A few Words on Artwiculate

For those of you who play with Artwiculate's Word of the Day, but are unaware that it once was a truly competitive Twitter game, here are

A few Words on Artwiculate

A novice at Twitter
It took a handy webpage to help me trace back that it was on 30 May 2009 when I got myself a Twitter name and joined the social networking fad.
I might have forgotten when, but I do rememember why. Attending a conference, the audience was given the novel option to make comments on Twitter regarding the speakers on the podium, comments which would then be projected in huge format on the ceiling of the hall. The crazy idea appealed to me and while feigning interest in the speaker on stage I struggled in the dimly lit room with the interface on my phone to make up a suitable name and get a Twitter acount. Once that was done I guess I tweeted 'hello' and left Twitter for what it was, seeing it was mostly boring messages I didn’t care to read or answer.

Later that year, while deciding which apps to delete and which to keep on my phone, I ran into the bliue Twitterbird icon, and googled to see if there was anything substantial that I could do with it.
I got suggestions on some supposedly interesting people to follow. The only name that sounded half worth my while was Stephen Fry, and I guess that when I clicked on Follow @stephenfry I accidentally caught him tweeting about what a wonderful wordsmithing Twittergame @Artwiculate was.
I had never been big on playing games on my phone, but following his authority I decided to see what the fuss was all about.

Entering a Twitter game
I gave it a few shots using the obscure word of the day, and didn't really notice much of a response.
"Have you ever played the game where you are challenged to invent a sentence that uses a specified obscure word? Artwiculate brings that game on to Twitter. Each day, they pick a word and you have to compose a clever tweet using that word before your 24 hours are up. All submissions are collected on their site, where you can upvote your favourites. The entry with the highest number of votes at the end of the period is called the winner. Points are awarded, and these can be worn as badges of honour. A recent winner was: 
I double dairy you to perform vaccimulgence on a mad cow. - @amanuel187 
To put you out of your misery, this just means ‘cow milking,’ and is unlikely to be very useful, but you never know. At least, this Twitter game is broadening people’s vocabulary and causing merriment around the globe." 
Westport Book Festival (May 13, 2010)

Since collecting points depended on getting retweets as well as votes on the @Artwiculate site, it appeared that  the game was more than just that, it was a community.
Which meant that the Artwiculati, as those first players called themselves, needed to be followed, their tweets tracked, and specific individual styles recognized. I appreciated some tweets more than others, and I retweeted and voted accordingly.
And that worked both ways, because I gradually started collecting some points. And I also got caught up in the 'merriment around the globe'.

A Nifty Site 
"Exciting new thing thing alert! We have finally launched Artwiculate.
We've been working on this for a while now and we're so happy to see it live and working with 1000s of followers learning and using new words everyday... Now, if we could just convince Stephen Fry to become the patron (saint) of Artwiculate ..."
Attopartners (September 2009)
 Apparently it was "... born and bred on a Friday afternoon at Atto Partners HQ."
"We created Artwiculate as an experiment in creating a worthwhile Twitter game (a simple literacy learning game) and cultivating a passionate user base using our favourite microblogging platform." (See their statement)

The design studio SwissMiss commented on September 22, 2009, while the Word of the Day was Ennui:
"The fabulous team at Atto made another nifty site called Artwiculate: The twitter-based Word of the Day competition helps clever people look clever and helps the rest of us learn new words. To play, just use today’s word in context in one of your tweets. That’s it. Your tweet will appear on the artwiculate.com site where people can tell you if they like it. You’ll get points if they like it or retweet it."
And from Australia came some more useful info:
"The long-standing popularity of “word of the day” web sites and emails has been merged with Twitter to create Artwiculate, a Twitter-based word game that might passively expand your vocabulary while you’re taking part in social interruptions.
To play you simply use the word of the day in a tweet. You don’t need to use a hash tag or anything special to acknowledge its use. If the word of the day appears in a message on the Twitter network, Artwiculate will pick it up and throw it onto the front page of the site for other Artwiculate users to vote on. At the end of the day, the top 50 uses of the word are shown on the Artwiculate main page.
You could, of course, follow @artwiculate and receive the new word every day without playing along, but what fun would that be?"  
Lifehacker (September 28, 2009)
In those early days hundreds of points were given and players could enter with numerous tweets, so the Leader Board would often show the same name with multiple high scoring entries. Properties that were changed after a few months, but some of those high scores stayed as all-time highs forever after.

On September 23, 2009 the word was Maven...

Also check out The Web's Absolute Best on October 12, 2009 

In the Beginning...
A few thousand participated in the new Artwiculate game incidentally, while a few hundred players 'obsessively' entered  their tweets each day, and from September 29 I became one of them.
Racking my brain with the daily verbal challenge, and as I mentioned before, without any noticeable results until I started socially interacting with other players.
Some were kind enough to retweet me, and - recognition at last -  I actually gained a few points each day.
Until,  totally unexpected, I actually became a winner on November 5th with the word "Lagniappe". I was given an Artwiculate crown, and I sank into the warm bath of Social Media after all.

Playing still took quite an effort. Twitter and its clients had no automatic retweet system yet and retweets had to be handcrafted by adding an RT and making sure that the following colon had no space behind it. Hundreds of tweets went back and forth on how to adequately retweet. Sometimes Artwiculate gave the wrong definition, which led to countless complaints, but also to more and more players running for their own thesauruses. Learning new words was the game, being clever, witty or poetic led to ending up with massive retweets. Winning tweets were debated, analyzed, praised or contested. And the beauty of it all was that it started all over again, the next day. Today's word is bumbershoot, flibbertigibbet, abstruse, tibia, sciolism, homologate...

Towards the end of 2009 some groups of regular players went beyond the mere word game and started using Artwiculate as a global meeting platform. 
In spite of the odds. A worldwide game is bound to have some logistical drawbacks. The new word of the day is launched at midnight sharp. But one man's midnight is another woman's noon. Players would wake up to a new word that had already been worn to the bone by word fiends on another continent. Miraculously, friendship groups started growing across boundaries, ignoring timezones. That's when the suggestion came to go a step further, do some podcasts of tweets, and host them on a dedicated website.

Salon Artwois
That's how the Salon Artwois came to be. Birthdays were celebrated. Occasions for parties were made up and the Artwiculate bear Wanda Erlust started traveling the globe to visit the Artwiculati on their home turf. 
For a Twitter game, connecting a virtual global community, it is exceptional to have physical connections, even if they are personal memorabilia contained in suitcases, lugged around the world by a teddy bear.
More than that, Artwiculati have traveled from one continent to another to meet. Even to marry. But also, the competitive part of the game seemed to irk a few players. An irk that in the end would prove to have some serious complications.

True to its intentions of being a 'refuge for tweetworn Artwiculati', the Salon Artwois stayed clear of the goings-on at the Artwiculate site, where some discussions had started about the voting and points-system.

It became clear that a few people were unhappy with the social aspect of the game and the phenomenon of groups of friends voting for each other. Some unkind tweets were posted back and forth, accusations of cheating were made, some amendments were made by Artwiculate's authors to the voting system, some players left and  newbies entered into the game.
Cheating had of course been going on as it would in any competitive game. Sometimes in deviously obscure ways, sometimes very openly. Voting could of course be done by inviting hundreds of friends, colleagues and family members to do so, but eventually their support would peter out and things would go back to normal. Having the use of numerous computer terminals and various cache-clearing browsers would ensure that you could vote yourself to a winning position. But the fun of thus ending up with a number of virtual Artwiculate crowns would only last so long.

...to the end
It was not until one troll vehemently decided to prove that a social word game community did not deserve to exist and that players could be declared winners at will, that things got serious. When ultimately threats were made to the authors of Artwiculate putting their business in jeopardy, the game's plug was pulled on May 16, 2012. Read their statement here.

An outcry came from the Artwiculate commnunity, and the same day @Artwiculate tweeted that while the competition would end, new words would be launched as before. As it states on the site:

And new words are still being launched every day. And contrary to what a remaining gloating hater troll keeps predicting, each day numerous Artwiculati still find fun, friends and new words at Artwiculate. Even if many players still feel that the one-time competitive edge of the game did add some spice that is sadly missing. 

Word Up!
So, the end it is not. Stuart, Karys, Peter, Heather and Alan of the Artwiculate team have expressed the hope of being able to return with the full game one day. We hope they will. Until then, the word is still out, and yes, let's just enjoy ourselves.


  1. Thanks for this very nice overview Harry. Hope Artwiculate will come back in all it's glory one of these days, but in the meantime we still have some good memories and friendly contacts. And the game chugs along.

  2. Thanks Harry! Can't wait for the follow up piece...''and then one day the voting page came back..."

  3. The most fun I've had on twitter yet. Thanks for reminding me, Harry...

  4. Have not been on artwiculate on a year yet, but I am thoroghly hooked anyway. Have learned to expand my language and go beyond what I thought was possible. I hope the voting comes back one day, but in the mean time I am enjoying myself. It has led me into blogging, creating connected stories, writing sonnets.

    Thanks for the overview and the warm welcome into this community.

  5. News Of The Word. Reminds me of "News Of The World", the epic LP. Wherein, a ballad debuted by Queen. "No time for losers..." the Mercurial croons. And its refrain still sings truth.

  6. Great summary and some history I didn't know. Thanks Mister Harrarp. I would love to see the vote and the crown come back.

  7. Continues to be the best thing on twitter - interesting that many of us stuck to twitter mostly (or only) because of Artiwiculate and then, quite unexpectedly, turned into this community.

  8. my life would be completely different if it wasn't for artwiculate -- i wouldn't have met the love of my life and married him <3


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