Two days ago something very sad happened – Twitter suspended our @TicBot account without warning and without explanation. You might think describing this as sad is a little melodramatic but our bot is unusual. According to a lot of people he makes Twitter a better and more interesting place. This post will tell you about his history, his impact and why I think we should all be saying #BringBackTicBot.
Birth of a Bot
I created this website to increase awareness and understanding of Tourettes Syndrome in a creative and funny way. It’s a place for people who, like me, have Tourettes. But it’s also for those who don’t, but who’re interested in it, are creative, or just like laughing. Very early on in the in development of the site I realised that my vocal tics would work well on Twitter. Like lots of the best tweets, they’re concise, random and draw on all sorts of subjects.
A quick search for “Tourettes” on Twitter revealed that plenty of people were very interested in Tourettes, but their tweets tended to be lazy, mocking jokes perpetuating myths about the condition. No-one was tweeting real vocal tics, and for me to do so seemed like a perfect way to share their vibrant, eclectic humour and at the same time challenge people to think differently.
I still tweet as @Touretteshero and share a #dailyoutburst, but it was taking me ages to choose a tic each day and there were some that I felt reluctant to share. It became clear what I needed was a braver and more decisive tweeter. I needed a Bot, a @TicBot.
What A Bot
@TicBot’s a custom-made software app that carries out a range of automated and repetitive tasks. He was created for me by computer wizard @branespeaks who read my descriptions of the patterns and sensations of tics and tried to emulate them when he was programming @TicBot.
Although when and who @TicBot talks to is automated, everything he tweets is a real tic featured on this site. With over 4,000 to choose from, @TicBot is a much more human Bot than most.
He’s also much cleverer – @TicBot replies randomly to anyone who mentions Tourettes in their tweets. He also talks to people who follow him, or engage him in conversation – these can be funny, angry, beautiful, sad or confusing. But what’s clear from reading his mentions is that he makes people think. To me he’s like a naughty younger brother who I have to keep an eye on. To many others he’s become a firm friend.
Twitter can be a lonely place and @TicBot’s clearly become a much-loved companion to many, with his cheeky, surreal and dependable banter.
The Impact of the Bot
He confuses some people: ‘So much shit, such little sense and still such a short sentence :L’
Annoys others: ‘Behave, you unfortunate excuse for a sentient being’
Is flirted with: ‘Kiss me ticbot!!’
And cared for: ‘It’s PAST your bedtime…’
And he receives a lot of praise:
‘In my whole boring day of mundane web surfing and iPod categorizing, this random tweet just made me laugh. lulz.’
@0_ban0 9th June 2012
‘@ticbot brings a laugh when you feel like sh!t. Random #Tourettes Chaos Engine! SuperHero.’
@N3TW0RK23 20th August 2012
‘…and finally, I must say that @Ticbot is a constant source of joy for me.’
@cookdandbombd 12th August 2012
‘A bot with Tourette’s has taken pity on me….this Matrix ain’t so bad after all’
@gtgaz 26th August 2012
‘And of course everyone on Twitter should be following @TicBot but what is his true identify? Who is Ticbot? A man or an idea?’
@DrinkingQuest 10th August 2012
‘Mashable. Ten hilarious bots you shouldn’t block. Not a mention of @TicBot, so the article is worthless.’
@HutchinsonDave 22nd July 2012
‘#ff Why tweet with people when you can debate with @TicBot? Michael Jackson’s Doctor or OJ’s glove. Choose Collapse’
@BonzoHammer 6th July 2012
‘@TicBot You’re making me happy.’
@TylerYtoro 4th July 2012
‘#FF @TicBot Want something funny and marvellous? Try Ticcy.’
@ackneylad 29th June 2012
‘@TicBot Don’t be; you’re one of the best things to happen to me in years, TicBot.’
@HutchinsonDave 19th June 2012
He has some well-known fans
‘@ticbot Bob has at last found someone completely on his wavelength :)’
@RealBobMortimer 10th September 2012
And due to Twitter’s sudden suspension, he’s missed: TicBot might be a Bot but he’s a Bot who talked to the same people often. They liked him and miss him. He has friends who are campaigning to get him back:
‘#MentionSomeoneVerySpecial @ticbot suspended without sense or reason – #bringBackTicBot’
@balpep 18th September 2012
‘Come on, @twitter. @TicBot is a wonderful, funny, and socially progressive initiative to raise awareness about Tourette’s. #BringBackTicBot’
@cormaggio 17th September 2012
‘I miss verbal sparring and thinking outside of the ticbox @TicBot #BringBackTicBot *sob* *sob*’
@Barbara_htims 17th September 2012
‘I’ve been missing @TicBot loads! Big mistake there, somewhere. Re: bionic: I’m due a hip replacement in the next year or so ;-)’
@Pani_Bufetowa 17th September 2012
‘Oh no, some of my most intellectual conversations are with @TicBot 🙁 What’s the criteria for being suspended?’
@LJ2510 16th September 2012
‘Missing @ticbot ..a smile of recognition & celebration of randomness;refreshing as a daily cuppa with or without biscuits #bringbackticbot’
@Rockhopper29 16th September 2012
‘The wind beneath my wings? @Ticbot that’s who! #BringBackTicBot’
@UrbanMilkmaid 16th September 2012
‘I can’t rely on auto corrects and spelling errors to make me laugh I need @TicBot #BringBackTicBot’
@GrimKids 16th September 2012
I use the Internet and social media to promote understanding and acceptance of Tourettes to the widest possible audience. I tweet my tics as a way of engaging people, changing attitudes and fighting discrimination. The suspension of @TicBot’s account without warning or explanation is a blow, not just to me but to all the people who have developed their own relationships with him. If @TicBot’s broken a rule, he can be adapted, but Twitter without @TicBot is a sad prospect indeed. We’re working hard to get him back and I’m sure he’ll be the first to let you know when he’s back.
I’ll let @CodyTheBrony have the last word: ‘@TicBot NEVER STOP TALKING’
@Twitter, it’s time to listen: #BringBackTicBot!