Creating an activist Twitter bot

the L Word on TwitterIn my workshop at Digital Pedagogy today, we discussed how and why someone might want to create a twitter bot.  The uses of such bots can vary widely–they can be playful (such as the Billy Joel bot, which tweets out song lyrics) or can expose hidden behavior (such as the Valley Edits bot, which shows edits to wikipedia from Silicon Valley).

I wanted my bot to do something similar to the bot that corrects people who tweet about “illegal immigrants,” offering corrective language.  However, I wanted my bot to call attention to everyday words that denigrate the experience of disabled people.  So I chose to target my bot on people who tweet the word “lame.”  It took about 30 minutes to create the bot, most of which was time spent on signing up for the various services that I would need to create a new Twitter/IFTTT/Buffer accounts.  Here’re the step-by-step instructions if you want to do something similar:

  1. Sign up for a new Twitter account (a few tricks: you can use your regular gmail account by adding +something to your name.  For example, I used janaremy+something@gmail).  Also, you will need a cellphone number when you sign up, but you can recycle your own cell number from your regular twitter account by texting “stop” to 40404, and then re-use your cell number for your new account.
  2. Sign up for Buffer, which can schedule your generated Tweet content.  In Buffer, add your new twitter account and choose the schedule that you want to use for your content.  As an example, I chose to publish my content 8 times per day, and Buffer then selected the appropriate schedule for that frequency. (note: so that Buffer would accept my new twitter account, I had to follow a few people and also gain a few followers–so be prepared to have a few friends who will be willing to follow you):Buffer schedule
  3. Sign up for IFTTT to create a ‘recipe’ to publish your content to Twitter.  In IFTTT, select the option to create a new recipe.  It will then ask you to define the following:
  4. If This: For your This, choose for the trigger to be Twitter, and then select for it to search for usage of the word lame:Trigger screenshot
  5. Then That: Select Buffer at the service, and then edit for the following content to be added to Buffer, to create an at-reply to the users who are using the word lame in their tweets: Buffer instructions
  6. After creating your recipe, select the option in the Upper Right corner to “Check Now” and then toggle over to Buffer and check if your tweets are populating:Buffer schedule
  7. A few other notes:  I linked to a few articles in my new twitter feed account that raise awareness about ableist language.  I am hopeful that this will educate people who receive @replies from my bot.   Also, I’ve already managed to piss off a random person who received a reply from my bot.  I suspect that this will happen fairly often, and I also suspect that Twitter may shut down the account, once it becomes obvious that it’s behaving as a bot and @-replying people that I don’t follow.  I’ll report back if/when it’s shut down…

the first day

old-fashioned classroom with rows of wooden chairsBack when I was a student, I hated the first day of classes (aka Read the Syllabus Day).  One semester I rather snarkily informed each of my professors how much I’d paid for their class that day, and that I didn’t feel as though I was getting my money’s worth when the day consisted of having the prof read the syllabus to me (especially because I had already rather-thoroughly perused the syllabus myself beforehand).

So this article about alternative First Day of Class activities struck a chord with me.

What I intend to do this year, which I am hoping will go over well, is to have students learn from my previous years’ students on the first day of class.  At the end of last semester, I had each student write a letter “To a Future Student” in the class, and I will pass these out and have the students read them and discuss them as a class, which I will then use to launch into a discussion about class norms, expectations, and policies.  I’ll then use that to lead into a brief overview of the class which will cover many of the items in the syllabus.

(Note: this post also appeared on the Chapman University Blogs network)

as powerful and as strong…

Last week we did a fairly strenuous canoe paddle, more than 60km, in a remote northern area of British Columbia.  The paddling wasn’t so daunting (3-4 hours per day of solid work), but it was the portages from lake to lake, the lightning storms, and the persistent pelting rain that quickly dampened my sleeping bag and all of my clothing that took their toll.

Now that it’s over, however, so much of that difficulty is forgotten.  And instead what remains are the gorgeous images imprinted into my memory and onto the roll of film that we shot as we traveled.  Such as this one, taken on the home stretch to Bowron Lake:

glassy waters(Note: the horizon is slightly crooked due to the boat leaning a bit to the right side that morning)

As I was writing in my journal when the journey was completed, the first thing I put on my list of lessons learned was:

I like to do hard things

And it’s true.  The stretch of an ambitious endeavor makes me happy.  Doing the mundane, the repetitive, the easily achieved task…boring.  I thrive when presented with a challenge, which is why the trip to British Columbia was so much more appealing than a resort stay or some other leisure activity.

While on this trip, these two books, Tracks and Paddling My Own Canoe accompanied me everywhere:

two books for my travels later this month…journey narratives ftw #JSLFL #booklover

A photo posted by @janaremy on

I just finished reading Tracks today, which is a book about a woman who walked across the Australian desert with four camels in the 1970s.  At the close of the text, this quotation jumped out at me, as a better expression of my thoughts about hard things, than I expressed myself in my journal (emphasis my own):

As I look back on the trip now, as I try to sort out fact from fiction, try to remember how I felt at that particular time, or during that particular incident, try to relive those memories that have been buried so deep, and distorted so ruthlessly, there is one clear fact that emerges from the quagmire.  The trip was easy.  It was no more dangerous than crossing the street, or driving to the beach, or eating peanuts.  The two important things that I did learn were that you as powerful and as strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavor is taking the first step, making the first decision. 


This is another post in the series about MyYearinIT.

Not too long ago I found myself in a “Strategic IT” meeting we were discussing where we each sit on the curve of change.  The discussion leader drew something a bit like this on his whiteboard and asked us each to come up and put a mark where we would be in the curve of adopting to technological changes.

He then asked: Were we on the leading edge?  Or did we follow the crowd?

graph of change

Various colleagues got up and put a mark somewhere on the curve, most of them right around the big bump (those who tended to jump on the bandwagon with everyone else) and a few afterwards (those folks said that they usually waited to whether a technology was likely to last before they adopted it).  I was one of the last people to go up to the sign and leave my mark.

This is where I put myself (note: I was the only person to draw a picture, but I’m dorky like that):

my boat, in front of the wave of changeI then told the group a story that’s become a touchstone for me…

When I first began canoeing on the ocean, it was pretty scary to be surrounded by wide open water.  The swell could be a low rolling bump that gave a gentle nudge to the boat or the entire ocean could be flat as a pancake, where you had to dig in your paddle to do all the work.  But of course there was also the possibility of really big swell.  And the first time I encountered that, it was unforgettable. Continue reading

I, maverick

This is another post in the series about MyYearinIT.

Because of my IT management role, I recently had the opportunity to complete a leadership profile, and this was my result:

maverick leader descriptionThis “Maverick Leader” description seemed fairly spot-on for me, especially the part that says “You’re always full of new ideas, and almost a little restless” and “If something starts to feel familiar, you’ll probably start experimenting to see whether higher goals can be achieved.”

Yep, that’s pretty much me in a nutshell.

Somewhat related, on a friend’s recommendation I just picked up a copy of Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You, which is not a book that I would have selected for myself.  It’s a bit too “business-y” for my usual taste, but I actually found it a fairly satisfying read.  One thing he mentions that particularly resonates with me, is this:

If you just show up and work hard, you’ll soon hit a performance plateau beyond which you fail to get any better.

That’s one reason why I am constantly stretching myself with new goals.  I dislike that space of mastery where there’s nothing new or different on the horizon, where there’s no stretch and pull.  I don’t even mind trying something new and failing at it, because for me there’s so much pleasure in the attempt.

One other point that Newport makes that I’m somewhat convinced about now, is that telling someone to “follow their passion” is likely to lead to failure, and it’s far better to gain skills than to chase a dream.

This NGram analysis traces the rise of “passion” literature, to show how the idea has percolated into popular culture since the publication of “What Color is Your Parachute” and other similar self-help books (certainly this message has become a popular one in the last decade!):
Reading this book has caused me to reflect on my professional journey.  A lot of those steps have been ones born of passion.  But even more have been pragmatic choices that led to job security and financial health, and I have learned to love those steps while I’ve pursued them with the same vigor as the very “passionate” ones.

close as two pages…

Because I do like me some book-ish poetry…

by Elizabeth Bishop

Close close all night
the lovers keep.
They turn together
in their sleep,

close as two pages
in a book
that read each other
in the dark.

Each knows all
the other knows,
learned by heart
from head to toes.


books on my desk

A few of the books that are regularly stacked on my desk at home…

bargains with myself

I sometimes make small bargains with myself to keep focused on the things that are important to me (and to reign in my time-wasters).  One such bargain is that I often set is that I won’t peer into Facebook until I’ve finished reading my current book.  So I’m up to that again, and have promised myself to finish Christina Lamb’s Farewell Kabul, which I picked up in the airport last week.  It’s a pretty dense read, but is fascinating.  I am learning so much.

photo of my little free library, with several books inside(photo is of my new Little Free Library, where I can pass along all of the awesome books that I read, to others!)