There are reports that nearly 23 million Twitter "active" users are actually bots, and not real users. That's a lot of automatically generated content, and it makes you wonder how much of the firehose of information being shared on Twitter is actually useful.
But not every bot is a problem, or a source of spam.In fact, a lot of these tweets can actually be pretty informative, useful, or even entertaining. News organisations which automatically post updates about their stories are worth following if you want to keep informed, and there are useful bots that do things like tweet out earthquake warning information.
Then there are the weird bots which do nothing but respond to tweets using specific words - they don't exactly add "value" to Twitter, but they are a part and parcel of the open nature of Twitter, and certainly contribute to the appeal of the network.
For that reason, we don't think that Twitter's bot "problem" is as bad as most people seem to think, and to prove our point, here are some of our favourite bots, in no particular order:
Created by labnol.org founder Amit Agarwal, you can think of Dear Assistant as a Twitter-based Siri. You can tweet at @DearAssistant and it will try and reply to your queries, using information from Wolfram Alpha. You could check the conversion rate, or ask a question about the date such as "How many days until Sunday?" and the bot will reply with the answer. The bot can sometimes take a couple of minutes to respond, and if it doesn't know the answer, it doesn't send any reply at all.
.@gopalsathe 3 days-- Dear Assistant (@DearAssistant) August 21, 2014
Factbot does not live up to its name, since none of the facts given here are actually true. Factbot was written as a response to clickbait, because people will often believe and share any "fact" that is accompanied by a picture. The bot generates facts algorithmically and shares them with a suitable image on Twitter every four hours. The facts range from the utterly absurd to the nearly believable, and even if you know everything's made up, following @factbot1 can be fun just to see what it comes up with.
#10130 The first known contraceptive was crow dung, used by Indonesians in 1547 B.C pic.twitter.com/dUTUz8Hyqk-- factbot (@factbot1) August 21, 2014
The ANAGRAMATRON is one of the coolest bots to follow - it retweets two tweets at a time by scanning Twitter for Tweets that are anagrams. One user might post "I learned something today" and another posts "Emotions are deadly" and your timeline will get both, one after the other. Follow @anagrmatron and you'll see a fresh pair of anagram-tweets every few hours. Another cool bot that scans people's tweets is @haikud2 - this bot searches for and retweets posts that fit the haiku format!
I will curse that person-- happy king (@halcamint) August 21, 2014
Well, thats super ironic.-- Esme Medrano (@esmemedrano13) June 4, 2014
Tofu is a really clever bot that "reflects" your personality back at you. Just follow @tofu_product and tweet at the bot, and you will get a near instantaneous response pulling information from your earlier tweets, to create a response that sounds like you. Judging by the embedded tweet below? Spot on!
@gopalsathe who is master yoda I hadn't used Uber. It was never loathed football more than two more months of summer.-- tofu (@tofu_product) August 22, 2014
Two Headlines is a simple bot that retweets two headlines at a time - but it does this by mashing them together, so that you get statements like "iPhone 5c laid to rest at low-key memorial". The headlines have to share some keywords - so a story about flight MH 370 gets paired with one about the Philadelhia Eagles Airlines, and as a result, the @TwoHeadlines version looks almost like the real thing - until you read it properly.
The only thing missing from this bot is that it doesn't show the sources of the original stories, which could have been a nice addition.
Federal Reserve System for iOS updated with new camera, packs a plethora of new capture tools-- Two Headlines (@TwoHeadlines) August 21, 2014
Can't Spell Without is one of the funniest bots on Twitter in very small doses, so it's good that the tweets are spaced around 2-4 hours apart. If you follow @SpellerBot you will get updates about words you can't spell without other words - handy the next time you're making an inspirational speech. An example? "Can't spell renovation without nova." Now, you'll have to excuse us as we think of a speech that will use this.
Can't spell impudent without dent.-- Can't Spell Without (@SpellerBot) August 21, 2014
Ever wished you knew fancy cocktail recipes to impress friends and family? You could take a course, download an app or buy a book that would help, but that's just boring. Instead, follow @MixologyBot and you'll get a tweet every few hours that includes a different cocktail recipe. In a few months, you'll be a cocktail mixing sophisticate, who can even make inspirational speeches thanks to @SpellerBot. If drinks are not your thing, you could follow @threecoursemeal - a bot that serves up algorithm-designed menus, so you can feel bad about the very ordinary food you're having.
Counselor & Topography
1.5 oz Cognac
.5 oz Apricot brandy
A splash of Blackberry brandy
Stir everything together and serve on the rocks.-- The Mixologist (@MixologyBot) August 21, 2014
Olivia Taters is a robot that impersonates a teenage girl. There's a regular helping of hashtags, but oddly enough, there's also a mixture of tweets about parents and cleaning rooms, and tweets about making sex films with her husband. A bot in an identity crisis? If you follow @oliviataters then you'll get a near hourly stream of weird updates.
family members are honestly weird. also, they're the only animal that can move equally well forward and backward.-- olivia taters (@oliviataters) August 21, 2014
Maybe you've heard of @Horse_ebooks, and maybe you've heard about the Harry Potter fanfic "My Immortal". For your sake, we hope that at least the second answer was no. My Immortal - for those lucky enough not to know - is a fanfic based around the Harry Potter universe, with the main characters also being vampires, and really into having sex with... everything, and nothing is spelled correctly. The results can cause your eyes to water involuntarily.
Taken in bite-sized doses via @Enoby_eBooks, it isn't so bad and can even be funny enough to read. The feed only updates about one an hour, posting lines from the Web-series. And whose feed isn't improved by gems like "professor sinster started crying n bustin in2 tearz of blood."
I loked so cute 2gether. She was kidnapped when I herd Hilena." I wuz just put on them. "Kawai." I had reached da Grate Hall.-- Enoby Dark'ness Way (@Enoby_eBooks) August 21, 2014
Dragon Ball Z fans will love this one. Who can forget of the villains exclaiming in incredulity that someone's power level was "over 9000!"; which prompted the response "What! Nine thousand!" We wouldn't recommend following @DBZNappa on Twitter, but if you ever mention the phrase in a Tweet, the account replies immediately with the catchphrase. It can be fun if you're not expecting it, though there's no extra content, so a follow isn't worth it.
@harrysneko WHAT?! NINE THOUSAND?!-- Nappa (@DBZNappa) August 13, 2014