Here is a summary of how it works:
After I have a list of volunteers from every state (or as many states as we can get volunteers for) I will email each person in the list the account email address and password. Each person will then enter 25 bills into this account (each person will use their own zip code), then spend them during the month of August within your state (of zip code entry). Then I will track every hit - where each bill came from and where it went - on a state-by-state basis as well as account-wide stats.
This is for tracking a small, controlled number of bills. WG already tracks bills all over the place, but there are a variety of marking styles, spending places, etc. So, this is an experiment with a small enough number of bills to keep track of, but enough to have a decent number of hits and have some statistical meaning.
The idea for this was to have a specific number of uniformly marked bills entered in each state, and all would be spent on the same day ("same day" later became "same month"). I would have a hit map or 2, and try to find state-to-state patterns for bill travel - where bills entered in one state tended to go to another state - and attempt to figure out why such patterns existed.
Well, that was the original goal. Shortly after I took over the project, that goal was practically thrown out the window as I realized just how difficult this really was, so I mostly just tried to see if such a thing could be done in the 1st place - any kind of meaningful results would just be a nice bonus. Considering the relatively small number of bills that would be entered, I also hoped for this to lead to another, similar but bigger and more statistically meaningful, project. I did get a couple hit maps, and I do have a detailed state-to-state travel table which does seem to show a few meaningful patterns, so my (very modest) goals were certainly accomplished.
1. Each state has 1 volunteer, entering exactly 25 bills.
2. Bills will be entered and spent during the month of August.
3. All bills do not need to be spent in the same place or at at the same time, but must all be used within your state.
4. All bills, while not needing to be brand-new sequentials (as originally suggested) should be fairly new - can't have any rips or be falling apart.
5. Marking: All bills should be marked similarly - use the text of the original WG 3-liner stamp (See where I've been, Track where I go next, www.wheresgeorge.com) - stamped or written once on the front and back. With a stamp, just stamp once on the front, between George and the FRB seal, and once on the back. Or write "See where I've been, track where I go next" in the top margin, and "www.wheresgeorge.com" in the bottom margin.
Here are marking ideas which are non-negotiable: no highlighting, no circling the series or serial, and no writing the URL (www.wheresgeorge.com) more than once on each side.
6. All bills entered under this account must be initial entries - no previously entered bills (to check without actually entering the bill, select "No" where it says "Do you have this bill right now").
7. User notes - can be anything (within reason) as long as enough room is left to put a "Bill #" and "Hit #" count - please try to keep notes under 200 characters - use the Text Counter to check on length.
8. (This ones a disclaimer) Hank has said that he assumes no control or responsibility over how I do the project, or for anything going wrong here, so don't bother contacting him if you have questions, concerns, or critisms, or if you somehow screw up ;-) - let me know instead.
Hank's rules for this project
If you have any questions or suggestions for this project, you can reach me through email or on AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) as WGBeaker.
7/10/02 - Taekwondo Man proposed the idea and was met with lots of criticism, mainly by being told that it was a violation of the site's rules. Several variations and changes were suggested, and many tried to figure out what the purpose was, and Taekwondo Man eventually managed to figure out how to explain it. After Hank set the rules for the project, Taekwondo Man said he wasn't going to do it, so I volunteered to take over. I had no idea what I was going to do, but it sounded like an interesting idea.
7/12/02 - I posted asking for volunteers and was very surprised by the long list of people who wanted to do this. I also asked for suggestions about a project name and which kind of bills to use and how they should be marked. It wasn't easy trying to figure out whether all bills should be stamped, or handwritten - not everybody has a stamp with the same phrase, but then not everybody wants to write everything by hand either. There was a little criticism from statistical-minded people who said it just didn't have enough bills to produce any good results, and also said it wasn't really a good idea to do the geographical distrbution based on state boundaries. While I understood that, I also decided to continue anyway simply because this just hadn't been done before. I also wanted to maintain simplicity - might make for slightly less scientifically accurate results, but it was much easier for to do it that way, especially since many Georgers thought this could serve as a springboard for similar, future projects to which we would apply what we learned from this one.
7/15/02 - I posted an update, mostly just listing states that needed participants. I also decided on "Operation Area 51" as the project name, and described how bills should be marked.
7/16/02 - Taekwondo posted some questions and ideas for me. 1st he suggested I point out that this was not meant to be a competition. I basically said that I believed that was something that didn't need to be said. #2 was along the same lines - basically that I would not count in my stats any "questionable" hit, but then such hits would likely be deleted anyway. He also suggested (and offered to make for me) a map similar to his, with little dots in each place of the country where you get a hit. I stuck with simply using a standard Friend of George hit map, but I might consider a better map for a potential 2nd project. Finally, he suggested I email the top users in each of the not-yet-represented states.
7/18/02 - I posted another update listing states that still needed volunteers and explaining that after a couple days I would send out emails to the top users in any states that still didn't have participants.
7/22/02 - Emailed 1 user in each remaining state, and again requested ideas for bill marking. I briefly considered a couple of possibilities, such as Holly By Golly's technique, and Chicken Georging, but I still wasn't sure what to do.
7/23/02 - Finally decided on bill marking - just the phrase "See where I've been, Track where I go next" (which was on the original 3-liner WG stamp) either stamped or (neatly!) printed. Made things simple because many people already have a stamp with that phrase.
7/26/02 - Needed a few more states, and asked about availability time frames so I could determine when bills should be entered. Eventually, I saw that getting 51 people to enter bills on the same day would be next to impossible, so I decided that all bills would be entered anytime during the month of August.
8/2/02 - Finally got started. Sent out emails to all the volunteers, although everyone who I emailed via the email-list in Yahoo! Mail got a blank email, so I had to email them twice (I later managed to fix that strange problem). Also ran into a small snag when I mentioned that one of the volunteers didn't have a valid email address, but I did manage to find a new volunteer the next day.
8/4/02 - Got the 1st hit - the best part is that it only took 8 hours for the bill to get hit - very cool.
8/21/02 - Serious problems - 2 volunteers just disappeared. Fortunately, the Utah person did contact me in time and did his 25 bills. However, for Alabama I had to find a new person.
After this point, everything was relatively easy. It did take a while to make the list of bills and list of hits, but I was caught up by the middle of September. Probably the hardest task during this whole project was adding links to each cell in the State-to-State tables, but once I had it up-to-date, it was easy to add to.