"What Would I Say?" was dreamed up at a Princeton hackathon last weekend by a team of seven graduate students.
What Would I Say?
"What Would I Say?" was dreamed up at a Princeton hackathon last weekend by a team of seven graduate students.

Story highlights

Facebook app "What Would I Say?" randomly generates status updates that are like bizarre poetry

The app was the result of a weekend hackathon at Princeton

Users can post their random results straight to Facebook

Grad students who created it say they didn't expect it to spread so widely

CNN —  

Here’s a glimpse, dear reader, into the private Facebook musings of your humble correspondent.

“I love the ship and dam signs. I’m going to help out George Lucas.”

“Well, I will never be.”

puts the competition in a Nyan Cat tie.”

“Ewoks are small, feral teddy bears who can paint a picture.”

“Postscript Holy hell, the internets.”

OK … maybe those would be his musings if he was an opium-fueled Beat poet who, apparently, thinks too much about “Star Wars.”

But they’re just the sort of status updates that are captivating millions of Facebook users this week, thanks to a new tool dreamed up during a caffeine-enhanced hacking binge at Princeton University.

“What Would I Say?” is a simple concept. You go to the website and give it permission to access your Facebook profile. It will then suggest random new status updates for you, stitched together from random words and phrases you’ve posted to Facebook in the past.

Keep obsessively clicking “Generate Status,” and the jumble of phrases pulled from your past status updates will create existential poetry. Or silliness. Or existential silliness.

“We drank a lot of coffee and Red Bull and thought of fun things we could program that we could actually complete in a day and a half,” Ugne Klibaite, part of the seven-member team that created the site, told the New Yorker.

The effort was part of a hackathon last weekend at Princeton. All of the team members (apart from a Yorkipoo named Baxter) are Princeton graduate-school students.

“This was just for fun,” Klibaite said. “We never thought we would get further than showing this off at the Hackathon and to our friends on Facebook.”

But soon, the app, which lets users post the results of their random generations straight to Facebook, had gone viral on the social network. It wasn’t long before they were being shared on Twitter, too.

“All of my what-would-i-say statuses are either highly accurate, inappropriate, or make me sound like I’m drunk and/or can’t English,” one user wrote.

The simple little tool is oddly fascinating. On top of the serendipity of mashing together words that, occasionally, form something better than the original posts, each refresh sparks a moment of nostalgia as you try to remember your original updates.

Of course, that sort of Internet rabbit hole has its dangers.

“I found myself quickly tired of the ones that other people were sharing, and drawn back to my own, sure that they were funnier or contained more depth,” Ian Crouch wrote in the New Yorker piece. “Narcissism and nostalgia are two of the driving forces of Facebook’s popularity, and this new app combines both quite neatly.”