Celebrating weird, fun & useful Twitter bots for GLAM

With free access to Twitter’s application programming interface (API), developers and other creative gallery, library, archive and museum (GLAM) folks have been using the twitter platform to increase accessibility to digitised cultural heritage collections in some weird and wonderful ways. 

But it’s been tricky to keep track of all the policy changes at Twitter of late. Following an outcry over their plan to charge developers for access to its API, Twitter have backtracked slightly and proposed a limited, free tier for ‘good bots’. But this all feels vague and tenuous for the future of fun, weird and otherwise creative uses of social media. 

So, we thought we’d take a moment to celebrate some of our favourite GLAM bots, whether they make Twitter’s judgy and unreliable ‘good’ list or not. 

We like bots that encourage people to engage with digital collections. @TateBot tweets a random object from the Tate collections four times a day so you’d be sure to get a little dose of culture on your feed. 

Some bots are more interactive and will respond to a command. For example, if you send an emoji to @NYPLEmoji, the bot will respond with an item from the collection that is related to the emoji. There’s also an emojibot for National Library of Australia’s digitised newspaper collection Trove.

Illustrative image of twitter bot account NYPL Emoji Bot
@NYPLEmoji on Twitter

Other bots explore more ways to engage creatively with collections, bringing unrelated items together to make something new. @postcards_past bot provides captions for digitised postcards using sentences from old books.  

As well as bringing random fun or culture to your twitter feed, bots can also be used for activism. @LibraryAltText bot champions web accessibility by politely pointing out images tweeted by the library community that don’t include any alt text. Alt text is important as it is used by the screen reading software that helps blind and partially sighted users to navigate the internet.

And then there’s @BotDickinson tweeting random lines of Emily Dickensons poetry or the whimsical @MagicRealismBot delivering a little surreal story to our feed every four hours. 

If any of these bots do fall prey to the twitter gods of judgement in the approaching cull, the twittersphere will be all the worse for it. And with stealthmountain, already gone we’re not sure we want to live in a Twitter world without it.

What next?

So far, it doesn’t look like many of our favourite GLAMbots have been ported to Mastodon. But we remain hopeful that brand new creative examples will emerge. And if you are feeling inspired, here’s a good starter guide for creating your own Mastodon bot. 

This is just a tiny selection of GLAM goodbots, and there’s so many more entertaining, informative and surprising examples out there.

Do you have a favourite social media bot? Are there any that you think we should know about? As always, we love to hear from you, so get in touch, or tweet us at @artefactors, and tell us about your favourite automated GLAM account.