Sam Odio, founder

Now: Freshplum. Then: Divvyshot, sold to Facebook.

On experiments and outcomes

August 13 2011

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It's easy to conflate an experiment with its outcome. I've found myself doing so when reading the responses to my previous post.

Looks like the coffee sharing experiment was ruined by someone named Sam Odio. - robbraun

In the case of Jonathan's card the experiment, as I understood it, was to examine human behavior through the creation of a common good (not to be confused with a public good). With such a mandate it's hard to "ruin" the experiment since the reactions of the participants can simply be considered an outcome.

In that light it would be hard to understand the negative reaction to my participation. After all, it's an experiment and isn't finding interesting new uses for the card fair-game? Even after Starbucks shut down the card, isn't the experiment living on? Why the outrage?

Odio is just another variable in the experiment - DaveSeigler

However it has quickly become clear that we have been talking about two different concepts. Many were not dispassionately interested in the experiment. Instead they were attached to what they had hoped would be the experiment's outcome. In this outcome the community would would pitch in on the card when feeling generous and use the card (in moderation) when in need. This outcome is remarkable (and possibly even sacred) simply because it survives the free rider problem - something that an economist would argue should not happen in an efficient market.

When viewed in this light, their frustration is completely understandable. By acting I dramatically changed that outcome. While the experiment may have gotten more interesting (one could debate this point), I can empathize with those who feel like the outcome has taken a turn for the worst. For those who are hurt, angry, or frustrated with the role I played, I sincerely apologize. Had I known so many were so invested in this, I would have certainly done things differently.

Stay tuned: when the flames die down I'll post a longer entry about my take on the social experiment, the reaction it generated, and the questions it has raised.

Edit 7:04AM PST: To be clear, my apology is intended to be complete, sincere, and unqualified. I'm sorry.

Edit 7:10AM PST: It may also be worth reading my Q&A, which touches on theft, claims of moral superiority, and whether I hacked the card.

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