Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Bot Approvals Group

Something that really irritates me is the Bot Approvals Group (or BAG). The job of the BAG is to basically, as the name states, approve (or not approve) bots. I don't know if this is still the case, but the BAG are a self-appointed little group who basically control which bots do and don't get to do stuff on Wikipedia. At one point, there were "mini-RfAs" that allowed people to join this little group. Following an MfD, they promised reform (much like Esperanza lol) and made the process more open - anyone can simply add themselves to the list. But it appears they've reverted back to the old "vote for me" way. I think bots that do get approved need some sort of technical knowledge in some ways, but I think bots and the approval process are one of the most overlooked features on Wikipedia. Why would that be? Well, most bots go unnoticed (with perhaps the exception of vandalbots and archivebots). We just take all their hard work for granted (well, the coder's hard work, but you know what I mean). The approvals take part on this page. You may notice the lack of voting and the very few editors participating in the discussion. Indeed, the page cries out "Please remember that all editors are encouraged to participate in the requests listed below. Just chip in - your comments are appreciated more than you may think!" Right, unless you have a BAG badge, and then your comments aren't considered
nearly as important. Consider the stark contrast to RfA - people are literally falling over one another to vote on as many RfAs as possible. Why is this? Is the bot page not advertised, or well known? Could it be that people are scared to comment on bots, because bots are "scary and evil" and if you let a bad one slip through it could destroy the wiki? On Commons, the bots are done on the same page as the RfAs. This makes sense to me - it's a bureaucrat's job either way, and having them in one place seems pretty sensible. Maybe to keep the page's loading time low, the transclusions could be turned to links? I just think the BAG is an utterly pointless waste of space. I'm currently participating in the discussion here, where I have proposed it be disbanded. Please comment there if you agree with me.

6 comments:

Martinp23 said...

Majorly, you could at least look at what's been going on at WT:BAG and WT:BRFA before making a post like this. Now I shall explain what has changed...

"BAG are a self-appointed little group"
- Not sure when this was true - as far as I've seen we've always treated community input with as much weight as BAG input, but about 3 months I pushed through a change to make sure this was the case - that users were prompted to make edits to AN, VPP, VPT, etc when making a nomination. When a load of users when through reconfirmation nominations to BAG, no one cared to comment despite extensive notification. That's not my fault or BAG's fault - it's your fault, and the fault of everyone else who rants on about not being given a chance to input.

"But it appears they've reverted back to the old "vote for me" way."
- Yes, I pushed that through. Again, do your research and you'll see why.

"Right, unless you have a BAG badge, and then your comments aren't considered
nearly as important."
- What are you smoking? Can I have some? I care *more* about community input than I do about BAG/techy input when looking at a BRFA, and I know that community input is taken seriously by the rest of BAG. In fact I talk page spammed everyone in the group reminding them of this.

"vote on as many RfAs as possible. Why is this?"
- That should be obvious. They want to be admins/crats in the large amount of cases, and think that commenting there will help.

My post here is extremely brash - more so that usual, but "wikipedians" starting drama on the basis of a *perceived* problem is something that annoys me quite a lot. I do wish people would do their research, and stop trying to make points at the expense of the hard work and efforts of others.

Majorly, if you're looking for your daily dose of Wikidrama, irc is thataway.

Thanks,

Martinp23

Majorly said...

I did read the talk pages. They are self-appointed, but only because no one else votes on them. This isn't necessarily the BAG's fault. I've never noticed any notifications. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough.

I don't care why you have the vote for me way - the point is, I disagree with it.

Right, you might. But what's a non-techy user supposed to say on a BRFA? "Support - that Martinp23/ST47/whoever know what they're talking about". Pretty useless, no? Of course the BAG members are going to get more weight.

Wrong about RfAs. It's the obsession with power for most people. Surely we'd want as many bots as possible doing repetitive dirty work? Why don't people comment on BRFAs? Explain that.

And don't assume I'm looking for drama. I'm posting my opinion. If you disagree, that's fine, just don't tell me to go to IRC.

Martinp23 said...

"I don't care why you have the vote for me way - the point is, I disagree with it."
- So we MUST CHANGE!

"But what's a non-techy user supposed to say on a BRFA?"
- For example, "No, NFCC bot should not have the name it does have", or "No, user x is not likely to deal with criticism well enough to be allowed to run a bot", or "no, we don't want every instance of (<)references /> to be changed into {{reflist}}", or "YES! I really like this idea - perhaps we could get the bot to post notices to users' talk pages if they request it". The point is that the BAG will look at the tech side primarily. We NEED the community input, and there is plenty to give. Why don't we get it? Because bots are nowhere near as glamorous as RfA, for example. As much is undeniable. It's also boring, tedious work - more so that "per nom" supports on RfA, or "per Majorly" opposes.

Why do I assume you're looking for drama? I simply feel that you have something of a penchant for it - apologies if this is not the case.

Martin

Dan said...

"Wrong about RfAs. It's the obsession with power for most people. Surely we'd want as many bots as possible doing repetitive dirty work? Why don't people comment on BRFAs? Explain that."
People don't comment on BRFAs because, for the most part, either they have nothing to say, in which case there's no reason at all for them to be complaining about not getting a say, or more likely because they don't care. What's your explanation as to why they don't comment?

"Right, you might. But what's a non-techy user supposed to say on a BRFA?"
Policy, or something like "Yes, I would find this helpful", or by asking questions about the bot's operation. If they don't have anything to say, then why are they demanding a say in the process??

"They are self-appointed, but only because no one else votes on them. This isn't necessarily the BAG's fault. I've never noticed any notifications"
This is in the process of being modified to a more public method, but the idea was originally that people who cared about the BAG membership would watchlist WP:BAG, just like people who care about RFA can watchlist it, or check it once in a while.

Kelly Martin said...

Typical situation on Wikipedia: decisions are made by those who care to show up. Not many people care to show up for decisions about botflagging, so the decisions are made by a small group.

Not much to be done about this; you can't make people care.

That said, I think it would be a good thing if botflagging discussions were held on the same page as admin flagging discussions, as that would increase community awareness and involvement. At the same time, it would increase involvement by the largely useless crowd of people that hangs around admin discussions. So you win some and you lose some.

AGK said...

Just an observation here, but Martin has a point: there is /so/ much that a user who is not a programming genius can do on RFBA. In fact, their role is very much invaluable: although I hesitate at making such gross generalisations, I will remark that there is something of a tendancy of those users who are coding gurus (I shalln't name names) to overlook those areas that the less technically savvy of the community would, perhaps, pick up.

Having said that, the BAG is somewhat resented on-Wiki. Perhaps it is because of its "closed" nature; perhaps there are other factors involved. I personally think it is a bit of both. However, one must ask the question: if the BAG was open for all, would it really make a difference? Sure, it would be open; and sure, it would allow those that, perhaps, are not technically savvy to have a shot at participating. But should the process of saying "this bot is /safe/ to operate; this bot /most likely won't/ damage the project; go ahead, do a test run/start running it" be left to the "experts", so to speak?

After all, your MOT (not sure what the US equivalent is) is not carried out by a guy off the street; it's carried out by a licensed mechanic (or I should hope so :). It's a qualified expert, with the technical knowledge to know whether your car is safe to drive, or a dangerous wreck, that controls the process. And, to be honest, as much as it seems odd to actively encourage a closed-doors process, I think the same should apply to the BAG.