Twitter Bots


I’m a huge fan of bot-building; I think some of the most exciting people in code are those who use bots to play with language intelligently. I’d been following Darius Kazemi‘s bot work; in particular, I loved his “You Must Be…” site, because it was a delightfully simple and effective algorithm to generate jokes. (You’ll have to excuse me when I nerd out about humor theory; it was a large part of my dissertation.)

So, because of that, I wanted to start a humor bot of my own. I initially envisioned a bot that would create exclamations in the style of Anchorman, but working on the principle of iterative improvement, I just wanted to get the thing up and running first. So, when we were on-call for election night, I built a simple Twitter bot that took random words from the dictionary and added exclamation points. I made a Twitter profile, and for the avatar I used the mad scientist from Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science” video — perhaps I’m dating myself, but when I saw all those workds with exclamation points, I couldn’t help but think of the “Science!” exclamations in that song. Thus Sir Exclaims-A-Lot was born, and still excitedly tweets every hour.

Later than year I build a bot that would Tweet the Aeneid, line by line. I did this both because there was a nifty Aeneid API that had just become available, and because I thought it was a cool idea to have some Latin poetry floating around the Twittersphere. I open sourced the code, and commented it extensively in the hopes that it would serve as a tutorial for any humanities folk who wanted to learn more about code. I called the bot Your Daily Vergil, and it, too, tweets hourly: