New bot: @choochoobot

It’s a goofy idea: After a few happy-hour drinks on Thursday, I decided to write a little Python script to make emoji “trains” of random length, combining the steam engine with the two styles of rail cars. Once I got that running, I remembered reading about Emma Winston’s “Tiny Gallery” bot, which tweets little scenes of generative emoji “art galleries.”

In fact, there’s a whole “tiny universe” of bots that tweet emoji scenes—most prominently, Katie Rose Pipkin’s amazing “tiny star fields”. But as far as I could tell, none of them have trains. So I set to work putting my trains into some tiny landscapes, and quickly got something together.

🌳 🌳 🌲 🌲
🌳 🐇
🌲 🌲 🌲
🌲 🌳 🌳 🌲 🌳

— trains botting (@choochoobot) March 11, 2016

Friday morning I “launched” the bot, by tweeting about it from my own account. I’m not sure what reaction I expected, but it wasn’t this one: over the course of the next 24 hours, over a thousand people followed it. By 10 tweets in or so, it had surpassed @pomological as my most popular bot. Over the weekend it climbed to 1,600 followers and it seems to still be on the rise.

🌴 🌴
🌴 🐢🐢
🌴 🌴

— trains botting (@choochoobot) March 12, 2016

Best of all though, I’m getting nice feedback from people speaking all different languages. That’s something I don’t usually get when I’m writing, but of course these “scenes”—if you can even call them that—are equally intelligible in any language. It feels really great to know that people around the world like this thing.

The source code is online, and I’ll write up more of a how-to soon. More excitingly, I want to keep developing out the possibilities here. Even out of the idea phase, it’s still a goofy project, but it’s a fun canvas to explore some more elaborate ideas.