8 Ways Twitter Bots Are Actually Helping Us

Depending on your experience on Twitter, you may have encountered your fair share of annoying and spammy Twitter bots that keep following you. And unfollowing you when you don’t follow back. That said, not all Twitter bots are the ones that you normally find selling questionable goods or sending you suspicious links.

These ones are normally made by programmers playing around with code and algorithms. Some even call themselves Internet artists like Darius Kazemi who comes up with strange and interesting bots. Out of these experiments, actual helpful Twitter bots have emerged. So we scoured the Twitterverse to compile and categorize 8 things Twitter bots can do.

Natural Disaster Alert

Perhaps one of the most useful bots, these accounts tweet natural disasters such as storms, earthquakes, and tsunamis as they happen. They normally draw their information from an official source like the earthquake one below which gets its data from the US Geological Survey. The bot is further programmed to tweet earthquakes that are at 5.0 and above on the Richter scale.

Some go a step further by being interactive such as Wave Glider Holoholo. The account is linked to a robot that collects data from the ocean around the Big Island of Hawaii. By asking it certain questions, it can tell you the weather report which can help you prepare for the weather.

Online Conversations/Debates

Twitter bots can also be made to pose as humans. No, we’re not talking about the bot that just followed you because you tweeted about eating pizza. What we are referring to is Olivia Taters, the bot who tweets uncannily like a teenage girl. So life-like is she that other Twitter users end up talking to her without realizing she’s a bot.

How the bot works is that the algorithm picks words used around the Twitterverse. Using that same premise, DevOps engineer Randi Harper built a bot that helps her debate with GamerGate supporters when she got tired of them harrassing her on the microblogging site. The bot does this by plucking randomly assembled phrases from her main account.

Monitoring Censors

When MH17 was shot out of the sky, many pointed fingers at the Ukrainian pro-separatist group and the Russians. Suspicions were further raised when reports of the exchanges between the leader were revealed. But what really sealed the deal that the proceedings were fishy was when Twitter bot @RuGovEdits exposed that the Russian government has been editing Wikipedia.

It even has an English version for the rest of us who can’t read Russian.

The bot works by tracking Wikipedia anonymous edits made by Russian government IPs. It is not the first of its kind as the US counterpart @congressedits came before it and there are others like the UK’s @parliamentedits. All these bots however aim to do the same thing which is to keep the government in check and inform them that the people are watching them too.

Generate Poetry

It’s amazing that despite the 140 character limit Twitter imposes, users are creatively coming up with short stories and poetry. Even bots are getting in on the game with their algorithms searching high and low the Twitterspace to retweet tweets accidentally written in iambic pentameter which is what @pentametron does.

Or even like this account that finds tweets that were accidentally (or coincidentally) written in haiku structure.

Generate Art

Twitter bots don’t just dabble in poetry, they make pieces of artwork too. These bots are pretty interactive as well as their algorithms will transform any image you tweet to it. Take for example @a_quilt_bot which turns your images into quilt or as quilt-like as it can.

Then there’s @pixelsorter which sorts a line of pixel from an image to generate abstract fuzzy images.

Sometimes, the various bots interact with one another whether by programming or by direct manipulation from their creators like this incident where @pixelsorter and @badpng were pitted against each other. The bots continuously mesh the images over and over before the creator stepped in to stop the never-ending exchange.

Teach English/Educate

The Internet needs more of these bots with the amount of grammar and spelling faux pas it always commits. These bots save the day (and irritate the offenders) by correcting their English like the now defunct @StealthMountain which tweets back at people who misspelled the phrase “sneak peek”. However @_grammar_ goes one step further by personally correcting improper grammar in tweets.

Some are relatively simple although no less uninformative such as the ever-celebrated @everyword which tweets a word from the dictionary everyday. It recently completed its cycle on June 7, 2014 after faithfully performing its task for 7 years. I’m puzzled why this is the last word though.

Send Notifications

Similar to the weather Twitter bots and the ones monitoring Wiki edits, these bots can be used for any basic alerts that would make life easier. One good example is the Netflix account. Yes, it is a bot and it tells you when a show is available for viewing. You know, when you are expecting that latest episode or for your binge watching needs.

Now that may seem like a relatively simple bot but sometimes the simplest of things are the most useful. Such as this bot which sends out announcements on whether a school is closed or delayed in Central Ohio. No more frustrations for parents and students!


Much like the Wave Glider Holoholo, these bots are interactive. The best example would be @DearAssistant which answers questions that you direct at it. It is considered as a “mini version of Siri” by its creator as it is based on the same data source.

There are various less complex bots that merely respond to a certain catchphrases or key words like @Betelgeuse_3 (it’ll respond if you type Beetlejuice 3 times) and @DBZNappa (which tweets back “WHAT?! NINE THOUSAND?!” anytime someone tweets “over 9000″). @RedScareBot however responds to any tweet that contains the word “socialist” or “communist” in the spirit of Joseph McCarthy because politics.

Have you come across other interesting Twitter bots? Let us know in the comments below!


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