[This tutorial was written by Nicky Martin and Nat Towsen (@nickymartin and @NatTowsen in the Botnik community on Slack.]
Botnik's first writing tool is a predictive text keyboard, much like the one on your smartphone, that gives you options of words to type based on the words you've already entered. The tool analyzes a body of text, which we call a 'corpus', to find combinations of words likely to follow each other.
Head to apps.botnik.org to check out keyboards loaded with Seinfeld Season 3 (which we used to write this Seinfeld spec script), Allrecipes.com (which we used to write the script for this cooking video), and others..
If this is your first time using Botnik, try loading a keyboard and clicking around. Choose a word by clicking its box or typing the corresponding number. Don’t forget about the alt-# options!
Don’t see any words you like? Hit alt-enter to replace the keyboard with random words from the corpus. You can also type words or type letters and pick from the suggested endings.
USING BOTNIK AS A WRITING TOOL
There are many ways that botnik can be used as a writing tool. You can go fully auto and simply click the same box over and over, only typing punctuation.
You can navigate by clicking around.
You can save words by dragging them to the save bar, then drag them into your sentence later. (Make sure you have “show saved words bar” enabled in the menu.)
You can type words when you feel necessary.
There’s no right way to write with Botnik. Find whatever helps you write the best/funniest copy. You'll start to see the strange opportunities presented by Botnik. Sometimes, Botnik is funny because it produces wrong-sounding sentences, but it can also be used to write in perfect English grammar. The amount of wrongness is up to you.
Our nightly writing jams are a great way to take botnik for a spin and to get a feel for how other people are using the keyboard. Plus you’ll get to write alongside a team of funny developers and professional comedians!
The Botnik team uses Slack. Each night, topics and keyboards are shared in the #general channel.
Sometimes, jams involve multiple keyboards. For example, the topic could be “Advice” and the keyboards could be “Hallmark Cards”, “Dan Savage’s Answers,” and “Fortune Cookies”. For our Seinfeld script, we used separate keyboards for Jerry, Elaine, George, Kramer, stage direction, and Jerry’s standup, plus a bonus keyboard with all of the dialogue combined.
Writers use the new keyboards to write copy, which they often pitch to Botnik's sophisticated voting platform, Wodehouse. Create a new voting room via wodehouse.botnik.org and put the URL of the keyboard(s) in the room description.
You can upload a custom source by going to apps.botnik.org/writer, clicking the menu icon in the top-left of the window, then clicking “Choose File.” Right now, you can only upload a .txt file, otherwise Botnik gets very hot.
You can combine sources with a little cutting and pasting. Each botnik keyboard has a URL ending in a unique code:
You can combine this codes with a comma to create combined keyboards…
....for example, by combining the Seinfeld stage directions with an H.P. Lovecraft story
HOW IT WORKS
Botnik analyzes a corpus of text by using an algorithm to determine common patterns of words. Then, it looks at the the last three words of your text to figure out suggestions for new words to follow. Combining corpuses recalculates word frequency and common word patterns for both texts. Thus, combining two similar corpuses, like TED Talks on Sex and Erotic Paranormal Romance novel summaries, offers many recurring word choices, but different sentence structure possibilities; combining two dissimilar texts, like The Acts Of The General Assembly Of The Church of Scotland and negative Yelp Reviews of golf courses, yields unlikely word combinations with inhuman grammar.