Gaming Twitter polls with bots

(Robot Photo credit: Alex Knight on Unsplash)

From what I can see, design versioning is a fairly new market, with a general focus on product companies, that work on more longer-term design evolution in larger teams, as opposed to agencies, who tend to do more short-term project work that changes frequently, and while have design teams often have staff working individually on projects, lessening the need for such collaborative tools.

While I work as a designer agency side, and thus my projects tend to really very massively, I work on a few projects for clients that are longer-term, and thought I would have a google to see what people use to version their design, if anything, and put a tweet out. Having never really use twitter polls, I thought I would give them a try.

Results

Now I am by no means a prolific designer on the web, so wasn't expecting to get much traction with this, but saw some interesting results. What I was hoping for was that I would get a few votes, and some anecdotal responses to tools people used, roughly in line with the results I saw. This was true up to a point - I kept an eye on the Twitter poll and saw some surprising results.

These are just my subjective thoughts on this, so I could well be wrong, but the results were interesting, as they behaved exactly as I thought up to a point, with votes trickling in mainly for a folder of files and Abstract, then wham, someone seemed to dump a ton of votes onto PlantApp very very quickly, which to me smelled a bit fishy. I checked twitter analytics, and my engagement and impressions were unusually way up, another sign of something different happening.

Results

Given that up until that point there was a parity with the amount of feedback I was getting with the votes, I immediately looked at some of the feedback, and got a response from an account with one follower and one followee praising the new vote leader, PlantApp. Looking at this account's twitter activity, they had only ever posted one tweet (to me) and every like was for PlantApp.

Results

Later in the day after they tweeted at me, they deleted their tweets.

Results

The more I looked, the more I found more accounts that looked like bots.

Results

Does this mean that someone rigged the votes? Now I have no proof, but as they say where there's smoke there's fire, and in my mind that's what happened. I'm sure that some of the votes were legit and that they have lots of happy users, but in my mind a lot of the ones for PlantApp were bot generated given the speed at which they came in. I'm always appreciate healthy competition between the apps I use, and people using social media effectively, but this seems to be cheating.

The takeaway at the end of this is really polls and statistics can be easily manipulated, so don't always take things at face value. Twitter polls are essentially anonymous, so easily manipulated, as anyone with control of a few hundred twitter accounts can direct them to vote. Having read (link: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/31/technology/social-media-bots-investigations.html text: recent articles on twitter follower manipulation) it's interesting to see things working for first hand.

Having had lots of anecdotal positive feedback from (real) Designers on Twitter about Abstract, I'm looking forward to trying it along with Kactus.

It's great to ask your network for advice, but everyone's different in how they work, and one should take all advice given with a pinch of salt, and try and see if tools fit your own use case. App makers - focus less on gaming social media (which seems more and more to be a algorithm controlled echo chamber these days) and more on making good things for people.