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Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 22/06/04Back at the beginning of the year, I mentioned the antics of the geek's geek, Geoff Marshall who had started up a Web site with the intent of collecting fifty-pence pieces from strangers. When he had enough, he said, he was going to go and buy an iPod.

Tuesday 22/06/04
Back at the beginning of the year, I mentioned the antics of the geek's geek, Geoff Marshall who had started up a Web site with the intent of collecting fifty-pence pieces from strangers. When he had enough, he said, he was going to go and buy an iPod.

And he has. The fifties flooded in from all over the world - the whackiest was from a hotel cleaner in St Lucia, where a friend of Geoff's was taking a holiday. He was playing with his iPod in his room (no, it's not going to be one of those stories) when she came in. "Oh," she said. "I've been reading about those. Did you know there's a man in England who's collecting money on a Web site to buy one?" Once Geoff's pal had established his credentials (look, I've told you once), the delighted maid chipped in.

So last Saturday, it was off to Richer Sounds with a big jar of coins and yer man is now properly Podded up. Actually, he didn't bring the coins -- many of the fifties were virtual coins transferred via PayPal -- but he did get his iPod. Given that it took him seven months of Web site maintenance and cajolery to get there, he's worked hard at getting it for free.

The question is: can this business model be extended? One of his friends suggested that he repeat the exercise but ask for a fiver each this time in order to buy a house. Even if he gets the same number of contributions per month, at London prices that'll take him around sixty years -- so that's probably not a goer. Shame, really. Someone else has decided to collect pictures of snowmen by email contributions and turn them into a book, which may not make anyone any money but has the benefit of being completely pointless. And there are even Web sites out there that don't ask for any money at all, but survive by -- get this -- persuading advertisers to give them cash.

It'll never fly. But congrats to Geoff for pulling it off, and congrats a second time for beating the world record for visiting all tube stations in one day (still to be authenticated, but it's looking good). The world awaits his next mission with some eagerness.