What It's Like To Be Twitter Famous For A DayS

Do you know about Fame? No, not the movie or the TV show, but the Twitter lottery? Fame is a Twitter app that works a little bit like a Ponzi scheme, but more sustainable. We talked to yesterday's winner.

It goes like this. You sign up to play Fame and give it access to your Twitter through OAuth. That gives the app the ability to follow and unfollow other people. Every day, it picks a new winner at random from everyone who has signed up. The app then has everyone playing auto-follow that person for 24 hours, then it auto-unfollows, and moved on to the next one. Its goal is to get to 21 million people all of whom would follow a single person for a day. But right now, it only has about 4,400.

Yesterday's winner? John The Bastard. We hit him up on GChat yesterday to find out what it's like to win Fame, and then checked back in today once he was no longer, um, famous. Fifty permanent-ish followers and a potential job offer later, here's what he had to say.

Gizmodo: When did you sign up for Fame?
John: Yesterday sometime.
Gizmodo: What happened when you won today? How did you find out?
John: I was reading emails. My iPhone and my iPad were in my bedroom charging, and I have Tweetbot set to notify me of follows. I faintly heard the iPad beeping incessantly and the phone vibrating. At first I thought there was some sort of bug before I remembered signing up for Fame. It took about an hour before all the follows went through. I couldn't actually use Tweetbot to tweet.
Gizmodo: How many followers did it send your way today?
John: Around 3200. More have continued to trickle in all morning, but others have already unfollowed, so the number is slowly decreasing.
Gizmodo: Was that weird? Did it change your approach to Twitter?
John: Yeah, it seemed pretty odd. I actually signed up because I thought it would be entertaining to see how people responded when they won, never expecting to be that person. And yes, I've been tweeting more actively today, trying to give people a "best of" experience so they know what to expect. I'm trying to be more careful about avoiding typos. I'm also running a charity drive, which is a first for me.
Gizmodo: What's the charity?
John: Early on I retweeted an old twet of mine, which was the most popular thing I had on Favstar. I later offered to donate 25 cents to a breast cancer charity for every RT that tweet got.
Gizmodo: What did it get today?
John: So far not too much. I think we're up to about $15. If it doesn't get more of a response, maybe I'll up it to $1 per RT. I didn't want to get too ambitious and not be able to pay my rent next month.
Gizmodo: So, do you feel more famous?
John: Well, we'll see how I feel after 3200 people unfollow me tomorrow morning. But it is definitely fun to suddenly have a platform to show a bunch of people things that amuse or interest me. I feel like I won at good time.
Gizmodo: Worth doing?
John: Totally, I kind of expected there to be some haters. My Twitter stream definitely isn't for everyone and can be a bit crass at times, but the response has been almost unanimously positive.
John: Interesting aside: Fame has a "Lady Gaga Meter" on their site and have a stated goal of making daily winners more famous than her, but at the speed their bot adds subscribers it would take about 9 months for all the follows to go through.
Gizmodo: HA! Was there anything about it that was a bummer?
John: It's hard to be disappointed. The service is still young, and just beginning to hit its viral spread (I'm sure a Gizmodo article will help), so the bots and promoters haven't caught up with it. A good percentage of the people who have signed up seem to be pretty engaged. I suppose the initial response this morning was much stronger, and i was hoping that would persist a bit more throughout the day, but think another spike will happen this evening when the people who can't tweet at work get online.

(Following up after John was no longer the Fame winner du jour)

Gizmodo: So what was it like after it ended? Did many of those followers stick around?
John: Well, here are the stats: I started with 1024 followers and peaked at 4220. A few people refollowed before auto-unfollows finished, but discounting those, the next refraction point was 155 followers. I've had about 20 refollow since that, plus a couple organic follows. I'm currently at 1078 followers
John: So I got more followers from the exposure the [temporary Fame followers] gave me than from the temps themselves.
Gizmodo: Did anything amazing happen as a result? How did the charity drive turn out?
John: The favstar stats stopped updating for about 8 hours last night when I was still getting RT notices, so I think the twitter APIs are being wonky (which is common). I increased my offer to 50 cents for every star and every RT. We're somewhere around $70, depending on how accurate the stats are.
John: I also mentioned yesterday I'm looking for a fulltime coding position in Portland and have gotten a few leads, so that's pretty cool.
Gizmodo: Oh that is cool. Did that come about because of the temp followers?
John: Mostly, yes.
Gizmodo: That beats a book deal. Maybe?
John: Maybe. We'll see what comes of it. Certainly doesn't hurt.
John: A few people that want to follow me have expressed disappointment to @fame that there isn't an "opt-in" type option to not auto-unfollow each day. It does cause quite a bit of confusion.
John: Because of the delays (auto-unfollows didn't finish until around 11:15pm), there are some people who think they are following me, but aren't.
John: All in all, though it seemed like people had a good experience. At several points I worried that I was being too spammy. It feels a bit dirty promoting your own tweets for a day, but the response was generally "This your time to be spammy, just embrace it."
Gizmodo: HA! But that's just it, right? It's the ultimate in self promotion?
John: Right. I've frequently thought the biggest bottleneck in Twitter is getting access to the people who want to follow you. Getting a couple RTs from someone with a lot of followers makes such a huge difference in your following.
Gizmodo: Well, hopefully this story will get you a few more too
John: That would be cool. I'm looking forward to seeing which has more impact: @fame or @gizmodo.
Gizmodo: Me too!

(And on that note, you should really follow John on Twitter!)