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The internet is awash with bots. According to the latest Bot Traffic Report (yes, it’s a thing), published in December, automated programs account for half of all online traffic. Some of these are terrible, annoying spam bots; others are protective or helpful, tasked with data collection. And then there are the simpler bots that post random bits of information and visuals — the sayings of Publilius Syrus, unique plaid patterns, or real-time text translations of barks by a dog named Oliver. All of these are now catalogued on Botwiki, an online encyclopedia created by web developer Stefan Bohacek that showcases “friendly, useful, artistic” bots. Launched last July, it has since been growing from regular updates and public contributions, even encouraging the proliferation of new bots with its monthly, thematic bot challenges. This month, it will host its first Botwiki Edit-A-Thon in New York City, where participants will help to edit and expand its pages.
Botwiki came about because Bohacek wanted to be able to run fast searches whenever he had an idea for a bot. As he explains, similar websites that already existed “were either a bit incomplete, hard to browse, or plainly just didn’t work most of the time.” Botwiki offers easy navigation and a clean database you may search by tag or by category — from poetry bots to image-based bots — or by network — from Twitter bots to YouTube bots. Most bots tend to live on Twitter, so Botwiki is a great resource for finding some lesser known bots made for your other networks — like the one that lets you order ice cream for your coworkers through Slack. Each individual page also tells you basic information about the bot and links back to its creator’s website if you’re interested in knowing more about her or his work.
As a brief browse on Botwiki shows, there is a rich variety of bots out there, including many art-based ones. Here are a handful of great ones to check out or follow (in addition to the moth generator and the now-defunct Random Darknet Shopper) to inject doses of automated creativity into your daily feeds.
- Art Assignment Bot by Jeff Thompson doles out instructions for art projects and sets due dates for them. They’re sometimes possible if you’re looking to really stretch your creativity — but they’re mostly absurd and are probably better suited for stretching the imagination.
Build an oil painting about limes, due in 1 seconds.
— Art Assignment Bot (@artassignbot) February 25, 2016
Produce an encaustic painting analyzing the idea of brackets, due on Sat, Feb 28, 2026.
— Art Assignment Bot (@artassignbot) February 28, 2016
- The Tiny Gallery by Emma Winston constructs cute exhibitions out of emojis, all within the scope of 140 characters. It’s a creative use of Twitter, replacing text with ASCII symbols to slide what is, in a way, an alternative art space into your feed.
╱| ______________ ╱|
? | |
|╱ ￣ ?￣￣? ￣ |╱
— Tiny Gallery (@thetinygallery) March 1, 2016
- Menu Bot by Twitter user @hugovk is a great one for history fanatics, posting random menus — some centuries old! — from the New York Public Library’s archives. Some of these have zany visuals, others feature gorgeous type, and most have prices that would make you cry. Also — remember a time when dessert included candies AND cigarettes?
— Menu Bot (@menubot) February 27, 2016
- In a similar vein, @MuseumBot by Darius Kazemi — one of the most prolific botmakers out there — pulls high-res images from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website; Jez Dean’s @VAMuseumBot does the same with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Following both of these bots is a great way to explore the museums’ massive collections and really stumble upon extraordinary (or super weird!) objects, some of which are not on display IRL.
— Museum Bot (@MuseumBot) December 27, 2015
— V&A Museum Bot (@VAMuseumBot) February 28, 2016
If you have a bot in mind that isn’t catalogued on Botwiki, you may submit it through an online form. And if you’re interested in creating your own one for submission, the website also links to plenty of tutorials.