While this headline might be taking things a little too far, Gartner study predicts that by 2015 a tenth of social network users will be bots (credit for the link: Dubose Cole, “What Losing a Socialbots Competition Taught Me About Humans & Social Networking”). Of course the fact that they exist doesn’t mean you will interact with them, least of all make friends. Though most users on Twitter will associate bots with dodgy iPad links, many more types of bots permeate the Twittersphere. Companies may use RSS scrapers to publish links to content appearing on their websites, automate replies to queries before human interaction is possible etc. Quite aside from the dodgy and the boring I’ve met many useful, nice and fun bots.
The idea of overhearing machines talking about what they’re doing is, to my mind, quite delightful.
(…) As a note on its design: it’s very important to me that the bridge should talk in the first person. Whilst I’m just processing publicly available data on its behalf, Twitter is a public medium for individuals; I felt it only right that if I was going to make an object blog, the object should express something of a personality, even if it’s wrapped up in an inanimate object describing itself as “I”.
I never use the Tower Bridge, but I follow the bot, as it’s nice to sometimes imagine what the vessel looks like as it’s passing the Thames; but it’s also a good way to deliver this kind of information. On the subject of the river Thames, useful nuggets of knowledge about its tides can be gained from following @Riverthames (made by Tim).
Another very British thing, also made by Tim. Does exactly what is says on the tin: tweets the shipping forecast (or as I like to call it, the sleeping forecast).
From Tim’s website:
This is firmly in the category of “fun, but useless” – a parody of the BBC’s Greenwich time signal that “pips” every hour, on the hour.
Telescopes’ statuses (stati?)
Lets you know about every object that passes close to Earth. Made by Tom Taylor.
Depending on your location, it will let you know when the International Space Station will be visible in the sky from where you are.
Every 5 minutes directs climate change sceptics it finds to sources which provide facts and debunk myths.
Trivia quiz bot.
Another piece of work by Tom Armitage. Essentially a series of bots that talk to each other and play out scenarios in which they fight zombies. Pretty cool.
You can also find a good list of non-spammy Twitter bots here, and a list of bots (spammy or not) at the Twitter Tag Project pages. It would be interesting to see how these bots affect the networks they operate in, do they draw human users closer together as a result of their existence, like in the Socialbots competition?