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