Counted among Twitter’s 271 million active users are an untold number of bots. These accounts were created by people with a pulse but tweet without human intervention. Some are handy, others beautiful, many peculiar. Bots, it should be said, are some of the most productive members of Twitter’s society.
But while humans are showered with praise for their tweets, bots have not traditionally received the same love. Never again! We have compiled a list of Twitter’s best bots.
To determine eligibility, we didn’t perform a Turing test but did require that the account be automated (sorry, @Horse_ebooks) and still actively tweeting. Where it was possible to determine the bot’s creator, we noted it here, but who’s to say those people aren’t actually bots themselves?
Olivia isn’t real, but in many ways, she’s more real than many of the teenage girls whom the account emulates. Rob Dubbin accidentally created the bot while experimenting with language manipulation of real-life teenage Twitter accounts. Olivia will also reply to people who follow her, often with tweets more profound than any human could muster. (Oh, and never forget the time Olivia was chatting with another bot and Bank of America’s customer service account chimed in.)
The best bot is a useful bot, and this one proves its worth with a steady stream of videos that are newly available to stream on Netflix in the United States.
Another handy bot, created by Amit Agarwal, this one has answers to a wide range of questions—with the help of Wolfram Alpha, the intelligent search engine.
This arty bot by Way Spurr-Chen takes any image you tweet at it and resorts the rows of pixels according to one of a few predetermined rules. The results, like other forms of algorithmic art, are often beautiful.
Then there was the time Pixel Sorter started flirting with Bob Poekert’s Quilt Bot, which applies a quilt fabric pattern to any image. If Twitter were just these two bots tweeting at each other, I wouldn’t complain.
Another algo art bot, and one of a few accounts on this list by Darius Kazemi, Reverse OCR draws random lines until optical character recognition software thinks it looks like a certain word.
The art tweeted by this bot, also by Kazemi, was made by humans not algorithms. It features random images from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s free online archive.
Bot art needn’t be visual, and one of the classics of the form looks for poetry in everyday musings. Ranjit Bhatnagar’s Pentametron retweets tweets that are written in perfect iambic pentameter. On the accompanying website, they become unintentional sonnets.
In a similar fashion, this bot by Cameron Spencer looks for tweets unwittingly composed in the structure of a haiku. (If you like that, you might also enjoy the Tumblr, by Jacob Harris, that finds haikus buried in the New York Times.)
More poetry: This one is more constructed than found art. The bot riffs nonsensically but sometimes beautifully off the famous poem by William Carlos Williams.
If your idea of poetry is more like The Sound of Music, then you might prefer this bot riffing off the musical’s most famous song.
Or you can invent language altogether, like this bot by thricedotted that mashes together real English words to create new ones.
Some see poetry in odd places, like the often inscrutable headlines that come out of Bloomberg News. This bot, by Quartz’s own David Yanofsky, takes a few real headlines to form a new one that often makes just as much sense as the originals.
You probably heard about the @everyword account that slowly tweeted every English word over seven years. It has completed its run, but a number of tribute accounts have been created, the best of which does the exact same thing with a profane flourish. It’s the perfect account for a bad day.
Speaking of bad days, sometimes you just need to turn on caps lock, which this account has done since its creation. The bot tweets whatever evocative tags are applied to new stories on the Awl, which are often more enticing than headlines. (See also: Digg Kickers and Verge Pullquotes.)
Not all bots are profound. Some are just worth following for the occasional interruption. This account tweets, as you might imagine, on the hour every hour. It’s most useful if you’re in London, but still enjoyable elsewhere.
We love charts, so we had to include this bot, also by Kazemi, which generates nonsensical Venn diagrams and flow charts. But if you prefer actually good charts, then here are 22 Twitter accounts by humans that we recommend instead.