Swedish man and his prolific bot are responsible for 8.5% of all Wikipedia articles


Sverker Johansson, 53, has volunteered as a Wikipedia editor for the past 7 years and may be the online encyclopedia's most prolific contributor.

A Wall Street Journal profile credits him for 2.7 million articles, or 8.5% of the entire collection.

He has been particularly prolific cataloging obscure animal species, including butterflies and beetles, and is proud of his work highlighting towns in the Philippines. About one-third of his entries are uploaded to the Swedish language version of Wikipedia, and the rest are composed in two versions of Filipino, one of which is his wife's native tongue. An administrator holding degrees in linguistics, civil engineering, economics and particle physics, he says he has long been interested in "the origin of things, oh, everything."

It isn't uncommon, however, for Wikipedia purists to complain about his method. That is because the bulk of his entries have been created by a computer software program—known as a bot. Critics say bots crowd out the creativity only humans can generate. Mr. Johansson's program scrubs databases and other digital sources for information, and then packages it into an article. On a good day, he says his "Lsjbot" creates up to 10,000 new entries.

Read the full profile, and watch video, here at WSJ.com.

Notable Replies

  1. Speaking for myself, "the creativity only humans can generate" is not much of a premium when it comes to cataloging either species or towns. Sounds like a task well worth automating.

  2. Swedish man and his prolific bot are responsible for 8.5% of all pop songs.

  3. given the topics, this is probably BETTER than humans. It will be more consistent, and whatever flaws are discovered can be fixed comprehensively with another bot.

    Human generated raw data would be much harder to work with.

    I would suspect these bot-generated articles will lead to GREATER human creativity on these web pages. The boring, routine data (population, relation to other species) is already in place, so the humans can use knowledge, judgement, and, yes, creativity to enhance individual articles that interest them.

  4. Personally, I would love to know the Fair Use analysis behind the decision to use a WSJ hedcut as the photo to accompany the BB post.

  5. Yep. This stuff has already been cataloged, and quite well. We humans can now focus on other things! Why do we need to duplicate something that's already been done? And if people on Wikipedia aren't happy with how it turns out, then they can always edit it. This is a great way to get the information on to Wikipedia and allow for more creative edits. I don't think this is a bad thing at all.

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