When the Levee Breaks: Without Bots, What Happens to Wikipedia’s Quality Control Processes? (with Aaron Halfaker)

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In the first half of 2011, ClueBot NG – one of the most prolific counter-vandalism bots in the English-language Wikipedia – went down for four distinct periods, each period of downtime lasting from days to weeks. In this paper, we use these periods of breakdown as naturalistic experiments to study Wikipedia’s heterogeneous quality control network. Our analysis showed that the overall time-to-revert edits was almost doubled when this software agent was down. Yet while a significantly fewer proportion of edits made during the bot’s downtime were reverted, we found that those edits were later eventually reverted. This suggests that other agents in Wikipedia took over this quality control work, but performed it at a far slower rate.