S Club 7 are reuniting: but do they actually like each other? We found out, using Twitter (UsVsTh3m)

Feature about using Twitter to analyse the social dynamics within pop bands that accidentally predicted that Zayn would quit One Direction.

S Club 7 are reuniting: but do they actually like each other? We found out, using Twitter

They’ve announced that they’re Bringing It All Back to perform a medley on Children In Need, but will they be singing through gritted teeth? We decided to find out, using INTERNET SCIENCE – we looked at how often ‘the gang’ talk to (or about) each other on Twitter – measured by @ mentions.



I built 5 stupid Twitter robots and they failed to fill the void in my heart

My name is Ed, and I have a problem. My problem is that I can’t stop making terrible Twitter accounts, of which I have approximately 7,000. One time I pretended to be some sandwich spread and it got a bit out of hand and I ended up writing for the Guardian about it.

But, because I am quite lazy, another thing I do is make robots to do the terrible Twitter accounts for me. For example:

1. The Sausages Robot

@allthesausages was the first Twitter account I ever created (well, excepting my actual Twitter account). It searched for every mention of the word ‘sausages’ on Twitter and retweeted it (manually, it was all we had in them days). I didn’t really know how to write code back then so I bodged it together with a now defunct service called ‘Yahoo Pipes’ but once it was working it was easy enough to copy, so I made a few more.

First was the broadly similar @allthecheeses, then someone I worked with suggested @allyourmums, which searched for and retweeted anything containing the phrase ‘your mum’, and turned to be an effective way of creeping people out for no particular reason.

There was also @houseofsausages which tweeted every time someone in the UK parliament said ‘sausages’. They don’t say ‘sausages’ in parliament very much it turns out.

2. The Competition Robot

This happened because Ste Curran suggested it to me while we were drunk in a park. You know how companies do marketing exercises where they tweet something to effect of ‘Follow and retweet this and you could win a DVD of Tron!’? Well, what you can do is write code to search for those kind of tweets, and then automatically follow and retweet them, thereby entering competitions without even having to know that they existed in the first place.

So I did that. Even splitting our winnings 50/50 it seemed reasonable to assume that we would soon be very rich men! Well, it was not even as successful as this guy’s similar but more fruitful version, but over the course of a year or so we won:

  • A Call Of Duty poster
  • The latest in a series of alphabetical crime novels called something like G Is For Gun
  • 2 tickets to an event at Ministry Of Sound (I missed the message about this, sorry Ste)
  • 3 books of video game art (if anyone wants these I believe they are currently in a drawer in the offices of The Daily Mirror newspaper)

3. The Josh Whedon Robot

Once upon there was a man named Joss Whedon who invented space cowboys and lots of people on the internet cried because a) the space cowboys had their television programme cancelled and b) he would get referred to as Josh Whedon by people who were either less interested in space cowboys or specifically wanted to wind up the space cowboy fans. This eventually resulted in a Twitter account called @itsjossnotjosh that would look for people who said ‘Josh Whedon’ and correct them.

Because I am an actual child, I set up an account called @itsjoshnotjoss that did exactly the opposite. It’s gone now. It was probably kicked in by some nerds.

4. The French Robot

When I was first learning to tinker with Twitter robots I created a few accounts to test things, so I now have a series of intermittently functioning accounts that respond to my own tweets in different ways – there’s one that tweets them again, but in reverse and one that tweets them again, but with every word turned into a #hashtag (I read in a #webinar that this was #good for #twitter #SEO).

But my favourite one is the French Ed, who sounds a lot classier and more intelligent than me even when he’s talking about the bloke from Smash Mouth eating eggs.

It’s not working right now, because of something to do with Bing, I expect.

5. The “Annoy Alain De Botton” Robot

Remember when for a bit the hot new thing on Twitter was mashing up celebrities and philosophers, e.g. @KimKierkegaardashian?

Well if someone else is doing something amusing on Twitter you should obviously immediately start doing the exact same thing except worse, so I decided to mash up jumper merchant Alain De Botton and George Costanza from Seinfeld. But I couldn’t actually be bothered to write funny tweets, so I made a Twitter robot called @GeorgeDeBotton that just took De Botton’s tweets and changed the nouns to words like ‘Jerry’, ‘Kramer’ and ‘airline food’. I’m not sure it amused anyone else but me, but it definitely ticked someone off as it was eventually suspended.

Oh, and one time I made an account also copied Alain De Botton’s tweets but just transformed them all into capital letters so it looked like he was SHOUTING ALL THE TIME. That one didn’t last very long at all. Sorry Alain.

Anyway I guess the moral is that automating Twitter accounts is an excellent way to annoy Alain de Botton and get free stuff that you don’t actually want. If any venture capitalists want to help me monetise one or both of those things, let me know!

Shut up, ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ isn’t about the afterlife

There is a joke.

You probably know the joke, because it is a fairly famous joke.

It goes like this:

Question: Why did the chicken cross the road?

Answer: To get to the other side!

The mechanism of the joke is this: the listener, on hearing a question about a chicken crossing a road, will naturally assume that a humorous punchline is about to follow. Especially if the question is preceded by the questioner saying something like ‘Would you like to hear an extremely funny joke?’

The actual joke part of the joke is that there is no humorous punchline. You have been tricked. Your expectations have been confounded, assuming you have not already heard the joke, which is, at this point in human history, unlikely. Unless you’re a child or your memory’s broken or you’re from somewhere foreign and have an equivalent joke about an elephant crossing a railway line or something.

Anyway, lately I keep seeing the suggestion that it’s not a trick at all: the meaning of the punchline has been misconstrued, and it is in fact a play on words.

Here’s the earliest example I could find on Twitter of someone making this ‘realisation’, in 2011:

And in 2009 someone asked Yahoo Answers to settle a debate she was having with her daughter:

(From her Yahoo Answers history we can tell her daughter was 15 years old at the time, by the way. Her husband is an alcoholic, and her aunt had a vaginal cyst. Learning sure is fun with Yahoo Answers! Bing it!)

So the idea is that the chicken, having considered all available options, decides to end its life by crossing the road. This activity, presumed to be fatal, will allow it to get to ‘the other side’, i.e. the afterlife.

This reading of the joke makes sense in linguistic terms, but it does rely on the chicken being able to understand concepts like death, and the afterlife, and also to understand enough about road traffic to pick the moment where the probability of road death is highest.

You could make this claim about the more standard reading, vis-à-vis chickens even understanding what roads are, but I don’t think we really need to assign much knowledge to chicken. It is here, it wants to go there – it may not particularly matter to the chicken that ‘here’ is one side of the road, and that ‘there’ is the other.

(Given the fairly strict stance of many religions on suicide, one could also question the wisdom of using it as a mechanism to reach the other side. Is there a chicken hell?)

The oldest recorded printing of the ‘joke’, according to Wikipedia, which is never wrong, appeared in a New York Magazine called The Knickerbocker. The March 1847 issue contained the following, excellent, version:

There are ‘quips and quillets’ which seem actual conundrums, but yet are none. Of such is this:‘Why does a chicken cross the street?’
Are you ‘out of town?’
Do you ‘give it up?’
Well, then: ‘Because it wants to get on the other side!’

I don’t know much about road safety in 1847, but I’m going take a punt and say that roads were probably quite a lot less dangerous than they are today. Maybe the chicken would be at risk of being trampled by a horse. But if I was a mid-nineteenth century suicidal chicken, I’d have to consider other options if I was looking for an efficient death.

The chicken joke is one people learn early in their lives. For some, it may be the first time they learn that life doesn’t necessarily make sense. But it’s okay. We’re grown-ups now. Look yourself hard in the mirror. Then go outside and, carefully, cross the road. For no other reason than to get to the other side.

Are you ‘out of town’? Do you ‘give it up’?

17 strange things that happened in kids’ TV show Rainbow (Mirror Online)

17 strange things that happened in kids’ TV show Rainbow

Ah, Rainbow, the exceptionally vibrant TV show that told amazing stories of a man who for some reason lived with a bear, a pink hippo and a weird zip-mouthed thing. It was all a bit odd if you stopped to think about it – here are 17 particularly strange Rainbow memories we dug out of our brains: And it’s a drawing of a bed.

Neighbours is turning 30: How many of these crazy storylines do you remember? (Mirror Online)

Neighbours is turning 30: How many of these crazy storylines do you remember?

Although Neighbours is supposed to be about an ordinary suburban street, over the last 30 years the soap has featured some of television’s strangest plot devices, from sudden memory loss to surprisingly magic mushrooms. Here are our favourites: After a fall, Queen of Ramsay Street mums and high school principal Susan started to believe that she was 16 years old again.

My Film Reviews Of Films 2014 Edition

I was going to go for a walk and then my mum asked me to take the dog and I didn’t want to because I was worried I would lose the dog or make it die in some way so instead I have decided to review all the films I saw in the cinema except any that I have forgotten.

Saving Mr Banks – this was about Mary Poppins’ dad or something and I think I cried because I was having a DIFFICULT WEEK.

American Hustle – everyone was dumb and/or cross and I didn’t like it.

Gravity – it was funny when George Clooney was Space Jesus.

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty – I guess Ben Stiller wanted a holiday and made this pile of shit so other people would pay for it.

12 Years A Slave – it was bad what happened to that guy and it was weird watching in a big room full of other people. Also Benedict Cumberbatch was in it for some reason.

The Railway Man – it was also quite bad what happened to that guy.

Anchorman 2 – this had one funny joke in it but I can’t remember what it was and the rest was appalling and if you liked this you are a bad person.

The Wolf Of Wall Street – this had good bits like when he’s done all drugs and can’t get into his car, but is 7 hours long for some reason and then at the end of the day it’s a real dude who basically got away with it and is still awful?

Inside Llewyn Davis – this gave me a lot of feelings but then I rewatched it and maybe didn’t have as many feelings but I like the song about the astronaut.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – I don’t remember watching this or why I watched it but it had Captain Kirk in it.

Robocop – they should have made the RoboCop remake be a meta-film about a cashgrab RoboCop remake or something. Maybe a stuntman has an accident and they make him into a RoboCop? I don’t know but it would be better than this although it was sort of weird and funny when they took off RoboCop’s body and he was all just lungs in a jar.

The Lego Movie – 1) It had Lego in it. 2) The best Batman film since the 1960s. 3) Grumpy Harrison Ford obviously refused to play Lego Han Solo, what a twat. 4) Just 100%, really.

Her – like Black Mirror would be if Black Mirror was good although I seem to remember some bits were painfully awkward and made me want to shout “DON’T DO THAT” at the man.

A New York Winter’s Tale – Colin Farrell gets a magic horse and tries to use it to steal some silver but instead steals the love of a beautiful daughter but the beautiful daughter has consumption and he tries to kiss it better with magic but it doesn’t work so instead he walks around New York for 100 years until he can kiss an 8 year old’s cancer better? Also Will Smith is in it as the devil. 10/10

Grand Budapest Hotel – I don’t know. Lots of things happened and it looked pretty.

The Zero Theorem – thin residues of leftover Gilliam with the occasional good bit, then it turns out to have been all about those damned money men at the studios messing with my creativity, maaaan! Oh dear.

Captain America – The Winter Soldier – The best bit of this film was when Jenny Agutter started doing kung fu stuff and the worst bit was when it turned out it was Scarlett Johansson in a Jenny Agutter mask. Oh and it was funny when Captain America had that list of modern day things he had to check out like Star Wars and Nirvana and sort of neat that they apparently did a different one of those for every country changing the references. But mostly just some stuff happened.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – more like The Amazing Spider-Man Poo!!!

Frank – this was good but it was weird that he looked like Frank Sidebottom but wasn’t like Frank Sidebottom? IDK why they didn’t make the head square or something. Good song.

X-Men: Days Of Future Past – it had the old X-Men and also the new X-Men in it can you even imagine?

Two Faces Of January – two men want to do a kiss on Kirsten Dunst! Which one is going to do the kissing? Oh no she fell down the stairs!

Edge Of Tomorrow – this was actually GOOD FUN despite marketing that made it look like a boring shootman video game. Sort of like Groundhog Day but instead of fighting his personality Tom Cruise fights aliens *and* his personality. Also he starts off as an arsehole getting his JUST DESSERTS and that is an enjoyable thing to watch happen to Tom Cruise. The ending is sort of stupid but what did you expect?

Guardians Of The Galaxy – everyone liked this so my controversial opinion is that it wasn’t very good woah. It was too dumb to care about things that weren’t jokes and there weren’t enough jokes in it. But have you heard the soundtrack with the ironic dad music LOL?

22 Jump Street – this wasn’t brilliant but was way better than it had any right to be although not as better than it had any right to be than the first one. But apparently the next one is also going to be Men In Black 4?

Gone Girl – was this meant to be a funny movie because I thought it got pretty funny? Anyway the Gone Girl owned Ben Affleck well done Gone Girl!

Nightcrawler – I think this was meant to be funny and I thought it was funny. Jake Gyllenhall is a weirdo who has learned everything from Wikipedia and internet forums for MBAs and decides to become an ambulance chaser in order to make a lot of money and then he does this because capitalism.

Interstellar – I guess they must have sent this film into a black hole because it seemed like it was 70 hours long!!! Anyway it turns out love is better than gravity, but not as good as gravy and then Matthew McConaughey pulls a face.

Mr Turner – Mr Turner was a DIFFICULT MAN who did paintings and then HE DIED. Bye bye Mr Turner.

The Hobbit The Battle Of Five Armies – a dragon crushes Stephen Fry to death and then there’s 3 hours of other stuff and then Billy Connelly is in it for some reason and then The Hobbit goes home.

The Imitation Game – it was also quite bad what happened to this guy who this time *was* Benedict Cumberbatch.

Oh also I saw The Muppet Christmas Carol at a “sing-along” screening and had emotions. The end.