How one man wrote 8.5% of Wikipedia

Sverker Johansson whose bot has authored over 2.7 million Wikipedia articles

Sverker Johansson whose bot has authored over 2.7 million Wikipedia articles

Swedish physicist Sverker Johansson has degrees in economics, particle physics, linguistics and civil engineering.

He is also, arguably, the most prolific writer of all time. 

The 53-year-old has written over 2.7 million articles on Wikipedia over the past seven years, the Wall Street Journal reports. On a good day the output can be as high as 10,000 articles.

His contribution to Wikipedia's knowledge database of 30 million articles in 287 languages makes up 8.5 per cent of all the content on the site. 

His claims to authorship are contested however, as they were created by a computer generated software algorithm, otherwise known as a bot. Johansson has named his Lsjbot. 

Bots are increasingly making their presence felt in the online content domain.

Phil Parker, who is purported to be the most published author in history, has successfully published over 85,000 physical books on niche topics such as childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Each book takes less than an hour to "write". In fact the writing is carried out by patented algorithms which enable computers to do all the heavy lifting.

Bots may also be writing the journalist out of the future of journalism.

Ken Schwencke, a reporter on the Los Angeles Times, has created "Quakebot", an algorithm which automatically creates and publishes a story on the newspaper's website every time an earthquake is detected in California. Take this report earlier this month.

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Quakebot even has its own Twitter account.

Back at Wikipedia, Johansson's contributions to the world's largest repositry of encyclopaedic knowledge have centred on obscure animal species - specifically birds, butterflies and beetles. 

Lsjbot scans the internet for information on the particular subject and then automatically creates a small Wikipedia article or "stub" from the information retrieved.

To date, Johansson has managed to create a stub for every known bird species in the world. He has also covered every form of fungus. 

He is selective about the topic areas that the Lsjbot bot can cover. 

"I am strictly exclusionist with the domains where the risk of a point of view is palpable," he said on his Wikipedia philosophy page. "For example, contemporary companies, politicians, musicians etc." 

However, not every Wikipedia author supports Johansson's methods. 

"I am against the production of bot generated stubs in general," Wikipedia author Achim Raschka told the WSJ.

Correction: The original version of this article reported that Sverker Johansson had created 2.7 million Wikipedia articles since 2001. It should have stated "since 2007". It was also reported that he created an average of 10,000 articles a day, whereas it should have stated that he created 10,000 article "on a good day".

 - Sydney Morning Herald


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