I love social media just as much as the next Internet-obsessed person, but I have to admit that juggling a slew of accounts on various platforms can feel like a full-time job. Every morning, I find myself spending five to 10 minutes refreshing my Facebook feed, clicking on a few shared links, reading content, Liking content, exchanging witty online repartees, and then refreshing once again. After taking forever on Facebook, I head to Instagram to either post a gram or like five photos on my feed (OK fine, 15). By the time I’m done, it’s time for Real Life Things, like chores and people and work. I haven’t gotten to Twitter yet, which when I finally do, it means my holy trinity of social media updating is complete.
It’s all exhausting, so I was excited to hear about something called Happy Cyborg. Developed by computer scientist Jonathan Mugan, this tool is designed to mimic your online personality and help you keep up with your Twitter life when you can’t—it gives you a more accurate suggestion of people to follow, manage responses to repetitive mentions, and keep your feed relevant and interesting, among other things. According to his website:
Happy Cyborg is not a chat bot. It only responds to a tweet when it is certain that it can say something intelligent. You feed the cyborg text patterns and your associated responses. These responses are the repetitive things that you say over and over again. The cyborg searches for the text patterns and uses your responses to begin conversations that you then manually take over.
To see if this tool would work on my Twitter profile so I could cut at least one social media stop out of my life, I decided to give it a whirl.
Upon clicking the Get Started! button, you will be asked to do the following things:
Login with a Google account.
Choose the Twitter handle you want to use. At this point, it is assumed that you have a Twitter account—if you’re feeling iffy about granting access to your main one, you can create a new one to test the process out.
Grant the cyborg permission to take actions on Twitter on your behalf.
Mugan guarantees that “it won't do anything annoying, it will only do what you want it to.”
Upload your personality and specify tasks you want the cyborg to take.
To do this, you need to set values to various Twitter behaviors, such as:
Responding: How do you want the cyborg to respond to tweets? It will reply to or ignore people who tweet specific phrases that match patterns you specify. Only people who follow your cyborg will receive responses.
You will be provided ample examples and explanations to follow in setting patterns and responses, as well as two options on how to set them up. Following the [keyword] > [reponse] format, I came up with sample responses:
Following: The cyborg can search for tweets and users that match your interests, follow anyone that mentions you or anyone in a tweet that mentions you, or follow anyone a particular user follows. Make sure to click submit for every section.
Tweeting: You can set the cyborg up to send out tweets one every two hours by uploading a text file containing one tweet per line.
Favoriting: If you follow a ton of people on Twitter, your feed can get messy. You can set the cyborg up to favorite certain tweets so you can prioritize reading them over everything else. It can favorite any tweet that mentions you or a tweet that may be of interest to you, based on a writing sample (you can request a copy of your Twitter archive, copy your tweets from the .csv file and transfer it into a text file).
Unfollowing: You can tell your cyborg to unfollow people who don’t follow you back, unless stated otherwise.
Listing: The cyborg can place people who interact with you into public lists based on subject. Additionally, it can also add anyone you follow who has more than a thousand follows but only follows less than a thousand to a private list called “TakeAGander,” which is a feature that supposedly can help you keep track of celebrities and people in the media that you follow.
Retweeting: The cyborg can retweet people you follow based on a list of users or based on the content of the tweet.
After you go through all the behaviors, go back to the Getting Started page so you can… start your cyborg.
Based on the few behaviors I set up, here’s what my cyborg has been up to so far:
Using this initial test run, I can tweak my cyborg by going to Manage Cyborg to stop it from running then going back to Setup Cyborg and removing certain things I do not want to happen, such as auto-following people who happened to be mentioned with me in a tweet.
I ran into a few bugs during my hands-on, which is to be expected since the Web app is still in beta testing, but for what it’s worth, it’s an extremely useful idea that can satisfy a lot of Twitter power users once full functionality is achieved.
Soon enough, we'll all just be monitoring our Happy Cyborg bots, living vicariously through their full and active Twitter lives.
Photo via docpop/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)