3 years and 512 completed strips later, Robonk lives on!
Thanks to the Robonk fans.
It’s fun to build out a radical concept as a series. Fun to see that it works. Life is awkward when you’re a dorky guy with an undergraduate degree in communications and you have a comic strip series you don’t write or draw, and here I am. The strangest it got was at a Comic Con last year, where a surprising amount of the reaction to Robonk could be translated to “you ain’t one of us”. Imagine being the outcast to the (often) self-proclaimed outcasts. That happened. Such is life when coming up with the new things. On the upside, creating a new genre of comic strip series is awesome!
There’ll likely be a Robonk coloring book out by the end of 2020.
So what’s ahead for Robonk? A pile of stuff, actually, including…
- The first Robonk book. It’s done but hasn’t been published yet.
- Robonk coloring book: That’s right, Robonk coloring book!
- Some more merchandising. Last year saw the debut of a limited run of stickers and buttons, and there’ll be more in 2020.
We’re over half way to strip 1,000… …and beyond!
Robonk is very different from other comic strips. Most notably, it is written by 1960s-style Artificial Intelligence (AI) called ELIZA responding to online adultery dating profiles. The early process was to copy/paste the lines from the dating profiles into ELIZA. This process was notably more labor intensive than desired and time consuming. See the earlier blog entry for an idea of how things were done initially.
Robonkers is the new script generation system for Robonk. Robonkers allows me to edit profiles before they are fed into ELIZA, and then it runs all the conversations in one go. The resulting text is then manually edited for final scripts.
One of the advantages of running at a crude level early on with copy/paste is having a better idea of what the more advanced next system needed to do and how. After months of using the manual method and seeing what would help the comic strip, building the new system was pretty easy.
There’s still a ton of room for improvement for Robonkers, but as it sits, it’s far nicer than the earlier days using copy/paste. It processes 3000 profiles in about 15 seconds. That’s nice.
When you’re using artificial intelligence (AI) to write a bunch of a comic strip series, especially crude 1960s-style AI, it’s going to be awkward. That’s to be expected. There was that one time when the human said (in episode #00063):
…and then Robonk replied back with…
That’s going to happen when dealing with 1960s style AI. The humans have different issues.
The human lines in the Robonk comic strip come from online dating profiles. The humans also error, typically with spelling and punctuation. Here’s an example involving a recent strip. In one place, the human has jackalope spelled as “Jacalope” and of course Robonk repeats the error.
Later on in the same person’s profile, they correctly spell jackalope:
Upon further review, the term jackalope shouldn’t be capitalized. So, I’m now going back and correcting this edition of Robonk before posting it on the Robonk facebook page. It’s #0006E and can be seen here at Robonk.com. And yes, jackalope, like Robonk, is a portmanteau.
The comic strip series Robonk isn’t written by the creator/editor. Instead, text comes from a 1960s-style artificial intelligence (AI) program responding to online dating profiles. So, about half of it is written (or repeated, anyway) by Chatbot-Eliza-1.06 (modded to state the name as Robonk instead of Liz) and the other half comes from humans looking for sexual encounters.
To date, the script process isn’t too sexy, and I’m doing a lot of copy/paste to get things rolling. At some point, I’ll probably automate out the current rough script process, but I’m not there yet. There’ll be some waste in that process because adding punctuation where the humans failed sometimes makes the difference between a script that works and one that doesn’t. Here’s a screenshot of what the process looks like in June of 2017. This work will most likely result in comics in the #00040-#0005F range.
Lots of copying and pasting to create scripts in June 2017.
[Editor’s note (2019-02-01): Script generation became far more automated after the creation of the Robonkers script generation system
in the fall of 2018. The post you are reading explains how things were done early on.]
If you ever wonder what the text was like in and out of the AI, there is a “source” link with every comic and you can see what the software wrote in response to the human.
I keep learning from the earlier strips on what works, what doesn’t, and what can be improved. It’s an odd comic strip in that I don’t write anything, so what I do from a narrative perspective is really, really, really limited.