The Power in Numbers

Maybe it’s the impending presidential election. Maybe it’s the convention that’s in town. There are numerous things that are reminding me of the power in numbers.
Lance Armstrong and Nike’s Wear Yellow campaign is a nice example: pay $1, get a yellow bracelet in return and help raise $5 million for those living with cancer. Brilliant. $1 is a tiny amount to pay for anything, and you even get a little something to wear.
Another example that comes to mind is John Gruber’s membership drive for his site, Daring Fireball: pay $30, get a cool t-shirt (I can confirm they are cool, as mine arrived yesterday) and help John to keep delivering great content. Pay a little, get something cool in return, help a good cause or fund something you enjoy.
These models work because of the power in numbers. Much like my somewhat unrealistic idea for generating power through exercise machines or a hand-crank that’s installed in every home worldwide (crazy, yes).
This is merely a fleeting observation, and one that doesn’t have a real purpose, other than to point out a cliché phrase: big things can happen, and are made easier, when people come together.


  1. Aaron G says:

    An issue of Wired a few months back actually had the idea of gym/power station fleshed out into a photo mock up on their back page.

  2. Very cool — I’ll have to look that one up. Heck, maybe it’s not so unreasonable.

  3. The only problem with Gruber’s idea (and any web subscription model) is that there are only so many times someone can decide to “donate” a set amount. Eventually, everyone wants a bit of your cash. If you enjoy five sites, you’re already spending quite a bit of money. If you couple that with needed expenses, like rent and food, it adds up to quite a bit. If something were to happen where you needed to cut back expenses, you’re going to cut out the un-needed things first.
    What I think Gruber is doing right is keeping the main content free for all to see, and giving a token of appreciation for the donation. I like the fact that he equated his drive to that of public television. Even if you don’t subscribe, you still get to watch, because they [and John] provide a community service, and everyone benefits. This, quite simply, rocks.
    Nike however, just just doing this to bolster their shaky public image. (Up to) $5 million USD is nothing to them. Why not just donate the money and be done with it? According to their website, they make no mention of contributing their own cash to the fund, but they want everyone else to contribute. Whistle blown, flag on the play.
    At the very least, they should consider something like what public radio and television do and match what contributors put into the fund. According to the information on their website, they aren’t even doing that. The “wear yellow” campaign would be much more interesting if it were directly run by the LA foundation, but it’s not.

  4. Martin says:

    One of those phenomena which drives modern society – it’s mostly positive, but can also manifest either way.. Take insurance as an example: made possible purely because of numbers, it benefits you if your attributes are more-or-less in line with the averages, but not necessarily if you’re out of line (or benefits you too much !)

  5. Very true, Mr. Cederholm. Though if in the case Nike altruism was their primary concern, or even in their top ten, they could easily donate five hundred million dollars to people living cancer without our help.
    But more importantly, we don’t need Nike to give is the conduit much less the reason to raise that much money ourselves, and I guess that so many don’t remember that is the real shame.

  6. Carl Peterson says:

    About your *generating power through exercise* machines, I don’t believe any idea is crazy. In college I wrote a paper on the good side of being bald. One good thing I wrote about was that the space on the bald head could be sold out as advertising space. Sounds completely silly. About ten years later I actually saw a news show where that was the topic. Seriously.
    Go figure.

  7. Faruk Ates says:

    Funny you make a post about the Power In Numbers, right around the time (well, 5 days later) I came up with an idea for a collective initiative type website that would be built solely on that principle, in hopes of being a (more) convincing force by means of semi-automation.
    More at 11.
    (and by 11, I mean when I *finally* launch my new site and discuss this idea on it)

  8. Phil says:

    The same thing worked over at TextDrive, where Dean Allen managed to raise $40K for his new webhosting startup by offering a cool deal to the first 200 subscribers that paid $199. It rocks, too.

  9. Steven says:

    Actually, Nike donated $1 million to the Livestrong Foundation as a kickoff to the Wear Yellow campaign, bringing the total amount fundraised so far to about $6 million (rather than 5).

  10. Mark says:

    Actually, Nike donated $1 million to the Livestrong Foundation as a kickoff to the Wear Yellow campaign, bringing the total amount fundraised so far to about $6 million (rather than 5).
    i’m totally agree !

  11. If we want everything to remain as it is, it will be necessary for everything to change.

  12. Laura says:

    There really aren’t that many choices for semantic mark up for something like this.
    It is usually best to use <div> rather than <br /> for line structured content. A screen reader would just blast through <br />s without pauses. Using a list fixes the screen reader issue, but is a kludge because contact information isn’t a list, is it?
    The address element would be great to use but it indicates “contact information for a document or a major part of a document”. That is, it is for the author’s address, and hence for a specific purpose. And you would need to add line breaks since for some odd reason, HTML was defined so that only inline content (and the p element in Transitional version) is allowed inside address.
    I’ve considered two other options.
    1. Instead of using the address element, another option to consider is <div>:
    <div class="address">
    <div class="name">ABC Widgets, Inc.</div>
    <div class="street">100 - 1234 West Main Street</div>
    <div class="citystate">Anytown, State</div>
    <div class="zipcode">00000-000</div>
    <div class="phone">555-555-1234</div>
    <div class="fax">555-555-1234</div>

    This gives:
    1. Line breaks by default (just as <br /> gives).
    2. No other formatting by default, so you can start styling without first worrying how to switch off something.
    3. Hooks to attach styles to as desired.
    You can of course omit class attributes if you don’t need them. And using a heading element on the name would not be wrong. Using strong on the name imaginable too.
    2. Data Table Option
    I think contact information is really an implied table. So perhaps the most logical (or least illogical) and most accessible approach would be to use an explicit data table:
    <table summary=
    "This table contains contact inforamtion for ABC Widgets, Incorporated.">
    <caption>Contact inforamtion for ABC Widgets, <abbr title="Incorporated">Inc.</abbr>
    <th scope="row">Address</th>
    <td>100 - 1234 West Main Street</td>
    <th scope="row">City</th>
    <th scope="row">State</th>
    <th scope="row">Zip</th>
    <th scope="row">Phone</th>
    <th scope="row">Fax</th>