How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bot

With apologies to Stanley Kubrick for the post title, I’ve been thinking about writing a Twitter bot for about a year now.

Most of my infatuation with the topic started when news reports about Russians using social media bots to try to influence voters in the 2016 election cycle came to light.

My own purposes are slightly less nefarious: proper spelling

Now correcting someone’s spelling on Twitter can be the act of a troll or, at least, pretty pedantic. No one is going to add you to their LinkedIn if you’re out there doling out “actually”s.

But if a Twitter Bot does it that’s (arguably) something different.

A Twitter Bot can be humorous in its delivery.
A Twitter Bot can make fun of folks in a winking, knowing way without being an asshole.
A Twitter Bot can bridge the gap between people better especially when folks know it’s a Twitter Bot.

With these precepts in mind, I set out to build my own “Whoa Bot”, a pun-ny name that still makes me smile.

After searching for a suitable handle and going through the necessary steps that Twitter assigns both for accounts and for apps, I just had to write some Bot code.

The quickest and easiest platform to try was Glitch. I’m a long-time follower of Anil Dash and so I thought I’d give the service a try. Thanks to their very simple twitterbot template, I was off & running.

I wish I had a better story to tell you about laboring on code tweaks, but all I really did was adapt some code that Mark Rabey had written for a Node.js twitter bot to conform to some of the existing code & setup that Glitch provided, et voila!

For those that use Glitch here’s a link to the code.

If you’re the type of person that wants to see folks who spell the word “WHOA” as “WOAH” be corrected for their spelling error, give Whoa Bot a follow. And if you’re not, hopefully you don’t find my particular brand of silly sententiousness too sour. 😉

I feel like the addition of Keanu Reeves’ face in the avatar & header adds to the air that it’s all in good fun and I seem to get a few knowing replies, retweets, and faves every day.

If I offended anyone too severely, I’d stop.

The only rule I’ve run afoul of in the weeks since I turned on the Whoa Bot is to be rate-limited by Twitter, but that was an easy problem to fix in the code.

In the end it was fun for me to research and write, it’s fun to see the bot out in the wild saying “WHOA!”, and most of the folks who get quote-tweeted find it fun. That’s a win-win-win, so I hope you like it too!

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