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I'm kind of playing devil's advocate here and kind of not: How can you justify spending $n to buy coffee for someone with a smartphone instead of donating $n to someone with fewer resources and greater needs?

Jonathan here:

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.

Best, j

I don't go to Starbucks, but I just loaded up $10 because I'd really like to see this "succeed", whatever that means. It's gone already, so I guess the experiment is working? :P

Thanks! If you have a Twitter account PLMK your username so I can give you credit :)

Same for me. Not even living in the US but I want to see where this thing goes...

Thanks for the response. My question wasn't really directed at you—I can see all kinds of ways you could justify the project, including just curiosity. My question was for the people who are putting money on the card.

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.

Taking that logic to its natural end - I should be living a meager existence, eating and buying only what is necessary for my own continued survival, and donating any surplus to people who don't even have subsistence level living standards (and there are a lot of said people).

But do I really need to explain why that is undesirable, or why most people in the world don't do this?

Well, smart people have made that argument (http://www.amazon.com/Life-You-Can-Save-Poverty/dp/140006710...) but it's not the argument I'm making.

The same way you justify spending $n on any luxury product you don't really need.

just loaded $50 on the card, bought 10+ coffees for tech caffeine addicts, got a sweet tweet because I am looking for a tech co-founder for my funded cleantech startup. thinking outside of the box for recruiting... just saying. Oh, and if anyone is interested in joining wa.tt email me, james@wa.tt

this is an interesting concept. Retweet people, who added money to the card, with an advertisement or announcement of their choice. Only issue I see is people loading the card and just spending it on themselves.

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, didn't think about it as "advertising" or getting exposure through tweets. Didn't really think about it at all, just went with my instinct.

You're doing it wrong.

Doing what wrong and how would you do it better?

You could say that about almost anything. "How can you justify commenting on HN, when the money earned in the equivalent amount of time wasted here could save n Nigerians from starvation?" You can't, not really. But Jonathan's card still is one of the more ethical ways of spending money, so I'm all for it.

I comment on HN because I enjoy it. But I suspect that some people add money to Jonathan's Card because it gives them a feeling of virtue. I'd like to interfere with that feeling.

> I'd like to interfere with that feeling.

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.

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