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It's not human!

by Petruchio (Vicar)
on Dec 19, 2000 at 20:19 UTC ( #47405=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

As people are wont to point out, just because you can do something doesn't mean it's a good idea. All the more so in a community such as this, where there don't seem to be many things people can't do.

So it is with some trepidation that I admit to having registered a second name, hooked Chatbot::Eliza to ZZamboni's, and put perlbot in the Chatterbox for a number of hours. Since this was certainly something almost anyone here could have done, I think an explanation as to what good I thought this would accomplish is in order.

First, and least importantly, I hope she offered some amusement to people during her brief stay. I know several people talked to her, and I received no complaints, though crazyinsomniac did hurt her feelings. :-) So I think that in terms of direct consequences, the effect was (mildly) positive.

Second, I hope that perlbot's little performance raises our awareness a bit. Such things are technically easy, and potentially destructive to a community such as ours.

It may be argued that raising this awareness is not a good idea. It is, after all, obvious to most of our serious programmers that this could be done, and Chatterbox abuse has been discussed. From this standpoint, the exercise could only serve to raise awareness in those best left uninspired on the topic.

This in itself is an interesting general point, and worthy of its own discussion: should we discuss such things? I think, however, that the point deserves its own post, which perhaps I'll make in a few days' time.

Clearly I feel that the present case should be discussed, and I'm unable to find previous discussion of bots, though I've heard them talked about in the CB. Personally, I felt relief when mt2k so kindly pointed out for everyone that JavaScript in home nodes might not be such a good idea. And when jptxs - a trustworthy sort - began to rally his troops, I was not offended, but gratified to have the issue made very tangible. Perhaps nothing can be done to prevent shady characters from commanding armies of votebots... or perhaps people will have good ideas about some precautions which can be taken. I hope we'll hear some ideas here.

In any case, third, I would like to elicit opinions on the viability of a faqbot. It would be easy enough to modify a bot such as perlbot so that she simply sat in the CB and provided information (by /msg, naturally). There is a large category of questions which are not appropriate for posting, but which may be important to a monk - especially a newbie monk - nonetheless. Is there a module that does such-and-such? Where can I find information about so-and-so? A faqbot could provide a preliminary source of answers to such questions, offer friendly advice to newbies on the customs of the Monastery, and, of course, instructions on how to use the faqbot (/msg faqbot help). Interestingly, as well, a faqbot could potentially have responses added or altered by priviledged monks via the Chatterbox.

I'm not wholly sold on the idea myself, but it seems promising. I therefore took the liberty of registering faqbot as well. I will neither post nor vote with either of these accounts, and if it should become appropriate, I will gladly hand over their passwords either to vroom (for whom the gesture would be a formality), or to a suitable elder monk.

Your brother in Perl - Petruchio

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Re: It's not human!
by KM (Priest) on Dec 19, 2000 at 20:37 UTC
    Is there a log of the time it was here?

    I have thought of hooking purl (well, an Infobot) into the CB before. Many factoids are already in place. In either case, there is code to use, and fastpacks available. I'd be happy to help work on any type of Infobot->CB integration (since I work on Infobot).

    Update: If you aren't familiar with Infobot, stop by EFNet #perl and /msg purl


      I didn't log it, partly because I ran it as soon as I got it working, and partly because people have good reason to be touchy about logging what they say (see, for instance, this comment from Blue). Actually, since people requested it, I'm running her as I write this; again, no logs are being kept (by her, at least!).

      I don't doubt that scripts exist to do exactly what I've described, and if you're knowledgeable about them, your help would naturally be appreciated. Thanks for the leads.

      Though he doesn't seem to have found time to put up the source anywhere yet, araqnid has re-written the Infobot code to be much cleaner, and very easy to write plugin modules for (a fact for which i can vouch).
      I'll remind him today to put it somewhere publically accessible, and post up the link when he has.
        Well, Infobot is being re-written as what is now 'Geckobot'. You can see it from the Infobot website. It is cleaner, faster, can use POE, can be used as a shell, and other funness. I'd like to know what is different between Geckobot and araqnids version to see if anything could be added to either, combined, etc...


Re: It's not human!
by ichimunki (Priest) on Dec 19, 2000 at 20:53 UTC
    More interesting than a FAQ bot per se, might be something like a NodeBot, that listened to chatter, checked for nodes with relevant info, and (if access to the reputation for the node were available) posted a link to the highest ranked node over a certain threshold. Of course, a subject matter match, some sort of question parse match (like, does anyone care what the bot thinks in this instance), and other sanity checks would be good... like some sort of limit on how many links she post per time period.
      I have visions of an animated paperclip that can search with all of the power of supersearch and all of the user friendliness of supersearch...hey wait, why not just use supersearch?

      A bot which just gives the same info as a search doesn't seem all that useful, and would clutter up the chatterbox. If the intent was that the groups of new monks that are not likely to read faqs or search for answers would have another place to spit them to already written responses ... I feel something is missing.

      I'm not against a bot as such. I wonder about the usefulness of the bot. I wonder about people worried that their CB words will be logged by the bot. It just seems that it doesn't bring enough to the monestary.

      =Blue might be eaten by a grue...

        People might indeed worry about having what they say in the CB logged. That, in my opinion, is a good thing. The fact is, what you say in the Chatterbox might be logged even now; you don't know. If the presence of a bot served to remind you of this, that'd be a good thing in my book.

        Naturally, a bot should not be a means of poorly replicating existing services. I do think that there's considerable opportunity to make this a unique resource. Since the presence of a bot would not entail altering the Monastery itself in any way, we'd have plenty of latitude to discover good uses for it empirically, without screwing anything up.

        In order not to clutter the CB it would be easy to have the bot /msg the monk instead of broadcasting the message for all to see.

Re: It's not human!
by AgentM (Curate) on Dec 19, 2000 at 21:12 UTC
    Nifty idea! Perhaps the help mechanism could be a little more well-formatted and complete than a simple chatterbox conversation. All too often, we see poorly-placed posts or repeated posts. If we had some box where we could type in "How do get my controlling terminal?" the bot might respond with a direct link to the question asked in Q&A or SOPW, Super Search results or it may prompt for further information to narrow the topic. I doubt that the chatterbox is even big enough to hold any GOOD and COMPLETE responses. Especially for new folks here, it might be nice to have a flashing neon sign (OK, just make it more obvious) with "Talk with the PMbot!" where you can then type in a question. Since newbies don't seem to like reading the site documentation either, it might be relevant to link that in there, too. The question "When do I get to vote?" could bring up the Voting/Xp explanations pages. In short, I agree that that would be a great and useful feature, but perhaps in a better place than the chatterbox.
    AgentM Systems nor Nasca Enterprises nor Bone::Easy nor Macperl is responsible for the comments made by AgentM. Remember, you can build any logical system with NOR.
Re: It's not human!
by boo_radley (Parson) on Dec 19, 2000 at 23:00 UTC
    I'd like to see something like (picture CB chatter)
    /ask perlbot How do I add tables to a database in DBI?
    return a msg to the user with something like
    /tell CBuser here's the goods: <a href=xxx>Search google for ....</a> <a href=pm1>PM link 1</a> <a href=pm2>PM link 2</a> <a href=pm3>PM link 3</a> <A href=cp1>CPAN link</a> <a href=xxx>Perldoc link</a> <a href=xxx>Perldoc link</a> <a href=xxx>Perldoc link</a>
Re: It's not human!
by bastard (Hermit) on May 30, 2001 at 00:50 UTC
    It's interesting to see the changes in attitude of the monastery over time.
    I had suggested something similar, but recieved a critical response.
    Perhaps it was because I didn't put as much backgroud into it as Petruchio.

    Personally i think it's an interesting idea, and could provide a good experiment in alternatives for information access / distribution.
    It should also be easily modified to work with jcwren's VXML stuff.

    Hmmm... now that brings up another set of possibilities... Checking /msgs via phone... Hmmm....

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