One of the more interesting things to come across my radar recently was a piece of news about the Twitter account @horse_ebooks. This account was apparently machine-operated. It tweeted what appeared to be odd chopped up bits of sentences from books, and the occasional link to an ebook for sale. Unlike most spam and robot accounts, its tweets were accidentally amusing much of the time, and it gained a substantial following on Twitter. I never followed it, but I have heard from it many times, as my followers have retweeted it. Even the culture of twitter was noticeably affected by the presence of this account. Robot accounts based on sampling large bodies of text have become increasingly popular, and many of them have '_ebooks' in their name. I've also heard '_ebooks' mentioned as a word by itself a few times.
With @horse_ebooks holding this kind of cultural influence, it is no surprise that the recently revealed news caused a stir: this account was in fact operated by humans, and not by a rogue robot, as had been supposed. Just as interesting were the two articles that presented this news to me, which can be found here and here. The former was about what the revelation means for blogging as an art form, and the latter connects it with a subtle but profound shift in how we think about the internet. I honestly cannot do this topic any more justice than these articles have, so I encourage you to read them.
As for my own attitude toward this revelation, it did not surprise me much, though it did make me think. I always knew that @horse_ebooks was more than just a spam account, since unlike other spambots both then and now, it was not a disgusting perversion of logic wearing human skin (I have been reading Lovecraft lately). But although I thought its purpose was for amusement more than marketing, I did believe it was computer-generated, at least largely. If I had followed it, maybe I would have reason to suspect its human origin. Its tweets are too juicy, so to speak, to be random; saturated with avenues to wonder and speculate about the text being quoted and its relation to life. However, it is impossible to know what I would have thought in a hypothetical past. After all, many others who followed it believed it to be a genuine bot. It seems that, although current computers cannot successfully imitate humans, it is possible for humans to imitate computers to an appreciable amount of success. And after reading several days worth of tweets from @horse_ebooks, it is clear that humans are very good actors, who can simultaneously wear a disguise and speak wondersome stories through it.