Were you thwarted in your attempt to get Taylor Swift tickets? Are you pouting outside a Rihanna concert? Well, you’re not alone, and the New York Times has located a target for your rage: BOTS.
The Times reports that, according to Ticketmaster, bots “have been used to buy more than 60 percent of the most desirable tickets for some shows,” which explains why you couldn’t get Beyonce tickets. A rep from Bowery Presents told the Times they sometimes have 20 percent no-shows for sold-out concerts, and they’re prime tickets. “It’s speculators who bought a bunch of seats and didn’t get the price they wanted.”
If you’ve spent a significant amount of time on the Internet, you’ve undoubtedly encountered the phenomenon of @Horse_ebooks, a Twitter spam bot that has managed to escape being shuttered by the microblogging service due in part to its weird and wildly popular form of poetry. The bot mines websites for snippets of text and tweets them a few times a day. As Gawker wrote in their oddly compelling investigation of the Russian programmer behind @Horse_ebooks, “The feed’s strangely poetic stream has been embraced like a life-preserver by internet users drowning in a sea of painfully literal SEO headlines and hack Twitter comedians.”
Of course, @Horse_ebooks is not the first bot to scrape texts and present its findings packaged in an entertaining and eerily human way. Before Twitter and before @Horse_ebooks there was Mark V. Shaney, a program that was so good at feigning humanity that it managed to confuse and rile Usenet group users for years.