Monday, October 12, 2009

Intention versus Action and a Pretty Good Idea

First, I want to thank everyone for helping though my angst about the million dollar Twitter contest. Turns out I'm a nice guy after all and shouldn't worry so much. So I’m sleeping better at night, but still feeling a bit of a celebrity twat. Here’s why.

I was heavily involved in the Pentecostal Church when I was in junior high, taking everything they said to heart. I was the kid passing out Chick Tracts at school while everyone else was concerned with titties and masturbating without guilt every chance they could get. (What’s that even like?)

And though I'm now miles from what you would call a practicing evangelical, a lot of the teaching I received from that time in my life still sticks with me. After all, good advice is good advice. Doesn’t matter where it comes from. Nowadays I’ll take a spiritual lesson from wherever I get it: Jesus, Buddha or the guy who cuts me off on the 101.

This is from the New Testament, Matthew 6:1-4 (NIV) "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

I’ve always used that as the general rule for my charity giving. It’s tough to do when you’re famous though. I get invited to a lot of things involving a charity auction of some kind where I have to announce to everyone how much I’m giving just to be able to give money and get the auction item. But I still think it’s better to just give the money and shut up about it whenever you can. Don’t take out an ad. Which is why I’ve been feeling the way I’ve been feeling.

But I’ve also been thinking a lot about the meaning of that passage lately, and maybe I got it wrong.

Jesus is talking about intent here as well as action, no? If the intent of your charitable contribution is to let everyone know what a big man you are, then verily I say unto you that the good karma stops there. But if you would just do all your giving in secret, well then... problem solved without even thinking about it. Theology students and bible scholars, feel free to chime in via the comments section.

My guess is I fall somewhere in the middle on this. My intent is totally pure, but I did it publicly AND asked for something in return (a million followers), so see you in hell. (Ha ha. Just kidding. The idea of a bunch of people suffering for all eternity in a big cavern of fire being poked in the butt with pitchforks by demons and whatnot was made up by Dante. It’s not really in the Bible. The concept of hell is, but not the pitchfork in the butt stuff.)

For next year, I’m cooking up a plan where we all can raise a lot of money, but let the charity itself benefit from having the followers. Thus, if charity x gets y number of followers on their twitter account during the year (increasing their reach and visibility), then I will donate $1 for each follower (plus extra pledges of money-per-follower from others). How’s that for an idea? Just kicking it around right now, but it sounds right. And it keeps what I think is the best part of this, which is all these thousands of people asking their friends to perform a quick, simple task (hitting the follow button) to raise money for charity. Please leave thoughts and ideas about this in the comments section.

But wait. Is putting this idea up on my blog just like announcing it “... with trumpets, as the hypocrites (and celebrity twats) do in the synagogues and on the streets..”? Am I going to end up in a cave of fire being poked in the butt with a pitchfork?

Aw, fuck it. I’m doing it anyway.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Could've Handled This Better, But Anyway...

All this Million-Dollar Twitter thing happened so fast, I still can't believe it.

Last Saturday a soccer team I own a part of, the Seattle Sounders FC, beat the Columbus Crew at home 1-0. Columbus hadn't lost a home game in 22 matches, and the victory all but assured us a spot in the playoffs. I was practically doing flips in my office while the game was on, and after the final whistle I acted like an idiot jumping around and pumping my fists as if I'd played the game myself instead of just watching it on TV.

I went on Twitter as soon as the game was over to publicly congratulate the team, and that's when I saw the @ from @Drew. He'd sent me a few more before that I guess, but I missed them. I was about 13,000 followers then and it was hard to see all the @'s I was getting. (Now I really can't keep track. If I see a specific request from someone in an @ reply nowadays it's just dumb luck.) He's this close to being an official cancer survivor and sent a link to an article about his effort to auction of his @Drew name and give the money to the Livestrong Foundation, Lance Armstrong's cancer charity. I was in a GREAT mood, so I tweeted him and bid $25,000 for the name.

By the way, I didn't care less about getting the @Drew twitter name, and still don't. It was a long, slow, steady climb to 13,000 followers and I wasn't about to change my name after all that.

Then I thought about it for a bit, and still in a great mood, upped it to $100,000 if I got 100,000 followers by the time he ended the auction of his Twitter name on November 9th.

Then, after a couple of days after that got a bit of publicity, I went crazy and made it a million for a million followers.

Now here's how I could've handled this better.

I should have just donated the money in the first place without doing the million-follower challenge. Yes, I guess it does "raise awareness" somewhat, but who wasn't aware of Livestrong and Lance Armstrong's fight against cancer? I think they were doing a pretty good job of raising their own awareness without me.

But instead, I think I made it a bit too much about me by making it a contest that benefits me in exchange for my donation. So there it is. My regret. Maybe I didn't make it too much about me. Maybe I just though up a fun way to raise money for a good cause. Whatever. I feel like I made it too much about me, so that's that.

But I'm glad so many people are participating in this. It is a lot of fun, isn't it? And it's cool watching the numbers go up every day. I'm glad the money is going to such a good cause. I'm glad @Drew's plan worked out. So it's all good in the neighborhood, as they say, except the small twinge of guilt about asking for a million followers in exchange for the donation. But I was pretty full of myself last weekend. I own a piece of an expansion team that kicked some serious ass last Saturday. They're probably going to make the playoffs.

So if you're put off by my method, blame them. :)

(And don't forget, tweeps! If I get one million followers by the end of 2009 I'll donate one million dollars to Livestrong. Anything less than a million, I'll prorate it. And it all started with Drew Olanoff, aka @Drew, who has cancer.)