About Pirate Monkeyness


In 2006, a couple days before International Talk Like a Pirate day (Sept 19th), I was looking at Pirate translators and found that most of them only did a few basic replacements on words. I thought it would be fun to write a more sophisticated version, so I threw something together as a Perl CGI that used a library of regular expressions to do a more clever translation. I had recently gotten a beta version of Dashcode, Apple's new development program for developing Dashboard widgets, so I made a widget to call the CGI and submitted it to the Apple site on International Talk Like a Pirate day.

In the first month, it made it to #4 on Apple's top widgets list with more than 100,000 downloads and also made it to the staff favorites. I was shocked by the response. I ended up making an online version for the website and then made a version people could install on their sites. I also made Yahoo Widget and Google Gadget versions.

When the iPhone SDK came out in 2008, I decided to write some piratey app for the iPhone, but there weren't any books available yet, so figuring anything out at the beginning was a challenge. I wrote a Pirate Insult Generator by modifying Apple's Hello World example, but I really needed to write something from scratch if I was going to submit it to the app store. The next summer, I found a good book that covered everything I needed to get going and, once I was halfway through, I was able to write a clean Pirate Insult Generator from scratch.

Over the years, other people tied into the translator for various reasons. One of the most used was a plug-in for Second Life.

Years later, I partnered with a coworker who wrote a much better version of the iPhone app. The new version included translations and a photo booth where you could add hats and other pirate accessories to your picture.


All this time, the translator and insult generator had been hosted at my former company, Sitemason. Sitemason merged with another service, so I needed to move the site and bring it up to date. With some fancy configuring, I managed to get AWS CloudFront to host the site with the same functionality as before, but with everything new under the hood. I spent some time converting ancient Perl and PHP code into Python running on AWS Lambda and API Gateway. I moved all the assets to S3. I redesigned the site and put a lot into the background parchment so it could seamlessly expand from a gigantic size down to something very tiny and look good at every point. I think it worked well.


The translator is my go-to project whenever I want to test out a new technology. Most of those efforts never see the light of day. One thing that may make it out is new translator code that parses sentences into their components so I can more accurately identify nouns, verbs, and other parts of speech. It currently only applies an accent to English but it works pretty well.

Created in 2006. See other projects from Tim Moses.

Pirate Monkeyness by Tim Moses is licensed under CC BY 4.0