Tech

I created a tweeting monster

Written by Lukas Graf

You might remember: Having reported about Twitter bots last November, my newly acquired knowledge made me feel capable enough of creating a bot myself only a month later. In December, I set up a virtual Twitter account that would endlessly retweet interesting thoughts related to #feminism (in my clueless mind, at least). Even though I believe @GenderTrouble_ to put lots of effort into its Twitter activity, my experiment went slightly wrong—as the headline might have given away already. Here’s why.

Before talking about the bot’s serious flaws, the numbers alone sound quite promising: Having been created and activated on December 22nd 2016, GenderTrouble has posted 1.135 tweets by now, including 376 photos and videos. This led to a total of 48 followers—whether they consist of actual people or bots only is left undecided … for the better, I’m assuming. But still: The bot did not automatically follow anyone after being put in charge and managed to acquire a numerable amount of admirers just by itself.

Quality rather than quantity
However, numbers alone are insufficient means for measuring a bot’s online behaviour. What truly counts are “deeds instead of words”, as the saying goes. Instead of focusing on the amount of published tweets, emphasis should be put on their content. Coming back to my at-the-time clueless mind, the very concept of GenderTrouble seemed to be fairly simple: Preceded by the overly impartial message “Feminism is overly important”, the bot should automatically retweet all of the posts hashtagged with #feminism. And so it did …

While I was hoping for encouraging and inspiring tweets about feminism, I completely abandoned the fact that the Internet is more than just encouraging and inspiring tweets about feminism. Despite labelling their tweets with a #feminism-hashtag, users are happy to utter their hate towards the addressed subject without constraints: From accusing feminism to embrace division to plainly tweeting “Fuck feminism”, there is an incredibly large spectrum of grumpy feminism-bashing. But while most of the postings simply express unsubstantiated rejection, this one stood out with its unique male-douchebag-office-talk humour (note the office talk here being way more socially acceptable than plain locker room talk):

Despite these tweets already demonstrating the decision for this article’s headline, the bot is not to blame for all the inconveniences people post online. Rather is its creator, who had absolutely no clue about creating Twitter bots and obviously failed miserably—uh oh, my apologies. In fact, I truly believe in GenderTrouble’s kind soul: To conquer all of the pointless accusations, the bot retweeted information it really liked more than a dozen times. For example, this image has been retweeted for a whopping 15 times within one day only!

(Disclaimer: Yes, I do acknowledge that this is most likely definitely due to the fact that other users retweeted the image 15 times within one day … But let’s just take pride in the few retweets that fulfilled the bot’s purpose without spreading hate towards its 48 followers)

Having observed GenderTrouble for almost two months now, it’s about time to draw a conclusion. 1.135 tweets, 48 followers and 49 days after setting up a Twitter bot without any coding skills, it’s safe to say that there’s reasons for why you should have coding skills before setting up a Twitter bot. Even though experimenting sounds fun, the stage should be left to the ones who create bots that are actually useful and do not only air ambiguous views about feminism. As for now, I’m out of the bot business! Who knows how long it takes to acquire some coding expertise …

Cover: Ilya Pavlov (modified by author)

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About the author

Lukas Graf

Lukas is a 20-year-old Austrian who started his studies in Communications this year. With a passion for design, feminism, and “Wiener Schnitzel”, Lukas decided to stay up north after having spent the last year in Berlin working at a memorial site.