Twitter Bot / Wk 6 / Final: What’s Going On?

My original idea was to generate a more visual twitter bot, but after last week’s discussion about getting out of your bubble and Trump’s constant repetition of the words “fake news” towards media coverage that he doesn’t like, I decided to focus my attention on news sources who do ‘fact check.’ Another source of inspiration for this idea came from listening to a Design Matters with Debbie Millman podcast interviewing Anil Dash, who had a hand in creating Internet technologies in the last two decades. Millman’s question of “…how do we use technology to combat alternative facts and false news?” struck a chord with me. Dash’s response to that question was, “People consume, amplify and believe fake news, alternative facts as a matter of identity…to belong to a community… the only way to uproot someone from that is to speak to the values that they have disconnected them from that group.” Empathy and trying to understand these differing viewpoints is something that we can strive towards to unify the current division. My new Twitter Bot idea titled after “What’s Going On?” (also the title of a Martin Gaye’s song which stemmed from Four Tops member, Renaldo “Obie” Benson who witnessed police brutality and violence committed on anti-war protesters who had been protesting at Berkeley’s People’s Park during “Bloody Thursday”)  is a space to collect a wide range of credible new sources, including local publications that have verified twitter accounts and tweet a link to the news source in a random way and accompanied by a computer generated piece of art. To gather the credible new sources, a journalist friend wrote this article, 10 Journalism Brands Where You Find Real Facts Rather Than Alternative Facts and it gave me a base of news sources to start with.  This article not only provides a  little more insight into these top 10 news sources, but suggests subscribing to your “local newspapers as well.”  This led me to the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers site to get the whole list of publications around the United States. To combat fake news and get out of the “bubble” is a “lifestyle change” that I hope this artbot can start a conversation on or give empathy for.


#1) Collecting Data: I first started collected a list of all the 2017 newspaper publications that were in the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers‘s records, which I added to an excel file. The problem with this is that there were so many publications for each state and my goal later would be to go through the list and find out whether each news publication has an online website or twitter account that I can add to the Twitter Bot. Because there is so much data (19,165 rows) to parse and click through individually, I did not include it in this current bot. The LOC site did have JSON files to download, but when I checked for a specific publication, I didn’t see it so I didn’t trust the filter searches on the site. Instead, I started with a more smaller and manageable list on national news sources from the article, 10 Journalism Brands Where You Find Real Facts Rather Than Alternative Facts.

#2) Researching different art bots with Generative Art: I initially thought the bot would be a little more whimsical with generated art of a sunrise to go with your morning cup of news, but I couldn’t decipher the code for the softlandscapes bot and tried to find an easier way (with my beginner coding skills) to add the visual images. I did find this nice article on art bots and then I turned to Shiffman’s online Twitter Bot tutorials of creating the images in Processing and bringing it to the node program. This is something that I would like to add to this Twitter Bot, but was unsuccessful in merging it together with my current code. Part of the problem was the spaces in the naming conventions of my folders for the file path.  I need to get in the habit of naming my folders with underlines instead of spaces, because the processing sketch will not work in the terminal.  I also need to rethink an image and learn how to map the data of the “Scoreboard” to an object that will be tweeted along with the news source.

#3) The Coding: I wanted to understand how to search the Twitter API and used Allison Parrish’s in-class example of the “scoreboard” to assign the key word a number rather that retweeting the tweet or the person’s twitter name. I substituted key words to “fake news” vs “real news”. By doing this, the bot and tweets are pretty straightforward giving current tallys of the word usage of ‘REAL NEWS’ vs ‘FAKE NEWS’ with a direct link to the twitter homepages of the news sources to read the ‘REAL NEWS’.


Illustration Credits: HEADER: Rawpixel Ltd/iStock by Getty; ICON: filo/iStock by Getty