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!

Venice Is Sinking

My cousin Elyse is in Venice, Italy right now doing a semester of study abroad. This fact has nothing to do whatsoever with the rest of this post. She is in Venice, the city, and it is not sinking, to the best of my knowledge, but it is very wet due to all the canals and such.

No, this post is about the Athens, GA based band Venice Is Sinking. I’ll clarify below.

Yesterday morning a coworker was doing his normal morning rounds: going to get his tea, smiling and waving. All very neighborly, cheerful stuff for a coworker to do. I like the guy.

Well, I liked him a whole lot more yesterday when he strode into my office and presented me with a gift: a shrink-wrapped CD, “Sorry About The Flowers” by – you guessed it – Venice Is Sinking.

I could use adjectives like “orchestral” or “lush” or “pastoral” or “atmospheric” to describe the band and their music but what does that tell you, really?

I’m no music critic, but all the songs seem handcrafted.

Not overdone.
Not twee (in style or harmony).
Not stark either.

Simple, yes, but equally complex and satisfying.

I’d make some hipster band comparisons but that would be as thin a veil as the adjectives above. Suffice it to say that if you enjoy male-female duets/harmonies, a dash of strings, the jangle of acoustic guitars and an easy, plaintive sway you’ll be dancing in the right sweater, beard and glasses tonight.

Which reminds me, *this* is genius:

I think it's pretty clear from the chart that Venice Is Sinking should earn a few spots on your iPod.
I think it's pretty clear from the chart that Venice Is Sinking should earn a few spots on your iPod.

Enough of the tomfoolery. Give Venice Is Sinking a listen.

They were nice enough to follow me on Twitter (and #FollowFriday me too).
They make some nice tunes.
They’ve got a new CD, AZAR, out now.

Enjoy them and your weekend!


I’ve been needing a push recently.

Needing to go outside to run and play.
Wanting to start something new but not knowing what to start or where to start it.
Wishing the stars would just align and get the ascension of damnation over with already, thank you very much.

The push has arrived, mid-back and with an overabundance of force, in the form of Hugh MacLeod’s new book, Ignore Everybody. His crazy deranged fools mailing list and twitter feed are culprits as well.

I’d charge them with assault if I didn’t like the jolt it gave me, popping me right back into the reality of following my creative urge. [Particularly pertinent cartoon to this effect today.]

Last Summer I wrote flash fiction in the form of Ficlet Friday. [Archives]
Last November I crossed the finish line of NaNoWriMo 2008.
Last year is over and this year is half done and what have I done?

So, thanks to Hugh and the always helpful/supportive/creative Will Hindmarch, I’m getting back on the writing train.

Finding an easy outlet (for me) to let my creative juices pool in places online.
Taking care of myself by doing instead of putting off until later (which never comes) when I’m “ready” or I have the “right” tools.
Lowering the barrier to my entry into the things that give me joy and vibrancy and meaning.

For the remainder of the Summer, Ficlet Friday is becoming Ficly Friday (due to the closing of the former/replacement of the latter).

I’m also going to start doing some random 140-characters-or-less poetry on Twitter using the hashtag #poetweet. I think this is practical, clever and productive.

Feel free to join me in either endeavor, if you’d like. We had a ton of fun last year doing flash fiction on Fridays and poetry on Twitter is (theoretically) easy. It makes a great canvas for haiku (nudge/wink).

Anyhow, I think this will be good for me. After a hiatus (too long for me) I’m ready to get back on the horse and start being creative again. Stop taking my inner voice for granted.

Cheers and thanks to both Hugh & Will!