@ilegal blogs

The first Assanganista update (my intelli-bot)

Assanganista being repaired

Repair and fine-tuning

This is a progress update to my original blog on @Assanganista

Firstly, a quick thank you to @PaulBernalUK for being an early confidant on @Assanganista (AKA “@A”) and for his interest in the possibilities my little project raises

Secondly, this post looks at the technical side of @A only. I aim to do a further blog on my conclusions in respect of the ‘Assange situation’ and how it is being played out across Twitter (and other social media) which, depending on your interests, you may find more interesting than this one

Main technical adjustments, fine-tuning and observations

I am now on Version 6 of the Yahoo Pipe that captures and filters all the Assange tweets from across Twitter. This has been down to refining and tightening the original search parameters and also building better RSS functionality. I have a Version 7 nearly ready to go with additional filters but I’m hanging back, just to make sure I capture as many of the tweaks as possible before switching

Retweet performance and output

Notwithstanding all the tweets that are filtered out intentionally, @A can’t retweet every tweet there is about Assange on Twitter. She can only tweet up to 10 per hour – a limit set by Twitterfeed (the link between the RSS output and Twitter). This means that she takes the 5 most recent (original) tweets every 30 minutes – it’s a bit of a lucky dip but it does minimise bias from individual tweet selection – hence the ‘Assange pulse’ part of her Twitter profile

It is worth noting however, that the RSS feed itself (the Pipe output) does capture and filter every relevant original Assange tweet from across Twitter (via the Pipe above). Comparing this with what @A actually puts out allows me to confirm the effectiveness of the spam filters and other blocks I’ve created at various stages in the process. For the moment at least it also seems to be keeping a record of every one of the tweets it ‘collects’. This might present further opportunities down the line

I considered running alongside Twitterfeed, which in theory could push her total output up from 10 to a maximum of 50 retweets per hour, so making greater use of the Pipe’s output. However, I am conscious of Twitter’s merciless and mysterious spam algorithms so, I’ll probably leave it as it is and not risk her. Also, I think her Twitter face needs to be manageable for users so 10 per hour is probably quite enough

Whether she actually tweets 5 tweets every 30 minutes depends largely on two factors: (1) there must be 5 original tweets for her to tweet, and (2) those tweets aren’t barred by any of the other filters and protections I’ve put in place eg to stop accounts/users I have identified as Spammers

I suspect Twitter throttles the number of attempts to interrogate its servers, but I can’t prove this. Periodically, usually for an hour or two, @A quietens down before picking up and going back to business again. Of course, this could also simply be down to people not tweeting so much about Assange – lulls!

Other bits and pieces

I must have changed her profile description on Twitter a hundred times – I even deleted it altogether at one point! She’s got one again now, which includes a link to her Facebook Page and also The Assanganista daily newspaper

Christine Assange herself (Julian Assange’s mother) regularly retweets @A, which is nice. I’m confident that Ms Assange knows @A is a bot from a couple of her tweets. However, I believe she recognises @A’s usefulness for collating info and stories for further circulation

At this point it’s worth mentioning the amount of work @A does to be able to present a coherent feed on Twitter. If you look at the #Assange hashtag on Twitter you should get some idea of the scale of junk there is from spammers, bots and users/advertisers just surfing the hashtag in the hope of attention. @A wades through this, which in itself is pretty incredible. Of course, the occasional spammer gets through her defences but this is happening less and less of late, mainly due to the filters and blocks I’ve put into place over time (and lack of imagination of the spammers, thankfully)

Autonomy, and fleshing out @Assanganista’s personality

As well as automatically retweeting the Assange tweets on Twitter, @A now has her own Facebook Page, which she updates herself and populates with her own Tweets. This has only been going about 36 hours but someone has already commented on one of the status updates, which was good. I think the Page has 2 ‘likes’ too, which is at least something (confession: one of them was from me)

She also continues to publish her own online newspaper, The Assanganista via Paper.Li. This has both a morning and evening edition, and when available, she automatically tweets the link on Twitter and identifies the top-contributors for each edition. This has seemed quite popular, with a few people tweeting the link to it

@A now has followers! 85 brave souls no less. I am hopeful that at least some of them see the usefulness of @A, not least in her sifting the Twittersphere for them. I doubt she’ll ever get lots of followers – the fact that she retweets both ‘sides’ of the debate means her timeline is pretty challenging, especially for those with a strong emotional attachment to the situation surrounding Julian Assange

I rarely intervene in @A’s timeline. Most recently, I replied a few nights ago to someone who had @mentioned @A to ask if they knew where all the tweets about the 2010 BBC article on the dropping of the arrest warrant were coming from – I was curious whether it was intentional mischief, a misunderstanding or other. Other than that, I leave her to it. I’ve decided that if I were to start replying myself my own views might come into play, which I think could damage @A’s usefulness. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I’m reading some rubbish and I would love to reply. However, I cross my fingers and count to three

@A also gets included in conversations, which is nice. Sometimes she even has her own rather one-sided arguments with other Tweeters who take objection to what she retweets, which can be very amusing! She’s been shouted at plenty too, but she takes it in her stride

Next Steps

Much is down to me having time to sort things out. I’ve worked out a way of setting up an automatic reply function so that anyone who mentions @A will get a bespoke reply. However, I need to learn a bit of Spanish to get it working (don’t ask)

She could seek out people and tweet to them automatically easily enough, by focussing on a particular keyword or phrase. I’m not sure about this though, as we’re really getting into spam territory and the risk of her getting reported would increase significantly

Anyway, enough for now. Hope you find it interesting. If anyone has any questions please feel free to raise them below

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This entry was posted on September 9, 2012 by in Automation, RSS and tagged , , , , , .
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