Twitterbots – something more than just scale

I’ve got to admit, I’d always assumed twitterbots were just the platform’s version of spam. I’ve used twitter fairly regularly over the past 2-3 years so, while no expert, would assume I’m one of their more savvy users. Sure, I’d had the occasional tweet from a ‘bimbot’, but assumed bots were being used for little else.

So I was a little surprised to see this introduced in week 2 of the IDEL course, and it’s been a very pleasant surprise! Of course, having now read a little more about them, I sense the deep relevance in the discussion about technology and the role of ‘teacher’.

The recommend blog post provides a great introduction to twitterbots, and I was particularly struck by the description:

What these bots show is that the future of automation—whether of work, errands, or other routine tasks—is about the combination of human creativity and the raw processing power of machines.

And boy, when the balance is right it can be a beautiful thing. What could be suggested here is it combining technology with human creativity can help scale this – to reach a wider audience, have more impact, produce more, and even produce

“something that is actually greater than the sum of its parts”.

The ‘infinite monkey theorem came to mind when I read this. I wonder if technology has previously just been assumed as a way to scale (an industrial version of the monkeys), to aid efficiency and deliver increased permutations. Perhaps what we are now beginning to explore is something much deeper – how it can elevate our creative output to a higher level, and help us create something much bigger than ourselves. Ultimately our creative output is the centrepiece, but technology can help us mould this is new and exciting ways.

I’m looking forward to spending more time this week looking into twitterbots, and how they can help us in learning and education. My favourite so far? The ‘here’s your reminder’ bot, simply because I think it has very sarcastic overtones…

Algorithms in learning

I was lucky enough to listen to a talk from Chris Littlewood from Filtered in Manchester recently. His business is exploring algorithms as a way of providing a scalable solution to the idea of content creation.

Ben Betts, from HT2 labs, suggested at the same event that a transition may be taking place within L&D functions – moving away from the creation of elearning content, to simply curating the best of what’s already out there.

The technology that Chris’ team are developing takes this one step further – so rather than a person deciding what is relevant and scouring the web for the best content (and by ‘best’ I mean most likely to add value), algorithms are used to scale this up, gain feedback from students on the choices made, and use this to improve the algorithm itself.

With algorithms and technology helping education and learning become more ‘intelligent’, it feels like we could be on the cusp of something really exciting.