In 2006, Netflix made its vast database of user-generated movie ratings available to the public, offering $1 million to the first team that could improve the accuracy of the company’s recommendations by 10 percent. That’s a lot of money—but Netflix could have spent much more on in-house development, with no guarantees. By 2009, the top team had its prize, and Netflix had its algorithm. Other groups took notice and are now holding their own contests, asking statisticians, computer scientists and basement hobbyists alike to mine complex data sets for solutions to some difficult problems.
If you want to be a part of discovering the future of solar power, you can be. You don't need any special knowledge or equipment, just let Alán Aspuru-Guzik borrow your computer when you're not using it.
The military and defense contractors can learn a lot from the wisdom of the masses, and American fighting forces could be better equipped and better protected if higher-ups would embrace the DIY ethos of ingenuity and agility. At least that’s how Jay Rogers, founder of an automotive firm that just built a military concept vehicle from crowdsourced plans, sees things.
In the 18th century, if you wanted to draft a democratic constitution you crowded a handful of men into a room and hashed out the finer points of policy and philosophy until you had a document that was declared the law of the land. Same for the 19th and 20th centuries. But nowadays, the Internet--that great democratizer--is bringing a new kind of power to the people.
The Office of Naval Research is seeking fresh tactics for fighting the problem of Somali piracy, and it is turning to the defense community via an increasingly common tool for crowd sourcing tactical advice: a video game.
Members of a health-related data-sharing website evaluated the use of a drug for treatment of a debilitating degenerative disease, the first time a social network was used to monitor patient treatment in real time.
A pair of professional astronomers resolved the orbit of a bright comet using photos shot by their amateur counterparts. The research shows it’s possible to mine Internet photo-sharing sites for science — even if the astrophotographers didn’t know they were taking part in a crowdsourcing experiment.
If the RoboCop saga has any lasting lessons, maybe it's that politicians shouldn't mess around with Twitter.
What started out as a joke on the social media site has mushroomed into a nationwide effort to build a statue of RoboCop in the beleaguered city of Detroit. Earlier this week, someone in Massachusetts sent a tweet to Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, suggesting RoboCop would be a great mascot for the city. Philadelphia has a Rocky statue, and RoboCop would "kick Rocky's butt," he pointed out.
Back in 1996, writer and scientist David Brin wrote "The Transparent Society," a tale of two fundamentally similar yet very different 21st-century cities. Both were littered with security cameras monitoring every inch of public space, but in one city the police did the watching, while in the other the citizens monitored the feeds to keep an eye on each other (and the police). These days, many UK police forces monitor their city streets with cameras mounted on every corner. Now, for a fee, a private company is crowdsourcing security surveillance to any citizen willing to watch, fulfilling Brin's prophecy in a sense.