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I recently reached the point where I could start retagging, and I've noticed this: a lot of the retagging is incredibly formulaic. Things like replacing 'xp' with 'windows-xp'. In each case I make the retag by comparing the number of existing tags in the possible categories (e.g. 'thread' vs 'threads' vs 'threading'). It's not a complicated algorithm I'm applying...

So I was thinking: this seems like the ideal job for a bot. Wikipedia has a number of such bots that perform similar generic 'hygeine' tasks with respect to categories, wikipedia policy, etc. Note also that cleaning up tags is almost completely outside the site reward system (1 badge, no rep), so there is no incentive other than compulsive orderliness (which I freely admit) to drive this user behaviour.

My questions:

  1. Has anyone thought about implementing something like this?
  2. Is there a compelling argument against such a bot?
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5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

There are already some methods that are run which will replace some synonymous tags throughout the system (probably should be expanded more and work when the question is submitted as well). There are also mod tools which make tag merges and renames pretty convenient.

I don't know if having a bot running throughout the system would be a good idea. I remember a while back there was an issue about a Google bot or something getting traversing the system and it sent the resource usage up through the roof for a while.

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I take your point (although I can't vote you up since I have no rep!). I'm not sure there would be much extra load. This is just like an IRC bot - watching the new questions as they pop up, fixing those with tagging problems. I'd imagine it as a publish-subscribe model, rather than continuous polling or something. –  ire_and_curses Aug 5 '09 at 14:02
    
If you are just imagining an algorithm that fires upon question submission, that doesn't sound too different than what I described in the first place (although like I said, that probably needs some expansion on it). When you say bot, I immediately start thinking of a web crawler. –  TheTXI Aug 5 '09 at 14:03
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@ire_and_curses: upvoted him for you. You can associate your account here with your SO account and get a 100 rep boost. Should solve this problem. –  Ladybug Killer Aug 5 '09 at 14:09
    
@John Smithers: Thanks - done! –  ire_and_curses Aug 5 '09 at 14:22

I think that the Community user should do that as part of its normal duties.

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Her name is Francesca. –  TheTXI Aug 5 '09 at 13:56
    
@TheTXI: Is she a pony? –  Ladybug Killer Aug 5 '09 at 14:10

We already have two bots like this:

http://stackoverflow.com/users/5640/
http://stackoverflow.com/users/-1/

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Fair enough. Wikipedia has over 1000 though (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WPBots), so clearly there is some basis to the argument for more. The downvote on this question therfore seems a little harsh! –  ire_and_curses Aug 5 '09 at 14:26
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Why is a downvote harsh? Did you expect everyone to agree with your opinion? –  GEOCHET Aug 5 '09 at 14:35
    
I thought the vote was based on the merit of the question, rather than an opinion one way or the other. I'm not advocating or refuting more bots - it wasn't my intention to put across a preferred point of view. I'm just wondering what the pros and cons are, given the current system. –  ire_and_curses Aug 5 '09 at 14:46
    
@ire: Welcome to meta. It is pretty obvious that here things are subjective and a matter of opinion. Therefore it should also be obvious that they will be voted on in such a way. Of course, complaining and whining about downvotes is stupid and not welcome on any of the sites, but here it seems that much more whiny. –  GEOCHET Aug 5 '09 at 15:06

The most compelling argument against writing such a bot is similar to so much software that has been written: It's a massive waste of time.

As has been mentioned, Rich has this covered and never complains about it. Sounds like we already have our bot.

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I wouldn't object as long as you actually put a set of human eyes on each question to be re-tagged. You could just automate a system of finding and showing those questions so all you have to do it click "Approve" or "Leave as is" and perhaps supply the captcha text.

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