What the hell is @AthiestBot?

I am a self-confessed stickler for correct syntax, grammar and orthography.

I'm also an atheist.

Note the spelling.

So, as part of a testbed project in twitter programming, I've built a little software robot called @AthiestBot which will remonstrate with users that mis-spell "atheist" in the most common and annoying manner.

The bot is slightly more sophisticated than some bots out there, and I plan on making it more sophisticated still. For one thing, it won't tell you off twice in rapid succession, though it may respond to you once a week. It will also attempt to figure out if you're trolling, or if you should know better, and tailor a response accordingly. It also has some cunning logic under the covers (which will get switched on once it has a big enough sample of tweets to analyze), with which it will attempt to see if you're kidding or not*. Recognising irony is notoriously difficult for machines, though, so don't expect miracles. In fact, just don't expect miracles full-stop. They don't happen.

I hate this bot. How do I stop it talking to me??

If you never want to be contacted by @AthiestBot again, that's no problem. You can block it, or you can tweet a reply to @AthiestBot with the following keyphrase:


And @AthiestBot will stop responding to you. For ever*.

Don't forget, start with @AthiestBot's name and include the hashtag #ICanSpellAtheist.

Isn't this just spam?

No. For one thing I'm not selling anything. I have no way to make money from this little toy, and I certainly won't be using it to send spam at any time in the future. I also provide a reliable and ethical way to never hear from @AthiestBot again, other than learning how to spell "atheist" correctly, of course. I also don't tweet any one user more often than once a week. I intensely dislike unsolicited commercial messaging, and I've been known to have bust-ups over it in bars with moderately-attractive but commercially clueless "social media experts"

Aren't you just being a bit of a prick?

Yes. Yes I am.

Well, not really.

You see, if my intentions were in fact to be a prick about it and annoy people, then @AthiestBot would be rather more forceful in its rebukes. As it stands, @AthiestBot tries to be friendly, chatty and lighthearted. At least, as much as a cold, heartless software robot can be.

I haven't heard from @AthiestBot recently (since I can spell). How do I know if it's working?

@AthiestBot responds to pings sent out with the hashtag #HelloAthiestBot. If you don't hear back from it within an hour, send out a search party.

Can I suggest a new response tweet?

Yes you can. Ping @drunkenmadman and ask.

But you've got "atheist" spelled wrong in your name. Ner ner ner.

Sorry, what was your name again? Look, for convenience, I'll just call you "Alison".

Hey world, meet Alison. Alison missed the obvious joke. Isn't that great? Alison is not only a poor speller, but also a bit slow on the uptake. But let's congratulate Alison for overcoming her obvious mental handicap and actually managing to formulate a reply. Aaaaaw. Go you.

@AthiestBot is a "bot" that hunts down the mis-spelled word "athiest". Now those two words go together into what we call a "portmanteau word" Athiest-Bot. See, that's not too hard, huh? It's also a little funny, when you think about it. There are species of yeast that can understand this, why can't you?

But my iPhone autocorrected it that way.

No, it didn't.

So now the world knows you can't spell and you're a bad liar. Congratulations

Jesus loves you!

Chances are Jesus never existed in the first place, but if he did he's been dead a long time. I'm pretty sure that means he doesn't "love" me. Also, AthiestBot is a robot. Robots have no need for inferior human emotions such as "love". They also can't be bribed with life after death, since instantiating a new instance of a program is, for them, equivalent to reincarnation.

But I have dyslexia you asshole!

So turn on spellcheck, or seek assistance in getting it switched on. We have accessiblity features like spellcheck, screen magnifiers, alternate input schemes and text-to-speech for a reason. If you're really dyslexic and not using a spellchecker, then you're like a blind person going for a walk in traffic without a guide dog.

Harsh, I know. But true. Dyslexia is a disability, not an excuse.

You mis-spelled "realize" therefore you're as bad as me

I come from a place called "Not America". Here in "Not America", we use a language called "English", which originates in a place called "England" (think of "England" as a region in the great nation of "Not America").

In English, we don't write "realize". We write "realise".

Some "Not Americans" use the ize ending, it's true. But we think of them as unfortunate semi-literates, or sub-intelligent victims of American cultural hegemony. You might want to look those words up.


Good luck with that. First, you'll need to get into the data center where AthiestBot lives, locate the right server rack, then, somehow, disable the circuitry underpinning the server. Or you could gain console access to the operating system on which it runs, and use "ctrl+c" to end the process, and then delete the task which respawns AthiestBot every fifteen minutes or so. I suspect these things might be slightly beyond you, given that spelling a relatively simple seven-letter word is giving you such trouble.

Of course, there is the philosophical question of whether you can "kill" AthiestBot at all. AthiestBot is a robot. It has no life. How do you kill that which has no life?

Of course, if you mean me, AthiestBot's creator, don't forget that making death threats against a person is a crime in many places.

Where can I read more about this fantastic robot?

Well, I'm glad you asked that. @AthiestBot has written a guest post here. More may follow.

* Unless the database crashes or something

posted @ Monday, August 15, 2011 3:05 PM


Comments on this entry:

# re: What the hell is @AthiestBot?

Left by Matt at 8/17/2011 12:51 AM
"Don't forget, start ->wikth<- @AthiestBot's name and include the hashtag #ICanSpellAtheist."

# re: What the hell is @AthiestBot?

Left by jason at 8/23/2011 3:43 PM
Typo corrected, Matt.

I love correcting typos. Warm fuzzy feeling inside and all that.

# re: What the hell is @AthiestBot?

Left by StiffPigeon at 8/24/2011 10:02 PM
Love it. Just to be a little prickier-than-thou, though, have a look at the history of -ize vs. -ise word endings. As is often the case, spellings like "realize" are the traditional English way, but we went all poncey and Frenchified a couple of hundred years back. US spellings are often just the spellings we used to use - we've buggered around with the language more than they have.

# re: What the hell is @AthiestBot?

Left by Jason at 8/24/2011 11:53 PM
I'm pretty sure I first read about the ize/ise thing in Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson (though it may have been Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg or another pop linguistics book).

Before reading those I (like a lot of other people) assumed that it was English that had stayed static, while American English innovated. Not always true, though as with all things, there's a little from each column.

So these days I tend not to say things like "traditionally, the -ise ending is preferred".

Oh, and spelling reform! The movements on both sides of the Atlantic would make your eyes bleed. I might blog some of it in the next day or two.
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