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Algorithm turns tweets into poetry

Twitter bird
Sam Spratt

It's said that — given enough time — an army of monkeys with typewriters could recreate the works of Shakespeare. Well, it turns out that millions of humans with keyboards and Twitter accounts can do the same thing.


Thanks to a website called Pentametron (and its corresponding Twitter account), we have discovered that tweets can be matched up to create poems, written in perfect iambic pantameter — just like much of Shakespeare's work.

Pentametron was created by Ranjit Bhatnagar, who has a knack for what he calls "Internet-based collaborative art."

According to Gawker's Max Read, Bhatnagar explained that Pentametron's algorithm searches through hundreds of tweets per second and processes them in order to create something resembling a poem:

First, it strips the tweet of emoticons and ASCII art. It then cross-references each word against the CMU Pronouncing Dictionary. CMU includes stress markers, indicated, in a poetically neat turn, as ones and zeros — the line for abandonment, for example, is "AH0 B AE1 N D AH0 N M AH0 N T" — and Pentametron compares those markers against the binary line for iambic pentameter: 0101010101. If the tweet is in iambic pentameter, Pentametron retweets it; if not, it moves on.

Additionally, Pentametron checks tweets against a "blacklist of Twitter clichés," in order to make sure that every line isn't about Justin Bieber or whatever other topic is constantly trending.

You can check out the Pentametron website to read through the rhymes it has pulled together so far. Just be careful: Since it relies on tweets, some of the words or subject matters you'll see aren't always — ahem — appropriate.

Want more tech news, silly puns, or amusing links? You'll get plenty of all three if you keep up with Rosa Golijan, the writer of this post, by following her on Twitter, subscribing to her Facebook posts, or circling her on Google+.