Weekly Web Harvest (weekly)

The Rise of Twitter Bots : The New Yorker “What drives affection for Tofu is less narcissism than reliable ersatz companionship in Twitter’s crowded, cliquey lunchroom; Tofu Product is everyone’s imaginary friend.” “One of my first bots was Exosaurs, which combined Wikipedia’s list of dinosaur species and the Kepler telescope’s list of confirmed exoplanets—both freely available datasets—into an hourly feed of extrasolar mega-reptiles. The bot also credits each Exosaur “discovery” to one of its followers—“ryanpeeler, Gyposaurus of HD 290327 b”—creating a low-grade sweepstakes of speculative biology. When Exosaurs failed to recognize the programmer Ramsey Nasser after a few days, he created the bot “Fuck Exosaurs” to spew profanities at Exosaurs until it awarded him Santanaraptor of PSR B1257+12 c. Soon afterward, the novelist and coder Robin Sloan created Exoriders, which assigns each new Exosaur an intrepid galactic travel-mate, deepening the lore of an accidental universe. Exosaurs now has a community site, a leaderboard, and Exoslash—a bot I made to respond to Robin’s bot with auto-generated Exorider erotica. Richard Dunlop-Waters later made Law & Order: EXO to demonstrate that this kind of one-upmanship can only lead to brutal space murder.” h/t Jon Becker tags: twitterbot weekly mechanized Twitter Fan Wiki / Bots Old but interesting examples of types and examples of Twitterbots. Considering building a response bot. tags: twitterbot list weekly […]

Photo Walks at Work

I’m walking a good bit more than I have in a while and it’s all in downtown Richmond. I walk a few blocks coming in from where I park and have the chance to walk around the campus some as well. I find myself parking farther away and taking some slightly roundabout paths coming to and from the car. This is one of those unforeseen advantages but one I’m enjoying. The Flick set from these wanderings is linked above. Keep in mind you could still join us at VCU as we have an Innovative Learning Media Specialist Position open.

Minor Workflow Tip for Apple’s Preview

I have a beautiful new laptop but I have yet to transfer over my actual drawing programs (Omnigraffle, Photoshop, Illustrator). I had the need for a few icons for a website I’m working on and Keynote 6 is on this machine so I gave it a shot. I was very pleasantly surprised by the vector drawing tool. It’s different in a way that’s hard to articulate but I think people who are not familiar with vector drawing will really like it (and it probably won’t make the others too angry either). One minor trick worth knowing is that if you copy items, vector items in this case, in Keynote (and other programs) and flip over to Preview, you can create a new image with just that selection by choosing File>New From Clipboard. That saves you a few steps and in this case gives you a nice PNG file with alpha transparencies with no effort. The results look something like this. No muss, no fuss. The icons are on Flickr if there of any interest and if you choose the original size you’ll get the PNG files with transparency.


Markov Tweet Generator Code, Path, & Potential

The following is how I adapted the Markov chain generator from Hay Kranen. Thanks to the comments1 I found below Hay’s post2 this Markov + Shakespeare version inspired me to figure out the “post-to-Twitter” option.3 Anyway, the much cleaner version is up and running. It now allows you to push the results to Twitter although I’m still adjusting this a bit. The code for the page I modified is below. It’s still slower than I’d like but it’ll do for now. The fact that I can go from a conversation one day to a fairly finished product the next is the piece that amazes me about computers and the Internet. I cannot stress enough that I don’t know how to write PHP. I feel that’s a statement of empowerment. This project took about three hours of work. 95% of that was searching/research and breaking it and then fixing it.4 Someone who knew what they were doing could probably knock it out in ten minutes. Now how is this more than just random #ds106 amusement? I think the generator works a little like this example about machine imagined artworks5. So there’s a chunk of human constructed meaning from machine assembled pieces. It doesn’t always work but that’s part of why I like having a human layer between generation and Twitter publishing […]


Markov Chains, Horse e-Books and Margins

In discussing trajectories, elements of engineered serendipity, “thought vectors in concept space” with Gardner and Jon yesterday the following occurred. Gardner shared this video (which is well worth watching and I rarely have the patience for videos). That led to a discussion about creating and using a MOOC/hashtag specific Twitterbot (like horse e-books but real1) using Markov Chains2 to create algorithmically driven conversations/connections that occur in the margins of intention and result.3 So I began messing with the idea last night. Given I have a completely illusionary knowledge of programming I looked for people to tell me how to do this. I found the metaphor a minute tutorial which will help me out with the Twitterbot end of things in the near future. I also found this PHP based Markov generator which does very nearly what I want absent the Twitter-ing part. I did want to automate the connection to a particular Twitter hashtag rather than adding the content manually so I started wandering around looking for ways to do that. Step one was trying to use curl. I eventually semi-melded some curl examples with the Markov generator. I was using the Twitter search for #ds106 as the source initially. With curl you are pulling the html so I got some interesting pieces but a fair amount of code fragments […]


Some Interesting WP Landing Pages

The link bait title should have been something like “5 Must See Themes for WordPress Multisite” but in any case, I’m wandering around the Internet looking for interesting/useful looking examples1 (educational and otherwise). I started by browsing this old Google spreadsheet of WordPress in education examples2 and then moved on to the WordPress showcase but focusing on BuddyPress and multisite flavors. Clean layout with some links out to multimedia elements (Roundtable Radio). This is a nice additional example to show that while DS106 is undeniably great, there are other people in education pushing at the transmedia publishing. Slick graphic design and lots of content without feeling too overwhelming. I think it’s a good balance of static/activity. The WordPress inclusion write ups are also interesting reading. Interesting to see how they display 60 some odd blogs. A different focus/look but one worth considering for example browsing. I’d consider randomizing the examples on refresh and possibly adding some method for drilling down to site based on some level of categorization. A literary magazine with a varied layout. It feels a bit busy to me but they have put a lot of pieces together in a way that’s worth looking at. An Aside Mozilla’s site runs on WordPress. I flipped to view source to see what theme they were using out of curiosity […]

Calendar as Unifier

I touched on this with a previous zombie pictures post. Essentially, metadata is awesome because it lets people find your stuff and it helps your stuff find its audience. Metadata is also absent more often than not because people don’t like to type in lots of tags and they especially don’t like to do it on phones. You see elements of this metadata addition becoming automatic- simple things like Instagram (or maybe IFTT) auto-tagging my images with instagram and (in my case) iPhone (like the image above). I’ve also seen auto-tagging of image filters and with exif data you get all sorts of interesting automated metadata details but they tend to be mechanical rather than social. IFTT, FeedWordPress, and others allow you to do some low level of automatic metadata association. What keeps coming back to me is that it would be relatively simple to enable people to associate calendars and specific calendar events with online media publishing workflows. This would add the socially relevant automated metadata so the audience could find the media. The end goal being audience rather than metadata.). This would work particularly well at institutions which have centralized calendars or in the case of Udell’s Elm City aggregated calendars. Take VCU’s calendar of events as an example. It has time, location, and categorical elements already. You […]


Weekly Web Harvest (weekly)

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: A Prayer for Lost Phones. ” Let us pray for those who lose their phones and therefore cannot follow character-restricted utterances regarding occurrences on far-flung fields of play. Let us pray, dear Lord, for those whose phones are not with them today, and yet they suffer phantom rings upon their thighs and fight temptation every fifteen minutes to check for electronic transmissions or blog updates regarding their favorite professional football teams.” http://t.co/E8Zom6AUEw A Prayer for Lost Phones McSweeny’s “they suffer phantom rings upon their thighs & fight temptation every 15 minutes” — Tom Woodward (@twoodwar) November 8, 2013 tags: IFTTT Twitter weekly prayer phones McSweeney’s The New Aesthetic — designedconflictterritories: betaknowledge: … ” If Google ever decides to put this feature to use, you may end up one day aiming your curled hands at some object, and Google Glass would know that you ‘like’ it. And this would only work on Google devices, because of the patent. What a world!” tags: weekly google like future CIA Realizes It’s Been Using Black Highlighters All These Years | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source tags: cia onion highlighter parody weekly WordPress › Broken Link Checker « WordPress Plugins From archive.org – please don’t ever do this by hand. WordPress › Broken Link Checker « WordPress Plugins http://t.co/NPjaUNf9df #hcpsitrt — Tom […]

Diigo Summary Posts CSS Modification

I haven’t found a better way to do the weekly summary posts than Diigo, so I spent five minutes messing with the CSS to make it look a little more like what I’d like. You can do this in WordPress from the WP Admin sidebar under Appearance>Edit CSS. .diigo-linkroll li { list-style-type: none; } .diigo-link a { background: #e6e6e6; font-size: 1.25em; padding: 2px; display: block; } .diigo-tags { display: none; } The first piece (.diigo-linkroll li) gets rid of the unordered list structure. The second portion (.diigo-link a) makes slightly larger text and puts a gray background behind the links- which essentially function like headers for the different articles referenced. The final piece (.diigo-tags) just makes the auto-included tags invisible. I may need to rethink this but it does clean up the post which looked far too messy for my tastes. You can see the side by side comparison below.


Weekly Web Harvest (weekly)

QVC’s Manual for Survival in the Amazon Era – Bloomberg “When it comes to the second strategy, home shopping networks have always cultivated what psychologists call “parasocial relationships”: the illusion that you are having a social experience with someone on television. That is, for example, why there is almost always a QVC host and a product representative on the screen; it creates the feeling of a conversation in which you are being included. When I toured QVC’s headquarters, a lot of the people on the tour had amazing, encyclopedic knowledge of all the hosts, past and present. “She talks about them like they’re her friends,” said one exasperated granddaughter. But home shopping networks have never wanted the hosts to get too big. The hosts are decently paid — low six figures on average, from what I was able to gather — and they tend to live in small towns where that goes a long way. But the home shopping networks have deliberately discouraged them from getting too big, because that gives them negotiating power over the networks. There has been some suggestion that hosts who got too popular were often fired before their popularity got big enough to let them make big financial demands. (I’m talking here about presenters, not celebrities such as Joan Rivers or Isaac Mizrahi, who presumably […]