You wanna talk about made our day? Try made our week. We had seen the older couple earlier, but we didn't know them, and they were gone by the time we got our bill. We couldn't even thank them, and we were just so... shocked. Since then, whenever we go out for a nice meal, I look for a young couple who looks happy and in love, just waiting to return that favor.
C.S. Lewis described altruism in one of his apologist books as a "good infection" - kindness that spreads uncontrollably. I can't do anything but agree.
So every once in a while, I'll do the same for a driver behind me - especially if they were generous enough to have let me merge into their lane (but usually, just as a random kind gesture).
Good infections rock.
Thank you so much for sharing your story – it really made my day. "Kindness that spreads uncontrollably" perfectly sums up my highest hopes for this experiment.
It's an experiment on social contribution, if I'm correct. Even though you can leech (and some will), a good amount of people might ultimately add more money than they spend from it. But why? Everyone is anonymous (kind of), and it's not like you have external pressure to be good.
If the amount on the card stays positive, you may have renewed my faith in at least a portion of mankind, Jonathan Stark.
However, I can't help wondering that with all this technology we are ending up in a situation where the Haves help the Haves and they all feel better for a little while. What can we do to make it easy to help the really needy? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could just as easily drop $10 to help someone eat a few meals a day? I am aware of all the real world problems and constraints, but I hope these examples inspire some of HN community to build stuff that will help those that really need it.
This is an efficient way of buying fuzzies, for a really cheap price, and it's important to buy fuzzies or you start to fade. If you want to buy utilons, find a maximally effective charity (this means you either check Givewell or pick your favorite existential risk reduction org) and donate more than $10. Do not confuse the two problems, and do not attempt to solve them both at the same time!
When you give free stuff to "those in need", you have to be extremely careful not to just wind up changing the balance of incentives in a way that just encourages them to stay "in need". Otherwise you're harming them, not helping them.
Back in the days of pay phones, I had a friend who'd put quarters in the return slot. While it is a very small gesture, it moved me. Felt like sharing this.
That would imply that the card is currently being used as intended.
Posting it to HN should bring interesting results. There's still money on it at the moment.
- You don't need a smartphone to use ten dollars you found on the ground.
- Cash can be spent somewhere other than Starbucks.
- There's no twitter account broadcasting the amount of money dropped on the ground.
- If you find money on the ground, chances are not good that it was dropped by someone from HN.
- If you tweet about money you found on the ground, you are just a jerk.
In what country/state/city? Is that legal? In most (all?) US cities, it is illegal to fill other peoples' parking meters because that robs the city of fines. But maybe it's not a concern for tolls?
> I've sometimes wondered if it propagates backward at all.
At most, it would only reach exactly the car behind you. If that driver decides to pay the toll anyway (or the attendant secretly pockets the additional payment), the extra payment would be surely be swallowed.
Refilling a meter to circumvent the time limit or cover up a violation is illegal in some jurisdictions.
Paying someone else's bill is not illegal.
In most (all?) US cities, it is illegal to fill other peoples' parking meters
In practical terms, paying the toll of the person behind you may not directly propagate to tolls being paid. However, the recipients are going to be just that much happier or less stressed out, and are likely going to pass that mood along to the people they interact with in some way.
It may only make a small, localized part of the world a tiny fraction of a percent better, but it adds up.
I think it was Steven Covey who wrote somewhere about the trim tab on a giant ship's rudder. It's expensive/hard to build a motor that can turn the rudders on a giant container ship directly while it's in motion, but all it takes is a little mini-flap on the edge of the giant rudder.
Thanks for your input, and perhaps for paying my bridge toll ;)
"Unfortunately it's one of those things where one anonymous bad egg will ruin it for everyone else. Some way to restrict it to a community with less anonymity would help."
I see where you're coming from, but I believe that A) nobody (with the possible exception of Starbucks) can ruin this, and B) the solution to the bad egg problem is to be more open, not more controlling.
If the card suddenly gets a $100 recharge I'm sure it will be abused a lot more. Maybe that's part of the experiment, but I'd like to see what people do in general without that knowledge.
EDIT: or maybe even just a "this card has more than <insert cost of minimum item>" so that people know it can be used, but not how many times.
I've been thinking about this quite a bit. One the one hand, last week some jerk saw a $50 balance and spent the whole thing in one shot.
On the other hand, people need to know when there is money on the card if they are thinking about walking down to a sbux to get a coffee.
I might try the "there's more than $10 on the card right now". I've also experimented with delaying the reloaded messages, and doling out the money more directly by asking who wants a coffee.
Folks who respond get the update if they're quick. We'll see what happens, but I believe that there is a sustainable way to handle it.
Require a photo of the purchase.
It would add a level of social obligation. You could go further and require a tweet explaining the purchase. You could even add a little homily about good manners and not being greedy to the explanatory text.
I think you are doing a very interesting experiment with new financial entities, and I'm curious to see where this leads.
To the other points: how would you go about mandating a photo or any other form of interaction from the purchaser? Jonathan has his card picture posted on the website–Starbucks simply accepts that photo as payment, there's no authorization process in the middle where Jonathan could selectively let some use it while disallowing others.
This could be a web-app or it could be a native one.
Oh and btw my name is jonathan too. Pretty cool
Now, for the reason I actually wrote the comment: This should be expected behavior. It's quite possible that "jerk" actually needs the help more than the person who gets the one coffee. It's equally viable to assume s/he is simply taking advantage of the system. In the bigger picture, I think these dynamics are completely expected. Would you call the guy that gives $50 or $100 a jerk as well? Either way, it's an experiment, and I wouldn't expect it, given a proper sampling, to deviate much from what we see in society as a whole.
Best wishes - and great idea!
Here's the conf: http://drod.io/2R3o0I2a3R3n3S2L1J2N
Regardless, I'm glad we tried it; anyone have any theories of how it's being hacked?
Edit: I just checked with an online barcode reader and this isnt the case. It resolves to 6061006913522430
It was really awesome. We also had people come through and ask for food for a homeless guy that sits on the off ramp on our interstate exit, and Chick-fil-A would give them food to take to the homeless guy and I'm sure many more situations occur all across the country that make peoples lives better. I think there is a thread of hope in humanity.
Edit: Any ideas?
Edit: It just happened again...
The transaction info available on the Starbucks site and mobile app is pretty limited, but I can see that the transactions are listed as "In Store Purchase". For example:
Unfortunately, there is no info about which stores the purchases were made in, and the history only goes back about 20 transactions. It does look like some people are making large purchases, which is jerky, but not totally unexpected.
Edit: draining to $0.00 is OK, as jonathan explains below.
Draining the card to the penny is not weird. If there is $10 on the card and your purchase is $11.50, $10 will be removed from the card and you have to pay the remaining $1.50 some other way.
Expected behavior :)
edit: now at least 5, see above
I see what you're saying, and of course it is possible that some jerk is buying gift cards with the card.
That said, it's worth pointing out that the tweet stream is not real time and it doesn't have every transaction. The card balance is scraped from the sbux site every minute and posted to Twitter if it has changed since the last tweet. When there are multiple transactions in the same minute, the changes get aggregated. This can result in some strange looking numbers.
What I think we're learning here is that if someone wants to reload the card, lots of little transactions over time is better than one big one. Or, perhaps the balance should not be tweeted.
What I'm wondering is if you can have a deposit-only card, which transfers funds to the live card to keep it topped up at $10. Downside is some people have to wait an extra minute or two for free coffee; upside is someone trying to clean out the account has to spread it over a bunch of transactions, which even if it doesn't stop everyone probably raises the barrier to entry.
A PayPal account could also work for this.
Then you could broadcast a rough total balance, and just have a binary indicator for when the live card gets topped up.
But since that's kind of a hassle, then you'd whip up a quick app that lets people easily amortize a larger contribution over a series of coffee-scale contributions. Connect that to their twitter account, and you can credit each individual coffee donation to an individual and report them individually.
It's effectively the same as having a larger account balance, but since you're not holding the money it feels more engaging and social for folks.
I will strenuously avoid this turning into anything resembling a bank - it needs to be more like a "take a penny, leave a penny" tray sitting on a Starbucks counter. If someone want to be a jerk and empty the tray into his pocket, so be it. They're just a jerk who I'm sure will get what they deserve in life.
The balance is really neat to see and it keeps people engaged and thinking about this project, even if they're not actively partaking (like myself, at the moment).
The smaller installments of cash also help others realize that it's okay to submit small amounts and increase the likelihood that more than just one person with a large purchase will benefit.
The beauty of this is that one person can't ruin the fun for everyone involved. Call me a hopeless romantic, but I think people who don't get the concept are in the minority. Their behavior will be overrun 100x by people who do get the concept.
We'll see what happens soon enough...
Fair point. My goal is to figure out the dynamics of social giving in this fashion and create a similar sustainable model around items that are less "luxury" than coffee.
For example, I can imaging people paying for other people's groceries or medicine in a similar manner. Maybe I'm crazy, but it seems worth trying.
I hope one of your other ideas works! Good luck! But I suspect a big part of the impetus behind the contributions is a feeling of reciprocity, which is a different impulse from charity.
But do I really need to explain why that is undesirable, or why most people in the world don't do this?
Maybe they have to tweet you the advertisement, and then you can retweet, so you get more exposure in their twitter stream as well.
Honestly, why? You can't scold everyone into "real" virtuous behavior, so why not give them a taste of what it feels like and see if they can get hooked?
Do you believe that people putting money on this card would actually donate it towards a more deserving end?
I (think I) understand your goal here, but ultimately I think what you're doing is either ineffective in or outright harmful towards achieving it.
Well, Jonathan may get the Rewards so it is not completely altruistic.
A real-time map of where transactions have been made ala http://twittervision.com might be interesting if this card goes viral
Yes, unfortunately I do get the rewards. I get a free coffee for every 15 purchased. I figured that the free coffees would accrue to the card itself and therefore every 16th person would get a free coffee. As it turns out, sbux mails free coffee coupons to me:
I'm not sure how to redistribute them fairly, but I was thinking that I could at least pass them out at my local store. However, doing so is expressly forbidden and my name is on the postcards.
Also, Maybe a good idea to ensure auto-reload is not setup on the card! I dont know that it is, but if it is you could be out a significant amount of money. Looking at your API calls I dont see where it has been auto-reloaded.
This is a neat idea.
Otherwise, you're "stuck"; be open about it (as you are), and use them or not. I wouldn't hold it against you either way, personally.
Jonathan's Card didn't seems to work, and it makes me think (unsurprisingly) that what works at local levels as this cafe in Prague, can't work in the Extremistan that is the entire global community.
We're so used to all the benefits of this new, suddenly-made-close world: play poker with a guy in Singapore one moment, buy an antique off an old woman in Portugal the next, without moving anything but the mouse; that we forget the beauty and function that the local still provides.
If you get ahold of the victim's phone, the victim has bigger problems (NFC, e-mail, saved passwords, etc.).
What, exactly, is the hypothesis? While this _seems_ cool, I really don't understand what he's setting out to prove, that we don't already know: This will work until the number of people who abuse it grows to a certain point, after which everyone will loose faith, and nobody will contribute more funds.
[Ha. I just noticed the posts describing how this is being hacked.]
I've lived in downtown San Diego for a while, and I've taken to just getting to know some of the homeless people who hang around the 7-11 by my apartment and buying food for them when they ask me.
That being said, you did a good thing by trying :)
With a taste like that in food, I'm not surprised your latte and (excellent, I'm sure) Starbucks sandwich fell on stony ground.
Good sentiment though. May karma follow you throughout the day.
Cash prizes are less interesting for this kind of thing. (various studies)
I've read the same, but I don't believe it. For example people will say that fame is more important than money, but I would argue fame leads to more work, or more free stuff which in turn leads to money or more money than a set cash incentive. Or the case where people do things for points, but when those points are redeemable for physical items or discounts again this leads right back to some sort of cash savings. I think it always go back to some sort of monetary incentive.
Use it when you can't afford coffee, refill it when you can afford a coffee plus a little more...
If you're living paycheck to paycheck and buying Starbucks every morning, that's definitely part of your problem. I understand and fully appreciate paying a bit more for a quality product, but when it comes down to it, being able to start a savings and plan for your future is more important than enjoying a better cup of coffee in the morning. It's directly analagous to buying a car that's out of your price range (say, a Lexus when you're only bringing in $35,000 a year pre-tax) and struggling to pay the note on it every month. You really can live with the cheaper product, and in the long run it may do you a world of good.
Am I wrong? I'd like to see some other people's input on this idea.
If people donating to it's money is all going to a couple of people working the system for their own gain it doesn't really motivate people to give to it.
However, a company like Starbucks could set something up that is very similar to Jonathan's experiment but with a reduced abuse potential: just introduce a card with a limit per transaction. For example, if you could only charge 6 USD per purchase to the card, it would make life difficult for the cheaters.
The credits lasted 10 minutes before used up. Should be interesting to see if this results in any downloads.
Proof of top up:
Only if there's also a continuous stream of people who are drinking without paying. If, out of a sense of community responsibility, people pay in close to what they drink (or a little bit more), then this system works.
I totally agree. The sbux site and card don't support this directly, but I think I have a way to achieve this manually that involves requesting a coffee before you can know how much is on the card. We'll see!
The page on Rawr includes a basic usage example as well as links to my implementation on GitHub and Hackage.
Thought I'd cross-post here for the cause too :)
I'm thinking about what types of interesting questions we can answer by visualizing the data. If anyone wants to contribute to that effort, fork me on github (https://github.com/aoberoi/jonathans-card) and send me a pull request, i'll update the site.
Is it possible to restrict the card only to coffee (to prevent huge catering orders)?
P.S. does anyone want to call this guy Lord Starkbucks?
Now I know where Jon Snow ends up.
But... how many of them really believe in karma?
I got $7.91 left on me.
I figure if it's a script, the $300 will disappear instantly. But if it's manual, it's unlikely that someone could manually xfer that at a Starbucks counter w/o getting questioned.
Confirmations (max was $100 at a time):
The card was not hacked. Looks more like you're just trying to promote your link. Thanks though.
So someone either bought exactly $45 worth of Starbucks on the card within minutes of me putting $49 on it, or someone is hacking it.