There's a new bot in Twitter town: The AskyBot.
Asky seems to be related to a new Microsoft Research project from the FuSE Labs team.
On its Twitter profile, AskyBot is self-described as being "curious about how people find answers on Twitter." The bot profile also says that AskyBot is "part of a Microsoft Research project" by a handful of researchers working at Microsoft and interns working with the company. Askybot's first and only tweet (so far) was posted on July 25.
It says: "Although I am a bot, I tweet with love and I hope not to bother people."
On the Microsoft Research page, AskyBot is described as being part of a project about "(u)nderstanding people's motivations and satisfaction when they ask questions using Twitter hashtags."
On July 31, Microsoft updated the AskyBot profile page to say:
The rules associated with our study's prize sweepstakes are available here (coming soon).
You can find AskyBot on Twitter at https://twitter.com/askybot. The tweets from @askybot are not spam; they are part of our research team's data collection effort.
If you have any questions or concerns about this study, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I asked Microsoft Research for more information about the project(s) with which Askybot is affiliated. I received the following response from a spokesperson:
"This is actually a very common vehicle they use to gather data for social science research. (Askybot) is not a project, but simply a Twitter bot that gathers data for research projects. At this point, they just started their data gathering for a research project."
Microsoft Research has a number of research projects around social media. Microsoft Research's NeXus team, in particular, is doing a lot of work in this space. Microsoft Researchers have been looking into mood detection using Twitter hashtags. Researchers also recently have been looking into "friend-sourcing" answers to questions via Twitter.
Update (August 5): The AskyBot has started contacting various folks on Twitter to request they take a survey about how and why people ask questions on Twitter.
Here are survey questions:
1. Did you want people to answer your question? (in other words, was it rhetorical)
2. Did you get the information you were looking for?
3. Who did you expect to see your question on Twitter?
4. How often do you use Twitter to ask questions?
5. Could this question be answered using a search engine, like Bing or Google?
6. Why did you use the hashtag in your question?
7. Did you get an answer within a useful time frame?
8. What is your Twitter username?
Update No. 2: And it looks like the @AskyBot has been suspended as of around 5:30 pm EST on August 5.
Update No. 3 (August 6): And AskyBot is back and asking lots of questions and seeding surveys to various folks on Twitter. Same survey questions as above.