Twitter Bots



Having learned a bit about computational, generative poetry from Dene Grigar and Davin Heckman, I went ahead and created some Twitter Bots. The process was easy enough. There are plenty of engines and scripts that will automagically post content to Twitter, Facebook, or any number of social media websites. Some will pull live data from realtime API, respond to users, or even post images.


I wrote up a corpus of phrases and words, pasted my content into a Google doc spreadsheet, and found a simple tool that works with Twitter's Dev applications. Whalen's SSBot is easy and accessible, so long as you know how to use Consumer Keys and Secrets. If not, there are plenty of online tutorials.

  What’s That?   

The hardest part about creating Twitter/chat bots is writing the lingua corpus. Not only do you need to type up thousands of stock words and phrases, you have to make sure that these phrases process grammatically when run through a Markov chain.  (My first bot too often got things wrong, and his speech came out a garbled.)

I've created three bots so far. I don't think I'll be making any more. Despite the popularity of generative text in the digital humanities, there seems something #wrong about overloading the stream with meaningless information.

  • @DHMarkov

    Created at the DH Summer Institute. Dr Markov is a snarky PhD who knows much more than I do. // Contemplate.

  • @RhetoricalArts

    Created the Isocrates bot for Victor Vitanza. Isocrates bot is a Sophist, a politician, and a terrific timesink. // BS the news.

  • @DotingPenguin

    A lonely penguin in love with a human woman. The corpus is hosted on Google Docs; it’s over 7000 romantic words. // Woe with me.

  Three’s Company   

I don't know how I feel about this. My own bots have less than 100 followers in total — so I'm probably off the hook for internet littering. Yet bots are proving themselves to be more and more problematic.

It's good to know how bots work if only to guard yourself from being taken in. If you're an educator, bots are a great way to get nascent programmers to think about language through programming. The lesson should be served with a side of ethical responsibility.