The #windows channel

No Bots

Why no bots on ##windows?

From time to time, someone asks if they can put a bot in the channel. Usually they’d like to have an info bot.

#windows staff have consistently disliked adding the sort of bot which speaks in channel, or responds to user queries in channel. We will always be happy to hear - with open minds - any bot proposal anyone may have. But we hope that any such proposal addresses at least a few of these points:

We think human to human help is better than an infobot. This is the big one for us. A bot can’t understand the nuance of your question - it can only spout a pre-canned statement. Besides - technology moves fast. Yesterday’s best answer may pale in comparison with today’s. Bots tend to set old knowledge in stone, and discourage further discussion that can lead to newer, better ways to do things.

On another note: infobots often seem to foster a competition to see who can put the most witty statement in there, which often devolves into a bunch of sniggering comments about various people, OS’s, or programs. That kind of thing goes against the grain of the ##windows channel, where we’d prefer to keep our minds open.

Bots all too frequently end up becoming toys (or worse!) and distracting people. We’ve seen this over and over again: a bot is placed on a channel, and people spend hours each day playing with the bot. Or worse, loading it up with derogatory statements as mentioned above.

Google exists. Those pre-canned statements a bot could produce? Google does a better job. ‘nuff said.

But what about spambots, or some kind of automated oper-bot? Again, it’s a job humans do better.

How about a seenbot? ##windows is a technical channel that sometimes devolves into casual discussion. If you have a technical question, just ask the channel; no need to see if a particular person is around. Or do a /whois on the person, and see if they are away or have been idle for a long time. There’s no need to clutter up the channel with !seen commands.

It’s not that we’re completely and totally close-minded on the subject; it’s just that most bots we’ve seen ended up subtracting value from their parent channel in the long run.

If you have a really interesting bot proposal, catch any channel operator on IRC and tell them about your idea; we’re happy to consider new stuff.