or is it abusing good will? the judges are still out….

Once in a while we’re reminded that individuals can move a lot with a clever idea. Jonathan Stark is one of these guys and if you haven’t heard of it yet, here’s a short summary of the story that started as a social media experiment for fun and was shut down a month later by Starbucks – ¬†close to 15,000 twitter followers and 8,000 facebook fans are now waiting what happens next.

On July 14 Jonathan Stark put his Starbucks card publicly on the web – including some money to be spent on coffee by whoever wanted.

In the following weeks hundreds of strangers enjoyed coffee bought virtually by some other stranger, and many of them also made sure the experiment wouldn’t end: close to $9,000, including $300 from Jonathan himself, were donated to the card.

Last Friday, after the experiment had gained lots of attention in the social media and media world Starbucks reluctantly pulled the plug. Why? Well, here comes the interesting twist: earlier that same day a sub-experiment had come to light and had set the fans of the Jonathan Card on fire.

Using an automatic hacker-script, entrepreneur Sam Odio hat silently “stolen” around $625 in the last week and transferred to his own Starbucks card. In his public post “How to use Jonathan’s Card to buy yourself an iPad” he explains that he found “yuppies buying yuppies coffee” a bit lame, so he decided to “mix things up a bit”. He definitely did looking at the reactions. However, he’s not getting himself an iPad. Instead he put the card for sale on eBay – with 100% of the returns going to Save the Children, where $1 feeds 1 child a whole day. (5days left, 21 bids made so far)

While this is clearly not in the original intent of the experiment – do you think it’s justified because of the good cause? Or is it just jumping on the bandwagon to attract more followers?

What I think is the key lesson from this story: no matter what happens next, hundreds of people seem to have already gotten enough inspiration to starting their own small acts of good – all triggered by one individual with a clever idea. Remember the movie ‘Pay it forward’?

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