The highest-editing zombie bot on Wikipedia

Monday, May 26th, 2008

I stopped actively editing Wikipedia more or less one year ago. Naturally, I haven’t stopped editing completely, as I still read Wikipedia nearly every day in the pursuit of my own edification. But I no longer seek out thankless administrative tasks to perform, nor do I browse articles solely to find a way to contribute some writing. In that way I’m much more like the casual reader who occasionally fixes a typo, though the casual reader also doesn’t have the ability to delete articles, block users, and protect pages (ah, the privileges of being an administrator). But I don’t much use those abilities anymore, so it matters little.

In addition to doing lots of editing and administrative tasks (page may take awhile to load), I also spent a good amount of time hacking on programs for Wikipedia. Some, such as the userbox generator (don’t even ask), were purposefully silly. Others, such as my work on the PyWikipediaBot free software project, were more useful. In addition to my work on that bot framework, I wrote quite a few bots, which are programs for making automated edits. By the time I (mostly) retired from Wikipedia, I had put many hours into those bots, and I couldn’t bear to just shut them down. So I left them running. They’ve been running now for over a year, unattended for the most part, and have been remarkably error-free all things considered. I have variously forgotten about them for months at a time, and only remembered them when my network connection chugs for an extended period of time (long “Categories for deletion” backlog) or when my server’s CPU utilization pegs (bot process gets stuck in an endless loop). So yes, there is a zombie bot editing Wikipedia, and it even has administrative rights that it uses quite frequently!

All of these bot programs that I wrote run under one Wikipedia user account, Cydebot. That account was the first account on any Wikipedia project to break one million edits. The total currently stands somewhere at a million and a quarter (proof), though it has been out-edited by one other bot account by now. But just think about the enormity of that number. At one point Cydebot had a single digit percentage of all edits to the English Wikipedia. You can’t say that’s not impressive, especially considering how ridiculously massive Wikipedia is. Yet being a bot operator was largely unsung work. The only time I really got noticed for all the effort I was putting into it (and never mind the network resources involved, especially when I was running AntiVandalBot, which downloaded and analyzed the text of every single edit to Wikipedia in real time) was when yet another person thought they were the first to realize that Cydebot was using administrative tools and deemed it necessary to yell at me about it. Wikipedia has this cargo cult rule that “admin bots aren’t allowed” — even though people have been running them for years. I’ll grant that it’s schizophrenic.

So after continuing to run Cydebot for this long, I’m not going to stop now. I haven’t put any effort into Cydebot for over a year besides occasionally updating the pyWikipediaBot framework from SVN, killing pegged bot processes, and rarely modifying the batch files for my bots when someone points out that the associated pages on Wikipedia have changed. I don’t have the time (nor the desire) to put any further serious development work into Cydebot, so at some point things will finally break and Cydebot will no longer be able to do any work. But it’s already gone for over a year performing all sorts of thankless tasks on Wikipedia that no human wants to be bothered with; why not let it continue going and see how much longer my favorite zombie bot can continue at it for?

If you want to track the continuing edits of a zombie bot on Wikipedia, you can do so here. So the next time you are idly reading Wikipedia, remember that, not only are there bots behind the scenes that are making millions of automated edits, but some of them are zombies that have been running largely unattended for months, if not years. Wikipedia is built, in no small part, upon zombie labor.

You got your zombie in my Pride and Prejudice!

Monday, February 11th, 2008

This has to be the best contest ever: Take a paragraph from a book and add a zombie. Think about how that might work for a few seconds, then read an example of how it works with a Jane Austen novel. Pure awesome. I cannot believe nobody’s ever done this before.

I shan’t be entering the contest, but I most definitely will be zombifying a famous work of literature and posting it here for your (hopeful) enjoyment. How could I not? This is the best idea ever.

AA-12: The anti-zombie overkill shotgun

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Regular readers of Cyde Weys Musings may recall that I have a mind-consuming fascination with zombies. Although I haven’t written about zombies in a little while, I assure you, they are no less of a frequent topic in my internal musings. So naturally, when I saw this clip from the television show Future Weapons talking about the AA-12 Combat Shotgun, I immediately thought of its effectiveness as an anti-zombie weapon.

The AA-12 is a fully automatic shotgun firing 300 rounds per minute that can use 20 or 40 round drum magazines. It uses an advanced recoilless firing system that nearly reduces recoil to zero (or so the manufacturer claims, but the video above looks pretty convincing). And it can be loaded out with the full range of 12 gauge military shotgun shells, including fin-stabilized fragmentation grenades with an effective range of 200 meters. Yeah, that’s right, a shotgun that can fire grenades. 40 of them. In 8 seconds. Run!

Obviously the AA-12 would have no problem whatsoever in taking out zombies. But its greatest strengths may also be its greatest weaknesses. The consensus amongst zombie scientists is that when the coming zombie apocalypse arrives, the type of zombie we will be faced with will be the slow zombie. Fully automatic thus becomes worse than unnecessary as it leads to a greater waste of ammunition. And as we all know, conserving supplies, and especially ammunition, is all important during the zombie apocalypse, especially because you may end up facing off hordes of hundreds of zombies before it is all over. The weight of ammunition is important to consider when going mobile; on a per-zombie-kill basis, shotgun shells are less efficient than, say, rifle ammunition.

So keep the AA-12 on semi-automatic when dealing with slow zombies. And at least the fragmentation grenades will prove useful against zombies, allowing you to take out many zombies with a single well-aimed shell. And the AA-12’s rugged design, with all stainless steel parts, means it won’t require much maintenance or cleaning. Every second you don’t have to spend cleaning the weapon is another second you can use it to shoot any zombies munching on your legs — an obvious huge advantage.

Unlikely as the possibility may be, we do have to consider fast zombies. If the zombies in the coming zombie apocalypse are fast zombies, then all bets are off. If you can’t put a lot of rounds on target very quickly, ammunition conservation won’t even matter. The AA-12 would be unrivaled in such a situation. Remember, zombies have to close to melee range before they can hurt you, and shotguns are the king of close-range weaponry. And with 40 rounds in the drum magazine, you can take out a lot more zombies before reloading than you could with a typical pump-action or civilian autoloader shotgun.

A Stay At Motel Z

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

The upper crest of the Sun languished above the horizon, casting the long rays and shadows of dusk across the scene in front of me. The sky smoothly transitioned from a brilliant swirl of purple and red near the setting Sun to a dark, dull blue on the opposite side. The palm trees lining the highway swayed in the gentle breeze, vibrant verdure leaves and husky brown trunks shimmying to and fro, their tiniest movements amplified in their imposing hundred-foot shadows. Just above the nearest tree, I could see a faint grayish arc blazed across the sky, our most unexpected and unwelcome visitor.

The parking lot below was half-filled with vehicles atop the cracked, aging, uneven asphalt. Autumn seems to have chased away many of the motel’s guests. The vehicles were nothing special, just a typical mix of compacts, SUVs, pick-up trucks, vans, and one solitary BMW with a large gash on its driver’s door parked selfishly across a yellow parking space demarcation line. Almost directly below me, I could see the top of a tacky jumbo umbrella, alternating segments white and red, perched sloppily in the center of a cheap white plastic picnic table. The railing along the second floor of the motel was eerily low. Without a moment’s pause, I could hurdle over it and throw myself onto the umbrella, hoping it would break my fall, and make a run for it. That plan increasingly seemed more and more appealing.

To my left, a woman peered anxiously out the slightly ajar door of room 215, the privacy chain secured in place. Tears ran down the woman’s pretty asymmetric face even as her brow was furrowed and her green eyes focused in a look of grim determination. Wisps of her blond hair fluttered in the breeze, trying to escape the confines of the room. Her brown-haired daughter was trying to peer out the door as well, but her mother had her hands tightly wrapped around the girl’s face. Behind them, room 217 was tightly boarded up, though I knew not who was inside. I could see the bed and dressers pressed up against the window on the inside through the sagging yellowing white venetian blinds.

Standing next to me was the brown-haired, brown-eyed, tall, muscular, and compact husband of the pretty woman in room 215. He was exactly her type. He wore jean shorts and a new, glistening white wife beater, already growing damp from his profuse sweating. He tightly clutched a fire ax in his hands, the red paint on its handle faded after many decades of neglect. Its head was rusty and the blade jagged and dull from oxidation and corrosion over these many years of disuse. It looked like it had not ever been sharpened. But that made it all the better for the task we so desperately needed it for, because sharp blades have a tendency to get deeply embedded into bone, stuck. A hefty fire extinguisher sat on the concrete next to his left foot, its indicator needle way out of the green zone and a tag marking its last inspection date as March, 1999.

To my right, three opened blue boxes of 20 gauge buckshot shotgun shells, all but one of them empty, lay on top of a cheap nightstand I had wrenched out of my room. The bolts were still attached to two of the nightstand’s legs, covered in jagged plaster. Including those loaded in the magazine of the Remington 11-87 I held, we had just fourteen shells left. Not nearly enough. The acrid smell of gunpowder wafted up from the many red shell casings scattered around my feet. My arms no longer quaked with fear, but held firm with resolute determination, even as my shoulder ached from absorbing the brunt of repeated firings.

In front of me, an otherworldly monster was trying to scramble up the concrete stairs, over the large heap of leaking, broken monsters that had come before. Bits of putrid flesh had already fallen off from many places on its body, especially its head, where I could see cheekbones and parts of its eye socket exposed. This sight no longer fazed me. Its flesh was a pallid yellowish gray, and the tatters of what were once its clothes were mostly collected around its feet. Its left arm was missing from a few inches below the shoulder, where I had blown it clear off earlier with a poorly aimed, panicked shot. The yellow fluid slowly leaking from inside the jagged terminus of its humerus and the pulsating, blackened muscle surrounding it left no doubts as to the advanced and irreversible stage of conversion of this former human. With just one remaining arm and the slick pile of beheaded creatures and body parts beneath it, it kept comically slipping as it tried to reach me. I stifled a laugh, for its sake.

I was more concerned about the other, fully intact monsters behind it. Some were milling around in the parking lot, others clambering up the stairway behind the one-armed one I now recognized as Fred, the Customer Service Representative who had been behind the counter here when I first checked in and who later provided me with a toothbrush, at no charge, when I realized I had left mine at home. They all had no sense of urgency or fear. They would keep coming at their leisurely, unconcerned pace until there were none left or they got to us. Counting them up quickly, I saw that there were still many more than we had shotgun shells remaining. Conserving ammunition was our highest priority. I unshouldered the Remington and relaxed my tight grip on its stock, taking one last look at the crippled, floundering monster on the stairs, then motioned the man with the ax forward. As he stepped forward and raised the ax above his head, it cast long shadows across my face, and I chuckled at the guilty thought that there was no better way to go out.

And thus concludes the extended Zombie Week here at Cyde Weys Musings. I hope you enjoyed it, and hey, if you didn’t, at least now it’s over, and I will return to my usual (mostly) zombie-free routine. This is my second short story written in a moment-in-time style; my first was Invasion Day.

How not to survive the coming zombie apocalypse

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

I’ve been thinking about zombies a lot recently, and I’ve come to another revelation that I feel that I must share to help others survive the coming zombie apocalypse. Remember, helping others to survive the zombie apocalypse is in your own best interests, because each of your fellow citizens that does survive makes one less potential zombie trying to chew down your door.

I was talking with a friend who is working in a hospital, and I got to thinking, a hospital has to be the worst place to be when the zombie apocalypse breaks out. And only the terminally stupid would head to a hospital during the outbreak, although it is very important to carefully distinguish between a zombie apocalypse and a regular apocalypse such as a plague. Hospitals do sound appealing; after all, they have all sorts of medical supplies and trained personnel, which you might naively expect would be useful during an outbreak of the living dead. But that kind of thinking is dead wrong. Actually, it’s worse than dead wrong; it won’t merely get you killed, it will get you turned into a zombie yourself — the only fate worse than death.

Zombieism is not reversible, nor is it curable. All of the medicine in the world won’t make a difference; once someone is bitten, they will become a zombie, and once they are a zombie, they’re never coming back. The only way to “cure” zombies is to destroy their brain, preferably at a great distance with firearms (so you’re outside of bite range). Thus, a hospital is completely worthless during a zombie outbreak because it has all the wrong sorts of tools. You’d be much better off on a military base, at a gun store, or in a junkyard crane operating a compactor.

The doctors and nurses you will find at a typical hospital have all the wrong instincts for dealing with a zombie apocalypse. During the beginning of the zombie apocalypse — before media outlets get the word out — zombies will be mistaken for trauma victims, what with their pallid flesh and gaping, bloody wounds. Hospital personnel will naively try to help the zombies rather than slaying them outright, probably getting bitten in the process. And then look what you have to deal with for foolishly trying to ride out the zombie apocalypse in a hospital — zombie doctors and zombie nurses in addition to the regular variety!

Hospitals, by their very nature, will have much higher concentrations of zombies than just about anywhere else besides cemeteries during the initial outbreak. Hospitals tend to store lots of corpses in them, which are just ticking timebombs waiting to reanimate as soon as the zombie apocalypse comes. And hospitals are also packed full of lots of weak, injured, and old people who will not be able to put up a good fight against the zombies, and will thus quickly become infected themselves. So the zombies will start on site with a seed population in the morgue and will then quickly take over a large proportion of the hospital patient population.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, even more zombies will inadvertently be brought to the hospital. Most people simply aren’t smart enough to think about and prepare for the zombie apocalypse beforehand, so until media outlets start widely reporting what is actually going on and how to deal with it (destroy the brain!), the general populace will be in the dark. Many “injured” people will be brought to the hospital during the first few hours of the outbreak who are, in fact, zombies or soon-to-be zombies. So not only do you have zombie doctors, zombie nurses, and zombie patients, but you have an influx of zombies from the surrounding community as well. It’s the perfect storm of zombies, and you don’t want to be anywhere near it.

So there you have it, all of the scientific reasons to stay far away from hospitals in the event of the zombie apocalypse. If you unluckily happen to be at a hospital while the outbreak occurs, flee as quickly as possible. The normal advice is to stay put and hole up in a defensive position wherever you happen to be when the zombie apocalypse occurs, but there will be so many zombies in a hospital in short order that the better course of action is to go mobile. Get armed, group up with uninfected people (safety in numbers!), and ride out the zombie apocalypse in a defensible location with a lot of supplies, such as a Wal-Mart. But stick around in a hospital and you’re zombie fodder for sure.

Zombies are coming

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

I’ve discovered this excellent blog called Zombies Are Coming (which is now on my blogroll). It’s written on the subject of, what else, the coming zombie apocalypse (a subject that fascinates me as well). But these people take the whole concept very seriously, almost to a worrying degree. That’s why the site is such a hoot. Let’s take a brief tour as we answer all of your zombie apocalypse questions, shall we?

This site should be mandatory reading for all inhabitants of the United States. Not only will your unprepared neighbors not survive the coming zombie apocalypse, they will become zombies that will actively hunt you down and eat your brains. Thus, it is in your own self-interest to educate everyone in your neighborhood on how to survive the coming zombie apocalypse so that the damage from it is mitigated. For every household you educate in your neighborhood, that’s on average two fewer zombies coming to chew down your door. If you’re still having trouble with the concept, here’s a simple phrase you can repeat to yourself: Four zombies bad, two zombies good. Four zombies bad, two zombies good.

But the best part about Zombies Are Coming is the comments. I can’t tell if they’re serious or not. One commenter cites his determination to get his Mobile Zombie Preparedness Kit together soon; another says he has enough firearms, ammunition, food, and water to survive several months in an apocalypse scenario. Just be glad humanity is graced with the likes of these intrepid zombie survivalists, because when the coming zombie apocalypse finally does come, we will all depend on them for humanity’s survival.

My mind-consuming fascination with zombies

Monday, January 7th, 2008

I’m fascinated with zombies. I cannot explain why. I’m not a horror film buff at all (and indeed, I haven’t even seen the vast majority of zombie flicks ever committed to film). Yet thoughts of zombies constantly flit through my mind. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I frequently think of how to survive the coming zombie apocalypse. And yet, regrettably, I don’t even have a shotgun, which is by far the best anti-zombie weapon available to the average consumer, as determined by zombie experts (and if you didn’t know this, geez, where have you been?). So I definitely need to get a shotgun to deal with the zombie apocalypse when (not if) it comes. And you know I’m seriously fascinated with zombies, because I don’t even know if I’m joking when I say that.

I have had some seriously weird dreams revolving around zombies. They’re multi-hour affairs, and continue to take place for many minutes even after I’ve woken up. My most recent dream took place in a post-zombie apocalypse New York City. Yes, there were massive casualties, but order was eventually restored and life continued on, with one minor exception: zombies remained a lingering threat, especially at night (you didn’t think we would manage to take out all of the zombies in one fell swoop, did you?). It was just like how you might currently be afraid of being attacked by a mugger at 3 am on a seedy side street, except in my dream, the attackers were zombies, and they weren’t after your valuables, but rather, wanted to eat your brains. So in that sense, it was a bit scarier than contemporary New York City.

The best part of that dream, though, was how the everyday NYPD took on secondary anti-zombie duties. In the dream, I became surrounded by zombies in a dark alleyway (I don’t know what I was doing there). But luckily, the police arrived at the last second and saved me. Now, normally, the police would arrest alleged criminals, but since we are dealing with zombies here, they killed them on the spot. So the police function as judge, jury, and executioner in this post-apocalypse version of New York City, at least as far as zombies are concerned. And why shouldn’t they be? There’s no point in holding trials for zombies, since you know you’ve got to exterminate them all in the end anyway.

In addition to dreaming, I have many fully conscious thoughts about zombies, including how I would survive the coming zombie apocalypse. My ultimate zombie survival plan is this: two autoloader shotguns, a chest full of ammunition, a dependable slicing melee weapon such as a longsword (everyone knows you don’t bother trying to use bludgeoning weapons against zombies), and two weeks worth of food and water. The key to my plan is that all of these supplies are kept on the second story of a building with only one staircase, such as your typical house. That way, all you have to do is defend the stairway (zombies aren’t dexterous enough to climb the sheer vertical exterior walls of a building). And since zombies are noted for their slow movement, especially when trying to tackle stairs, you’d have a generous amount of time to take out each ascending zombie before it reached you. I suspect by the resolution of the zombie apocalypse you would have a huge pile of festering perforated zombie flesh at the bottom of your staircase, but meh, that’s unavoidable.

The reason for the second shotgun is so that you can conduct proper maintenance on one shotgun at a time without leaving you defenseless. After all, in a sustained zombie apocalypse situation, you may end up needing to fire hundreds of shells. A shotgun won’t hold up too well after going that long without cleaning. The melee weapon is in case things really go downhill. You never want to fight a zombie at melee range, but if it’s unavoidable, you’re much better off with a proper weapon than being stuck with just your fists. Just remember to aim your slashes to decapitate the zombie. You need to take out the head. A zombie with limbs sliced off will keep coming after you, but a headless zombie cannot.

And it might help to install one of these in your home:

Zombie apocalypse break glass

A pint of Haagen Daaz, a Midol, and zombies

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

I’m watching the Oxygen channel right now. I never thought I would’ve said that, but … they’re showing Resident Evil: Apocalypse on it right now. Talk about a weird programming choice. When one thinks of the Oxygen channel, one usually thinks of programming such as the Tyra Banks Show and a wide variety of crappy chick flicks. Not necessarily zombie horror action fests. But I guess it makes some sense; after all, in the Resident Evil movies, the main heroes are women. I guess it is empowering, in a sense. And frankly, I rather like action movie heroines. Especially when they’re wearing capes.

Oh yeah, and just in case zombies ever do attack, remember, shotguns are the best anti-zombie weapons.