Not every Twitterbot — that is, Twitter accounts animated by code rather than by human interaction — has to be as ridiculous as what I made in the course of my adventure as a wannabe bot-creator.
But some of the most curiously charming Twitterbots are, in fact, the ones that seem bizarre, crazy, or uncanny — engaged in machine-driven feats that no actual person could, or would, undertake.
The full measure of the apparent affection for Twitterbots was revealed last year, when the cult-popular account @Horse_ebooks, believed to be a really strange bot, turned out to be (apparently) tweeting human-crafted posts. Fans were crushed, and somehow this even resulted in a rather lengthy story in The New Yorker.
It’s perfectly understandable why any given Twitter user might follow a useful bot — but can we really follow a bot out of sheer pleasure? Yes, we can. Just recently, after all, my colleague Alyssa Bereznak listed a number of enjoyable Twitter novelty accounts, bots included.
So here is an all-new, bot-exclusive roundup of lovable bots followed by me, my colleagues, and some very smart experts on the curious intersection of technology and aimless pleasure.
A couple of people mentioned this one: It identifies (presumably accidental) acrostics in expression across the Twittersphere and repackages them in new tweets.
This is actually a personal favorite of mine: It pumps out ersatz, and usually absurd, “assignments” based on a set of randomly combined variables dictating a form, theme, and due date.
Art Assignment Bot was created by artist and technologist Jeffrey Thompson — whose work I’ve written about previously. He had a couple of recommendations, including this one — which “tweets stats from a data buoy mixed with text from Moby-Dick.”
Thompson also pointed me to this bot, which “creates randomized drink recipes.” Cheers to that!
Another popular bot, @everyword, promised to tweet, you know, every word in the English language. While this mission is apparently complete, Mike Lacher (a seasoned pro at creative code, and an invaluable adviser in my personal bot adventure) pointed me to this account, which basically replicates Every Word’s feat — but adding the word “gay” in front of each entry.
Funny? Offensive? Ridiculous? Childish? I think you’ll have to sort that out yourself. But this is a great example of how bots beget bots.
6. @Sneak Peak
Lacher and others also pointed to this bit of automated pedantry: an account that corrects Twitter users who misspell “sneak peek.”
Honestly, I’m not sure how to explain what this is. It describes itself as a “sexting bot that learned everything it knows from wikihow.” I’d say it’s safe for work, as long as you’re not worried about colleagues wondering what the hell is wrong with you.
This bot is one of several recommendations I got from the folks behind the excellent podcast “TLDR,” which I wrote about here. Pentametron searches for and shares tweets “that happen to be in iambic pentameter.” I’m still not sure if code is poetry, but clearly code can be made to recognize poetry, or at least a form of it.
This is another TLDR tip: It basically intentionally confuses (or mashes together) two headlines from the news of the moment, as explained by its creator here.
There don’t seem to be as many visually focused Twitterbots, but the TLDR crew also pointed me to one example in this category: Reverse OCR. This bot “picks a word and then draws randomly,” until an optical character recognition program can “read” it.
Inserts the name of the actor with an inexplicable cult following into wildly inappropriate current-event headlines.
Quotes from the journalism legend — oddly perfect for the social-media era.
Finally: I also asked for tips from one of my favorite observers of tech culture: Rich Oglesby, the man behind the indispensable Prosthetic Knowledge Tumblr (which I wrote about here). He concurred about Art Assignment Bot and clued me in to this one: Each tweet describes a scene from the film Koyaanisqatsi, the famously wordless music-and-image collaboration between Godfrey Reggio and Philip Glass.
It’s possible that you’re looking at this list and wondering why in the world you’d want to sign on to follow tweets cranked out by a bunch of de facto robots.
But I think the answer should be obvious: They are — face it — more interesting than most of the humans you’re currently following.