This Might Be a Twitterbot

William Allen White

A while ago, I made a threat on Twitter that I was going to unfollow any account that wasn’t a bot. On an average day, I’ve been getting as much value out of these algorithmically-generated as I do from human-run accounts, it seems, whether it’s just tweeting out Finnegans Wake or Gravity’s Rainbow, searching the twitter stream for pairs of rhyming tweets in iambic pentameter, replacing the nouns and adjectives in William Carlos Williams’ “This is Just to Say“, or a Markov chain-driven mashup of the King James Bible and Abelson & Sussman’s The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs.

There’s a quote from near the beginning of Pynchon’s ‘The Crying of Lot 49’ that’s always resonated with me — “You know what a miracle is. Not what Bakunin said. But another world’s intrusion into this one. Most of the time we coexist peacefully, but when we do touch there’s cataclysm.” The tweets being generated by the bots I follow give me that same sense of tiny little blips of another incongruous universe briefly slipping into ours. I’m also reminded of Wintermute, the AI gone insane in Gibson’s Count Zero, quietly making Cornell-like shadowboxes.

Then, one day I saw this:

…and knew that I had to build my own bot. (more…)