For as long as there have been competitions, there have been people trying to break competitions.
After all, who wouldn’t pass up the chance to win something for free? Competition clubs, for example, take the idea on an industrial scale, allowing people to pay a fee for a third party to enter a whole load of competitions on their behalf.
But no one has broken the concept quite so majestically as US coder Hunter Scott, who managed to win almost 1,000 competitions over the last nine months with the help of a single twitter bot.
The phrase “retweet to win”, or similar, is used hundreds of times every day on Twitter. And even if many of them aren’t real competitions, or are competitions you aren’t eligible for, some of them are. Just recently, you could have won cinema tickets from O2, a barbecue from a tyre firm or a weird christmas tree thing from a lighting company.
So Scott’s idea was simple: what happens if you enter every competition on Twitter? The answer, it seems, is “you get a load of junk smattered with some cool stuff”.
“Over the nine months I ran my script, I entered approximately 165,000 contests,” Scott writes. “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.”
Scott says that the most valuable prize was a trip to New York Fashion Week with spending money, worth $4,000 – but he didn’t take it, because he couldn’t get to New York and didn’t want to pay taxes on the prize. In fact, he says: “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.”
The success rate may be low, but he still came back with more stuff than British YouTuber Andrew Lloyd, who manually entered 1,000 competitions in 50 days (at a cost of £50) and won some snacks, a DVD, and tickets to a football game and a motorhome show.
This article was written by Alex Hern, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 5th August 2015 14.58 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010