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Making money using Twitter

 

I continue my discussion on ways to make money using Twitter. Previously I covered what I considered are bad (ineffective) methods, now I’ll cover the rest.

 
The ugly (misleading):

Promoting users/lists: Certain users with a large number of followers (though only slightly more than I have) started doing personal shoutouts and including users in their lists for small sums of money. I assume the people who buy these services do so to get followers. To a limited degree, this will probably work. Moreover, if the people who promote these offers have multiple accounts as many people do, I would imagine all their accounts would suddenly follow the paying users (this could easily be 20-50 accounts – to some this is a lot of followers!).

 
With that being said, this has to be one of the most inefficient ways of getting followers. If these were celebrities who offered these services, fine (it would probably be pretty effective being in Conan O’Brien’s list! Just think of @LovelyButton), but we’re not talking celebrities here. I would never consider charging people to be in one of my lists because I think doing so would imply that this bestows some value, and let’s face it, it does not. Note that I have to say, it’s very easy getting followers, at least when talking about a small number (100-200) and I don’t think paying users expect more than that from a single tweet.

 
An additional issue is that I would expect this practice to stop at some point. Personally – and I know many others feel the same way – I treat the shoutouts as noise/spam. These are (personal) ads after all, and my comment from the previous post applies – most Twitter users do not like any tweet that feels commercial in nature. I predict that eventually enough users would have these ‘offending’ advertisers be blocked & reported for spam and this will lead to their suspension.

 
The Good (effective)

 
I’ve written about this in multiple separate posts. I believe that Twitter’s strength lies in creating relationships, networking, doing PR for yourself/your company, so most of this section deals with these. However, the first method is unrelated.

  1. Advertising: Using companies such as Ad.ly and SponsoredTweets it is possible to tweet something and get paid for it. This actually does work. But: (a) You’re dependent on being offered to tweet these and there aren’t a ton of those and (b) unless you have a lot of followers, the sums involved tend to be pretty low.

     

  2. Getting clients: by being active on Twitter, it is possible to get clients. Although pushing yourself and being interactive helps, by just having a good bio, descriptive background and including a link to your website it’s quite possible to draw attention. Personally I’ve had success with this. I have to emphasize that I believe this strongly depends on the industry: i.e. I doubt dentists can gain clients this way.

     

  3. Building relationships: I’ve written about this before. By networking you are likely to meet like-minded people who, by knowing them, in the long run, will result in monetary gain. I’ve met quite a lot of people who got me involved in conferences (i.e. Social Media 201), started collaborations, and introduced other people and clients to me. This does require effort though.

     

  4. PR: I’m probably the millionth person to say this, but in this day and age, companies need to be able to engage their clients. By having an active Twitter account that listens to complaints/issues and addresses them, a company can greatly improve their reputation. This is a topic that we discussed quite heavily at Social Media 201.

     

  5. Twitter services: basically, by offering the previous methods to other people or companies, you can make money. There’s in fact a new course that trains people to become social media managers.

    This is definitely a way that works. Again, talking from personal experience here. You can get paid far more doing this than from paid tweets or trying to push affiliate links. I believe this is the most effective way to monetize Twitter. Note that in many ways the method I included under ‘ugly’ can be said to fall under this category – true – however, I think it’s the choice of which services to offer that makes the difference. Implying someone will get a lot of followers if someone tweets your bio is misleading.

 
Not sure

 
I’ll include this one last category as well.

  1. Niche accounts: I’ve actually dabbled with this but it’s a variation of the methods I previously mentioned. Basically, it’s an account that declares in advance that it will provide information and deals. This can be done using affiliate links or point to your business site.

    Does it work? Maybe. Personally I’ve not tried it long enough to be able to tell. However, I CAN tell say that many users still consider this to be spam despite the user “announcing” in advance what it is all about.

     

  2. Trending topics: I included this but I will admit I don’t know it well enough to elaborate. The goal is to create accounts that tap into Google’s real time indexing of trending topics. I don’t fully know how this works, just that by doing so, it is possible to get an affiliate link into the top of the search of Google. I would imagine this involves creating quite a lot of users. I heard this worked for some but don’t know how successful it was and, as you can guess, I never tried it myself. I figured I should still mention it.

     

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When two separate discussions that I conduct converge, I know that I’m onto a topic I need to blog about.

 
I’ve written about affiliate fads in a different blog post. It’s interesting, but in the past month I’ve seen one product launch and three webinars (so far!) that deal with, yes – making money using Twitter. I find this amusing since this is an old fad that’s making a comeback and I honestly never expected that it would. Most affiliate marketers scoff at anything related to Twitter.

 
So is it possible to make money on Twitter? I’ve been (very) active on Twitter for a long time, though recently I have reduced my activities for various reasons. I do think it’s fair to consider Twitter a platform for making money, however, it’s not one of the best places to do so. Despite its flaws, twitter is a fantastic platform for other money-related activities though.

 
Here’s a survey of methods I know of that can be used to make money using Twitter. There are probably more, some I forgot, and some I am not aware of. I’ve classified them to the good (effective), the bad (ineffective) and the ugly (misleading). This classification is, of course, based on my own opinions and others may not agree with it.

 
The Bad (ineffective)

  1. Affiliate links: the most obvious way of generating money with Twitter. You tweet a link that promotes an affiliate offer: if someone buys a product/fills in details, you get commission. It’s as simple as it gets. Theoretically, if you have a large number of followers or a very targeted group of followers, it could work.

     
    There are two problems: first, normally it just doesn’t work – the percentage of people who actually buy/fill in details is very low. Yes, you can make money, but very little money. Worse, because Twitter users are so used to spam, they’ve become extra sensitive to anything that even sounds like an attempt of making money. A person who tweets affiliate links, even if they are completely beneficial to all parties involved (i.e. freebies) will often find himself blocked and reported for spam, and some people will even tell him they do intend to do so. Happened to me more than once.

     

  2. Barging into conversations: I believe this is the method that is recently promoted, particularly since I seem to see it a lot more than I used to. For starters, I want to declare I’ve never tried it myself so can’t say with absolutely certainty whether it works or not. However, with that being said, I don’t believe it does.

     
    This method consists of searching on Twitter for people who discuss a certain topic, say, for keywords such as “losing weight” or “diet”, etc, and sending them a very relevant affiliate link. In theory it’s not a bad idea (“You’re helping people”). In practice? Rude.

     
    I’ve had conversations with people where suddenly someone would “jump in” and offer me something that was relevant to a point I made. Almost always it was something I only casually mentioned, so I wasn’t even looking for anything related. It is my belief – and let me emphasize that being an affiliate marketer I am obviously affiliate friendly – that most people consider it the worst kind of spam, since this is spam that actively barges into your Twitter activities. I know that when this happens to me, I always ‘block and report as spam’. If a friend were to offer this to me, or someone I knew, I would be much more open to this idea. But this method doesn’t suggest building long term relationships but rather jumping in with an affiliate offer – and never has any friend sent me affiliate links on Twitter.

     
    Like I said, I never tried it myself so who knows, maybe it does work. But the people I know – and I know quite a few – would treat this as the worst kind of behavior on Twitter.

     
    Continue to part two of ‘Making Money On Twitter.

 

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Ancient PC

Ancient PC

 

This post was partially inspired by Darren Williger’s keynote speech at Social Media 201.

 
Despite the fact it’s a common perception that social media is a new phenomenon, it’s actually far from. Both Darren and myself have been using the Internet since the 80s. We ran a small competition: turns out that if you Google us, the earliest result is mine (from 1989!) though Darren was active online about 2-3 years before I was. So it’s a draw ;-) .

 
Back then the online world was very different. In the mid 80s BBSs (Bulletin board systems) were what we all used. These were phone-based systems, usually run by individuals, though some companies had their own, that enabled people to connect using dial-up modems. They were infinitely slower than today’s internet, and all text based, but they were awesome!

 
BBSs included forums, multiplayer games (though not real time ones), downloadable computer games (yep, some two decades before Bittorrent) and a lot more. In other words, we all interacted, and much of the content was user generated. Sounds to me a lot like…social Media and Web 2.0. Of course, this wasn’t Web 2.0 because this was almost a decade before the World Wide Web (Web 1.0?) was created! Though BBSs weren’t a part of the internet, they offered much of what the internet could offer at the time.

 
When I first starting using the internet, in 1987 or 1988 (I need to figure this out one day…), I stopped using BBSs. The internet had so much potential! My friends and I actually didn’t refer to it as the internet back then but rather as the Bitnet (which was always a subset of the internet but was separately accessible at the time). When I look at old emails that are archived online, we actually referred to the internet as the InterNet. How quaint! Amusingly, there was a local news story about us at the time: “Local teenagers chat with people all over the world using computers”. It sounds ridiculous now, but it was very “exotic” back then.

 
Bitnet email accounts were very simple: mine was nyschles@weizmann (yeah, no .com, .net or whatever). The internet equivalent was nyschles@weizmann.weizmann.ac.il though I rarely used it at the time.

 
Not long after I had my first chat (using Relay – the ancestor of IRC which itself had a multiple offspring from multiple “wives”: chat rooms, various messengers – even chat roulette). I was introduced to a radical concept called MUDs (Multi User Domains). MUDs are the prehistoric ancestors of massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) such as World of Warcraft, EverQuest and Ultima Online. There were several variations of the concept: some were created for social interaction (the modern equivalent is Second Life), other for gaming, etc.

 
MUDs were just as fun as modern games, despite the fact that the vast majority were text based. However, in a way they were far superior to even the most modern of these games. How so?

 
The type of MUD I used was called an LPMud. This was a classic multiplayer online game: once you registered, you were given a character that would have to fight monsters and get experience points to advance in levels. Depending on the MUD itself (there were hundreds, all run by individuals and as far as I know, hosted at universities), you could choose a class (i.e. a wizard, a druid, a fighter), have spells, and a do whole lot of different things. I’m sure this sounds very similar to anyone who has played World of Warcraft or similar games.

 
The difference is – and that is a huge, enormous difference – is that all MUDs were based on user generated content.

 
Once a character reached his 20th level and has done his share of quests, he became a “Wizard”. Wizards weren’t players anymore.. but were more like MUD administrators. Each was given permission to program a part of the MUD – his domain. Most Wizards created an area with a theme: I remember Castle Dracula, Sesame Street, Star wars, and basically everything you can imagine.

 
User generated content? Web 2.0? in the late 80s?! These terms were used long after these events despite the fact this was decades before they became mainstream.

 
Even today, you still can’t do the equivalent with games such as World of Warcraft (though I do remember that a few years ago, a group of people was able to successfully replicate EverQuest’s framework and protocols and effectively recreated a home-brew version without Sony’s permission).

 
It may really surprise people who started using computers when the internet was already ubiquitous, but back then, things were just as fun despite the technological limitations. There was no spam either!

 
I hope you found this history lesson interesting ;) . Although this post can be read on its own, I gave it for a reason – in order to be able to share an event that took place at the time. Read my next posts for more details.

 
Here are links to the other parts.
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media: The Sting (Part 2 of 4)
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media: Cybercrime (Part 3 of 4)
The Prehistoric Times of Social Media: Crime and Punishment (Part 4 of 4)

 

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getting off a mailing list

Removing yourself and getting off from mailing lists used to be a problem in the past. But the CAN-SPAM Act mostly changed that. Or better phrased, clearly defined what is legal and what is not. I’m specifically referring to two clauses as defined by Wikipedia:

  • A visible and operable unsubscribe mechanism is present in all emails.
  • Consumer opt-out requests are honored within 10 days.

 
With that being said, I’m sure you’ve been in the following situation: One day, you start getting emails from a mailing list you never joined. Sometimes there is an ‘unsubscribe’ link at the bottom which works, sometimes it does not work and sometimes there isn’t even one. As the above states, all of these are illegal.

 
Affiliate marketers who use mailing lists for email marketing are required to use a double opt-in, meaning, when someone gives their email address, they get a confirmation email which requires approval. On top of that, there must always an unsubscribe option, which must always work, and the marketer needs to include his address on the bottom of the email.

 
I’ve joined countless mailing lists and have often unsubscribed (“opted-out”). I have no problem with this. They’re doing everything by the book – no one forced me to join.

 
What I don’t like is being included in mailing lists which I never joined. Let’s break these to four groups sorted in order of notoriety.

 
The first , and the one I find least annoying, occurs when a company you’ve handed a business card at a conference includes you in their list. I don’t know the legality of that – perhaps if you’ve given them a card you are granting them permission (could be in the fine print since sometimes you participate in a raffle). This happens frequently enough that I’m not really sure (and I’m no attorney). In this case, almost always unsubscribing works.

Nevertheless, even if this is legal, not only this is an abuse of the trust you’ve given the company, but sometimes it’s just plain stupid. During a conference I’ve attended a few months ago, immediately afterwards I was apparently put in a mailing list which “informed me I’ve received a 15 day trial of their product”. Every day I got an email (I didn’t bother unsubscribing) and at the end of this period, I got a request for a feedback. The thing is, I actually wanted to try their product – but not immediately after the conference. So I ended not using it, opting out, and crossing this company from my list of potential products I may get. Had they simply asked for my permission I might’ve ended testing and possibly purchasing the product.

 
The second is worse: you’re suddenly receiving email from a list you have no recollection of ever joining, often not even being familiar with the product or company. Sometimes opting out works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes there is no link at all. This is definitely illegal, and in these cases I report them as spam in my Gmail account (never does anything as far as I can tell) and create a filter to direct their messages to my trash folder. Sometimes I also send them a blank email with ‘UNSUBSCRIBE’ as the subject line, assuming that if someone did this inadvertently, he would take me off and occasionally it does work (this used to be the way to unsubscribe from older mailing lists)

 
The third is much worse: someone – an individual – you’ve handed a business card to at some point decides to include you in his personal mailing list. This is not just illegal but also plain rude. The last time this happened to me was fairly recent, and I was actually doing a favor to that person, giving them business advice. And then I ended on their mailing list!? My guidelines are similar to those I mentioned in the last item.

 
The fourth and last one is the worst as it involves someone you know. A friend, his significant other or family member, decides that they’re going to start a mailing list and include you in it. I’m pretty sure that in almost all cases the person is unaware this is illegal, but regardless, this is very rude. It’s happened to me 2-3 times, and in all cases these were lists I had not a shred of interest in (and needless to say, there was no unsubscribe option). Since I knew the people involved, which isn’t always the case (i.e. recently the wife of a friend – which I had never met or corresponded with – included me in a mailing list of something completely irrelevant to my interests), I felt I couldn’t just ask to remove me unless I’m willing to endanger a relationship with that person. In this case filters are your allies.

 
Sometimes I feel like creating my own spam list, include all the above in it and just blast them periodically with nonsense. But then I would be no better than them…

 
Any interesting stories anyone would like to share?

 

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Funny spam

For two weeks now I keep planning to write, but life has been keeping me way, way, way too busy. There are already three posts in my head that I want to write, but no time. However, I decided to take this quick break since this will be a short post.

 
Ever since I wrote my article, Five Different Types of Spammers, I noticed that the post keeps getting spammy jokes (always one liners), something that I never got before. More interestingly, it’s only that specific post.

 
Clearly, some spammer/s saw my post and is/are joking around with me. I don’t think this is in ill intent, as actually most of the one-liners are pretty good. If they didn’t include links to drug sites, I might actually approve them. However, maybe it’s just my (at times) weird sense of humor, but I find this situation hilarious. So I’ve decided to include those I find amusing.

 
The point of this post is – the comments below are all spam comments I’ve received. Every single one.

 
This will be a repository for the spam jokes I get (those I think are good, at least). The people sending them are clearly making an effort! In fact, they’re invited to contact me – I’m curious to know their story :)

 
It’s a shame I erased most of the comments. But here goes. I get 2-3 a day, and about half are good, so this list will grow (edit: it seems the pace is greater than I remember – I get more like 5+ a day). Starting with only 3 5 14 26… 30

  • What did one ocean say to the other ocean? Nothing, they just waved.
  • What is the biggest ant? An elephant.
  • What is the most popular wine at Christmas? “Can’t we open the presents yet?”
  • Why do birds fly south for the winter? Because it’s too far to walk. [got it twice!]
  • What kind of coffee was served on the Titanic? Sanka.
  • Why did the man put wheels on his rocking chair? He wanted to rock and roll.
  • Why did Willie Nelson get hit by a car? He was playing on the road again.
  • Why do bees have sticky hair? Because they use honeycombs!!
  • What does it mean when the flag’s at half mast at the post office? They’re hiring.
  • What do you call it when worms take over the world? Global Worming.
  • Why was Santa’s little helper depressed? Because he had low elf esteem.
  • What’s happening when you hear “woof…splat…meow…splat?” It’s raining cats and dogs.
  • What do you use to redecorate a baby’s bathroom? Infantile.
  • What city has the largest rodent population? Hamsterdam.
  • Why does Santa have 3 gardens? So he can ho-ho-ho. [this one is pretty lame, I know]
  • How would you clean a tuba? Try a tuba toothpaste. [this one is pretty lame, I know]
  • What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care.[got it twice!]
  • What’s green and red and goes 1000 miles an hour? A frog in a blender. [got it twice!]
  • Where does all the pepper go? No one nose.
  • What do you call a crazy blackbird? A raven lunatic! [I have a feeling this one came from someone else]
  • What do you call a crazy baker? A dough nut.
  • Why do hurricanes travel so fast? If they traveled slowly, we would have to call them slow-i-canes
  • What is the difference between a photocopier and the whooping cough? One makes facsimiles and the other makes sick families.
  • Why do bagpipers walk when they play? They’re trying to get away from the noise. [I got this one twice! Hmm. The guy is starting to repeat himself]
  • Why is the letter A like a flower? Because a Bee comes after it!
  • What do you call a bee born in May? A Maybe.
  • What is a zebra? 26 sizes larger than “A” bra.
  • What do you call four bull fighters in quicksand? Quatro sinko.
  • Where did King Tut go to ease his back pain? The Cairo-practor!
  • What kind of bird can write? A penguin. [didn't really get this one..]

 
Edit: Unbelievable (to me), but the jokes stopped. That’s 3 days in a row now. I guess the spammer follows my blog and doesn’t want to give me material? Oh.. but it was really in the best of intentions. Like I said, he’s more than welcome to send me an email, I’m curious to meet the fellow!

 
Edit2: No, they’re back. I’m actually feeling relief. It made checking spam more fun.

 
Edit3: Ok, I think 30 is a good place to stop. I made my point, and some are starting to repeat themselves…

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the variety of spammers

when you have a couple of websites you begin noticing a predictable situation: you get spammers. Unless you use a plugin such as Akismet, these can make your life miserable. Note that Akismet can occasionally misclassify a valid comment as spam, so you should still monitor your spam queue periodically.

 
That being said, despite the fact spammers are pests, I’m beginning to find the amusing factor in them. In my book site (yes, I have one) I have a forum system that’s never been truly adopted by the users (unfortunately), and so, there were more spam comments than real comments. For a while I played a game with them: I’d edit their spam messages to meaningful text. For example:

 
“Buy Xenadroxalix for $50″ would change to “I really liked the Time Traveler’s wife. It was both romantic as well as creative. Truly a book for everyone”.

 
“Enlarge your ears for $25 using Vibralis” would change to “Not sure I agree with the previous commenter, I think it wasn’t a very good book. It just doesn’t make sense scientifically”.

 
Sometimes I’d even take it a degree further and just really mess with the comment. For example:

 
“Go to Kasinos and win thousands of dollars would change to “hey i like youre website but its could use some more reviews of books like jon gricham and things like that you know what im taking about?”.

 
Recently I got fed up, the game stopped amusing me. I’m going to just shut down that forum system.

 
But anyway, I’ve had enough experience with spammers that in this post I’d like to classify them to five categories:

 

  1. The mass linker: I don’t know what this type of spammer is thinking, but he posts massive comments with dozens or even hundreds of links, usually involving some sort of sexual or psychiatric drugs. That’s the classic spammer. It goes on like this “Xenadrioxi for $50. Venogra $50. Kialikx $80″ only a hundred times.

     

  2. The innocent commenter: this type of spammer usually leaves innocent looking , yet very generic spammy comments. For example: “Interesting post, look forward for more”. “Thanks for the article, would like you to focus on this subject again”. And sometimes even something “subtler” “I disagree with the approach you took, there are many complex points you are not addressing” (Yes, I got the exact same comment on several unrelated sites that are located on different hosting accounts).

     
    Sometimes it’s even clear the spammer doesn’t know English, as the sentence looks like one that was translated using Google Translate (or an equivalent tool). I don’t remember how it went exactly, but I got one that said something like “Very decent information. Honour you!” (clearly translated, no?)

     

  3. The weird commenter: One of my sites started getting a lot of those. Usually they leave a meaningless comment and signature (with a link) at the end. For example: “How do you spell your surname?” “On one hand…, on the other hand…” “Where are you going?” “When is the next bus to the airport?” “It’s early yet!”. These five comments are real spam comments I got today (in fact, this is what made me write this article. This is just funny!).

     

  4. The massive spammer: this type of spammer is the worst: he just sends one of the above in massive amounts. I used to (naively) think I could deal with all spam myself. But when one of my sites started getting thousands of comments I gave up. Did I mention I really like Akismet?

     

  5. The foreign spammer: this type of spammer couldn’t care less about being detected. He leaves comments in other languages. For example, the forum I mentioned above started getting a lot of Russian comments. I had no idea what they meant (that is, until I used Google Translate – I think they were about alternative healing), but they were clearly spam.

 
I’m sure if I spend more time I can come up with more. Have you got any interesting spam story you’d be willing to share?

 
Edit: since I’ve created this I’ve discovered yet another type. This one – I think – is the most sophisticated spammer. It displays a generic comment, usually – but not always – a question but one that may be legitimately asked, often flattering. For example: “what a good domain name, what made you pick this one?” or (this one is a real example): “Ooh oops i just typed a long comment and as soon as i hit post it came up blank! Please please tell me it worked right? “. Another real one: “I wrote a similar blog regarding this subject but your is better”. They’re usually not really relevant to the post, but innocent looking that many blog owners may approve them because they appear valid. So.. be warned.

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Twitter bots

This is going to be a short post. Mainly interested in people’s opinions so feel free to either comment or email me at udi @ industryreview.org.

 
We all know there’s a terrible spam problem at Twitter. Also, we all know there are lots of bots in Twitter.

 
People who know me even for a short amount of time know I have a very weird memory when it comes to numbers, personal details, birthdays (i.e. during college I remembered all my friends’ social security numbers. I didn’t even try, it just.. stuck somehow). This is a fun party trick, and extremely useful in professions which require remembering many details about lots of participants. Affiliate Marketing and Academia, two fields I’ve been in, are actually really good examples. Anyway, I’m diverging from my point.

 
Lately I noticed something which we all noticed, i.e. groups of Twitter users suddenly appearing with very similar characteristics & identical messages. I’m sure Twitter is very much onto them.

 
What bothers me a bit more is that I started noticing a group of users that until now I thought are really well established Twitter users, repeating the same sentences again and again. But not often (like the standard bots, which sometimes repeat the same sentences within minutes) but significantly less often, like once a day. These sentences seem to be identical, and at times meaningless – and don’t seem to promote any product. I would estimate there are at least 15-20 people in this group, from both sexes, various ages and ethnicities. That’s actually one of the thing that looked suspicious to me, why would a young girl repeat exactly the same sentence an elderly gentleman said a day before?

 
Maybe it’s just my overly active mind, and these are all real people who have the same sense of humor, and from some reason, decide to repeat the same sentences very infrequently, but to me this seems kind of odd. Maybe they all belong to a cult. A Twitter cult. I really don’t know.

 
I suspect these are much more advanced bots. Perhaps establishing themselves very subtly as ‘real people’, and occasionally, very infrequently, trying to promote a product (I haven’t been following them that closely to notice that until now).

 
I can definitely say that none of them has ever responded to a comment or a direct message I sent. I can also say that I tried repeating some of their sentences (by now I remember quite a few), and got no response. I’m somewhat wary of doing it more often in case this really is a group of bots and by doing so, I’ll be marked as one eventually.

 
Anyway: have you noticed this too? I’d rather not specify which sentences/users in case I incur the wrath of real people, or worse, a very aggressive bot operator. I’d really like to get feedback.

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