Today the New York Times City Room blog covers the story of Chris Coon, who you may have seen with a clipboard talking to folks in Union Square recently. Coon, who is 29 and has two kids — and is homeless — has undertaken a kind of Internet-era crowdsourcing plan of asking a million people for money. He has a website (a woman gave him a laptop after hearing about his experiment) called AskAMillion, upon which he explains that “this is A Social Experiment to both Help me to get out of Homelessness, take care of my two daughters and to take care of my daily living.”
The experiment part, he says, is to see how long it takes and how many people help, as well as to chronicle the reactions of people who are asked for money — it’s not to make people feel sorry for him, he says. He adds,
Regardless to what my profits are, I plan to verbally ask a million people for a dollar. I will document everyday how many people I ask, how many people give, what I make and what I spend. Later in this experiment I will actually break down the percentages to a demographic stand point and try to do an hourly break down.
He has some specific rules for the way he requests money from people — as he comments on the Local East Village post about him, he doesn’t start before 1 p.m. because people don’t have time to listen in the morning, he doesn’t ask on the actual train (but will ask on the platform if need be), and he doesn’t bother people when they’re eating. He records the gender and ethnicity of each person he talks to.
Currently he’s asked 3,462 people for money, which the Times points out puts him on track to hit a million in February of 2054. He’s gotten $1,175, and is blogging about how he uses all of the money he receives.
“I think it’s intuitive and creative and I made it into a job instead of just going up and saying ‘Hey, look, can I have a dollar?'” he said. “I probably have to speak to five or six million people to be able to actually ask one million of them.”