User Sues; Schoolmates Weren’t Really Looking for Him“, reports Wired:

When told user Anthony Michaels last Christmas Eve that his former school chums were trying to contact him, he pulled out his wallet and upgraded to the premium membership that would let him contact long-lost fifth-grade dodge-ball buddies and see if his secret crush from high school had looked him up online. But once he’d parted with the $15, Michaels learned the shocking truth: No one he knew was trying to contact him at all.’s come-on was a lie, and he’d been scammed. … “Upon logging into his Gold Membership profile in order to view the classmate contacts … Plaintiff discovered that in fact, no former classmate of his had tried to contact him or view his profile,” the complaint reads. “Of those users who were characterized … as members who viewed Plaintiff’s profile, none were former classmates of Plaintiff or persons familiar with or known to Plaintiff for that matter.”


But Perhaps It Takes an Armchair Sociologist

by Henry Farrell on November 12, 2008

Via “TechPresident”:, this “story”: about fundraising and t-shirts.

So I got another e-mail from Barack Obama. I get ‘em all the time. This one asked me for $30 to help replenish the funds of the Democratic National Committee, which apparently blew all its money exterminating the GOP. … I know the campaign is over, but I’m missing the fray. Besides, the e-mail says, if I donate the $30 I’ll get this cool Limited Edition T-shirt. … Okay, it’s a hideous T-shirt, but still. Funny thing, though: It turns out that a friend of mine got a similar e-mail today. But she was told that to get the same hideous Limited Edition T-shirt, _she’d have to cough up $100._ … It doesn’t take a political scientist to figure out what’s going on here. My friend made her donations in increments of $100. I made mine by letting BO tap my credit card for $25 a month.

This kind of generosity-to-a-cause discrimination has a certain economic rationale. But it seems to me nonetheless to be a very stupid way of raising money if (as here) there is a decent chance that people at the different price points will be able to compare notes with each other. My (perhaps flawed) back-of-the-envelope sense of the sociology of giving is that people are likely to be very highly sensitive to perceived unfairness in the allotment of tokens of recognition (even truly foul t-shirts like this one). If people get the same recognition for very different donations, then the perceived value of that recognition is going to plummet, and potential donors, rather than being motivated to give, are likely to be annoyed. That said, my knowledge of the literature on this topic basically amounts to vague memories of having read Titmuss 15 years ago, so I may be wrong … Kieran? Anyone else? ?