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Re: A comment from Bill Gates' annual letter on using the Web for giving

From: Andrew Miller <amiller@cs.ucf.edu>
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2012 16:36:28 -0400
Message-ID: <CAF7tpExfjM5=-5ZQuKrboXb7rKMBfvwg4Cn_3jBcV4wuTTCWDw@mail.gmail.com>
To: Melvin Carvalho <melvincarvalho@gmail.com>
Cc: Web Payments <public-webpayments@w3.org>, Nathan Rixham <nathan@webr3.org>
On Sun, Sep 30, 2012 at 1:06 PM, Melvin Carvalho
<melvincarvalho@gmail.com>wrote:

> "One thing that really struck me in both the Giving Pledge meeting and the
> India get-together is that a key factor holding people back from being even
> more generous is finding philanthropic endeavors that make them feel like
> they are having a significant and unique impact. *It has me thinking a
> lot harder about how we can use the web to make it easier for givers of all
> sizes to connect to causes and see the results of their giving*."
>
> The Gates' foundation saved an estimated 100 million lives last year.  I
> really do think frictionless payments can play a big role in this.  I
> wonder if between the Gates Foundation, Web Foundation, Linked Data,
> Provenance and Web Payments, we can reduce friction to such an extent that
> helping reduce poverty can become incredibly easy.
>
> We can go further.  It's not just through giving money, but through all
> kinds of activity on the Web that can have a positive impact.  People go on
> fun runs, organize events etc.  Wouldn't it be nice if the Web were able to
> facilitate a routing of positive action and transfer it to the places that
> need it most, while a realtime log is kept to know you are making an
> effective Impact
>

Giving is a fascinating social behavior! I like the hypothesis that people
would be more philanthropic if they could see the results/impact of their
giving. It suggests that 'generosity' is not a conserved quantity, but
actually may be _increased_ just through an information system and user
interface, which we can address through Web techniques.

I'm especially interested in forms of "competitive generosity." This
includes fundraisers based on sporting events like footraces, as you
mentioned. Fundraisers also often include a raffle (i.e., a lottery, see
also: Bitcoin mining). The "potlatch" is a competitive gift-giving ceremony
conducted by local leaders in some Native American tribes. The simplest
example I frequently see is friends fighting over who gets to treat the
others and pay the restaurant bill. There seems to be a potential economic
energy of some kind here that might be harnessed.

It's also important to point out (as you did) that the goal must be
efficient routing. It doesn't do any good if the result of a "giving"
campaign merely results in redistribution without improved value (e.g., a
donations drive for a charity with excessive overhead). A web interface
that provides generous users with inaccurate or manipulable information
could lead to exploitation. For this reason, I think it is most important
that we look for a decentralized, scale-invariant solution that does not
rely on an administrator to coordinate or curate the information. The
"right way" would be for the user interface to present one of these overlay
graphs so the user can see the flow of their contributions (e.g. from
donations into local pools up through to an international charity
organization) such that the "impact" is one of those pairwise flow-based
inferences.

-- 
Andrew Miller
Received on Sunday, 30 September 2012 20:36:57 GMT

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