A stylized robot face made of the letters F and T.

Jan 5, 2017

From the desk of Courtney Stanton

Designing a Bot President

Dear Reader,

Two months ago a representative of the Obama Administration approached us to ask if we'd like to participate in a special project. Naturally, we were curious and eager to hear what was so special! (TL;DR: check out our cool bot.)

President Obama is the first president to have a social media presence, and as such he has to set precedent that answers the question, "what does a U.S. president do with their social media stuff at the end of their term?" We were delighted to learn that in addition to the usual procedure of, "hand everything over to the Library of Congress", Obama's team was also going to publicly share all their social media data from across the years.

However, they didn't want to release the data without some example projects to show off the range of what you could do with it. Hence approaching Feel Train: they were interested in what we thought we could do with all this presidential social media data.

We pitched what we thought would be a simple and powerful idea: @Relive44, a Twitter account you can follow to relive the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse Twitter accounts on a time delay.

Unfortunately this kind of work doesn't come out of the defense budget, so we didn't land a sweet multi-million dollar government contract. Instead we're doing this for free, as a public service.

As for the project itself, I feel like this is going to be hilarious in a way. We've become so used to social media being this permanent part of our lives, but did you know that President Obama had a Friendster account? The year 2008 was a while ago technologically-speaking. Seeing the evolution of America’s relationship to social media, as reflected through the White House and a sitting President’s use of Twitter is going to be A Journey, and one I’m very interested in taking… which I guess makes sense, since I’m one of the people who designed it.

What is going to be much more darkly hilarious is getting this window into a past where one could expect civil rights to generally broaden, freedoms to generally expand, and existing protections to generally persist. Reminders of the Obama administration while enduring the next four years may be a balm for some, or fuel to keep fighting for others. Regardless, I hope it’s what you need to keep going. To quote some words from the much wiser Audre Lorde that I keep coming back to:

So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive

I hope this bot speaks to you.


The content of this article is provided under a CC-BY Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.