Posted on December 30, 2018
Roast Beef Dunwich, our horrifying new Twitterbot
Have you ever wondered what items would be on the menu in a cosmic-horror-themed diner? Me too! Well not at first, but I had a fun Twitter handle (@eatroastbeef) that I wanted to do something neat with, so I thought it would be fun combine a bunch of unspeakable descriptions from Lovecraft novels along with tasty menu descriptions from various local restaurants and fast food chains. Ideally, the bot would then send tweets with a name, short description, price, and calorie count. Like this:
Christine had written her own Markov Chain script for a similar project earlier this year, so we thought that would be perfect for this project. While Christine worked on the code, I collected as many descriptions as possible to feed to the bot. This was the most tedious part for me as I had to scour the web hunting down good sources, then usually needing to click copy and paste multiple times on each item on their menu and add them to our list. Many sites didn’t even have this info on one page, so I had to load a new page for every single item. This was hours of work, but it was so much fun to see the bots descriptions improve and change with each new menu we feed it. For the Lovecraft text, I started off by just feeding in all of his novels, but that often yielded some boring tweets. I was lucky to find Yog-Blogsoth, which collected every single Lovecraft creature (no matter how obscure) and listed it along with the specific block of text that describes it. This meant all of our Lovecraft text was just the gruesome descriptions, with none of that plot stuff to get in the way. It was still a ton of copying/pasting/checking for duplicates, but it saved a ton of time.
We had some decent names to choose from, but ended up calling our “diner” Roast Beef Dunwich. I banged out a mascot and logo and the end result is online now. We don’t curate the feed, so there’s bound to be some gibberish, but so far we’ve seen some great tweets. Be sure to give @eatroastbeef a follow for a small dose of absurd tweets throughout the day.
Fun fact, we have yet to see a single Shoggoth or Cthulhu callout since our bot went live. I think I’ll freak out when it happens.