Did you hear the latest about the human WiFi connections??? Austin, TX hosts the annual South by Southwest Festival and it is a huge thing!!! Our oldest son is a big fan of this huge music festival when he lived in Austin and still is. It is one of the best things about Austin. This year they are trying something that has proved to be a tad controversial as I discovered via The Today Show.
Austin, like any big city, has a pretty large homeless population. Factor in the warm climate and the location and it probably boasts more than its fair share of those down on their luck and living without much means. During SXSW there are thousands of people enjoying the bands and festivities. Add to that that most of these people have a smart phone which sucks data down like a thirsty sailor sucks down a beer after a long deployment. (I don’t know if that is true but I wanted to give you a little picture in your head and I didn’t have any Chrisism’s that fit).
BBH Labs thought they had a great marketing idea and found 13 volunteers from a homeless shelter with the hotspot wifi devices, business cards and T-shirts bearing their names: “I’m Clarence, a 4G Hotspot. The volunteers were told to go to really densely packed places and “advertise” that they were there and that their “hotspot” could be accessed. They are each being paid $20 a day and can keep any tips that customers give them. Here is a quick clip of Clarence:
So many reactions have been registered over this innovative idea and most of the ones I am reading about are not complimentary. Seems most who are blogging and commenting believe that this is exploitive and demeaning to the individuals participating. Some believe that it is a further indicator of the huge divide between the haves (those with cell phones) and the have nots (the homeless) and that it is just drawing attention to the big difference between the two. Well…..in all honesty—would that be a horrible thing??? If we who “had” were made a little bit more aware??
I quite honestly was a little surprised at the reaction of those who are slamming BBH Labs with negative press. Maybe I am in the minority here –I may well be—but no one forced these folks to do this. They are “volunteers” who are being paid (albeit not a huge amount) for their services. They can keep tips which I hope the generous SXSW attendees will shower upon them. They are interacting with people. That in itself is a great thing in my book. They have stories to tell. I bet they have a lot of stories to tell and hopefully those around their little hotspot are listening and are somehow being touched by what they are hearing.
So what do you think? Am I all wet here and not seeing the big picture??? I would really love to hear your reactions—check out the original story here and let me know in the comments what you think.
I just found this other article from The Atlantic which I respect as a publication—it will give you more insight on the subject and speaks far more eloquently than I can. Click here to read more.