Yeah, I’m an old head. I’ve heard every joke, so save them. But being older than Illmatic and Reganomics has afforded me the opportunity to experience the full life span of the sneaker as a fashion accessory and every peak and valley within. Judging by resell prices, media hype through every outlet, the sneaker’s emergence in mainstream culture, and attention given weekly to multiple drops both limited and general release, I think it’s safe to say that our subculture has went mainstream.
Obviously, this popularity cannot last, as mainstream fads eventually taper off. The trendsetters that originally adopted the subculture as their own will find something new, their legions of followers will be right behind them, and if any members of the original subculture still exist, it will settle back to its place before the boom. This is inevitable, and to a point I embrace it. I just hope that the core doesn’t die due to a virus born from technology and the culture’s popularity: The Bot.
How They Work
I’m about to nerd out a little, so skip ahead to the next section if you’d like, but here’s a high level technical view on sneaker bots. There are two types, one for each type of release: Twitter link and Twitter RSVP.
Twitter link bots are browser snap-ins (the most popular being an extension for Google Chrome) that will automatically fill out and submit an online form once a particular link is clicked. I will skip the coding of the script used to parse the HTML code, as it’s pretty dense to explain (but fairly easy to code). Once the extension is added to a browser, a user can adapt it to any of their Twitter follows (namely @NikeStore). A user will then update a configuration file with their size and the quantity of shoes, save the file, then wait for the Twitter link to be posted. Once clicked, all of this info is filled out and submitted by the script, adding it to your cart. This saves even the quickest user 2-3 seconds, or the difference between grabbing a limited release and pouting for the rest of a Saturday.
This was enough a year ago, as the technology hadn’t proliferated through the sneaker world. Eventually, this bot became widespread, and it’s more efficient little brother has all but replaced it. A second script was paired with this one to “Twitter camp” for the user. The bot continuously refreshes Twitter, looking for new tweets from a user defined follow (again, @NikeStore being the most popular). Once it receives a new tweet, it scans for keywords that the user has defined in it’s config file (“Cole” for the recent DB3 release). If the keyword(s) are there, the link is auto clicked, and the previous bot steps in and adds it to your cart in under a second. Many variations exist, some of which will fill out a user’s shipping and billing info for them. But, they all use this same basic structure for getting a pair to your cart.
The second type of bot is for Twitter RSVP links, and is only for city specific Nike towns. Before Nike implemented CAPTCHA images with their hashtag, it performed similar as the bot above. It would auto update Twitter, search for a specific follow (ex. @NikeChicago), grab a text value after the hashtag, then send a DM with the user’s name and size in under a second. Many “RSVP sniper” sites and freelancers were charging $25-$100 per release to ensure a successful RSVP. Developers were asking as much as $10K for these bots. Nike caught on and implemented CAPTCHA images with the hashtag imbedded in the image to prevent the scripts from grabbing the hashtag. This is similar to what Ticketmaster does to prevent scalpers from buying out events, but as we know, they’ve beat this system for over a decade. Bot coders have as well. Image scanning software can be programmed to find the oval encircling the hashtag, read the encircled hashtag, then send the text back into the bot, where a DM can be sent just like the original “sniper” programs. Nothing has really changed.
OK, back to speaking English. The big question is how does this affect you, the reader. For a non-bot user, I’m sure you’ve noticed the added difficulty in getting a Saturday release, and the impossibility of nabbing anything limited or winning an RSVP (I’m at 0-fer my last 15 at the time I’m writing this). How much longer will you pay resell prices? How much longer till you stop waking up for a Saturday release because “screw it, the bots will get them all”? Those willing to pay resale are those keeping this sneaker boom alive. The “hypebeasts” (I hate that word), will eventually find something else to try to impress their peers with. When the true ‘heads get tired of getting botted week in and week out, the industry has a problem. I’m getting there.
For bot users, GET LOST. Just kidding. I know most of you use them in a nuclear escalation-like response to the rest of bot users. “They have one, I need one, or I can’t compete.” I get it. But, a decent minority of you have used your bot to get paid, implementing them across several Twitter accounts with several different credit cards. It’s the 2013 version of taking your sister, grandma, and 4 cousins to a camp. Cool, I won’t hate your hustle. But, you are the people that will eventually kill this happy little industry. We’ve seen it time and again when a collection based subculture hits mainstream. Sports cards are the best example. Once capitalism kicks in, the hobby is on the clock. Those that collect out of love get priced out and eventually lose interest, and you’ll lose your short term meal ticket.
Maybe I’m overreacting because I didn’t get my DB3s yesterday. Maybe I’m pissed because I haven’t hit on a limited shoe since my ASG Air Force Maxes (and KD Galaxy IVs before that). I just see a problem that Nike claims it’s addressing that in reality, it can’t. Like PEDs in athletics, the technology will always be two steps ahead. I just hope it doesn’t kill the sneaker game.