What happens when a social experiment gets socially experimented on?

Jonathan Stark (no relation to Ironman) started a social experiment (which is not a PR stunt) wherein he put his Starbucks Coffee card up for grabs. He started it off with $100, and anyone can use it, and anyone can add money to it. The idea was "an experiment in social sharing of physical goods using digital currency," and the whole pay it forward concept. It was working rather well. Then some dude named Sam Odio decided to derail it. Kind of.


Sam didn't "find the idea of yuppies buying yuppies coffees very interesting." So he came up with a hack to siphon money off of Jonathan's coffee card and onto his own. At the time of his blog post, he had netted $625 of Starbucks credit, which he intends to sell on eBay. Rather than simply embezzle the money, though, he's going to sell the coffee cards on eBay and give the money to Save the Children (or so he says).

While it's hard to argue with "yuppies buying yuppies coffee" not being very interesting, and of course, we would love to see Save the Children get all the money in the world, this still feels like a dick move. It wasn't his project to mess with. Besides, it's not a project about people buying each other coffee, it's about looking at human nature. If want your own art project / social experiment, then go and think something up yourself that doesn't tamper with someone else's. While there doesn't seem to be anything nefarious about this, siphoning money out of the original project just doesn't sit well with me. Although, if Jonathan Stark truly wanted an experiment in "social sharing," I suppose this kind of thing reflects the reality of our digital cesspool ecosystem.

Image credit: Getty/Chris Jackson

You can keep up with Brent Rose, the author of this post, on Google+ or Twitter.


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