A tinted collage of screenshots of various bots that I made.

Twitter bots: A retrospective

When I was starting my career as a web developer, I liked to come up with little personal side projects to learn new languages. For example, I made Longer Than, which compares the length of your relationship to famous couples, as a way to learn about PHP and MySQL. Or, to learn about node.js, I made a bot inspired by a short story I’ve read recently.

And I enjoyed that, both the story, and making my first bot. So much that I made a whole website dedicated to bots. And hosted events. Run monthly challenges. And I also enjoyed speaking with other folks who were into this sort of thing. It was all fun and exciting.

That was 2015. Fast-forward to today, and the world looks a lot different. And I know, I know, there are much bigger problems we’re dealing with, or should be.

But I’ve been sitting on this article for a while now, and Twitter shutting down free access to their API, which made things like my little bot possible, and accessible for many others who are also interested in creative uses of automation, seems like a good reason to finally finish it.

Last year’s takeover of Twitter was already enough of a motivation to reflect on my own experience with Twitter, but this feels like a really good reason to push everything else aside and finally sit down and write this. So here it goes.

I’m not actually sure how many bots I’ve made over the years in total, some were smaller in scope and mainly used for tutorials I wrote. But I have about a dozen up on stefans-creative-bots.glitch.me, and most of these are still active.

A few of these bots have tens or hundreds of followers. And while none of them show up on the list of most popular bots I compiled a few years ago, still, I was curious about the folks who follow them and what made them interested in my bots.

South Pole Views is one of my more popular bots, with 440 followers on Twitter, and a little over 1,600 on Mastodon. (It’s always interesting to see how some bots attract a larger or smaller audience on each network.)

The antarctic images and info about different things being reseached there. I’m from Argentina, my husband was born in Ushuaia so i have a soft spot for the south.

I never tried [to make a Twitter bot] but fantasized about botting some shower ideas.

Anonymous fan

I wanted to find an account dedicated to the South Pole [because of my] interest in “the extreme weather”.

I like new content; I was expecting people, but this will do in the interim

[If the bot stopped posting,] I would have to find another account

No, I have never tried making a bot

Anonymous fan

found out through i think a retweet from a common social graph node with @CALandscapeBot a few months ago

i like that it’s raw feeds from pretty basic looking webcams whose views are consistent enough to start getting a sense of place and much like the CA fire lookout views it makes me feel like i’m able to be a part of a bigger world while being a small part of it from my own forest duty station,

i would be disappointed if it stopped posting because those are some rare views indeed and probably wouldn’t track down those feeds on my own
have tried making some bots but whenever i did the CheapBotsDoneQuick style procedural spreadsheet text generators i always just end up making storytelling card games with it instead

Anonymous fan

I found out about the bot via the Twitter recommended algorithm. I followed the director Gloria Chung, who works with Iceland’s road safety webcam system. I’m also a big fan of  @CALandscapeBot, so I think these two might’ve lead to that recommendation. This was on September 9th.

I like landscapes and the hard to access location + the quality of the webcams themselves speaks to my aesthetic sensibilities. I really like landscapes that aren’t the Hudson River School-esque pastorals!

I think this bot is locked into my rotation, I would miss the little reminders about the life on South Pole and it would tilt the balance of my Twitter experience towards more inflamatory material.

It hasn’t crossed my mind until this point, but if I were to get into coding, something like this would be on the top of my list now that you mention it!


I actually first interacted with the bot on Mastodon, about four or five years ago now. I’ve been active here since January 2019 and I’ve been interacting with the bot pretty regularly since then.

I’ve always been fascinated by Antarctica. It’s like a whole other alien world that you don’t even have to leave earth to get. I also grew up in the coldest part of the American west, so desolate snow and cold scenes resonate a lot with me. It’s really cool to be able to see these sorts of deeply cold, desolate scenes from a place that’s about as remote as you can get.

In addition, I love the juxtaposition of seeing some grainy security camera photo of a brutal Antarctic blizzard with a banal ‘Looks cold!’ like you might hear when your coworker looks out the window. The interaction of the banality of human interaction and the ferocity of nature really speaks to me.

For whatever reason, I wasn’t able to view the bot’s content for about eight months a couple years back. While it wasn’t like, life-affecting, it impacted my enjoyment of the site. I follow a lot of bots, and having that more general interest, automated content is a nice change of pace from the usual Twitter doom and gloom.

Because of the bit that I do, whenever I see a South Pole Bot tweet, I chuckle a little bit. It makes the site just that much more enjoyable.

I also want to make it clear that I don’t comment ‘Looks cold’ on every South Pole Bot image I see. The image actually has to look cold to me. A lot of times, you get pictures of boats at sea or in dock in Australia, and I’d never post or interact with a picture like that.

I’ve never even thought about making a bot. I’m a professional writer with no coding experience, and I also don’t have any good ideas.


[On how long since starting to follow the bot]

It’s very recent, this summer, through someone I follow. I can’t remember who for sure, but it’s likely to have been @alienmelon https://twitter.com/alienmelon since they follow the bot as well.

It might sound strange but I like the worst pictures the best. The ones that are poorly exposed, grainy, blurry if not glitchy. They can feel so alien, it’s hard to tell where it is or even what you see, and I find that immensely inspiring. The night views of Rothera have this beautiful, very digital texture, and the view it (barely) shows might as well be from another planet. The grainy ghostly lights of Macquarie Island and Casey station are incredibly intriguing as well.

[On what what would change if the bot stopped posting]

Ahah, well, if I’m honest, nothing major. My feed would be less fun for sure, but provided the archives remain, I could still look back at older posts. That being said, there’s definitely something *great* about the live aspect of those views. I mean, it could be random pics from whichever archive, but the fact that this is how those places are *now* of course makes the bot more valuable (a quality that would be lost of it stopped posting)

[On trying to make a Twitter bot]

Oh yes, not as much as I’d love to, but I have. I did a series of bots for Livejournal, back in 2006 (described here). I made a Twitter bot back in 2011 (@Negotiator3000), when Belgium spent almost a whole year trying to form a government ; through all that time, various political figures have been appointed to find a solution, and each of them had a “title” in -or (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010%E2%80%932011_Belgian_government_formation), so much that it became almost a running gag. The bot was playing on that, announcing every day a new mission-in-“or” for a random political figure. I have many never-finished bots in my Projects folders.. I’m sure I’ll end up finishing one eventually 😉


I can’t remember exactly tbh, I follow a lot of bots and people who also follow bots so I think someone just retweet weed it into my feed one day and I just loved what I was seeing when I visited the account.

I find it so interesting to see pictures of places I’ll probably never go. The mundanity of functioning infrastructure contrasted with the landscapes of the Antarctic as viewed through grainy webcams has such a good vibe. I especially appreciate all the different lighting and weather conditions on display. I think the fact that these are real places with real people in them but you basically don’t get to see those people is another interesting angle. There’s also something really enjoyable about the utilitarian design of the infrastructure, the nature of these places only being shown from the outside makes it feel like these places could be abandoned or teeming with people and you’d never know. You can’t help butt wonder what stories lurk just out of sight in a lot of these images.

I think a great source of inspiration for me would have just disappeared. Seeing these images is really interesting as a creative who enjoys horror and scifi. I think it’s easy to draw parallels from these outposts to outposts on the moon or mars or any other far flung part of our stellar neighbourhood.  And then of course the horror angle is pbvious too, this all reminds me of The Thing and gets my mind ruinning about what scary things could happen to the people in these isolated places. I guess the people who work at these outposts might not appreciate me thinking about them being in danger or attacked by an alien long dormant below the ice. Some day I will make something inspired by all these images and I think the more I see the more interesting that will be.

I’m a game developer and used to try and make bots with Processing and Java. I actually did a simple Markov Chain twitter bot for a college assignment once too I haven’t made a bot that I kept running though, mostly I’m more interested in creating real time interactive art.

Thank you for running this account it is one of my favourites on this site <3

Anonymous fan

It was either someone retweeted or a searched if there where bases on antártica using Twitter

I always had an interest for antártica since i was a kid. I justs seems like a very desolate and mysterious land. Ive always imagined myself walking and sitting at the edges of the ice shelfs at moonlight… for some reason… Maybe because i live in a really arid, hot and populated place, the idea of being on such an inhospitable, cold place completely on my own attarcted me. Probably too strange and romantic, i know. I started doing research and realized that there is scientific bases on antártica. So i looked It up and i think thats how i finded this Twitter. I really like the closeness It creates to the real deal. For such a faraway and fairly inaccesible place to be online and live its something really nice.

Probably. I will try other ways of updating myself.

I’ve never tried making a bot and honestly have no interest, at least for now. Maybe later in life i will get an idea worth for It.

Anonymous fan

Rain.gif and snow.gif are some of my most favorite bots. They bring tranquility into the social media stream.

I think I was looking for a page/bot that posted gifs of rain/rain storms, and I believe around 5 to 6 months ago

images of rain especially in gif form is cathartic

I’d be sad if it stopped since seeing the gifs are a nice break from the typical timeline

I have never made a bot

Anonymous fan

Next, there’s the pair of Botwiki-related bots. One of them tweets when there’s a new bot or an article added to the site. And the other lets you (re-)discover things that are already on Botwiki.

I think I found out about from you, possibly in the Botmakers Slack channel. I believe I have been following it basically since it was announced.

I enjoy being exposed to bots (and bot makers) I would not know about otherwise. I’m not especially proactive in following new bots, so having a drip-feed helps me fill my twitter feed with content I enjoy.

I suppose if the bot stopped posting I would not increase the number of bots and bot-makers I follow at the same rate.

I have made numerous bots myself!

Anonymous fan

I made a bot myself, but it’s currently broken because my cron job has some kind of bug in it. I guess I just like botwiki for the fun ideas that people have for making bots

Anonymous fan

I made a bot 3 years ago and found out about botwiki while making it. I then followed @newonbotwiki because I was interested in finding news bots, and also because I wanted to support your project.

I don’t go on botwiki website everyday, so it allows me to keep track on stuff that I would miss otherwise.

Anonymous fan

I don’t remember when I found out about the bot, I think it was from botwiki itself somehow, or maybe you Tweeted about it.

I like discovering new things by accident, it’s a nice thing to sometimes see in my feed.

it would be less fun to accidentally learn about new things that might interest me.

I’ve built bots myself in the past.

I made a bot myself, but it’s currently broken because my cron job has some kind of bug in it. I guess I just like botwiki for the fun ideas that people have for making bots.

I made a bot 3 years ago and found out about botwiki while making it. I then followed @newonbotwiki because I was interested in finding news bots, and also because I wanted to support your project.

I don’t go on botwiki website everyday, so it allows me to keep track on stuff that I would miss otherwise.

Anonymous fan

I found your bot late July, through a Twitter suggestion of that tweet

I like discovering new bots, amazed by people’s creativity

I do have bots myself […] They didn’t “go viral” but that was a fun experience

Anonymous fan

And finally, Curator and the Machine is a bit different from my other bots. While most of them tweet on a schedule, or some may respond to tweets, this one only posts if someone uses an app I made for it.

not entirely sure when and how I started following that bot, but it was likely a good long time ago, and probably from a retweet of one of the bots posts landing in my timeline

it has a certain whimsy which is nice

my timeline would be just a bit more dull

I’ve made a few bots, of varying amounts of utility and/or aesthetic interest

Anonymous fan

It was bittersweet having to say goodbye to all the bots’ followers, but there is one silver lining.

Every time new changes are announced from Twitter, the number of people switching over to Mastodon goes up. And that gives me hope that we will collectively find ways to connect and share that can not be exploited for profit.

So here’s to a brighter, freer future.

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