For your sake, @ckinniburgh, I hope the fitbit failed to log your steps. Only “0 steps, for a total of 0 miles.”

Uh oh.  Once again Alfred Ignoble is telling CKinniburgh off.

Alfred is the Twitterbot created by Chris Kinniburgh, a law student in the US.  Chris has most of his life hooked up by telematics and Alfred responds to the information he gets about how much exercise Chris has managed daily, how many hours he’s spent gaming or been outdoors, comments on the weather and generally and critically gives his creator a good nag.

John Shaw, Head of R+D and Innovations at DLG, interviewed Chris about his creation as part of the briefing for a Telematics Hackathon session last month.  Chris explained that the Twitterbot had his flaws at the moment and needed tweaking.  For instance Alfred will tell Chris off about late night gaming sessions even at the weekend, he’s not taking into account that a school night is different from leisure time, and yes Chris feels that Alfred is being unfair.

The relationship between the two is fascinating.  Kinniburgh has created something to hound him into changing his behaviour.  Telematics is obviously key to this.  In the last couple of weeks I have personally noticed a big step change in the numbers of Pebbles and Jawbones decorating the arms of people I’m in meetings with.   It feels to me like this has crossed the line from very early adopters to the ahead of the crowd mainstream set.  Most of those who I’ve asked about them suggest that there is a behaviour improvement once you start monitoring what you do in this way.  Whether that is due to the fact that if you buy one you’re intending to improve anyway or whether it indicates the probability of improvement for the mass market is currently unanswered but nearly everyone I’ve questioned is pleased with their self improvement.

Kinniburgh’s bot is a step yet further on the road.  Some would have imagined Alfred as a cheerleading coach type.  Scan through his comments to Chris and it’s clear that a lesser man would have switched him off a long time ago.  I think that there’s something in his haranguing tone of voice that may be helpful to Chris though.  Perhaps Chris is enjoying ignoring Alfred and getting one up on him by dismissing his advice.

We all have friends and loved ones who wander through life from one dysfunctional relationship to another.  Serially dumped women who fall for emotionally unavailable men and constantly get their hearts broken.  Men who partner with wives and girlfriends who nag them like a fishwife. Psychologists might quickly diagnose this as fulfilling a need to partner with someone who reminds them of their mothers or fathers. (Freud would just blame the mother).  It can be hard to break the pattern.  But what if you could design a Twitter bot to have the dysfunctional relationship with you ?   You could tell the Twitter bot what you really thought of them without fear of repercussison.  Or, like Chris, you could just rise above the whole thing and maintain a lofty attitude to the criticism. Then you might have the freedom to conduct a guilt free blame free carefree relationship with a real life partner.

Imagine – Twitter bot could tell if you were out late at night and tweet you :“What time do you call this then?”  As you were leaving the house it could tweet : “You’re not going out looking like that”.  On the eve of bin day it might say “You never put the bins out without me asking”.   And regularly accuse you of : “Never phoning never texting never coming over”.

In the workplace you could have Boss from Hell bot who could tweet you each morning with  : “You’re late again, make me a coffee, fill in your timesheet”.

You of course could reply to the Twitterbot with all the things you’d like to say to your boss/partner in real life, but stop yourself from doing so.  Then having fulfilled any masochistic tendency safely and you can go on to have productive relationships instead in the real world.


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