Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Turing Droid: A Two-Day Experiment

"A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm."
- Isaac Asimov, First Law of Robotics

So this week, I tried to dabble in the world of Twitter bots. Naturally, the first instinct was to create a grammar bot, but I decided that some sort of content aggregator would be a better option.

It's quite simple, really. One only has to gather RSS feeds from sites of interest and feed it into Twitterfeed. Once that's done, the next step is to authorize Twitterfeed to post on behalf of your Twitter bot account.

Unfortunately, the account is currently suspended, due to an oversight of mine. I forgot to switch off the experimental Yahoo Pipes feeds (for the grammar bot), and quite a few people were annoyed when the account sent them messages which were correcting their spelling mistakes. The 'targets' were random, but still, I think their reaction is quite understandable.

What's funny is that the account was suspended twice within a two day period. I managed to get the first one lifted, but the bot was suspended again after a day for no apparent reason. After browsing through the rules, I reckon it's probably because they suspected that the account was performing 'aggressive follower churn', or the automation of the follow/unfollow dynamic. This was not the case (nor do I have the knowledge to do such things, yet), but as a fellow developer, I can see where the they are coming from.

I guess I'll just have to create a new account for personal content aggregation. Twitterfeed is thankfully an external service, so my feeds are safe and I do not have to start from scratch. I personally found it interesting that a two-day old account managed to get around a couple hundred followers. In comparison, that's around five times more than my personal account.

If anything, I think it's strange that people found it difficult distinguish human and non-human interaction over the Internet, even though I deliberately left telltale signs that the account was automated.

I guess Terminators are feasible after all.

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