As with most computing tasks, editing Wikitravel can benefit from using automated scripts -- programs that modify Wikitravel pages and images with content, or at a pace, not directly controlled by humans. This page describes Wikitravel's policy towards scripts: what we like, what we don't like, and how to make a script that works on Wikitravel.
Repetitive work. Using a script can make repetitive tasks a lot easier to do. The script program does the work, instead of someone -- or a lot of someones -- having to do it by hand.
Accurate work. Well-written scripts don't make common typos, spelling mistakes, etc. A script will do the same task over and over pretty well.
But scripts have the following problems:
Unintended consequences. If you have a bug in your script, you muck up a whole lot of pages, and either we have to correct those problems by hand, or we have to create another script to clean up after it.
Unilateral. The writer of a script can make a whole bunch of pages that work exactly the way they want them to. If someone else wants them to work another way, they have to write another script.
Suck up resources. Bots take up bandwidth and other resources on the server that could be used by people hand-editing a page.
Unnecessary. Many problems that people want to make scripts for are unnecessary. The time and energy the person would have to put into creating, debugging, and running the script could be spread across a number of people doing the same task by hand. This would be less unilateral, and may actually be faster.
No new knowledge. In general, scripts just re-adjust the formatting or presentation of knowledge on Wikitravel. Unless they're importing information from another database, there's nothing new added. We could better spend that time and energy adding actual travel information to the guide.
For these reasons, we have the following rules for running scripts against Wikitravel:
Scripts have to be approved by the Wikitravel administrators. To create a script that runs against Wikitravel, post the name and reason for the script on Script nominations. Explain why we need the script, why it can't be done by hand, and what the script will do. If 2 administrators voice their support for the script within 7 days, and none oppose it in that period, then a Bureaucrat can assign your script "bot status", and the script can be run. This must be done separately on each language version that you wish to run it on, and approved by the local administrators.
Scripts should be in accordance with our policies and guidelines and the local manual of style for the version(s) on which it will run. For example, a script that reformats all restaurant listings on the site should make them look like our preferred form rather than something else. If you think we should use that something else, get the policy or style guideline changed first.
Each script has to run with its own user name. All edits made to the site need to be marked with this user name.
The user page for the script's user name should describe what the script does.
Scripts have to check two pages, [[Wikitravel:Script policy/Run]] and [[User:name of script/Run]], before making each edit. Both these pages have to contain exactly the word "yes" before the edit should be saved. This allows any Wikitraveller to turn off all scripts, or individual scripts, just by changing the contents of one or the other page.
Scripts should make less than one change per minute. This keeps them from overwhelming the community's ability to monitor and correct errors in the script.
If possible, scripts should be run against a test version of Wikitravel before running against the live site. (We may set up a test server, with a mirror of the live site, for this purpose.)