“The purpose of this blog is to provide sourcing for texts quoted by @Horse_ebooks and, whenever possible, provide context,” wrote freelancer Jack Stuef on a freshly-minted Tumblr conceived in the bleary midnight hours early Friday morning. Born out of that insomniac haze is “The Annotated @Horse_ebooks,” a blog devoted to teasing out nuance and substance from the glorious fountain of non-sequitors that is the Internet’s favorite Twitter account, @Horse_ebooks.
“The idea to do a Tumblr just came to me, but I had looked up some of Horse’s tweets before, and sometimes the sources of those can be just as bizarre and hilarious as the tweets themselves. Or they can be incredibly dull. I thought it was interesting,” Mr. Stuef, who frequently writes for The Onion and BuzzFeed, told Betabeat via Gchat.
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.