Normally bots are a bad thing. They are associated with spam, phishing fraud, and identity theft. Rarely do they give us something fun and exciting write about.
Ranjit Bhatnagar is changing all that with a bot that retweets peoples tweets in iambic pentameter. It is not very often that you would want a bot retweeting your stuff, but in this case it’s all in good fun.
For you non-Shakespeare people, iambic pentameter is ten syllables with alternating stress meter and is used in Shakespeare’s sonnets. Pentametron uses an algorithm to find and retweet rhyming couplets to form a 14 line sonnet. The result is often accidentally funny and profound at the same time.
Here is what it looks like…
The Pentametron Twitter account posts retweets of the sonnets in order as they appear. Here is an excerpt of the above sonnet as it appears on Twitter.
Off to the constitution center son:)
a sexy morning. breakfast anyone??
go download barcelona radio
Done !! Visit BaBeL Archipelago..
These people are poets and they don’t even know it.
Pentametron works by stripping the tweets of emoticons and other ASCII noise. It then cross-references each word against the CMU Pronouncing Dictionary to get the stress markers for each line. If the line is in iambic pentameter, it stores it for use. If not it throws it out. It then compares the last syllables to pair them in rhyming couplets. These are then retweeted in chronological order.
“I think pentametron looks at about a million tweets for each rhymed couplet it finds,” Bhatnagar said to Gawker, “and yet it finds them, reliably, just because millions of people are talking about millions of things.”
Often, Bhatnagar has to create a list of phrases in iambic pentameter that are used often on Twitter. A phrase like “I wanna see the hunger games again.” can be tweeted by hundreds of people in the course of a few days. He must constantly monitor to make sure they do not appear in all of the sonnets.
As Bhatnager explains, other Twitter bots will often times post lines from actual sonnets in an effort to spam Twitter feeds. He must monitor to make sure he is not actually ripping off Shakespeare. “Just in the last few days, there’s been a big uptick in spam using texts from actual sonnets and plays in pentameter,” Bhatnagar says. “Pentametron can’t resist them.”
Pentamtron has been writing sonnets for about a month now. You can view them written out in text at Pentametron.com