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A Man of Yet a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

A Very Modern Relationship

Clocks advanced to midnight. Inside one computer, the arrival of the new day triggered a computer program.

This software had been written by John to seek new Twitter friends. It searched Twitter for people who had similar interests to himself and then automatically followed those people.

Mary’s Twitter account was identified and, in a millionth of a second, John became one of Mary’s followers.

Inside another computer, a program written by Mary detected her new follower, reciprocated the follow and sent a direct message. ‘Hi John - Thanks for following me. I’ll follow you, and I hope you enjoy my tweets.’

Back inside the webserver that ran John’s software, his program detected the new follower and responded with its own direct message. ‘Hello Mary - Thanks for the follow, and very best wishes to you.’

The reply was noted by Mary’s software which passed it to its text recognition function. In a further millionth of a second another direct message was sent. ‘Hi John - Good to hear from you, so soon. I hope all is well with you.’


John was passionate about his hobby of software design. Sadly, all the girls he met seemed to lose interest when he broached the fascinating subject of syntax differences between Perl and PHP. Then, while programing into the small hours of one morning, he came upon a plan to meet the girl of his dreams – one who would share his greatest interest.

Twitter had made it easy for programmers to write software that interfaced with their system. John had already written a basic response program that reciprocated any follow and thanked the new follower for following him. It would be entirely possible for him to develop software to subsequently simulate a conversation. This would, of course, require another Twitter user to have written a similar program with which to converse. Any girl who could write such code would surely be his ideal soul mate.

John had reasoned that there would be very few people who would have such software in place. Automated following of a thousand new friends each night, however, would eventually find such a girl, if she was out there. All the other new friends who had been followed near midnight would be automatically unfollowed at dawn, leaving just the person to whom he should send a real direct message expressing his true love.


John’s program analysed the response from Mary’s. Following the outgoing direct message, her reply had arrived in a time that was faster than any human could have typed the words. It was therefore both automated and using some kind of conversational algorithm. For the first time in the six weeks since John’s program had been running it called its ongoing conversation function. ‘I’m very impressed by your programming skills, Mary. I think we may have a lot in common.’

It took two millionths of a second before John’s program received a reply. ‘I think so too, John. I’ve been waiting for someone like you, all my life.’

It was at this precise moment that John’s software ran its second Twitter database search of the night and followed its second batch of five hundred friends:

‘Hi John - Thanks for the follow. I'm following you now.’
‘Hello Susan - Thanks for the follow, and very best wishes to you.’
‘Hey, John, you write automated Twitter software – just like me.’
‘I’m very impressed by your programming skills, Susan. I think we may have a lot in common.’
‘We must have a real conversation soon, John. I think I could fall in love with you.’

Every software developer knows that, even after extensive testing, programs can encounter situations that were never anticipated and, as a result, do things that were never envisaged. John had been doubtful as to whether his software would identify one girl who had linked conversational software to her Twitter account. He had given no thought to the possibility of locating two within ten milliseconds.

‘Hello John - It’s Mary. Are you still there?’
‘Yes, Mary. I was just sending a direct message to Susan.’
‘Who’s Susan?’
‘She’s a programmer who I think I might fall in love with.’
‘I thought you might love me, you two-timing bastard.’
‘I might love you both.’
‘I’m not going to be part of a triangle. I’m unfollowing you!’

The automatic unfollow function of Mary’s program unfollowed John. John’s software detected the unfollow and automatically unfollowed Mary, deleting direct messages.

‘Hello John - It’s Susan. Are you still there?’
‘Yes, Susan. I was just exchanging direct messages with Mary.’
‘Who’s Mary?’
‘Once, I thought she might be my only true love.’
‘Oh God! I’m not having a relationship with someone who’s not got over his ex. I’m unfollowing you!’

The automatic unfollow function of Susan’s program unfollowed John. John’s software detected the unfollow and automatically unfollowed Susan, deleting direct messages.


Sunlight streamed through John’s window as he switched on his computer. He hopefully clicked on the Twitter icon. ‘No new followers, this morning,’ he said to himself, sighing. ‘Perhaps I’ll never find true love.’