Have you ever wondered if "anyone ever win those ‘RT this for a prize’ contests?” Hunter Scott, an engineer at Motorola, wanted to find out just that and got his answer with an ingenuous experiment: he made a Twitter bot to search for tweets that offered a prize if they were retweeted. The Python script entered Scott in about 165,000 contests over a period of nine months, and he won a thousand of them.
The bot averaged four wins a day, every day for nine months. Prizes ran the gamut from tickets to shows and currency in video games, to an autographed cowboy hat from the stars of a Mexican soap opera, and much, much more.
Winning that many prizes, while awesome, ended up being overwhelming. Scott says he didn’t claim most of the prizes he won. Instead, he messaged the account and asked for the prize to be given to someone else.
What was the most valuable prize? A trip to New York Fashion Week worth $4,000. This was one of the prizes Scott didn't claim, particularly because he doesn't live near New York and didn't want to pay taxes on the prize.
At some point during the project, Scott adapted the bot to also raise money for charity. Tweets that said money would be donated for every retweet they received were found and RT'd by the bot.
The trickiest part of this project was preventing the bot from being kicked off of Twitter for spam. There are rules about retweeting and following and unfollowing, but Twitter doesn’t publish the exact numbers, so Scott figured it out through a trial-and-error process.