Hey, every­one. I’m Rob Dubbin. I came into bots through con­tent gen­er­a­tion, through try­ing to make bots that said inter­est­ing things. And I start­ed to get more into bots that were on Twitter, whose char­ac­ter kin­da came from the way that they would inter­act with oth­er peo­ple. So that got me from sort of the post­ing side of the Twitter API to the more mechan­i­cal side of the Twitter API. You know, favorites and fol­low­ers and stuff like that. And through that I kind of became inter­est­ed in ways of automat­ing my own rela­tion­ship with Twitter. 

I made some­thing called the megafave, which I cre­at­ed a sort of small bot­net of six oth­er accounts and hooked them up to the Streaming API so that when­ev­er I fave some­thing on Twitter they also fave it. So my Twitter faves essen­tial­ly count as sev­en. And it’s been a fun­ny thing to see peo­ple sort of see it for the first time. I’ve had peo­ple tell me they get the noti­fi­ca­tions all in a stream. I have a lot of peo­ple who @-reply me after I do it with a screen­shot of it, which is pret­ty fun. 

I also made some­thing that I don’t real­ly have a name for, but I guess it’s the fol­low lot­tery, where I got real­ly anx­ious about fol­low­ing a lot of peo­ple on Twitter, like eight or nine hun­dred peo­ple It was becom­ing unread­able for me. And I want­ed to nar­row down the num­ber of peo­ple that that was, but I found that when I tried to actu­al­ly sit down and do it man­u­al­ly, I got real­ly anx­ious and it was dif­fi­cult to think about the [con­nec­tion prob­lems] I got anx­ious about hurt­ing peo­ple’s feel­ings and the weird social sort of cal­cu­lus of what does it mean to fol­low some­one, and how would it feel for me not to fol­low some­one or what­ev­er. So what I did was I just abdi­cat­ed all choice to a ran­dom algo­rithm that fol­lowed a small man­age­able num­ber of peo­ple, around 175 at ran­dom every week after dump­ing every­one that I was fol­low­ing, and then just re-following peo­ple from the pool. And I do that once a week and it feels great, and Twitter is awe­some, and I get this small­er, nar­row­er kind of slice of it week to week.

All of that is pre­am­ble to say­ing that I recent­ly got to think­ing about doing this for, you know, both of these things sort of enriched my per­son­al expe­ri­ence of Twitter. But then I also got to think­ing about try­ing to use this idea of the fact that Twitter expos­es so much of its func­tion­al­i­ty to pro­gram­mat­ic access, and to use that to sort of help peo­ple who, or just kind of try to maybe empathize with peo­ple who have a very dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ence of Twitter than I do. And that sort of came to a head recent­ly with all the harass­ment that peo­ple have been get­ting through Twitter.

So what I did was I made a pret­ty pow­er­ful anti-harassment tool, and I’m kind of leery of… It’s one of those things that like I, I feel weird about it because I don’t have a tremen­dous use for it myself, but I know that oth­er peo­ple do. And I’ve talked to peo­ple about this, and I sort of made the deci­sion not to put it on Github or be pub­lic about it for main­ly the rea­son that I think Twitter is kind of weird with harass­ment, and I think they’re weird with block­ing, and I think they have a strange track record of mak­ing the tools that are use­ful to peo­ple who are try­ing to pro­tect them­selves and be safer sort of weird­ly hard­er to access and kind of obscure. For instance, in their API the block­ing event is actu­al­ly hard to find. There’s sup­posed to be an event for it in the event stream, but it’s bro­ken. And so you actu­al­ly have to parse the raw data stream on the user stream branch of the API in order to access it, and know that you’ve blocked someone. 

The oth­er weird thing about hav­ing some­thing like this is that there’s a fair­ly high bar­ri­er to entry for set­ting peo­ple up with it because as some­one else men­tioned one of the hard­est parts of mak­ing a bot can be get­ting your API keys, and know­ing where to find them, and just know­ing how to man­age all of that. 

So where I land­ed on it was I have this thing, I know it works. I kind of want­ed to put it in the hands of peo­ple who both need­ed it and were sort of capa­ble of giv­ing it to oth­er peo­ple, so that when some­one was in a sit­u­a­tion where they had a lot of peo­ple com­ing after them, they could reach out to some­body or some­one could help set them up with this and they could hope­ful­ly use it to make their lives on Twitter a lit­tle bet­ter. So I’m just going to con­clude by say­ing if you meet that descrip­tion, or if you know some­one who meets that descrip­tion please get in touch with me, and I would be hap­py to show you what I made. Maybe the best thing to do is open source it, and I’d love to talk to any­one who thinks that’s the case. I just don’t want Twitter to break it because they’re wor­ried peo­ple are going to use it to give brands [less] access to their users or some­thing like that. 

So that’s it. Thanks for hav­ing me and feel free to reach out. I’m @robdubbin on Twitter, or just dubbin-at-gmail if you want to email me.