Bamboo Cyberdream

a panda wanders the electronic landscape

Avoid Comments

(Note: this is hastily slapped together while I’m on the road, not really edited or proofread. Please forgive any awkward turns of phrase, typos, or other grave offenses.)

A few months ago, in response to some Twitter conversations about how universally terrible the comments sections on various websites were, I made a Twitter bot that would, every day at 12:30pm Eastern Time, remind people to not read the comments.

The original plan was for it to simply say the same thing every day, but since (a) that would get boring and (b) part of my day job involves coming up with multiple, hopefully witty, ways of saying the same thing, I figured I’d enjoy the challenge of coming up with different ways of doing it.

Holy crap, this thing blew up, and became way more popular than I ever expected.

Anyway, after 100 tweets and 11,000 followers(!!!), it’s time for @AvoidComments to take a bow. From here on out it will repeat the same 100 things that it has to say, in random order, until they’re exhausted. Then it’ll shuffle the deck again and start over. I may pop in with something new from time to time if it’s timely or I’m inspired, but for the most part, this is it.

Some more quick, scattered thoughts as I’m writing this on an iPad in an airport terminal…

Maybe the best thing that happened was getting written up in the AV Club, which to me is the surest sign that you’ve made it in this sad modern world of ours.

I’ll admit that it proved a bit trying to have the thing say something new every day. There are a couple repeats in there (a simple “Don’t read the comments” was typically one of the most popular to retweet). Eventually I began outsourcing some of the content to trusted friends who are also good writers… somewhere around 20% of the content is not original to me, sadly. Probably your favorite ones. Sorry.

Along the way it picked up some pretty awesome followers like:

  • John Cheese (who sadly unfollowed before I could leverage my 15 minutes of fame into a lucrative career writing for Cracked)
  • Mark-Paul Gosselaar (who also unfollowed, but it was SO cool to have Zak Morris following my robot, even briefly)
  • Lindy West
  • Chris Hardwick
  • Veronica Belmont
  • Caitlin Moran
  • Richard Roeper
  • Ryan Block
  • Miguel de Icaza
  • Anita Sarkeesian
  • Tom Tomorrow
  • Jacqui Cheng
  • Justin McElroy
  • Arthur Gies
  • Ashley Esqueda
  • Mike Doughty
  • Nathan Rabin
  • Fraser Spiers
  • Mara Wilson
  • Jane McGonigal
  • Erin Robinson
  • Brenda Brathwaite
  • Daniel Rosenfled (C418)
  • John Darnielle

(Apologies to any awesome people that I forgot; these are just the ones who jumped out at me as people whose work I know and appreciate when I scanned the high-number followers.)

I wish there was a good way of finding out popular Twitter people who retweeted – on occasion I caught awesome folks like Jeri Ryan and Elizabeth McGovern passing on the thoughts of my robot, which made my day in each instance.

I was consistently amazed at the mentions that @AvoidComments would get on Twitter. By the end it was mostly people recommending it to their friends, but there would also be people replying to the robot, arguing with it. Inevitably, the people who would come on and insist that comments were awesome had, on average, 15 followers.

Two tweets I regret are the ones about Lindsay Lohan and Yoko Ono. Lohan is an easy target, but is pretty much always having a rough go of life and probably deserves sympathy more than ridicule.

I was shocked at how polarizing the Yoko tweet was. It was one of the most retweeted, but also the only one that inspired people to actually say they were unfollowing. Yoko is also an easy target, and I had forgotten that there is often a misogynist and/or racist overtone to critiques against her.

In any case, I didn’t delete either of those tweets because, hey, own your shit, but they won’t be included in the reruns.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who followed my silly little bot. Hope it provided some good advice or at least the occasional chuckle. Really, what else can you want from an only partially sentient AI?

(Uh oh, I don’t think I was supposed to say that last part…. uuuuuuh…… SIGNAL LOST