Entries in crowdsourcing (18)

Saturday
Jul042009

Crowdsourced micro-volunteerism with The Extraordinairies

It's a theme we've seen before: joining technology, social committment, and micro-contributions to create collective social good. Similar to the approach of Kiva, The Extraordinaries seeks to pair individuals with a good cause and lower the barrier of entry of contributing to social good by requiring only micro committments.

The target demographic of The Extraordinaries is clear : people who want to volunteer, but are too busy to make the time. Beextra taps into their "wasted" time -- waiting for the doctor, sitting on the bus -- by arming them with a simple iPhone app that provides them small, discrete tasks that take less than a few minutes to complete. The tasks range from translating subtitles for a non-profit's movie, tagging images for a museum, and having a quick chat with an aspiring college student to provide advice.

The natural question seems to be : Will capturing 5 minutes of people's time here and there collectively really create an enduring impact? For certain types of tasks, crowdsourced micro-working seems to have a great success. During the NASA Clickworkers project, space enthusiasts collectively analyzed 80,000 photos in 2 months -- a project that would have taken one scientist over 2 years. During the search for the wreckage of Steve Fosset's plane, volunteers sifted through aerial photos with GPS tags remotely in an accelerated approach to covering the immense expanse of desert ground when time was of the essence.

The Extraordinaries team has won accolades and grants ranging from the John S. and James L. Knight foundation to UNICEF to Kiva. But even if the impact is apparent, will volunteers find this remote, micro-impact style of volunteering to be meaningful and rewarding? It will be all about the types of tasks that Beextra offers through the app. So far, the list is quite diverse and the interface is incredibly intuitive. As more and more people get smartphones, The Extraordinaries app may prove to offer a compelling do-good option for the millions of us with a couple of minutes to spare and a desire to contribute to something big.

Friday
Jun262009

Netflix prize is (nearly) awarded! A model in crowdsourcing

The Netflix $1,00,000 prize to the team able to increase the accuracy of its recommendation system by 10% is nearly sure to be awareded to BellKor's Pragmatic Chaos, a super-team of 4 teams that today claimed to have reached the 10.5% mark.


Tracking the Netflix prize has been fascinating. Back in November 2008, one of the leaders, who was at the time 8.8% better than Netflix's own Cinematch, estimated that the movie Napoleon Dynamite alone accounted for 15% of his remaining error rate. Why? Because people either love it or hate it; it has received nearly exlusively 1 or 5 stars and it is nearly impossible to predict whether or not someone will like it based on his past history.

Netflix did right opening up the competition to the public. It inspired teams around the country -- from AT&T engineers to father-son teams -- and the 10% increase will be worth well more than only $1M to the company.

This is one of the best examples of crowdsourced innovation and problem-solving out there. The winning team was initially 4 disparate pairs or individuals who they realized that they had complementary skills -- machine learning, computer science, engineering -- and decided to collaborate. Throughout the competition, as the market leaderboard tracked the top performers, teams would routinely share lessons learned. Even with $1M at stake, the market can indeed be collaborative and come to a better solution than a single company alone.

Thursday
Jun042009

Crowdsourcing Patent Review: Innovation and transparency at the USPTO

 

The United States Patent and Tradmark Office (USPTO) may have the mission to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, but it has never been known for exemplifying a culture of innovation itself. That may be changing. A few years ago, a pilot program, the Peer-to-Patent Project opened the patent examination process to public participation for the first time. The project utilizes the collective knowledge of internet users to discover “prior art” that may be used against a patent request. Based upon its initial success, the USPTO has decided to extend the program and an optimist might hope that this signals a new working model for the agency, or perhaps, a broader portion of the government.


Brainchild Beth Noveck of New York University describes the effort as one that explores "how to design a more collaborative culture that involves the scientific community more directly in decision-making." With so many technologies and ideas being shared across the web without formal patent applications, the aim of the project is to reduce the number of frivolous patents and subsequent lawsuits clogging the legal system. Embraced by industry, this development is even better for consumers who should in the future be able to enjoy new products sooner and more cheaply, and without the fear of losing your favorite product as a result of a lawsuit.

Peer-to-patent applies social networking technology to the patent business to ensure that only the worthwhile patents actually receive 20 years of patent rights. The website brings transparency to the patent business, which to many inventors, has in the operated in a shroud of mystery. It also offers opportunities for efficiency, by crowdsourcing evaluation rather than relying only on over-worked patent officers.

And for the casual innovator, the site offers a small window into the type of ideas that people are trying to patent these days (e.g., Continual reorganization of ordered search results based on current user interaction, Process of encryption and operational control of tagged data elements, The community patent review site has new revamped website: http://www.peertopatent.org/.

 Flickr credit: nodomain1

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