What If I Don’t Want to Be in Gryffindor? A Q&A with Your Local Sorting Hat
While we know “all is well” with Harry and Ron and Hermione at the end of the Potter series (not a spoiler, you should have read it already), some aftermath stories are left untold.
Some readers, for one, who are so immersed in this fictional world to a delusional point of concern, have rightful and pressing questions for Hogwarts’ most important entity, the Sorting Hat. Is Hogwarts still a melodramatic mess without a noseless villain conspiring against a teenager? What is your shelf life like? Are you still sometimes rude and intentionally vague even as fateful compass?
Thankfully, this particular Sorting Hat is alive and well, actively sorting people in the spirit of a Twitter bot. Created by Somerville native and famous “internet artist” Darius Kazemi (@tinysubversions), the @SortingBot is a user that continuously sorts its Twitter followers into the four houses at Hogwarts. And today, we spoke to the Sorting Hat (well, Kazemi) about its way of choosing houses, poem-writing, and why once you get sorted, there’s no going back.
How do you decide which user is sorted into what house?
It [actually] picks something at random, and just gives it to you. It’s fully arbitrary.
Really? Well, that’s completely different than the book.
Yeah. Well, I made a project back in December called the Yearly Awards, [which] works sort of the same way: you would follow it, and get an award. It would tweet the award that you won, and everyone would see it, and people liked that a lot. They liked getting that custom thing that doesn’t make any sense.
What happens if I don’t like my house? Can I be resorted?
No, you can’t. Once you’re sorted, you get added to a database, and your Twitter name is in the database forever. You could change your Twitter name, and try again if you care that much.
Even if I tweeted at the Sorting Hat and said, Hey I want to be placed in Gryffindor, would it take my account into consideration like Harry promised?
Yeah, no, the Sorting Hat doesn’t listen to your pleas.
What about the poems?
For me, the actual fun was coming up with the rhymes. I always like the rhyming poetry from the Sorting Hat and the meter. I’ve done a lot of poetry generation stuff, but I’ve never tried anything that would hit a specific meter before. So this was a fun chance for me to build sing-songy rhymes. They don’t have to make a whole lot of sense because the Sorting Hat itself doesn’t make sense.
So how does that work? Did you have to write out thousands of different poems?
It’s more like Mad Libs. I think I had six different types of verse it can do. For example, one of them is animal based. I have a whole bunch of animal names, like maybe a hundred different animals. There’s a program called RITA that I used to analyze the meter of words. So I had like a hundred animals, and it knows that this one is a one-syllable animal […] It also really helps that Slytherin, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff all have the same meter. So you can just swap them indiscriminately. I didn’t even have to work around that.
Is my poem personalized? Does it ever spit out the same poem for two users?
I don’t specifically check to see if it’s doing the same poem twice, but there are so many combinations, it would be pretty rare.
This sounds super complicated. Did it take a long time to figure out?
No, it took a couple of nights. But I’ve done a lot of stuff like this before. So it’s hardly my first project. I’ve been doing that kind of stuff for three years.