The SXSW Interactive Festival is going on this weekend in Austin, Texas. It’s a bigtime collection of web geeks (and yes, I so wish I could be there). The cool thing about web geeks is that they care about causes. There are a lot of online competitions happening this weekend to raise money for various causes, all in geeky fun.
- charity: water is trying to raise $100,000 for Haiti.
- Geoff Livingston is trying to raise $5,000 for cancer (he’ll tattoo the Live Strong brand on his body if he makes it).
- Then my friend Mark Horvath is trying to win $50,000 from Pepsi.
There are probably others I’ve missed, but I’m most excited about Mark Horvath and the Pepsi Challenge. Here’s how it works: He’s competing against two others to see who can get the most votes by midnight on Monday. Winner gets a $50,000 grant from Pepsi. You vote by tweeting “#RefreshGary” and you can vote every two hours. All the details are on Pepsi’s Facebook page (vote on Twitter, details on Facebook?).
I’ve talked about Mark before. He’s a tireless advocate for the homeless. When he lost his job in the fall of 2008 he was only seven weeks away from being homeless. Again. He spent a year in the 1990s living on the streets of Hollywood. But instead of worrying about being homeless himself, he went out and started InvisiblePeople.tv to tell the story of other homeless people. He’s been doing that since, and the entire time he’s been on the verge of homelessness.
He lives in a cockroach apartment in Los Angeles. I interviewed him for an article a few months back and the contents of his fridge was a bottle of water, milk and a discount veggie tray. He was eating dinner at the homeless shelter, not because he wanted to, but because he had to.
If anybody could use $50,000 from Pepsi, it’s Mark.
Mark started InvisiblePeople.tv with next to nothing. Yet he’s shared the uncensored stories of over 100 homeless people, from Los Angeles to New York, Florida to Seattle, New Orleans to St. Paul. He’s done incredible things with no resources. Imagine what he could do with $50,000.
I get kind of tired of these social network voting things where we spam our friends and the most popular person wins. But I can hardly consider telling my friends about Mark Horvath to be spam. If you get tired of it, you can ignore me. If it makes you mad, stop following me. If I lose a bunch of followers because I tried to help my friend, so be it. If you don’t like it then you can give Mark $50,000 and I’ll be quiet. I just want to help my friend.
So I’m asking you to help Mark out. We only have until midnight tomorrow. So hop on your Twitter account and slap a “#RefreshGary” tag on your tweets every two hours. If you don’t have a Twitter account, set one up just for today. Why not?
Geeks doing good. What’s not to love?
Update: Here’s a story Mark shared from my own backyard. Pearl calls a shelter in St. Paul her home. She wants to know if you’re kind or cold-hearted? This why Mark deserves this grant from Pepsi, so he can continue to share these stories and make us realize the reality of homelessness in our own cities.