The Daily Mailer

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Cartoons automatically generated using random comics from The New Yorker with captions from The Daily Mail comment section.
The Daily Mailer

Keeping myself busy, seeing what the wonderful people on Twitter were up to, I came across a fantastic premise… cartoons from The New Yorker could be coupled with comments from the Daily Mail to create brand new cartoons.

It’s a great idea with so much potential, just ripe for being turned into a bot.

Ten minutes later, I had scrabbled together some scruffy code using Tracery, and The Daily Mailer was born.

If you want an idea of how Tracery works, have a read through how I built my first bot – Twitterbots, or how I learned to code and annoy the web.

Pulling in the cartoons themselves was easy. Cleverer people than I had already written the code that pulls from the TNY cartoon api and turns it into something that Tracery can use. – Nice.

The bot then chooses a TNY cartoon at random and pairs it with a random comment from a list. Building the template on top that was just a case of sticking in some basic HTML to format the thing and Robert is indeed your mother’s brother.

The most difficult part of this project was actually having to delve into the bottom half of the Mail Online and suffer what their readers have to say about current events. It’s scary to think that there are genuinely people out there who have these sort of opinions. It makes you wonder how they function on a day-to-day basis in the outside world. But comedy can be found in the strangest of places.

After I got a list of about a hundred awful comments, The Daily Mailer was set live to publish every hour.

Once that was done, it was then just a case of tweaking things, tidying up the code, making it more presentable, and adding the logo and tag incase they went wide. With a few suggestions from Twitter chums, I also added a quick explainer and source/date for each caption.

Nearly every day, I visit the comment areas for the Daily Mail including their own new website, various Twitter accounts, and the Facebook page – the Mos Eisley of the internet. As of writing, there are now almost 500 comments in the list.

All of the comments are genuine, after a few days I started collecting URLs of the pages I’ve scoured. I do take extracts for brevity and correct some spelling and grammar to make them easier to read, unless this adds to the comedy value.

Sometimes the concept works, sometimes it doesn’t – especially if there is existing text in the comic (these often get deleted), but sometimes – when the stars align – serendipity produces something amazing.

Here are some of my favourites:

There are plans to bring it to Facebook and Instagram, but because I’m incredibly lazy, I’m looking to automate the whole thing, and Facebook doesn’t play nicely with other social networks. I’ll hopefully get it figured out soon, so watch this space.

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