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I built a bot to reserve sports courts at my university's athletic facilities. I did it because the reservations opened during a time when I am usually asleep, and also demand is high (pretty sure many other people were also using bots), so it improved my chances of occasionally getting a spot. I did it to automate a procedure I found boring and repetitive, without malicious intent.

I ended up having a lot of fun building the bot, and came up with some creative solutions for implementing certain features I wanted (related to my ease of use, not to avoid detection). I was wondering how wise it would be to potentially add this project to my GitHub/CV/talk about it during interviews. Will the negative moral implications of building a bot outweigh the things I learned from the process? Is there a way for me to reframe what I did to allow me to talk about it without risking questions on my character?

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    I notice that you mention a lot things like: "non-malicious", "ease of use, not avoid detection", "reframe what I did"... all of those suggest that you are making an effort to chose certain wording to make it sound safe or positive... this hints that deep inside you know/believe this is not ethical or perhaps legal (did you check the terms and conditions of your uni's sport page?). In general, bots are not well seen by most community, and thus why things like captcha and re-captcha exist... "non-malicious" can be quite relative depending on the side and POV
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 18:49
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    I guess I meant that I didn't implement something to steal data/crash websites or disrupt services. As far as I can tell, I don't violate any posted terms and conditions or codes of conduct. I feel uneasy because it has been ingrained in me that bots are bad, and I want to understand where on the continuum of bad this is. Is it closer to being 10 min late to a meeting, or much, much worse. But thank you for your comment, I think it is more serious than I thought it was.
    – The Hagen
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 19:06
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    Perhaps is the purpose/use of the bot that makes it grey area regarding ethics and legal stuff... my perception surely but, for example, a web crawler with a purpose of parsing info to backup sites or similar is one thing, but a bot aimed to buy tickets that are aimed for humans (and to buy/save them faster than the humans) is another thing...
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 19:22
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    Can this bot be used for other purposes? Like just sending an alarm when a spot is open or something like that? Then you could mention it. This way the bot doesnt really give you an unfair advantage over others. Thing is, the bot is always faster than a human, so there is no way for a human to compete with your bot, so the spot is taken either way by you. Having an unfair advantage is something different than making a process easier or removing an unnecessary task (e.g. looking at the website to see no spots are available)
    – bibleblade
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 7:57
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    Maybe I've made some optimistic assumptions but if I were interviewing you I'd be impressed more than anything else. I've assumed that you're only booking facilities for yourself, not profiting and not giving yourself an advantage that you wouldn't get if you stayed up until 3am. Given all that, I'd definitely hire the person that chose to automate the task and go to sleep over the one that chooses to stay up all night and do it manually. If you value your own time like that then you will value the company's time and I'd want you on my team.
    – Kichi
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 20:19

2 Answers 2

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Will the negative moral implications of building a bot outweigh the things I learned from the process?

It might.

I regularly have to reserve a spot on a court for a sport I play. I would be rather unhappy to find out that someone used a bot to do the work for them, rather than doing it on their own like everyone else.

Unless the job you are seeking specifically requires bot building, it's best to avoid this topic. Seems like a real risk for very little potential gain.

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  • wonder if you are aware that duplicate notice "closed by ... Community Bot" means that asker confirmed that duplicate answers their question. like it was in this question (granted, it may look confusing that the close message refers some brainless bot, I've seen explanations at meta why system can't just put asker's name instead but frankly these explanations didn't make much sense to me)
    – gnat
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 23:56
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Purely personal opinion.

Although from a computer science perspective some may find it interesting the risk is if the guy hates bots it won't look good for you.

I wrote an algorithm that can run as a stealthy virus as part of a uni project (we all did) but it certainly isn't something I'd brag about as it opens up possibilities of misunderstanding.

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