The 10 Best Twitterbots That Are Also Net Art

January 9, 2015 | Rhett Jones

More often than not, Twitterbots are useless. They don’t have a lot of practical applications unless you’re interested in spam or looking to spread malware. But sometimes, Twitterbots can be useless in a good way.

Oscar Wilde was paying a compliment when he said, “All art is quite useless.” Basically, the inherent use of art must come from the person experiencing it. Likewise, the Twitterbots collected below don’t really have much of a use, and they are art. They cover found poetry, creative curating, instructional art, mash-up storytelling, algorithmic drawing and lyrical summarization. A year ago, @Horse_ebooks broke many hearts when it turned out to be an art project instead of a bot, here are nine art projects that actually are bots, hopefully they might fill the void that was left behind.

Vaporfave – @vaporfave by Aurora Beaurealis @beaugunderson

Yes, Vaporwave is so two years ago, but that just means there’s all kinds of images to be tweeted into your feed multiple times a day by this great account. Too often confused with Seapunk, Vaporwave is actually a fairly diverse genre of bad taste internet aesthetics.


Art Assignment Bot – @artassignbot by Jeff Thompson @jeffthompson_

You don’t have to be an artist to follow the Art Assignment Bot. In fact, non-artists benefit most since its assignments might give you the kick in the pants you need to get those art juices flowing. If you are an artist, the assignments are just vague enough that you won’t feel like your creative cajones have been put into a vice. Personally, I just like reading the suggestions and spending a few seconds thinking what they might look like when complete.


NYT Minus Context – @NYTMinusContext by Author Unknown

Everything you need to know is in the title. This bot just selects text from the New York Times without any sort of context. While it probably would have had similar results with any newspaper, the Grey Lady is still considered the paper against which all others are judged, so it was the obvious choice. This one falls into that “found poetry” category of Twitter bots.


Internet Directory – @Int3rn3tDir3ctry by Daniel Temkin @rottytooth

Internet Directory just tweets out “every .COM domain in alphabetical order.” That’s it. It will take a long time to tweet that ever-growing list of domains. I like seeing the random names and occasionally click through to see what random sites are behind them.


空白でもズレない♥アスキーアートbotに – @TwitAA_bot by おちゃわんこ(^ω^U) @Ponsu_kontsu

ASCII Art! The Google translated version of the description on this account says that it “is a bot that tweet the AA that can be used on Twitter.” Whether that means it’s finding ASCII art or generating it — or just tweeting ASCII art made by a human and it’s not a bot at all — I don’t know. But it says “bot” in the title and I like ASCII art so on the list it goes.


The Acrostic Hunter – @acrostik by Emonkus @thricedotted

The Acrostic Hunter finds tweets that form an acrostic and retweets them so that you can see it all formatted nicely. Despite the voluntary or involuntary words people are spelling with their sentences, this account is just cool for seeing some really strange things that people tweet like, “Whispers. I’m Not Done Yet.” This is another one in that “found poetry” category.


Station 51000 – @_LostBuoy by Author Unknown

This little bot mixes data that’s still coming in from a real data buoy that is currently lost at sea with selections from Moby Dick. Station 51000 kind of hits that uncanny valley feeling that Horse_ebooks had in which you get this impression that you’re staring at the soul of a machine that wants to break out. In this case, it’s all clever programming. Poor data buoy, floating alone; hope for rescue is but a sliver and the days can only be occupied by fulfilling the mission it was designed for.


Pentametron – @pentametron by Ranjit Bhatnagar 

Pentametron crawls through Twitter seeking posts that are in iambic pentameter. Found poetry once again, but due to the inherent language structure, the phrases come off feeling a little more rounded than other selections on this list.


Reverse OCR – @reverseocr by Darius Kazemi @tinysubversions

Back to some visual stuff. Reverse OCR “picks a word and then draws randomly until an OCR [optical character recognition] library reads that word.” Once the word is recognized, the drawing gets thrown up on Twitter with it’s vocable inspiration. Drawing is an art form that needs a little conceptual kick in the butt, so this is a cool start.


Koyaanisqatsi – @__koyaanisqatsi by Author Unknown

This bot takes its inspiration from the 1982 impressionistic documentary Koyaanisqatsi. If you’ve never seen that film or any of it’sQatsi Trilogy counterparts it would probably be best to watch a brief clip to get the idea. It’s just montages of people, places, buildings, technology, animals, rockets and other forms of matter on Earth. The title means “Life out of balance,” and generally the film tries to convey society and nature veering off the deep end.

All this bot does is describe scenes from the movie. Where it’s getting those descriptions from, I’m not totally sure, but it’s entirely possible that it’s just randomly throwing a selection of phrases together and I wouldn’t know the difference. The original film is pretty random. What’s cool is that it really carries on the spirit of the documentary and it’s great to get these little disconcerting gems in your feed alongside all the news items that would fit perfectly in any of the Qatsi films.


(Photo: Information Security Buzz)