I was following a number of threaded discussions over the weekend on Twitter, about Twitter. Concerns about its negative elements (trolls, privacy, etc.) versus its positive elements (connections, discussions, etc.) continue to play out in all sorts of ways.
My friend, Sherri S., wrote a blog post response to George S.’s observations that criticized Twitter as a narrowing space of echo bubbles we create for ourselves (I’m summarizing my reading of his points), and I found her deep dive interesting. So I took her words for a walk in a remix version (which sparked its own discussion on Saturday about the value and rationale of remix).
And that conversations lingered in my mind, as I sat down to do some songwriting yesterday. I can hear it in the lyrics of this new song — Worlds Fall Apart — about the idea of starting over, and building something new.
Maybe I had Mastodon, and its federated ideas of freedom from corporate control of social media spaces, on my mind as I was writing. Or maybe it was the watching of the first Mad Max with my son the other night.
This is the second Making Music post this week. I have at least one more coming. I’m suddenly finding myself back to some songwriting and thinking about music making, at least for a bit.
(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)
I would love to have a larger database of terms to use with a Twitter bot that I created for Networked Narratives, and I am hoping you might have some words to feed into the bot. The creation of a Twitter Bot was an offshoot of an earlier activity, in which I taught myself how to do it. (A Twitter Bot is an account that has certain random settings and posts either on a schedule, or when it is invoked by other Twitter users. You can read more about how I set mine up here)
Hey #NetNarr – What’s So Funny about Peace Love and Unicorn Playwrights?
My PeaceLove Bot is set up rather simply: it tweets with the message What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and ______. The blank space is what gets filled by pulling from a database of terms. That’s where you can come in and help me. I want to expand the database of terms.
Well, I did it. Check out the PeaceLove&Bot bot. Every six hours, the PeaceLove bot will send out a new tweet that begins with the lines made famous in the Elvis Costello song (but written by Nick Lowe) with random word replacing “Understanding” in the lyrics. I’ve included the #NetNarr hashtag in the code, too, so that the tweets get sent into the NetNarr twitter stream.
Phew. It was both easier and more difficult than I thought, and it took a long time on Saturday to get all of the programming pieces together. I used a free program called Tracery and hosting site called Cheap Bots by the very generous @GalaxyKate and George Buckinham.
Hey #NetNarr – What’s So Funny about Peace Love and Remix?
The easy piece was that Kate and George really make the programming possibilities fairly simple to use. The difficult part was the ins and outs of making sure I was writing my code correctly, for any little thing made the bot go boink (hard to resist that alliteration and Scooby Doo onomatopoeia).
First, I had to create an entire new Twitter account. Which I did. But then when I connected the Cheap Bots to the account, Twitter got mad and shut down my account, asking me for a phone number to reinstate the account. I did that, and then realized that now my main Twitter account could not use the same mobile phone number as my bot account … ack … I confirmed that Cheap Bots could use my new Twitter bot account, and then reversed the use of the phone number (which I use as a validation tool for my Twitter account).
Third, I was stuck with the question. I am making a Twitter Bot, but what should it say to the world? I had Elvis Costello in my head, singing along with What’s So Funny (about Peace, Love and Understanding) and wondered if that might be a way to keep true to staying positive in this negative time of Trump, while also keeping the underlying mechanics of the Bot simple. It would use a common phrase but replace a word each time with a random word from a database.
Fourth, what database? I realized that while ideally I would have my bot draw from some outside database, I could not take on the technical aspects of that. Tracery allows you to make your own database right in the code, so I did that, mulling over phrases and words that would remain positive and still fit in the song title. At one point (and I might return to this), I had this idea of using the invented, made-up words from my students’ Crazy Collaborative Dictionary (which I wrote about the other day) as the database for the bot. But when I experimented, the bot didn’t seem to want to recognize the invented words. It may have been something that I did wrong with the code. Not sure. So I went back to my original database.
And now? The PeaceLove&Bot is loose upon the world. Every six hours, a new tweet is sent out. I may yet add more words to the database, and heck … I invite you: What words or phrases should end the What’s So Funny about Peace Love and ?????? Leave a comment here at the blog. I’ll add your word in.
Peace (not so funny in these tumultuous days),
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.
Vine, or the making of new Vines, sort of went kaput the other day, although I guess the 6-sec videos are still being hosted at the site, and there is something called Vine Camera replacing it.
But I am not sure.
All I know is, the other day I received an email from Vine, warning me that the deadline for using its downloader was upon us. So, I grabbed the ZIP file of all my Vines (videos and image shots, it turns out), and then thought .. now what?
I was curious to see the vids all together, and so pulled them into Animoto for this collection. It may only be amusing and entertaining for me, with context.
Thanks to Ian for sharing this in his newsletter. The video by Nerdwriter is alarmingly fascinating in closely examining the way Trump uses Twitter (and brings up for me the entirely other important question of what happens when — and I believe it will be “when” not “if” — Trump’s account gets hacked).
Check out this analysis of language and rhetoric and impact:
The fact is, it is both frustrating and fascinating to watch news unfold this way. Mostly frustrating, because Trump’s inability to be articulate is likely intentional (or not?) and yet, the social media platform allows him to rattle the world while drinking coffee in his pajamas. That’s alarming, all right. (see my earlier note about worrying about his account getting hacked.)
This data analysis over use of language, though, is interesting, if one can remove feelings about Trump from the equation. (OK, that’s hard to do.) Parsing through words and tone, and use of devices for writing, make for an interesting way to see how Trump interacts with the world, particularly through the “emotional charged” language (many of his tweets are negative, not surprisingly) and the sharp endings of Tweets and use of exclamation points that are “framing devices” for his rhetorical message.
The video notes that we are used to seeing this kind of spontaneous outbursts from our friends and wacky relatives. It’s part of the social networking fabric.
“… what we’re not familiar with … is this kind of thing (using Twitter for thinking out loud) from the most powerful person in the world and how it will fall out when you hold a position where even your words, desperately tweeted into the void, have global impact …” — from Nerdwriter video
Yesterday, I noticed I had pushed the number of tweets in my account to 54,000 tweets. Holy smokes! What the heck have I been writing about? (Just a bit of math on the writing blog: That means, given the 140 character limit, that I posted 7.6 million characters on Twitter. Ahem. I won’t vouch for the character of those characters … some are good, some are bad, some are meh. A scant few might have been gems.)
Well, I write about teaching, about writing, about collaboration, about Connected Learning, about comics, about digital literacies, and, yes, a lot of other stuff that often seems ancillary to my identity as an educator. Twitter is one of my go-to platforms to engage with others. Despite all of the reasons why people may not like Twitter (some of which are very valid), I still find it valuable for discovering new ideas and reflecting with others on the journey forward.
Still, 54,000 small bits of writing? That sure seems like a lot.
I wondered what my 54,000th tweet actually was. I think it was this one:
Shoot. I can live with adding more debris of words to the world if it means being part of something like the #HaikuForHealing project that Mary Lee Hahn and others have been engaged in for the past month or so, as a way to grapple with the fallout from the election and the emerging chaos of the Trump years to come. Some days, it feels as if words are all we have. And Twitter is made for Haiku.
Interestingly, Twitter also has a tool that allows you to go back in time to find your very first tweet. Here’s mine.
That was nearly nine years ago. That was before Obama even took office? Time sure flies. Gotta run. I have another haiku to write. See you on Twitter.
One of the hashtags I keep open in my Tweetdeck is #25wordstory, which was first introduced to me by Brian Fay, and I try to contribute now and then. The small stories, confined by 140 characters, are interesting to write. While some believe the stories have to be 25 words, exact, I am more of the mind that it has to fit inside a tweet.
With flash fiction like this, you need to leave gaps for the reader. You can only hint at the larger story. They are interesting to write, and intriguing to read.
In the past week or so, I have written a handful for the hashtag and in the interest of curating, I ported the stories out of Twitter and into Pablo in order to marry the words with images. Then, the stories all got pulled into Animoto for a video collage hosted on YouTube. (Note: I am trying to make clear my paths of composition these days.)
Writing these very short, short stories reminds me of a presentation I once did for an NCTE Ignite session called Writing, in Short.
Margaret Simon, who helps facilitate a weekly discussion around digital literacies with the #DigiLitSunday hashtag, organized a Twitter Chat on Sunday that I could not attend. So, I played Monday Morning Quarterback with her Storify curation, adding comments as a way to engage in the conversation (after it had already ended). And days later, I am now sharing.
The theme of the chat was about essay writing, and centered on a book by Katherin Bomer, entitled The Journey Is Everything Teaching Essays That Students Want to Write for People Who Want to Read Them. Margaret gives more info at her blog.
Sunday morning. I see my friend Ray is sharing a haiku. It’s about jazz. I can’t resist. I riff off his poem, make my own and send it out. It starts there and then expands into something wonderful: a day of writing and sharing haiku.
I tried to curate the many strands as best as I could here: