Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What's going on at "Freerice.com"?

The Suggestion Box contained a simple request: can you find out what's the deal with the Free Rice gimmick?

Sure I can.  I'll go you one better.  I'll find out what's going on with the people who are looking into what the deal is with the free rice in exchange for vocabulary building.

But let's be fair and plug them also.  http://www.freerice.org/

What is this conversation about?
We are talking about the website FreeRice that launched 2 years ago with a simple premise: play our game/donate some rice.  The site offers you a Word Power-type vocabulary test.  Choose correctly, and win 10 rice grains for the world's hungry.  As the home page says, "Play and feed hungry people."

To keep you interested, the vocabulary interface adjusts to your level, challenging you to up your game and avoiding repetition.  Recently, FreeRice expanded into other subject matter to broaden their reach.

So what is going on there?
Just what they say.  Read their press.  In 2007, Yahoo named them their "Find of the Year."

Who are Free Rice?
The United Nations World Food Program.  Or Programme, if you live abroad, where Ms are more plentiful.  Founded in 1962.  These are the food aid people -- sacks of grains distributed from trucks.  They are to food as the Red Cross is to blood.  This is their blood drive approach.

So it's legit?
Yes.  WFP's lengthy mission statement.  Even lengthier Annual Report.
$5B in....4M metric tons of food out.

The US is the major government donor: $1.2B.  This is down from last year's $2B, but we have been having some troubles, you'll recall.

Why not just donate the rice?  Why do I have to push a lever?
WFP can explain this one.
"The rice is paid for by the sponsors whose names you see on the bottom of your screen when you enter a correct answer...When you play the game, sponsor banners appear on the bottom of your screen. The money generated by these banners is then used to buy the rice..."

comme ca.

How long before I get a cup?
A longish time, but the WFP prefers to measure in grams -- 400 grams per person per day.  Americans like things they can hold in a cup, but a cup of marbles and a cup of Cheerios do not weigh the same.  A cup of rice weighs about 185 grams.  By Free Rice math, the daily estimate is 2 cups.

In grains:  between 2000 (long grain/wild) and 20,000 (short grain/brown)
In correct answers, divide by 10.  Now you know math  and words.

Does this work?
Guilt is a great motivator, but making donation easy works even better.  People like to feel they earned their donation money, and that they got something in return (in this case, smaht)

Here is blog-o-sphere praise of Free Rice.
Fantastic and Addictive
Cause Sponsorship
The Copy Dog version

Other points of view?
This is an interesting dialogue involving a blogger trying to calculate the ad revenues and profit margins and getting some math wrong.  Consensus is it is not a scam, but rice can probably be had more economically.

Hey, I wanted to know more about the vocabulary interface.

Try the site's FAQs


  1. "vocabularly", Miss Bender?

  2. The very former principal at WH elementary school used to use perspicacity all the time. He had several phrases with lesser known words that he used -- mostly to show off!! M

  3. People who correct Miss Bender should not do so anonymously. But your typo has been corrected. Long live Jambi.

  4. Another great charity site is AIDtoCHILDREN.com. It donates money to children in need through World Vision.

    Check it out at http://www.aidtochildren.com

  5. Well, at least it was not this anonymous commenter that corrected a typo. I wouldn't dare. M


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