operating ForoTree but he is still an active member and may return to similar projects in the future.
This page was last modified 18:32, 14 November 2020. This page has been accessed 1,674 times.