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A real-life dollar auction game!

Actually, $100,000 auction. I learned about it after seeing the following email which was broadcast to a couple of mailing lists:

Dear all,

I am now writing about something completely different!

I need your help “voting” for our project, and sending this e-mail to others so that they can also vote for our project. As you will see from the video, the project would fund ***


I am a finalist for a $100,000 prize from Brigham and Women’s Hospital. My project is to understand how ***. Ultimately, we want to develop a ***. We expect that this ** can be used to ***

Here are the instructions:

1. Go to the web page:

2. scroll to the bottom and follow the link to “Vote”

3. select project #**


Best regards,


I love that step 4 is in ALL CAPS, just to give it that genuine chain-letter aura.

Isn’t this weird? First, that this foundation would give out $100,000 based on an internet ballot where anyone can vote, second that this guy who I’ve never met would spam me to vote for him.

I think this guy’s gonna lose, though. He’s spamming academic lists, but I bet one of the other contestants is paying 100,000 people on Mechanical Turk to vote for him at a cost of 10 cents each. That savvy dude will net $90,000 on the deal.

Which brings us to the dollar auction. I think what the foundation should do is set up the voting so that each vote corresponds to a 10-cent contribution to the fund. And then make public the total votes for each proposal. Then each contestant will be motivated to get just a few more votes, just a few more. . . . and eventually the foundation will raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from these guys, all competing for the fixed $100,000 prize. It’s a win-win situation, no? Much better than someone spamming me to “FORWARD THIS E-MAIL TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS YOU CAN.”

One Comment

  1. JohnDoe says:

    Fantastic! Funding genetic research based on a popularity contest, not boring old scientific merit. And once this idea catches on we can televise Simon Cowell et al doing grant reviews for NHGRI… “the XXY factor”.