Hi. I’m Darius Kazemi. Recently I’ve been making a bunch of weird stuff that randomly generates things. For example, there’s the Twitter account @metaphorminute, which tweets a random metaphor every couple minutes. There’s also OutSlide, which generates a slide deck from an outline that you enter by picking the first Google Image result for each phrase.
I’ve had an idea for a long time now. It’s inspired by one of my favorite feelings: when you order something on Amazon, and it’s put on backorder, and then you forget you ordered it, and a year later it arrives—and it’s like a gift you bought yourself.
Well, I thought: what if I just wrote a program to buy stuff for me? The first iteration of this was going to be a program that bought me stuff that I probably would like.
But then I decided that was too boring. How about I build something that buys me things completely at random? Something that just… fills my life with crap? How would these purchases make me feel? Would they actually be any less meaningful than the crap I buy myself on a regular basis anyway?
So I built Amazon Random Shopper. Every time I run it, I give it a set budget, say $50. It grabs a random word from the Wordnik API, then runs an Amazon search based on that word. It then looks for every paperback book, CD, and DVD in the results list, and buys the first thing that’s under budget. If it found a CD for $10, then the new budget is $40, and it does another random word search and starts all over, continuing until it runs out of money, or it searches a set number of times.
It can’t spend over budget, because it has its own Amazon account, and I give it a gift card. There’s no bank account or credit card info so it can only spend what’s on the gift card. As my friend Daniel Joseph put it: “Here you go, child-bot. Have fun at the mall with the other bots. Don’t spend it all in one place!”
How do I manage to do this? With the magic of PhantomJS, a really neat little program that spawns a virtual web browser that I can control with code. My system is basically an automated browser that buys me stuff.
Today I finally got the system working end-to-end, and it bought me $37 worth of stuff (out of a $50 budget. How frugal!). What it bought, I won’t know until it comes in the mail.
You can stay tuned here, where I’ll be posting a log of what Amazon Random Shopper buys me. I’m going to give it a budget of $50 a month for the next… well, I’m not sure how long, but we’ll see.