Jul 30, 2014
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Homeless hotspots raise a furor

Does using people to provide Internet service equal exploitation? And Bachelor Ben picks a mate.

Homeless hotspots raise a furor


Why is it the first thing you should have done is the last thing to get done? Like this column for example. Not that I’m writing past deadline or anything. Oh no, that would never happen.

Just like I’m doing my taxes this week, I swear. Yes, before the last minute. Well, maybe next week.

As long as the clutter doesn’t overtake my house and I have to go on Hoarders. No, it’s not really that bad, once we get rid of the 170 boxes of Girl Scout cookies currently residing in my living room. And why is it the kids’ shelves on the bookcases, meant for puzzles and board games, are totally overflowing into piles next to the bookcases?

Anyway, writer’s block is hitting me with this one. So, we revert to things I have heard about or read about it the last couple days and I invite you into my head. Here we go…

The Bachelor: I try to avoid it, but Monday night the finale sucked me in. I have only watched parts of this season, but really Ben, Courtney? That is your choice? So many things wrong with that. And then he “re-proposed” Monday night because they had broken off the engagement since the show was taped. No, Ben, run for the hills while you can!

However, there really isn’t much to worry about, since apparently most of the proposals from The Bachelor don’t make it to the aisle anyway. According to one site I found, only one couple got married, and that was after one bachelor broke up with his first choice and went for his second choice in the After The Final Rose special. So out of 16 seasons, there has been one marriage. And yet, the show goes on. And last night it went on and on for three hours, plus the dumped girl was on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Who knows, she might be the next Bachelorette.

Personal Wi-Fi hotspots: Have you heard about the South by Southwest festival scandal about paying homeless people to be “homeless hotspots”? At first glance, it sounds disturbing. Questions about exploitation and whether people with multiple mobile devices are so in need of their Internet fix that they see people as a commodity to provide it.

However, the more I researched this, the more I think it was bad PR but an interesting concept. A marketing company, BBH, was providing homeless people that it had hired through the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless with Wi-Fi cards. They wore T-shirts with their first name that said “I am a 4G hotspot” and would work to encourage people walking the streets at SXSW to use the service so the local cell towers wouldn’t be overwhelmed by internet traffic. The T-shirt slogan has been much maligned, and rightly so, that could have been handled better. The idea was called a charitable experiment by the company.

There were differing reports about whether they were being paid a minimum, one statement said $50 a day, based on what they were earning, a requested donation of $2 per 15 minutes of time. People using the service were directed to a website and could pay with a PayPal account, and make further donations.

To play devil’s advocate, if these were college students hired for this purpose would there be an outcry? If people want this job, make some money for a couple days and get their story out to people at the festival and in the community, is that such a bad idea? Let me know what you think, is this exploitation?

Hopefully it will raise awareness about homelessness and make people think twice about what being homeless means, or how easily it can happen in this economy. With hundreds of stories about this online already, hopefully the Austin Resource Center will see a boost in donations, or people will donate time or money to their local homeless shelter.

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