Social Experiment: Get a coffee, give a coffee on Jonathan's Card

If you didn't catch this story over the weekend, you need to check this out. Jonathan Stark, a mobile and web developer, decided to load up a Starbucks card and make it available to the masses via the web, to see what would happen. He figured that people might treat the card like one of those "take a penny, leave a penny" trays at the corner store: some people would use the card, others would add to it, and everything would even out in the end.

Now, Jonathan has also released the API for his card and set up a Twitter account (@JonathansCard) which I've been following with great interest over the weekend. Jonathan has invited people to tweet about their use of the card so he can track it.

It's been amazing to watch the balance change via the card's Twitter account: going up and down constantly. It would appear that word was getting around about Jonathan's Card and experiment.

There was even some suspected hacking (not surprising since hacking seems to be the theme of the 2011). @Socialize loaded the card and the funds disappeared soon thereafter. Chatter ensued on YCombinator about whether the card was being hacked or used plentifully. No definitive answer, though. It could be a result of interest in the story; it could be an actual hack.

But it's not all bad news, @kassrahomaifar used the card and tweeted:
"@jonathanscard 6 people enjoyed warm bagels thanks to your card. http://yfrog.com/hsm4bspj"
If you click on the link, it's a pic of a homeless person with a sign stating 5 years sobriety. Looks like Jonathan's card was used to help out some folks who really needed it.

Now, as altruistic as Jonathan wanted the experiment to be, it turns out that he is benefitting from it as well. As you can see in this pic for every 15 coffees bought with the card, he gets a free coffee coupon in the mail from Starbucks. He's been reloading the card as well, so one would think it all evens itself out in the wash. Figures, though. Try to do something selfless and karma pays you back :)

It will be interesting to see if this experiment works better or worse as media gets a hold of it. Since there's already been some corporate sponsorship (via Socialize, mentioned above), how many other companies will use this for a little free publicity? Or will it be able to stay below the radar enough to be mostly for the people, from the people?

If you're interested in using or loading the card, head over to http://jonathanstark.com/card/ and follow the instructions. (You'll basically be saving the pic on the right to your phone). Will you use it? Contribute to it? Have you seen other similar experiments? Leave a comment and link!

(Source: Make)