It seems disingenuous to say that I'm "playing" Charity Miles because even though it's an app, it's not really a game. But I like to keep my themes consistent so "playing" it is!
Charity Miles is an app that tracks your walking, running, or biking workout via GPS and uses your mileage to donate to charity. In the abstract. In practice, the donations are physically given out once a year, based on everyone's total mileage. So if you walk, run, or bike X miles in a term, an amount based on X will be given to a charity at the end of the term. You earn up to $0.25 US / mile by walking or running, and up to $0.10 US / mile by biking. "Up to" because some kind of bookkeeping voodoo means that if CharityMiles' userbase outperforms a set limit, they might have to tweak their donations. You choose the charity you want to raise money for before each work out. There are a lot to choose from; right now I'm focusing on a water charity.
(Unfortunately, one of the charities supported is Autism Speaks. Another cool thing you can do this April is to comment on Charity Miles' Facebook wall and ask them to reconsider their partnership with that particular charity.)
Now that it's warming up and (more importantly) getting light here again, JV and I are much more amenable to going out and walking. Right around fall I discovered that I'd rather walk than do anything else, in terms of physical activity—right in time for it to get dark and cold. But hopefully my love of walking and my desire to help others (coupled with my inability to help as much as I'd like) will result in me getting out of the apartment and on my feet a little more often.
It definitely seems to good to be true, but so far I have yet to come across any concerns about things like data mining or privacy invasions. That's always my secret fear with apps like these: that the company is benefiting from me in ways that I'm not aware of or that I'd never agree to if they told me up front. But while you can find no end of articles decrying Facebook's privacy issues and data mining practices, Charity Miles seems in the clear.
I've been enjoying walking and biking to Mordor, but the reality check of: "It is so easy for you to just go outside and move, that's all it takes to be able to help someone, you might as well just do it" has been the kick in the pants I need. I mean, if I never make it to Mordor, so what? The only person who misses out is me. But to help build a well to increase clean water access? Sure, I can walk around the block to help make that happen.