The business dudes keep wringing that twitter cannot succeed while not growing its number of users, so strike up the Google is Buying rumor.

Meanwhile Rod Serling smiles in the corner, smoke curling up from his cigarette. I just spotted a growth spurt. Did anyone say twitter needs more human users?

Some mornings when I am bored, I peek at the Tweetdeck notification column (I turned off email notifications years ago). It seems odd when some floorwax company or SEO shark follows me or some normal looking account retweets something from 3 years ago. Sometimes I just get curious and peek. I’m curious.

This account favorited a tweet. Nothing special, weird name, human face.


Jolyn’s bio is like a bit of a rapid fire spray, but he, it sounds just like someone playing with their identity.

Concentrated groceries specialist. Hardcore professional. Subtly charming booze ninja. Regular draught beer expert.

Jolyn has 6,626 tweets, she follows, 2,001, has 489 followers, and has favorites 6,909 tweets. Just a regular twitter user.

The thing that seemed odd was her twitter stream. I got tired of scrolling, but everything in Jolyn’s stream was a retweet of stuff 1-5 months old. All retweets.


Normally that would draw a meh, and I’d return to my serious work.

But the next account in my notifications for retweeting something I posted in February was eerily familiar


Hulda looks kind of sweet. Her twitter handle looks like alphabet soup. Look at her bio:

Stalwart foods and nutrients consultant. Hard core analyzer. Subtly wonderful alcohol consumption ninja. Typical draught beer legend.

Just to put them side by side, compare to Jolyn’s bio

Concentrated groceries specialist. Hardcore professional. Subtly charming booze ninja. Regular draught beer expert.

Hulda’s numbers match Jolyn’s, she has “created” 6,579 tweets, she follows 2,002 and is followed by 517, and has favorited 7,167 tweets.

And just like Jolyn, everything I could see in Hulda’s stream was a retweet of someone else’s tweet, all 1-5 months old.

So here is the growth curve of twitter, bots creating accounts, bots retweeting, heck, who knows how much out there came from a human being?

Maybe I just stumbled into someone’s social media experiment.

It just makes me ponder all the growth growth numbers numbers numbers pressure that must drive twitter now.

If I am the last human being left, I will turn the lights out when I go.

You bots, just keep on tweeting.

Say hi to Hulda and Jolyn for me. They are swell. And into draught beer.

Google claims the top image is licensed for re-use. The post it came from gives no such indication. I tried to understand. Who the ****** even knows or cares about attribution? Does anyone even read this stuff? Oh, yes, everyone left in the internet is a bot. Hi, bot.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Alan,

    I’ve considered this, not the Bot-takeover, but the loss of Twitter.

    As you know, Twitter is my main and daily SM. Thus, sometimes I think about not having a quick, communal way to interact with folks. I wonder what medium I would use to stay in regular contact with my newest friends.

    How could would I (we) stay informed, invested, encouraging, connected?

    I do not have a Plan B.

    I will be with you when the lights go out on Twitter.

    My hope is that friends will be stoking a campfire nearby.


  2. The giveaway is the number of people they are following. Twitter limits you to following a max of 2,000 accounts, and then applies a ratio following to followers to allow you to follow more.

  3. Eerie. But that’s someone’s pjot the bot has stolen and it bugs me.
    Also not understanding the randomness?

    But also: how did the bots overcome the 2,000 limitation … And omigosh i just remembered ICQ! Does it still work?

    1. If the bots have some followers, the bot can then follow slightly more people.

      I still have my ICQ number, 7 digits!

  4. Glad you discovered & took the time to investigate those notifications further, Alan, and for alerting us. A few months back I noticed a similar occurrence with retweets: sexy, young women posed taking selfies and all with somewhat similar oddball hobbies. I should’ve taken note when I noticed the same “Dancing Queen” descripts. Gosh, I hope those weren’t stolen identities…how horrible for them.

    Those poor people in the pics: do they know or have a way of knowing a Bot account is using their images?

    And yes, Tom, I had a creepy feeling come over me when I considered that I could possibly someday be a Bot. Guess I’ve been watching too many Scifi movies.

    The saga of the dark underbelly of the web continues–hopefully not.

    1. If there’s no dark underbelly there’s no shiny castle.

      I sometimes will try a reverse image search to see if I can find where the photos came from; on these I came up with nothing except some repeats of the tweets. I guess they might come from inside Facebook? Read Alec Couros story of his photos being used in “catfishing” schemes.

      I get almost daily Skype contact requests from weird account names all with avatars of pretty young women.

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