With the help of a bot, Hunter Scott, a computer science engineer from Georgia Tech, entered approximately 165,000 contests on Twitter and managed to win around 1,00o of them. This averaged to four contests per day, every day, for nine months. Prizes included tickets to events, virtual currency for online games, and a cowboy hat autographed by the stars of a Mexican soap opera.
How a Coder Built a Twitter Bot that Entered and Won 1,000 Online Contests https://t.co/2FFcAREqrf
— Your Pc Wizard (@YourPcWizard0) November 3, 2015
Scott shared his experience in a blog post:
“Over the nine months I ran my script, I entered approximately 165,000 contests. Of those, I won around 1,000. So that means my win rate was just over half a percent, which is pretty miserable, especially when you consider that a good portion of those winnings were things like logos and graphics, which is Twitter slang for a customized image for use in a gaming or YouTube profile.
“Another very large percentage of the things I won were tickets to events. I did manage to go to an event that I won tickets to, but the majority of them were for concerts and events in other countries that I obviously couldn’t go to. I also won a lot of currency to online games (like FIFA). And when the game Destiny was giving out beta codes, I won about 30 of them through as many contests. I won a lot of cool stuff too though, and getting mysterious things in my mailbox each day was pretty fun.”
The most valuable thing he won, was a trip to New Work Fashion Week that had a retail value of $4,000; but Scott couldn’t claim it since he did not live in New York and didn’t want to pay the taxes on the prize.
“I ended up not claiming the majority of the things I won because I wasn’t able to use them or attend them. In those cases, I just messaged them back and told them to give the prize to someone else. And before you report me to the IRS, yes, I reported and paid taxes on all of the winnings I actually accepted/received.”
— Miami and Beaches (@MiamiandBeaches) March 20, 2015
Many companies create contests on Twitter to promote their brand and products. Scott wanted to know if anyone ever won those contests, so he “wrote a Python script that logged into Twitter, searched for tweets that said something along the lines of “retweet to win!” and then retweeted them.”
“I’m not sure if anyone else has done this before, but I didn’t see any evidence of other bots that were behaving like mine. I did however see evidence of real people who were manually doing the job of my bot by retweeting hundreds of contests over several hours.”
Scott said that “the most difficult part of this project was preventing the bot from getting banned by Twitter;” after nine months, the bot was ultimately banned. He told NPR:
“I ran it for about nine months, and eventually, I think the last time I ran it, it ran for quite a long time — I think like six months or something. And then one day it, for some reason got banned, probably because someone reported it. Sometimes, if people perceive it as spammy they’ll — if enough people report it, they’ll shut it down. So at that point, I’d kind of gotten tired of it and just let it kind of end.”
For every RT/fav this gets I’ll donate $.25 to #UDance2015 because everything FTK is so important ?
— Kelly Sassa (@kellysassyy) March 5, 2015
Scott also adapted the bot to help raise money for charity. According to International Business Times, Twitter users telling their followers that they will donate money for every retweet that they receive, were picked up and dutifully RTd by the bot.
He hasn’t so far shared his precise methodology, or hasn’t released the python code, which he used to build the bot, but he says “if you’re a programmer, it’s not very hard to implement” and he is sure “some people will try it.”
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