PHONY: The Humans of New York Post Generator

The app itself got featured in Humans of New York in January 2014.

How it works

I was inspired by what-would-i-say to create a text generator for the popular Facebook page, Humans of New York. I love HONY. Each day, Brandon Stanton photographs interesting individuals and writes captions about them.

I figured: why not let a computer give his project a try? The program above assembles captions for stock photographs from Google Images. Captions are a sequence of alternating questions and answers. Each question and answer is randomly selected from a large pool of dialogue from the actual HONY Facebook page. When put together, the stock photographs and randomly selected text sometimes create amusing results.

This generator is NOT a Markov chain generator because it only randomly selects lines from a database. The results were simply more meaningful with this alternative implementation because many of the captions in HONY are Q&A conversations.

Some posts on Humans of New York cover deeply emotional topics. Please understand that post generation is completely random, and any semblance of real meaning is purely coincidental.


Thanks to Nihar Madhavan ‘15 for some Facebook scraping scripts. You should check out his awesome site too.

November 2013

Humans of New York