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ImageInteresting enough, you don’t have to be human to create bad science on en.Wikipedia. Bots are also used to create the garbage. And, like most of en.Wikipedia, once the bad science is created, it is mirrored all over cyberspace and ignored by editors whose goal is not writing an encyclopedia but exchanging accolades with each other. After the article is badly written, and copied into cyberspace, it is simply ignored. Forever. By Wikipedia editors. No, en.Wikipedia is not correcting itself. The bad science editors I write about, like User:Cwmhiraeth, read my blog, and whine that I posted about their errors, but they don’t correct the errors on en.Wikipedia; they go on continuing to create the same errors, over and over again.

My interest in bots came about after watching a number of ridiculously bad edits by an en.Wikipedia editor, User:Smith609, who brags about being a PhD student. The user is now a post-doc, and he makes no secret of his real life identity; he is Martin Smith, a post-doc at Cambridge. He even edits articles to add citations to his own pre-publication literature. However, in spite of being recently published in a prestigious publication, he can’t seem to write basic English. Here are some of his awesome contributions to en.Wikipedia”


“The Heteractinids are a grade of sponges that are paraphyletic with respect to Hexactinellida.[1] …  Nevertheless, they actually represent a polyphyletic grade, from which the hexactinellids arose.[1]”

But the source says, “… and suggest that the heteractinids were paraphyletic with respect to the Hexactinellida.”

Apparently he obtained his PhD and is a post-doc at universities that don’t require you write in complete sentences or use English. Did he write a dissertation and journal articles like this? 


“A genus of lobopodian known only from its biomineralized dorsal plates, which somewhat resemble those of Microdictyon.[1]”


“A genus of lobopodian known only from its biomineralized dorsal plates, which somewhat resemble those of Microdictyon.[1]”


“A family of mites; nymphs retain their moulted exuviae until adulthood.[1]”


“A rare unarmoured lobopodian from the Chengjiang biota, with prickly legs, a pair of ‘antennae’, and an onychophoran-like body outline.[2]”

Smith609 got a little miffed at being asked to use his educated native tongue while writing paleontology articles. I looked at his edit history and found that he had a bot. And, it turns out he had the mother of all bots, Anybot. Anybot at one pointed created a lot of algae articles, 6000 of them, in fact. And, Smith609 put every bit as much care in how the bot created these articles as he puts into creating his paleontology articles. The bot created 6000 algae articles with serious problems including classifying organisms in the wrong kingdom. When an IP confronted Smith609 about the articles, and another IP started correcting them, Smith609 requested that the IP editor write an algorithm for the code necessary to correct the errors. There were the usual Wikipedia fights and accusations, and the IP editor was threatened with blocks for bringing up the issue, and his corrections to the articles were reverted by other bots. In the end, the mother of all AFDs resulted in the deletion of the bot’s 6000 algae articles for “major errors of fact.”

I looked recently at the contributions of another bot, Polbot, articles created in 2007 (the Anybot mess was discovered in 2009, but I’m not certain when the articles were created.) In Anybot’s approval for creating articles, it was noted that Polbot required many months of clean-up, though:

“Re: “Polbot created tens of thousands of plant and animal species stubs. None were deleted”. This is flatly untrue as I had to personally delete many of the superfluous stubs for monotypic plant taxa, or where the bot generated a duplicate article under a new name. Just cleaning up the taxoboxes for Polbot’s monocot articles took months of dedicated work on the part of several editors. –EncycloPetey (talk) 18:11, 15 August 2008 (UTC)”

The bot created many stubs about species from the IUCN red list. It includes many bat articles, of which, a few dozen, never subsequently checked for bot nonsense, contain this lovely sentence:

Gray Sac-winged Bat, as Polbot created it.

“The Gray Sac-winged Bat (Balantiopteryx plicata) is a species of sac-winged bat in the Emballonuridae family”

Gray Sac-winged Bat, today’s opening sentence

“The gray sac-winged bat (Balantiopteryx plicata) is a species of sac-winged bat in the family Emballonuridae.[2]

Again, it would seem that sac-winged bats are one group within the family Emballonuridae. It’s not. Sac-winged bat is a common name for the bat family Emballonuridae.

African sheath-tailed bat, today’s version

“A young African sheath-tailed bat is called a pup, and a group is called a colony or a cloud.[2]

More unique writing on en.Wikipedia, the name for the pup of this species, and the name for a group, is not such for the species, but for the order. Sigh; that’s pretty lame of me considering that en.Wikipedia editors are rewriting taxonomy to reflect their own stupidity.