Writing with greats and randomness: reflections on the #dailyconnect

I loved the Daily Connect suggested by @dogtrax where we were invited to write something and various long-established writers would also contribute. It took me back to childhood days of playing on our Texas Instruments computer with a programme called Eliza. As far as I was concerned it was a great game where you had to outthink the questions and predicted direction of the auto-generation programme that worked hard to get the person at the end of the keyboard to avoid closed answers to questions. My goal was always to stump Eliza, and it was fun. There is a version of Eliza here that you can play with.

The daily connects are also fun. That’s what makes connection so great- I am not coming at it with a plan or an agenda – but just with an explore and to genuinely see what it is like to experience something of another person’s idea or something from their discipline or even from their teaching.

That random generator… apparently it uses something called Markov Chains and it has been used in more complex ways with surprising results. There are programmixn5es that compose randomly generated comments that we all see as spam on blogs (and our students get excited at the first one that almost makes sense, thinking it might be a real comment), but then there is also the random essay generator. Actually there are lots of these sites – I like the Postmodern Essay Generator. I just got this gem:

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 08.27.02

What I love about these generators, is that people believe them! They have not only successfully generated whole essays, but this one from MIT’s SCIGen was accepted, yes actually accepted, as a conference paper. (the full paper is available here)

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 08.31.03


As a doctor friend of mine likes to say – the mind boggles. (and I giggle)

I love codes, Easter eggs, and hidden things and meanings in general, but it can be a great tool when actually there is no meaning in it – randomness. I use the example to debunk the fears, assumptions, and expectations that my undergraduates have toward essay writing. Fancy words put next to one another don’t necessarily equal meaning. Sometimes fancy words are called for, but there is a time for simplicity too.



  1. Kevin Hodgson

    Now I am off to explore Eliza …. infecting an online network with fun, but meaningful, tasks is important, if we want people to stay engaged. So, I love that the Daily Connect is one way to do that.

    1. Post

      The daily connect has been really good – can’t wait to see the bank of ideas we are left with after all the weeks of the course 🙂

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