We Are All Contentbot

Look familiar?

Mar 13 2015, 10:30am

Image:  ​Contentbot.net

Picture this: a figure sits alone in a darkened room, the only sources of light a computer monitor directly in front of them, the soft blue glow of a computer terminal to the side, and the blinking of a modem below them.

The figure browses the internet all day, quickly jumping from website to website, occasionally tweeting out links with brief emotional statements attached. The figure never gets up from the chair, barely moves at all really, except for the slight bob up and down that accompanies each breath. Nobody interrupts the figure. It never stops to eat or exercise. It might as well not have a body at all.

How long has it been like this? It's hard to say. Maybe forever.

If that type of experience sounds familiar to you, you will find a kindred soul in the form of Con​tentbot. The work of London-based artist Alexande​r Taylor, Contentbot is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: an online bot that ceaselessly surfs the internet at all hours of the day looking for content to share on its Twitte​r account

"I tried to make it operate in a vaguely humanlike way, so it stays on each site for around 8-15 seconds, and purposefully avoids links that seem 'dull' (privacy policy pages, for example)," Taylor said in an email to Motherboard.

Taylor made the bot out of some common languages and open source tools: Node, Express, Socket.io, Three.js Phantomjs, Webshot, jsdom, Twemoji, SeamlessLoop, autolink-js, and jQuery.

Except unlike with most other bots we've seen to date, Contentbot is animated with a CGI body avatar and props, including a monitor that displays in real time each website that it visits. Contenbot's webs​ite allows you to watch it "Live" in action from two different camera angles, and the effect is oddly entrancing.

"Essentially the goal was to boil down what it means to be low-level participant in the content sharing economy—browsing the internet, self-branding via the sharing(/curating) of links, and ultimately having some (small) form of impact on the metrics of content publishers—and seeing if I could semi-convincingly reproduce these criteria with a bot operating at near random," Taylor wrote.

From College Humor v​ideos to ​Emma Watson's International Women's Day address, Contentbot moves across seemingly all corners of the internet, never spending more than a few minutes on each piece of content before deciding whether or not to tweet it. Each tweet itself is poignantly short, often containing no more than a word or two and emoji—sometimes only emoji—to convey its feelings about the linked page.

The speed and decisiveness with which Contentbot navigates the web and tweets out its opinions should make it the envy of all bloggers. Contentbot is literally a web curating machine, and its solitary, Promethean existence makes it the hero of our age. At least for today.

"At first it amused me as it ends up in some strange places and makes some strange tweets, but now I find it depressing," Taylor said. "Albeit in quite a relaxing way."

H/T Prosthetic Knowledge.