Farewell @Horse_ebooks

Lane Sainty laments an equine tragedy: the loss of @Horse_ebooks.

Like an underappreciated lover, I didn’t realise how much I would miss @Horse_ebooks until it cantered out of my life. I awoke on September 25 to the devastating revelation that the notorious spam Twitter account was, in actual fact, a piece of performance art, staged by Buzzfeed employee Jacob Bakkila and his co-conspirator Thomas Bender over the past few years.

Although @Horse_ebooks began life as an actual spambot, Bakkila took over the account from creator Alexei Kuznetsov in late 2011. To adequately resemble a bot, he tweeted the same stream of seemingly random text and spam links from the account every couple of hours for the next 742 days.

You have to admire his commitment. But as with most betrayals, the pain has lingered – days after the initial reveal. Still locked into the denial phase of grief, I see @Horse_ebooks everywhere. Some casual library graffiti reading “Do not leave Dinesh’s friend Darren,” smacked of the Horse’s irreverent tone. Somebody has chalked the words “Lovely frock, Ronda” on a wall near my house, causing me to reminisce of a better, happier, and horsier period of my life every time I venture past.

This is not about instant gratification. I am not throwing a tantrum simply because I’ll miss the daily snippets of joy formerly provided by @Horse_ebooks (although I will). Rather, I feel betrayed because it was the robotic randomness that I fell in love with. In a world of rank commercialism, the Horse — arguably the worst e-books salesman to ever exist — pandered to nobody.

In hindsight, my emotional investment may have been a mistake. As Twitter user @ditzkoff sarcastically pointed out, “Well, this is the last time *I* trust a Twitter feed that spouted random words and phrases and never explained what it was doing.” Lacking the computer literacy to distinguish a real spambot from a fake one, I merely loved the idea of a prophetic, fictional horse that tweeted meaningful non-sequiturs. I guess it was too good to be true.

But amidst the turmoil, I have wondered: what would Horse ebooks make of its own tragic demise? At first, this sentiment came to mind, tweeted by the Horse in late 2011: “it was absolutely useless. Thanks”.

But it quickly seemed inappropriate by means of its very relevance. It’s too visceral, too human — too much like something Jacob Bakkila would say. So I reached for a different Horse missive to try and make sense of my sadness. One of the most retweeted Horse phrases of all time, that somehow says bewildered, overwhelmed and resigned all at once: “Everything happens so much.”


Cartoon: Mikaela Bartels
Cartoon: Mikaela Bartels


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