Flash Charity Auction: 1, 3, 5 hours of work time

I am auctioning off some work time — 9 hours in total, in chunks of 5 hours, 3 hours, and 1 hour — in support of Donors Choose, a charity that provides educational supplies to underfunded classrooms in the US. Bidding runs through 5 PM Pacific today (1 AM British time) and the work is to be done this weekend.

How does this work?

Between now and 5 PM Pacific time, you can comment here to bid (in dollars, please).

Highest bidder gets the 5-hour chunk, second place the 3-hour, third place the 1-hour. So if you’re the only person to bid, you could wind up with the 5 hours for a super-low price. When time is up, I’ll determine who the winners are and comment with that information. It’s then up to you to fulfill your bid by donating here and letting me know what specifically you have in mind. I will start work tomorrow and will aim to have the tasks done by Monday evening.

That’s very little notice! Hardly any, in fact!

I know. It’s pretty unusual for me to know way in advance that I’m going to have a free weekend, though.

What if no one goes for this?

I make cookies instead. Mm, cookies. (Honestly, I have no idea whether this will produce any interesting results. It’s an experiment.)

What would that get me?

Some things you could have me spend time on include:

  • betatesting your WIP
  • giving feedback on a game design document or concept
  • making some (photo and text-based) cover art for a game
  • revising prose written by a non-native speaker
  • writing a review of a freeware game of your choice (it needs to be short enough that I can both play and review in the time slot, and needs to run on Mac OSX)
  • creating a custom I7 extension to tackle some irritating code problem (again, within limits — something like Threaded Conversation is not a 5-hour project)
  • curating a list of IF specific to an interest of yours
  • writing a short essay about an IF- or game-related topic
  • writing a tiny custom speed-IF (in the 1 hour slot this would probably need to be choice-based)

…but I’m open to other possible uses of time as well, if you have something else in mind.

So basically you’ll do what I say?

Er, within certain limits. Obviously: no illegal activities, no pornography, nothing unethical (such as having me write a glowing review of a work without disclosing the funding source). No hacks that aren’t really labor exchanges (“spend one hour mailing me your laptop”), or that would cost me additional money to perform unless we’ve talked it through first. If you have doubts about whether your request is reasonable, feel free to request clarification.

Why Donors Choose?

This gets long and is not about what this blog is usually about, but if you’re interested:

Why this cause?

There are pretty decent arguments to be made for something called effective altruism: rigorously researching the charities that will do the most to alleviate human suffering for the smallest amount of money, and focusing giving there. I see the value of that argument, and you can find some charities that match that description (according to certain research parameters, which the site defines in some detail) at GiveWell.org. (I donate to several of these as well.)

Effective altruism considerations aren’t always great at estimating long-term effects, however. And in my view, improving education and reducing the opportunity gap in the US is important in the long term — both in alleviating self-perpetuating cycles of poverty and injustice in the United States but also in preparing the next generation of citizens for the next generation of problems.

Why this organization?

Within that cause, Donors Choose offers a very high degree of transparency and accountability (it is always clear exactly what the money is buying) together with respect for the dignity and self-determination of the recipients (it allows teachers to determine what their individual classrooms most need). Donors Choose also produces large amounts of data about funding needs across the country, which can help make policy decisions in the longer term. I’ve been supporting Donors Choose for several years now and what I’ve seen has only increased my respect for what they do.

No, I mean why does this matter to YOU?

I had absurdly awesome opportunities growing up. The walls of my house were lined with bookshelves, and we went to the library for extra options at least every couple of weeks. I had my own microscope, chemistry set, rock collection, bug-capturing kits, electronics kit, and the best home computer my parents could afford at any given time, not to mention art supplies and musical instruments. We went to museums and zoos and plays and planetarium shows run by a friend’s dad (who also took me and his son fossil-collecting at one point). Though we weren’t rich, my parents — both graduate students when I was born — understood the education system well and put a lot of effort into maximizing all of my options. And the schools I went to supplemented all that with more field trips.

In sixth grade our class went to Yosemite for a week. I don’t know his name, but if I could retroactively grant some kind of trophy to the amazing park service employee or volunteer who ran our class activities, I would. He let us swim in the rivers and took us on a night hike to listen to nocturnal animal life and showed us which bits of plant were safe to eat and was generally superb.

When I was a kid I didn’t understand that this was unusual. It really is, and it’s especially unusual for the students who need it the most. To be honest, it makes me really angry to read through the Donors Choose site and see the kinds of things that classrooms are lacking, the level of need that exists. It’s not right.

30 thoughts on “Flash Charity Auction: 1, 3, 5 hours of work time”

  1. Well, I don’t think I can come up with a task that would make sufficiently good use of your time and talents on such short notice, but on the strength of your endorsement, I’ve made a modest donation anyway (less than any of the current top three bids).

    1. I wasn’t trying to be sneaky. But I did have to pull my car over in a place with lousy cell connection to see if the bid went through.

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