Tons of Twitter bots are still just pictures of boobs asking for your credit card information, but programmers have also used the format to make some cool shit. Every Teenager Bot and Gradients are genuinely fun little experiments that brighten up my timeline. But every botmaker struggles with getting flagged as spam, and some bots are right on that dicey line.
No Man’s Whine is a clear example of a well-intentioned bot that has now outlived its usefulness. This account was created in August 2016, around the same time that No Man’s Sky came out and received significant backlash from the fandom. The tweets, which have the stiffness of sentences generated by algorithm from a few stock phrases, have devolved into unfunny repetition. The last sentence of each tweet is some kind of hyperbolic threat or expression of anguish, and the account has “whine” in its name, so it’s fair to assume that this was a satirical bot made to mock the haters way back in 2016.
Two years later, the bot has none of that context, and every single tweet it produces is tagged with “#NoMansSky,” even though the gripes it mocks barely ever happen in that tag. If you weren’t the kind of person who gave a shit about the No Man’s Sky hype before its release and are just exploring the hashtag now and came upon this tweet, you’d just assume it was an actual hater. There’s no information on the No Man’s Whine account that indicates that it’s a joke. It’s just been tweeting out algorithmically generated tweets for two years, with no consciousness to stop it from repeating the same old goofs. Where are this bot’s parents?
Kotaku reader Leon, who’s a No Man’s Sky player, emailed us to say that he’s been keeping an eye on this account and a few other similar abandoned bots that just spew vitriol into the hashtags of different fandoms. Maybe they were created in good faith, maybe not. Maybe they were funny at the time… maybe not. The end result is that they’re spamming a few gaming-related hashtags with weird garbage.
Two accounts called Gamer Secrets and Persona Confessions purport to be Post Secret-style accounts that share anonymous confessions. Leon pointed out in his email that both accounts use suspiciously similar phrasing, like these two tweets that both use the phrase “suicide watch.” The accounts’ phrasing has the grace of artisanal, handcrafted tweets, though, with more complex grammar than No Man’s Whine. These accounts aren’t actually posting any new content, but they’re constantly being updated. They’re just going through a backlog of tweets and posting them all about once every one or two days. Take this tweet:
This was most recently posted on July 9th, but if you search the #GamersUnite hashtag for the word “terrorist,” you’ll find that exact same tweet being posted every two days, with the first instance on January 7th, 2017, around the same time Gamer Secrets was created.
I also found this to be true for Persona Confessions when I searched a phrase from one of their tweets in the #GamersUnite hashtag.
There’s a special weirdness to watching a machine operate in perpetuity, long outliving its usefulness or the original cultural context that inspired its creation. Unless Gamer Secrets, Persona Confessions and No Man’s Whine get reported for spam, they’re just gonna tweet the same types of tweets forever, until Twitter dies or the world ends. Let’s hope these accounts die with the former rather than the latter.