Confidence in numbers

Posted by: Chris Anderson

Here’s a brilliant new website, pledgebank.  The idea’s simple. Make a pledge, any pledge, conditional on a number of other people joining in.

Pledges can be symmetrical (everyone does the same thing)…

    "I will march on the White House in protest at X, if 1,000 people will join me."

    "I will paint my car bright yellow, if 200 people in my city will pledge the same."

…or a-symmetrical (you offer more than you ask from others.)

    "I will take $100,000 worth of sleeping bags to Pakistani earthquake victims if 5 people will join me to help distribute them…"

    "I will host free pizza at 10pm on my street, if a minimum of 30 people pledge to show up."

You gotta love it when the Net creates the possibility of social interactions that can never have taken place before in history. Sites like this have the potential to create virtual communities that don’t just gossip online… they act. We’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible. 

This site has been built on a shoestring with massive help from volunteers. It was launched in the UK a couple months ago, and is only now starting to roll out in the US. (Their US user registration is currently structured by county, so it recognizes ‘Manhattan’ not ‘New York’. They’re looking for someone to contribute a zip-code based database.)

I contacted Tom Steinberg, founder of Pledgebank, yesterday, and he said they currently have about 20,000 people signed up.  In order for it to really take off in the US, he says it needs Tomsteinberg_smallsomeone to come up with an eyepopping pledge that creates some buzz…   Ideas, anyone? 

I pledge to give $1000 to the person with the best eyepopping pledge idea offered here by the end of October, provided more than 5 people contribute an idea.

I’m serious. This thing’s worth supporting.

Comments (8)

  • vcao best commented on May 4 2009

    “I will take $100,000 worth of sleeping bags to Pakistani earthquake victims if 5 people will join me to help distribute them…” http://www.vcao.net I have 4 groups of numbers for a quality score – calculating the mean score is easy enough but I need 95% confidence intervals, I know there is a NORMINV function that can be used for this purpose … how do I use this function to calculate what I need ? Is there any other way of doing it ?

  • penny green commented on Apr 28 2009

    “This site has been built on a shoestring with massive help from volunteers. It was launched in the UK a couple months ago, and is only now starting to roll out in the US.” http://www.allmyhealth.net
    Nice article.Thanks to you all again.

  • Chris Anderson commented on Oct 25 2005

    Hmmm…. so far my eyes remain unpopped. I forgot to say that the idea should be posted here to count. If you’ve emailed one to me, please repost here… Thanks to those spreading the meme.

  • Barak Kassar commented on Oct 26 2005

    I Pledge to Flip the Fifth (of the 10 commandments) to say “Honor your Children” instead of “Honor your Father and Mother”

    why?… parents have an almost infinite range of options to get honor and respect….and it’s young kids who really need it, yet don’t have the resources

    and besides.. if you really want to be respected… the best way is to respect the one you hope will respect you.

    so…THE GOAL is to make 2/5 (of next year) international Flip the Fifth Day.

    I WILL PLEDGE $500 (2 times) to a worthy kid’s advocacy organization (open to suggestions) if 500 people do the following five things on that day.

    1. when you’re with kids, really be with them. put the blackberry away for a while

    2. don’t make them look up at you… get down at their level, physically.

    3. don’t force them to do anything on that day… you don’t have to give in… but negotiate for your way as you would with someone with equal power to you

    4. read them a book that you both like… and get really into it

    5. mail (or SMS) this list to five more people along with a link to pledgebank.com

    respect means putting real energy into understanding kids on their terms? not projecting your will and desires onto them. it doesn’t mean giving in to every whim and wish… but it does mean listening and negotiating as equals, hard as that can be.

    2/5 is of course 5/2 in the UK, so it’ll work there too…this webfont won’t show it, but the 2 and 5 could be flipped images of one another making for a nice little logo (this being TED and all)


  • Chris Anderson commented on Oct 26 2005

    Amanda, come now… if you’re going to go to all that effort to post, you should at least read what the prize is about. It’s not for worthy ideas in general, but for a Pledgebank challenge pledge. “I’ll do X if Y number of others will also do X…by the following deadline.” Also, it’s outside the spirit to use this just to promote your own charity, albeit in such an eloquent way….

  • Chris Anderson commented on Nov 1 2005

    OK, that’s enough pledges. If you have others, enter them at pledgebank.

    Meanwhile, I have my thinking cap on and will announce who has won the $1,000 by the end of the week. Watch this space!

  • Chris Anderson commented on Nov 4 2005

    OK, After excercising the little grey cells, I am awarding the $1,000 to…. LUCY HOOBERMAN for her Global Mentoring pledge. It’s a big idea, and she’s just posted it (in more detail) here:


    I really urge everyone to sign up. She’s offering to do a disporportionate share of the heavy lifting on this one.

    It’s interesting to note that although this idea surfaced (from Lucy and others) at TED this year, it hasn’t yet led to anything. If Pledgebank can tip it to critical mass, it’ll be powerful proof of how the Internet can ignite a community into action.