#NetNarr: Considering the Rise of the Twitter Bots

Bot List

So, I am on another meander .. trying to parse out the possibilities of Twitter Bots as a means of digital writing. And wondering, is it? I don’t rightly know. Thus, the meander.

I’m on this line of inquiry thanks to the Networked Narratives crew, and one of the paths revealed during the recent “studio tour” with Leonardo Flores, whose work with generative Twitter Bots sparked some interesting annotation discussions.

Certainly, Twitter Bots — which are programmed to release writing or images or something from a data base at random or programmed times — are numerous (as I found when I started looking for them with new eyes) and funny and entertaining. Some bots mesh together ideas from other sites, creating a hybrid tweet. Others are original material, parsed together in odd ways. Some bots take on personalities from history, using archived texts as source material. Others are like programmed memes, making political fun of something through satire and sarcasm. Some are stories, unfolding in small bits over time.

Right now, I am following Mia Zamora and Alan Levine’s suggestion at Networked Narratives to “follow some bots” and see what happens over a few days time. I created a Twitter List of various bots that I have found (and feel free to follow the list if you want or you can ask Flores’ HotBots Bot to recommend Bots to follow based on your question or theme), and find myself dipping into the narrative stream now and then. It’s not a great strategy because the bot tweets are all mixed up, like a book whose pages have been put into disorder.

What I am wondering about in the larger picture, though, is this: can I make and launch my own Twitter Bot?

Yesterday, I started working on a Twitter Bot to send into the NetNarr twitter stream and  I think I can pull it off, but I have been struggling with what would I want that bot to say to the world? What database might it mine for words and ideas? What message? Is my act of making a bot share writing out to the world an act writing?

More to come …. tomorrow, I will write about my bot experiment.

Peace (generate it),


  1. I loooove your idea of making your own bot….the thought crossed my mind as well (but I should not be as ambitious)….I am very interested in your progress and the outcome. One of the (simpler) ideas I had was based on the Save the Humanities bot that (I guess) searches for posts with the words “we need to…” and then copies whatever someone posted after the words: To save the humanities….seems like a simple enough “coding” option??……..they’re actually pretty amusing. It sort of reminds me of a game we play at bridal showers…we “secretly” copy down all the words the bride-to-be says while opening her gifts and then someone reads excerpts that she would hypothetically say when she’s “with” her future husband….such as “just what I wanted”….etc. Anyway, it is a fascinating concept to consider whether this is “writing” ….at the very least, it seems to be some sort of reflection on society….very interesting stuff!

    • Hi Laura
      Thanks for commenting.
      I am finding all sorts of complexities and variations with bots. My post tomorrow will show how I did mine and what I was aiming for. Still not sure where they fit in the spectrum of writing, though.

  2. You got a good list going (Magic Realism bot is one of my favorites).

    And I am not surprised people want to learn how to make them, I would too. We are hoping to come back to bot making later in the course, but no one’s gonna stop a dog on pursuit.

    You are in a way doing this, but I think of it like the way we introduce media in ds106- before trying to create audio or video, we ask people to spend time “reading” or partaking of it.

    I wiill say, in my limited bot making experience, that I would add to your description of bots, that some of them are doing some kind of formulated, recasting of content programmed into them (remixing their own range of content)– these are relatively easier to do.

    More complex bots are ones that respond to messages or tags or phrases used in twitter (these generally seem to have you diving into Node.js).

    If you want a start, I highly recommend Zach Whalen’s guide on making one that runs from a Google Spreadsheet he built chwhalen.net/posts/how-to-make-a-twitter-bot-with-google-spreadsheets-version-04/

    I am pretty sure, like I am guessing, that is how @isamericagrate was made — I am only GUESSING 😉

  3. Twitter Bots annoy me. I think it is cool you are creating your own, both to understand them better, and to be able to stalk others. 🙂

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