The Official @Thinkpiecebot FAQ

I made @thinkpiecebot a couple weeks ago and it has really taken off; it already has more than twice as many followers as me. I’ve been interviewed about it twice already and have also gotten a lot of questions on Twitter, so I’m putting together the common ones so I don’t have to keep answering them over and over.

What do you use to make your bots?
All my bots except @NoraReedEbooks and @NORBORG_ebooks use Cheap Bots Done Quick, which runs on  Tracery. I set up @NoraReedEbooks using this tutorial; @NORBORG_ebooks was built by @iglvzx; he made a tutorial on setting up your own.

How do they work?
Each bot has a series of formulas that it picks from at random and inserts words from predetermined lists. @Thinkpiecebot actually has two levels of these: the main formulas, such as “Do [GENERATIONAL GROUP] Really Love [RANDOM WORD/PHRASE SELECTED FROM ANY CATEGORY]?”, and a top-level formula that puts a publication prefix in front of one in six tweets.

As of this writing, @thinkpiecebot has main formulas and 25 variables. Some of these variables don’t include very many options: the formula that created the above tweet grabs the verb– “cure”– from a list with only two available options, “cure” and “cause”.

What inspired @thinkpiecebot? I’m a millennial, and I’m incredibly frustrated by articles written by people outside of our demographic attempting to explain us and doing so badly. You can’t throw a proverbial stone in the internet-news-o-sphere without hitting an article talking about how hypersensitive and vain we are. Boomers offer their Dunning-Kruger driven takes on trigger warnings, conveniently ignoring the freely available information on how PTSD triggers and exposure therapy actually work. They ask questions about why we don’t do things that require money, like have big weddings or buy houses, and come up with ridiculous reasons involving how we got too many awards as a kid as reasons instead of realizing that their generation completely ruined the economy. @Thinkpiecebot is a way to call out the predictability of these articles, as well as a lot of other kinds of ridiculous output, and the humor of it is a way to cope with the fact that people keep writing them and keep defining my generation by the trumped-up bullshit in them.

You’re really down on Boomers and capitalism. What’s with that?
Capitalist culture attempts to tie our ideas of self-worth to our economic output, and millennials have largely been forced into emotionally and physically draining dead-end jobs that underpay us, if we’re employed at all.

As a generation, we’re struggling to survive in the world that Boomers managed to completely fuck up, and they’re getting paid to write columns on how degenerate we all are for taking selfies. My whole life, I’ve been seeing the output of my generation shat on by people who can’t even be bothered to understand it.

From these people’s perspective, Twitter was a platform for self-obsessed 20-somethings to talk about what they had for breakfast, but after my generation figured out how to use it for large-scale political activism and to connect people to conversations that never would’ve existed, THEN they’re happy to get accounts to promote their “brand”. They’re happy to roll their eyes at fandoms that are creating enormous quantities of creative material and inspiring new writers and artists to make things for their own satisfaction and to share with their communities. They’ll complain about new gender identities and sexual orientations, never realizing how much of a balm to isolation it can be to have a word to describe how you are and to be able to connect to people who feel the same way.

How did you come up with the material for @thinkpiecebot?
Most of it is words and phrases I came up with while looking at horrible thinkpieces, but I got a lot of help from my Twitter followers. They did particularly invaluable work with helping me phrase some of the issues regarding marginalization and privilege; I wanted to be sure that wasn’t falling into doing “ironic bigotry”, and they helped a lot with coming up with specific phrasings that wouldn’t harm groups who are already being targeted by actual thinkpieces.

Does it run on its own?
I have it set up to post every hour, but sometimes when I add new stuff I have it post a handful of tweets using the new formulas/phrases, or when I’m messing with the code and it comes up with a particularly good sample tweet I will have it post that because it made me laugh.

So you’re still updating it?
I keep thinking of new things to add, so yeah. I’m guessing I will stop eventually, maybe once my cutting satire becomes so popular that everyone stops writing thinkpieces in shame.

I would like to pay you! How do I do that?
I have a Patreon and a PayPal tip jar. Thanks! Your contributions allow me to keep working on new bots and keep improving @thinkpiecebot!

Is @thinkpiecebot open source?
I’ve considered open sourcing my bots, but I am concerned that if I do that, men will do things with them. As soon as someone makes an open source licence that only allows use by women and non-binary folks and forces men to ask my permission to use my code, I’ll probably release it.

Update 5/4/16: I’m now sharing the code of TumblrSimulator for people to view to see how it works, and hydratebot is licenced to be shared if you’re interested.  I share code excerpts with people who ask, but after being updated for nearly a year, @thinkpiecebot is kind of a behemoth; it wouldn’t be very useful as a learning tool, because it’s kind of a kludgey mess on the back end.

Are you serious? Isn’t that… misandry?
¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Why did you block me?
I share my personal blocklist with my bots so that it’s harder for people to harass me via those accounts. As an outspoken feminist, I’m a regular target for online abuse. I might notice if you tweet @ it asking nicely to be unblocked, but it’s my bot, and I get to choose if I don’t want people to have access to it.

Is this really a bot?/Don’t you at least hand-pick the best ones and schedule them?
Yeah, it is, it just seems more coherent than lots of the bots you’re used to because it’s formula-based, not using Markov chains or other, similar techniques. The hourly tweets– the ones that tweet at :11 after the hour– are totally automatic. I do occasionally do tweet-bursts when I add new content, and I pick which of those tweets go up; I also sometimes tweak the code a bit so that new stuff is more likely to come up. The only tweets I hand-write are the ones where I ask for money.

Where else can I follow @thinkpiecebot?
I recently set up a Tumblr for it; it cross-posts tweets from Twitter over there too.

Why did @thinkpiecebot just tweet a bunch of times in a row?
I sometimes do tweet-bursts when I add new content. It’ll stop in a minute.

Will you add ________ to @thinkpiecebot?
Maybe; I do take suggestions that are tweeted to @NoraReed. However, there are a lot of places I don’t want @thinkpiecebot to go because they end up way too close to just parroting the people the bot is meant to make fun of. I’ve taken things out that make jokes that are too close to punching down and/or being “too real” before– namely “AIDS”– because they just felt like what happens when you play Cards Against Humanity or MadLibs with assholes.

What other work do you do?
I run a both my personal blog at barrl.net and What Is GamerGate Currently Ruining; I also tweet as @NoraReed and have a bunch of other Twitter bots. (Here’s a full list of my essays, games and other projects.)

Do you take interviews?
Usually yes! If you aren’t paying me– which is fine– I’ll want you to include links to ways your readers can do so, because I’m an artist, and I need money for burritos, which I metabolize into more bots.

bot idea list

Bots that I think would be cool, but do not yet have the skillz to make (if you want to make one of these feel free to! just credit me in the bot’s Twitter bio or something):

  • a bot that grabs descriptions of videos on pornhub and replaces all the sex-related words with business buzzwords
  • a bot that grabs parts of two sets of quotes, Headline Smasher/Two Headlines style, and mashes them together, attributing them, incorrectly to a third person
  • a bot that grabs a list of 12 related nouns (such as 12 different vegetables, 12 fictional characters, etc– maybe using Wikipedia categories?), assigns each one to a horoscope sign, and posts them on Tumblr, a la the zodiac meme. This would also work with images. Hell, you could probably just grab a dozen images from giphy and end up with something surprisingly coherent at least half the time.

Bots that I totally could make but haven’t yet that I might make someday and which I could absolutely make if someone wanted to pay me to make them:

  • terrible names for bad guys in RPGs
  • a bot version of Orcwanker
  • a Tumblr aesthetic generator
  • a bot that says nice or encouraging things
  • artisinal beer name generator
  • creepy Lush products generator
  • terrible workout tips
  • travel/vacation ideas
  • a (pseudo) Markov bot that grabs tweets from all of my bots and smashes them together
  • a random horoscope generator (maybe for every sign?)
  • a random tarot reading (with or without interpretation)

I’ll add links if I make any of these. You can support me on Patreon to get me to make ’em a lot faster; once I get to the $250 mark I’ll be doing an extra project a month, and that can be an essay or a bot.

DBTwanker

So a friend of mine in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was having the frustrating experience of feeling like her therapist was just giving her random DBT skills to try and thought it would be funny to have a bot do that, so I hacked together something from the orcwanker code. It’s kind of like a conceptual cross between the Oblique Strategies and the 1966 therapy-bot ELIZA.

I present the DBT Strategies Generator, or “DBTwanker”.

More information about the DBT skills can be found in the official manual; there’s also some information in WikiBooks.

TWO weirdly fitting articles of clothing in ONE garment

These seem to be for sale pretty much everywhere. 2 styles in 1 garment isn’t really a bargain if both of the styles look kind of weird. The abundance of sites making videos of models wearing their clothes makes it really easy to throw together a fake ad for this kind of crap and get away with it under fair use, though, so I did that today.

orcwanker is live

I finally got my random creative swear generator website up and running. My favorite thing it’s come up with so far has been “jizzzebra”.

Feel free to add word suggestions in the comments; I’m trying to avoid slurs or any word-ingredients that might add up to slurs, so please also let me know if I missed something and one of the results was offensive and I’ll rework it.

5 tips for taking care of introverts

Many non-introverts have a hard time imagining what it’s like to be an introvert, but it’s actually quite easy to keep us happy by keeping a few things in mind. Introverts can make wonderful social companions if you just know how to treat them with consideration, kindness, and black magic.

  1. Give them space to recover social energy. Gifts of real estate, scrolls of Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion or other ways to conjure comfortable transdimensional spaces, island nations and planets all are great ways to give introverts space.
  2. Never surprise them with sudden attention from strangers, such as the thing at restaurants where the staff sings “Happy Birthday”. If someone you are inviting to a social gathering with an introvert might do something like this, take them aside first and tell them that you have the means to kill them quietly and that no one will ever find the body. They will not be your first kill.
  3. Figure out how they recover energy. Sure, many introverts do need alone time and space in order to recover from social situations, but many of us have other ways we can stretch our energy out or even recoup what social situations have made us lose. A few minutes with a favorite book or a pet can do wonders for some introverts; many of us also also can recover energy from a refreshing bath with lemongrass and the blood of those who have wronged us.
  4. Don’t make them do small talk. Many introverts are very bad at small talk, so try jumping straight into the interesting topics, like what happened at the last coven meeting and the best ways to kill, cook and eat extroverts.
  5. Allow them to communicate on their own terms. Many introverts dislike phone conversations in particular and prefer to converse through e-mail, text message, semaphore, ghost messengers, carrier pigeons, animal entrails or instant messenger programs. Many of us feel better communicating through mediums that allow us time to compose our thoughts and don’t put us on the spot to answer immediately.