Wednesday, April 24, 2013

crowdsourcing; ya gotta do it right!

"That proposition may be true. But Reddit’s failure isn’t evidence for it. To begin with, it’s a bit facile to frame this story as a competition between'the crowd' and 'the experts,' since the official investigation wasn’t relying on a couple of experts, but rather had its own crowd at work, one made up, in Bilton’s words, of 'thousands of local and federal officials.' More important is that the Redditors faced a simple, but insuperable, obstacle when it came to identifying the Tsarnaevs, namely that the two brothers were not, as far as I can tell, in any of the photographs that were widely available before Thursday morning. The footage that convinced investigators that the Tsarnaevs were prime suspects was the footage from the Lord & Taylor surveillance cameras, which hadn’t (and still hasn’t) been released to the public. This is an obvious point, but one that’s been overlooked: Reddit had no real chance of identifying the right suspects because it didn’t have access to the information that mattered."

There are many good points in this article. It's not that Redditors shouldn't have been crowdsourcing looking for the bombers, it's that they went about it in a haphazard way.  Crowdsourcing requires a bit of organizing to get things right.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

crowd sourced military tank

"The Pentagon’s blue-sky researchers have awarded $1 million to a team of designers who they believe have built an innovative drivetrain for a Marine swimming tank. The first Darpa FANG challenge has a winner.
The three-person team that won convinced Darpa that their design could outperform Defense Department requirements for the Marines’ future Amphibious Combat Vehicle — which, as it happens, just got an infusion of research and development cash in the new Pentagon budget. But Darpa didn’t only want to demonstrate that it could design a better swimming tank to take Marines from ship to shore in a combat zone. It wanted to demonstrate that the wisdom of crowds can boost innovation for major defense hardware."

The Wisdom of Crowds is catching on.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Anonymous' reputation has taken a turn for the better

"Anonymous' successful leveraging of the press and social media helped them identify the four rapists in just a few hours, which they then threatened to disclose unless their demands were met. No hacking was involved as this time, Anonymous was apparently a friendly tip line.
They were able to get this information so quickly, wrote an Anon on Pastebin, because 'dozens of emails were sent to us by kids and adults alike, most of whom had personal relationships with the alleged rapists. Many recalled public confessions made blatantly by these boys in public where they detailed the rape of an inebriated 15-year-old girl.' Why this same information was not sent to the police at the time of the investigation over a year ago is not apparent, though Anonymous hinted it sent this information to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in a more recent release.
Despite a Canadian minister previously telling the media the case was closed and would not be reopened, by Thursday the tune had changed, proving the collective's efforts were not in vain. In addition to submitting new evidence to the RCMP and putting pressure on the Canadian Department of Justice, Anonymous organised a rally outside the Halifax police department on Sunday. Roughly 100 people attended, including Parsons' mother. Speaking on her behalf as her partner, Jason Barnes told Canada's Herald News in an interview, 'Leah's been… very happy with the things that Anonymous has done for us and really stepped forward and made this a large enough issue to make people think, and see it.' Out of all the operations recently carried out by Anonymous, #OpJustice4Rehtaeh has had an incredibly high 'effect real change' rate of just a few days."

Anonymous has become a sort of label put on non-hierarchical activism by some people to help brand what they are doing.  It's a good brand.

Monday, April 15, 2013

What has Anonymous been doing lately?

"Anonymous' core strength lies in its PR tactics, not its boots-on-the-ground protests or actual hacking skills. Besides #OpJustice4Rehtaeh, in the last week Anonymous attacked North Korean social media accounts, then Israeli websites in solidarity with the Palestinians. While both operations apparently caused no substantial impact (North Korea is still a dictatorship, and Israel hasn't changed its stance on Palestine), they were both highly publicised, which is enough of a win for the group now primarily concerned with mobilising activists through the spread of information. If fact, Anonymous has been making headlines on an almost weekly basis for over a year now.
Australian security expert Stilgherrian calls this adoption of multiple causes, going beyond Anonymous's initial defence of internet freedoms, as proof they have become the 'Hello Kitty of activism,' but Coleman likens Anonymous's current, accepting form to something more organic: a fungus. "They refuse to die and they seem to bud in new places and situations," she explains. 'They spore and spread' around the globe because clicktivism is easy and fitting with our already established digital habits."

Anonymous still evolving.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Micromapping; a tool to crowdsource catastrophes

"For example, say an earthquake strikes Mexico City. We upload disaster tweets with links to the Translate App. Volunteer translators only translate tweets with location information. These get automatically pushed to the Assess App where digital volunteers tag tweets that point to relevant images/videos. They also rate the level of damage in each. (On a side note, my colleagues and I at QCRI are also developing a crawler that will automatically identify whether links posted on twitter actually point to images/videos). Assessed  tweets are then pushed in real-time to the Locate App for geo-referencing. The resulting tweets are subsequently published to a live map where the underlying data can also be downloaded.  Both the map & data download feature can be password protected."

Another tool for people to work together online to make the world a better place.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Is "socialstructing" our future?

"We are moving away from the dominance of the depersonalized world of institutional production and creating a new economy around social connections and social rewards—a process I call socialstructing. Others have referred to this model of production as social, commons-based, or peer-to-peer. Not only is this new social economy bringing with it an unprecedented level of familiarity and connectedness to both our global and our local economic exchanges, but it is also changing every domain of our lives, from finance to education and health. It is rapidly ushering in a vast array of new opportunities for us to pursue our passions, create new types of businesses and charitable organizations, redefine the nature of work, and address a wide range of problems that the prevailing formal economy has neglected, if not caused."

The Internet makes socialization so much easier and quicker that it has to have a profound effect on society in general. This may be the first book that tries to deal with that.