Shark Bot Considered Harmful

The SharkBot, run by DaveVoorhis, has a high rate of false positives. Originally designed to address the problem of the GrammarVandal, it is now a vandal in its own right. Rather than shouldering the responsibility of preventing these false positives himself, either by improving the quality of his code or manually verifying the changes made by the SharkBot, DaveVoorhis expects WikiZens to apply to him to be whitelisted.

Despite having this abdication of his responsibilities repeatedly pointed out to him, DaveVoorhis has made it clear that he will continue to require people to ask his permission to participate on this Wiki. Those who do not will find their edits vandalized by the SharkBot.

Until this situation is addressed by the Wiki owner or official stewards, I will not be contributing to this Wiki. This is no doubt a small loss to the many people who have been here much longer, but I would suggest that it is an indication that this Wiki is not living up to its goals of open participation and community building.

-- JackMollier?

It should be noted that the "high rate of false positives", above, actually refers to a few edits under the UserName of JackMollier?, which -- as determined by the SharkBot mechanisms and manual verification -- have all the hallmarks of GrammarVandal edits. There is no evidence that the edits were, in fact, not made by GrammarVandal, including the edits signed as JackMollier? on this page. As for the "abdication of [my] responsibilities", I invite you, the WikiReader, to see SharkBot, GrammarVandal, and the text below to decide for yourselves. I also invite comments from other WardsWiki participants. -- DaveVoorhis

That is a lie. The edits were to ChangesInWeekThirtyFour? and ChangesInWeekThirtyFive? and reflected cleanup of RecentChanges. Any manual check would clearly show them to be legitimate.

Yes, those are the "few edits" I referred to. And how would a manual check "clearly show them to be legitimate", when, as I've already pointed out, they are identical to RecentChanges* edits made by GrammarVandal under spoofed UserNames? How, then, is my comment above a "lie"?

Now I am out of here. Feel free to continue prevaricating. -- JackMollier?

Bye.

From RecentChangesDiscussion:

Whoever has the IP address 81.19.179.11 and is reverting my edits to ChangesInWeekThirtyFour? and ChangesInWeekThirtyFive?, please stop it. -- JackMollier?

If you're the real JackMollier? and not GrammarVandal, please email DaveVoorhis to get whitelisted by the SharkBot.

If you're the real person running the SharkBot, show some responsibility for checking the validity of other people's edits before automatically reverting them. It's rude.

Myself and the SharkBot must work within the limitations of the WardsWiki software. Given that GrammarVandal has repeatedly spoofed the JackMollier? UserName under precisely the circumstances which you're editing now, it is hardly surprising that the SharkBot has identified you as GrammarVandal. If you are the real JackMollier?, then please accept my apologies for any inconvenience, and I invite you to read the GrammarVandal and SharkBot pages to understand the background to this. -- DaveVoorhis

I read those pages. You admit that you are not one of the official Wiki stewards, yet you take it upon yourself to impose additional requirements on the other, equally legitimate users of this Wiki. I understand your frustration with people like the GrammarVandal, but your tools for addressing the problem are too blunt. If the official Wiki stewards agree that username cookies shouldn't be used, I'll stop using it. If they explicitly sanction the SharkBot, I'll stop complaining. Until then, you are behaving more like the GrammarVandal than you are like a WikiGnome. If you want to automate fixes, that's fine, but you have a responsibility to only fix what's really broken. Expecting everyone else to accommodate your behavior is, again, rude.


I have just now attempted to edit ChangesInWeekThirtyFour? incrementally, and the SharkBot has rolled back even one line changes. This is beyond rude and qualifies as destructive, unfriendly, and, frankly, the behavior of a juvenile asshole.

I ask the Wiki stewards to please make an an official statement as to whether or not they condone the actions of the person running the SharkBot. If you don't want people helping to build this Wiki, continuing to allow this type of behavior is a good way to chase us off. -- JackMollier?

I sent you an email prior to your edits today. Have you not received it? Responding to it will help convince me that you are not GrammarVandal, and then we can end this unpleasantness. Otherwise, the SharkBot will continue to regard you as the GrammarVandal, given that your behaviour thus far is indistinguishable from his. -- DaveVoorhis

You can end this unpleasantness unilaterally if you stop being unpleasant. First, by your own admission you are not one of the Wiki stewards. You have no more right to control this Wiki than any other contributer. This Wiki supports username cookies, but you act to make them unusable. Second, my edits are clearly distinguishable from GrammarVandal. With respect to the two pages in question, I'm updating them with the changes listed on RecentChanges and removing those to keep the RecentChanges page manageable. If your software can't distinguish between those kinds of changes and whatever it is that GrammarVandal does that gets your panties in a twist, then you are being irresponsible by running such poor quality code against this Wiki.

You have wasted more of my time than GrammarVandal. Should your behavior continue without sanction from the Wiki stewards, I will be very unlikely to act as a WikiGnome. For every person like me who raises the issue, there are no doubt others who simply stop participating here. You may think you're doing something good with your bot, but until you can eliminate the false positives your poorly implemented software is doing harm to this Wiki.

I see you have still not responded to my email, thus further increasing my suspicion that you are, in fact, GrammarVandal.

However, for the moment, let's assume you are not GrammarVandal. I will admit to having wasted more of your time than GrammarVandal, but not the time of the participant base as a whole. Had you been here when GrammarVandal was active, you would have seen how GrammarVandal wasted everyone's time. That includes time wasted by one of the stewards to bring legal action against GrammarVandal, without success. That includes time wasted by a regular participant who attempted to merely edit as he saw fit, without being continuously badgered (and having his edits pointlessly reverted) by GrammarVandal. That includes time wasted by almost every participant who tried to engage in normal dialogue without having the discourse (or RecentChanges) interrupted by GrammarVandal's StupidLittleEdits. It has only been after long and continuous application of the SharkBot that GrammarVandal's activity has diminished to the point that normal activity has returned. There was a time when this wiki was in danger of becoming GrammarVandal's wiki instead of WardsWiki, and there is little question that SharkBot has been instrumental in preventing that from happening.

Unfortunately, given the information available via the WardsWiki software (which is no more than that available to any human editor), and given the inherent limits of any heuristic-based pattern detector (which includes human intelligence!), false positives will occur, just as they do with email spam detectors, virus scanners and the like. I make every effort to tune the heuristics to avoid false positives, but when your editing behaviour has all the marks of GrammarVandal, you will be identified as GrammarVandal. That includes editing RecentChanges and related pages using a spoofed UserName.

Fortunately, this can be trivially addressed by whitelisting your IP address and not using a UserName cookie. If you would prefer to leave, then so be it. At least the rest of us can continue to enjoy WardsWiki without being plagued by GrammarVandal. Eventually, someone will arrive to maintain RecentChanges who considers the negligible effort of having his or her IP whitelisted preferable to enduring GrammarVandal.

-- DaveVoorhis

You are borderline paranoid regarding the GrammarVandal. All of my edits to this Wiki have been constructive. You have no reason to accuse me of behaving that way when, in fact, you are the one vandalizing pages. Let me make my points as simply as possible for you: SharkBot is preventing legitimate users from contributing to this Wiki. SharkBot is completely your responsibility. Stop being such an arrogant jerk and stop vandalizing this Wiki.

-- JackMollier?

Borderline paranoid, eh? Hmmm... Were you here when GrammarVandal was active? I believe I have quite accurately described his behaviour, which is the reason he was HardBaned in the first place. Unfortunately, without technical means to enforce a HardBan, it is meaningless. I provided the technical means to enforce a HardBan.

Now, to your points:

SharkBot does indeed prevent legitimate users from editing under certain circumstances. These are trivially addressed. If you have some personal objection to the simple means by which we could resolve this (a mere response to my email would be start), then that is your problem, not mine. Others are happily editing without interference of any kind.

-- DaveVoorhis

You are either missing or deliberately ignoring the core issue, namely that you are rolling back legitimate edits. Your behavior is that of a WikiVandal. When this is pointed out to you, you insist that other participants jump through your hoops in order to avoid having their contributions vandalized.

It's time you recognized that your behavior is obnoxious and for you to take responsibility for your actions and stop being such a jerk.

-- JackMollier?

I have freely admitted that false positives are possible and do occur. Do you berate the developer of your anti-spam software every time it tosses a legitimate email into the spam bucket? Probably not -- you simply flag it as non-spam. The same applies here; respond to my email to get whitelisted, then it is not likely to happen again. As for missing or deliberately ignoring core issues, it appears you are missing the fact that a negligible one-time inconvenience to get whitelisted is nothing compared to the unpleasantness that GrammarVandal once caused on a daily basis -- just as the inconvenience of using anti-spam software is nothing compared to the irritation of un-filtered spam.

-- DaveVoorhis

That's your opinion. Clearly the GrammarVandal offended you greatly. The fact remains that you are behaving exactly as GrammarVandal by rolling back legitimate edits. Unless you are the owner of this site or acting with their explicit permission, your poorly implemented bot is nothing less than an attempt to take control of this Wiki.

If someone else starts running a bot, should everyone ask their permission to contribute as well? You are responsible for the actions of your software. If you know it throws false positives, you have an obligation to review its changes and only approve those that are legitimate. Imposing the costs of your choice to run SharkBot on every other participant on this Wiki is rude and arrogant in the extreme. You are actively discouraging constructive participation here.

Again, stop being such a jerk.

-- JackMollier?

Actually, I do review certain categories of changes, and I approved the reversion of your edits to RecentChanges et al. Your edits were indistinguishable from ones demonstrated consistently to have been made by GrammarVandal; as I've noted, I continue to have no reason to believe that you aren't GrammarVandal. A simple response to my email -- which you've not even mentioned -- would go a long way toward trivially resolving this. And it's not just me who was "offended" by GrammarVandal; reading pages like PissedOffAndExtremelyAngry, ZeroTolerance, CeaseAndDesist, and AnonIsStillBanned will give you a small taste of the level of feeling he once inspired. As for "imposing the costs of [my] choice to run SharkBot on every other participant" is not accurate. In fact, the number of legitimate individuals directly affected by the SharkBot is very small; most edit with no interference whatsoever.

As for someone else running a 'bot, I would have no problem asking the operator's permission to participate if it were launched for reasons that caused even a tenth the irritation that GrammarVandal once caused.

By the way, I do not intend to continue quibbling about this with you. If you or anyone else would like to suggest a constructive way forward, then I'm all ears. Otherwise, this is wasting our time -- especially is it's so trivial to get whitelisted.

-- DaveVoorhis

The solution is for you to take responsibility for your actions and either improve the quality of the SharkBot or review its changes to prevent false positives. Stop vandalizing my contributions.

-- JackMollier?

This is becoming unproductive. I tune the SharkBot the avoid false positives wherever possible, but as I've noted repeatedly, if you don't respond to my email I have no reason not to believe you are the GrammarVandal, because all indications suggest that you are. If this is purely a result of the data available to me, then that's a limitation of the data, not the SharkBot or myself. -- DaveVoorhis

Look at the changes I made. They are clearly (intended to be) constructive. You have the data, you just choose not to use it, preferring instead to leave your bot on autopilot and demand that other people jump through hoops of your devising.

Your behavior is that of a ControlFreak. I'm not going to sanction your character flaws by accommodating them. Take responsibility for the costs associated with your actions.

-- JackMollier?

As noted on SharkBot, the nature of an edit, constructive or otherwise, is not the issue. GrammarVandal is subject to a HardBan, which means he is not to edit, full stop. He has frequently edited RecentChanges* using spoofed user names. One of the user names he spoofs is JackMollier?. Hence, among other things, an edit to RecentChanges by a JackMollier? UserName will be regarded as GrammarVandal, and it will be reverted. If that's a false positive (as opposed to a real positive, which I hold it might be), then there is a mechanism to resolve it -- send me an email (or respond to mine) and get whitelisted. This has nothing to do with character flaws or other diversions; it is purely about the inevitable nature of the machinery -- dependent entirely on the data available from WardsWiki -- to prevent GrammarVandal from eating WardsWiki. I can certainly appreciate your frustration (if you are not GrammarVandal, and, of course, even if you are), but it's trivially resolved. Why resist this? -- DaveVoorhis

{at least I assume that it is GV and not Shark who is under a hardban}

This is a perfect example of you abdicating responsibility. Your code is vandalizing my changes and you expect me to jump through your hoops to stop you from doing that. You shouldn't be doing it in the first place. If your bot isn't smart enough to handle this discrimination on its own, either manually check it or stop running it. Trying to spread the costs of your poor quality software to the other participants here is irresponsible (and quite rude) on your part. I do not accept your requirement to get your permission to participate here. I don't know how to put this any more simply. -- JackMollier?

This is becoming repetitive. Every point of yours has been discussed already, and every existing action and circumstance has been explained by myself and others. Therefore, as things stand, nothing is going to change. If you edit in a manner that SharkBot (and/or myself) believe to be GrammarVandal, your edits will be reverted. End of story. -- DaveVoorhis


From JackMollier?:

Since DaveVoorhis refuses to take responsibility for the false positives caused by his SharkBot (see SharkBotConsideredHarmful for details), I am terminating my participation here. Note that my unchanging ip address, 67.86.101.207, clearly distinguishes me from GV. -- JackMollier?

Fair enough. Goodbye and all the best. By the way, your IP doesn't "clearly" distinguish you from GV; it's merely an IP address, and contains no inherent semantic content that would distinguish anyone from anyone else. How it is used here, however, is a different matter... -- DV

Being "unchanging" does distinguish it from GV.

Not inherently. There have been times when he's used one IP address for at least several days, especially when engaged in discussion. -- DV

Not a normal American ip address that doesn't list as a proxy.

I make no assumptions about what IP addresses he may be able to acquire or how, and though the SharkBot does base a portion of its decisions on characteristics of the IP (to the extent that they can be reliably machine-processed and/or checked by me), they are only one component in an overall picture. -- DV

Dave, shouldn't you take into account that it is easy to register an email address and construct a plausible email exchange with yourself, but very difficult to acquire a reliable ip address in another country?

When I receive emails from trivially-registerable email domains (gmail, hotmail, etc.), where possible I examine the originating IP in the email headers (to the extent that it means anything -- which is not much -- but it's one minor component in the overall picture), and I request (via email) that my correspondent also email from a work/school/etc. address, which is far more significant. A lot can be gathered from an email conversation. Once, on another forum subject to similar issues, I made a telephone call. So far, that hasn't been a problem -- genuine participants have, thus far, been very understanding and accommodating. Acquiring a reliable IP address in another country is not difficult. I have a number of them -- some I own and some accessible through various contacts -- and with the popularity of various remote control utilities, Web proxy servers, and so forth, even without taking zombied PCs and the like into account, it becomes fairly trivial to obtain a relatively stable IP even on a home cable network. E.g., "Spleen32> Hey Bill, can I proxy through your Linux box again tonight?", etc.

If Bill agrees to that, he may agree to the use of his work email address, especially if he has web access to his work (or college) email system, as is often the case, and may also agree to receive a telephone call. Must he agree by email or telephone never to make edits that the bot would revert? You imply that you will monitor his editing indefinitely for signs of similarity to GV.

I don't make any agreements regarding editing behaviour with my correspondent. I don't specially monitor any individual; the SharkBot regards all edits equally.

That's what causes genuine housekeeping edits to be reverted. An email or telephone call can do little to prove that its sender is not effectively GV; as you stated, it's possible that GV knows a helpful "Bill" from some other area. Even if you list Bill, the more housekeeping he does, the more likely it is that you would delist him later.

Hi, GrammarVandal! Actually, merely doing "more housekeeping" is not sufficient, in and of itself -- with emphasis on "more" -- to rack up a sufficient number of (shall we say) GrammarVandal Points to be consistently reverted; it is the nature and context of the housekeeping that is significant, and for my part (i.e., not SharkBot itself, but my control of it) I do appropriately take into account any discussions that myself (here or elsewhere) or others (here) have had with the individual in question -- keeping in mind that the term "individual" is not quite accurate. "Behavioural locus" might be a better phrase to describe a manifestation like GrammarVandal. To put it simply, I can't tell whether GrammarVandal is one person or ten, but it doesn't matter. The GrammarVandal behaviour -- as manifested through edits, obviously -- is what gets reverted.

I do recognise the possibility (hell, I expect it) that GrammarVandal will take a stab at making every effort to appear legitimate and will try to fool me (Mollier might have been such an attempt) -- whether via IP, email, phone, or all of the above -- but then his behaviour here will no doubt "out" him. If it doesn't, well, that's fine -- in that case he wouldn't be a GrammarVandal any more, which would be an excellent result. -- DV

FWIW, I thought you handled that in a reasonable and calm fashion. Can't say the same for Mollier, I'm afraid. -- DanMuller


If the official Wiki stewards agree that username cookies shouldn't be used, I'll stop using it. If they explicitly sanction the SharkBot, I'll stop complaining.

SharkBot is sanctioned by myself and the rest of the stewards, including Ward. I wish we had a more perfect solution to offer, but the stewards are a volunteer group and progress is slow. At some point we will have more sophisticated defense mechanisms in place, and I imagine that Dave will be first in line to celebrate the day that SharkBot is no longer necessary. For now, the SharkBot may not be perfect, but I believe that it has helped much more than it has hurt. Please try to work with it, including working around it when necessary. -- MichaelSparks


Count me as one of the users who has abandoned this wiki because of SharkBot.

I think there are four main problems with the current SharkBot strategy:

I'll be back when the SharkBot is gone. And if GrammarVandal leaves, I won't give SharkBot the credit for it.

-- FinnWilcox?

I certainly appreciate your viewpoint. Unfortunately, something that the current conditions, pages, etc., cannot convey is the level of disruption, difficulty, anger and frustration caused by GrammarVandal when he was in full sway. At best, PissedOffAndExtremelyAngry might give you a tiny hint of it, but only a tiny hint. If you weren't here to experience it, I'm sure there's little I can do to convince you that the SharkBot has effectively tranformed what was a virtual halt in normal discourse -- with all content subject to GrammarVandal's control, and some participants subject to his abuse -- to what is essentially "normal" Wiki behaviour with, admittedly, some minor inconveniences. Unfortunately, these are inevitable given the constraints within which the 'bot must operate. I am steadily improving the 'bot to reduce the frequency of false positives, but this process must always be balanced with some assurance that reasonable collaboration and contribution can continue without ever allowing GrammarVandal to effectively take over WardsWiki again.

The SharkBot has not been designed capriciously or casually; all the issues you've raised, and more, were considered in its construction. The current implementation is a result of weighing the pros and cons of each possible mechanism, in light of the constraints imposed by the environment, and deciding on a course of action that minimises disruption, difficulty, anger and frustration overall. Unfortunately, this does mean that a minority of individuals will be subject to some disruption, difficulty, anger or frustration in order to ensure that the majority are not. -- DaveVoorhis

There was a false positive reverting my edit on CliffordAlgebrasAndSpinors. The edit was to make the name of the author a link to his page. -- JohnFletcher

Fixed. -- DV Thanks

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