What is @DrunkBuzzFeed?

January 30, 2014

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed that I’ve been retweeting an account called @DrunkBuzzFeed (formerly @BuzzfeedEBooks) fairly frequently. As with most tweets that most people send, there’s a good chance you ignored it, or didn’t think twice about it.

Well, you’re reading this blog post, so maybe now you’re interested: @DrunkBuzzFeed is a robot I made that takes a beginning, middle and end from 3 different randomly selected Buzzfeed headlines, and sends them out as a mashed together tweet. Sometimes the results make perfect sense, and sometimes they don’t. Here are some examples:

For me, the best part of these tweets is that I run the account, and I have no idea what they are going to be. They make me laugh out loud somewhat regularly. If you’re curious about how I made the bot, read this blog post. It’s long, and a little technical. But not very difficult. If you have a Mac, I think you could build one yourself.

So that’s that. The next thing you might ask me is…

Why did I make @DrunkBuzzfeed?

@DrunkBuzzFeed was born out of two things: First off, months, or maybe even years of conversation with a few friends about how frustrating the articles we see shared around the web are. It’s a common bit around the office to mockingly come up with Buzzfeed-esque headlines to describe mundane situations we’re in.

The second one was a fascination with other Twitter bots (or faux Twitter bots) such as @Horse_eBooks that had gotten so much attention.

With these two things in mind, my friend Cameron and I came up with the idea of building a bot that tweets fake Buzzfeed headlines. The project had numerous false-starts and dead ends, and probably was built over the course of a couple months. If you followed my blog post now, you could probably set up your own in two hours. With the combination of our inspirations in mind, the project was originally named @BuzzfeedEbooks

We were hoping that the twitter account would have some viral success of its own with the help of a few retweets, but it was an absolute failure in that regard. We discussed, though never went through with, buying fake followers, and eventually tried rebranding it a couple times. @DrunkBuzzFeed is what we’ve settled on for now.

As of earlier today, the account had 11 followers, most of whom I had told personally about the account. The account has been a failure, in all ways but one: I think it’s funny, and a couple I’ve told about it think it’s funny. My hope is that explaining it here, a few more people will think it’s funny.

Even though it brings laughter to me, and I hope it brings laughter to you, I’d like to stand up on my very small soapbox for a moment.

Why Do I hate Buzzfeed so much?

I have never made or attempted to make a career as a journalist. I studied journalism in college, and worked as an editor on our weekly student paper, The Torch, but I was never the best at it. Since then, my closest attempts at journalism are this blog and this frequently abandoned Chicken Wing review site..

I got a communications degree with a focus in New Media/Journalism, and I am much more on the New Media side of that spectrum. I spend my time working at boom. reactive. doing social media management for companies in the St. Louis area. Yeah, I sit on Facebook all day.

One of my least favorite things about being on Facebook all day is seeing the links to “news stories” my friends are sharing. I didn’t put the word friends in quotes, because I mean it. Many of the people who share crappy links on Facebook are people who I respect a lot, and who I think are otherwise good folks. I did put “news stories” in quotes, because most of the things shared aren’t news.

Buzzfeed, ViralNova, UpWorthy, UpRoxx and more popping up weekly it seems like. These are sites that make The Huffington Post look like The Wall Street Journal/New York Times – whichever one of those you view the most favorably.

Here are seven screenshots I just have sitting around:

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 11.03.38 PM

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 5.31.49 PM

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 5.36.00 PM

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 5.41.57 PM

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 2.07.27 PM

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 5.35.20 PM

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 10.55.11 AM

Why do any of these things even exist? Clearly they aren’t news, so what about their value as entertainment?

These sites are the reality TV of the internet: lowest possible budget & lowest common denominator. Beyond that, the larger of these sites like Buzzfeed make loads of money selling advertisements on content written by unpaid writers. And much of the content is stolen without credit or payment from elsewhere on the internet.

Throw in an endless opportunity for confirmation bias, an insistence on EXPERIENCING HEIGHTENED EMOTIONS AT ALL TIMES (“You’ll be shocked”, “you won’t believe”, “This will change everything”), and headlines that offer no clue about what’s inside. It all just drives me nuts

And I click on it, you click on it. We all do, and they make money because of it. Meanwhile, sites and services that strive to create real content of value are struggling & failing regularly.

So, what’s the solution? How many people even believe it’s a problem? I’m not advocating endless support for dead-tree companies that are doing a crappy job transitioning to the modern age. I’m not telling anyone to stop clicking on these stories, though I would encourage you to think before sharing them.

The internet is an endless source of proverbial junk food, and it’s fine if you enjoy some occasionally. But every now and then, it might be nice to eat a healthy meal.

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