What Jelly Means


Steven Johnson: “A few months ago, I found this strange white mold growing in my garden in California. I’m a novice gardener, and to make matters worse, a novice Californian, so I had no idea what these small white cells might portend for my flowers.
This is one of those odd blank spots — I used the call them Googleholes in the early days of the service — where the usual Delphic source of all knowledge comes up relatively useless. The Google algorithm doesn’t know what those white spots are, the way it knows more computational questions, like “what is the top-ranked page for “white mold?” or “what is the capital of Illinois?” What I want, in this situation, is the distinction we usually draw between information and wisdom. I don’t just want to know what the white spots are; I want to know if I should be worried about them, or if they’re just a normal thing during late summer in Northern California gardens.
Now, I’m sure I know a dozen people who would be able to answer this question, but the problem is I don’t really know which people they are. But someone in my extended social network has likely experienced these white spots on their plants, or better yet, gotten rid of them.  (Or, for all I know, ate them — I’m trying not to be judgmental.) There are tools out there that would help me run the social search required to find that person. I can just bulk email my entire address book with images of the mold and ask for help. I could go on Quora, or a gardening site.
But the thing is, it’s a type of question that I find myself wanting to ask a lot, and there’s something inefficient about trying to figure the exact right tool to use to ask it each time, particularly when we have seen the value of consolidating so many of our queries into a single, predictable search field at Google.
This is why I am so excited about the new app, Jelly, which launched today. …
Jelly, if you haven’t heard, is the brainchild of Biz Stone, one of Twitter’s co-founders.  The service launches today with apps on iOS and Android. (Biz himself has a blog post and video, which you should check out.) I’ve known Biz since the early days of Twitter, and I’m excited to be an adviser and small investor in a company that shares so many of the values around networks and collective intelligence that I’ve been writing about since Emergence.
The thing that’s most surprising about Jelly is how fun it is to answer questions. There’s something strangely satisfying in flipping through the cards, reading questions, scanning the pictures, and looking for a place to be helpful. It’s the same broad gesture of reading, say, a Twitter feed, and pleasantly addictive in the same way, but the intent is so different. Scanning a twitter feed while waiting for the train has the feel of “Here we are now, entertain us.” Scanning Jelly is more like: “I’m here. How can I help?”

Crowdsourcing drug discovery: Antitumour compound identified


David Bradley in Spectroscopy.now: “American researchers have used “crowdsourcing” – the cooperation of a large number of interested non-scientists via the internet – to help them identify a new fungus. The species contains unusual metabolites, isolated and characterized, with the help of vibrational circular dichroism (VCD). One compound reveals itself to have potential antitumour activity.
So far, a mere 7 percent of the more than 1.5 million species of fungi thought to exist have been identified and an even smaller fraction of these have been the subject of research seeking bioactive natural products. …Robert Cichewicz of the University of Oklahoma, USA, and his colleagues hoped to remedy this situation by working with a collection of several thousand fungal isolates from three regions: Arctic Alaska, tropical Hawaii, and subtropical to semiarid Oklahoma. Collaborator Susan Mooberry of the University of Texas at San Antonio carried out biological assays on many fungal isolates looking for antitumor activity among the metabolites in Cichewicz’s collection. A number of interesting substances were identified…
However, the researchers realized quickly enough that the efforts of a single research team were inadequate if samples representing the immense diversity of the thousands of fungi they hoped to test were to be obtained and tested. They thus turned to the help of citizen scientists in a “crowdsourcing” initiative. In this approach, lay people with an interest in science, and even fellow scientists in other fields, were recruited to collect and submit soil from their gardens.
As the samples began to arrive, the team quickly found among them a previously unknown fungal strain – a Tolypocladium species – growing in a soil sample from Alaska. Colleague Andrew Miller of the University of Illinois did the identification of this new fungus, which was found to be highly responsive to making new compounds based on changes in its laboratory growth conditions. Moreover, extraction of the active chemicals from the isolate revealed a unique metabolite which was shown to have significant antitumour activity in laboratory tests. The team suggests that this novel substance may represent a valuable new approach to cancer treatment because it precludes certain biochemical mechanisms that lead to the emergence of drug resistance in cancer with conventional drugs…
The researchers point out the essential roles that citizen scientists can play. “Many of the groundbreaking discoveries, theories, and applied research during the last two centuries were made by scientists operating from their own homes,” Cichewicz says. “Although much has changed, the idea that citizen scientists can still participate in research is a powerful means for reinvigorating the public’s interest in science and making important discoveries,” he adds.”

The Effective Use of Crowdsourcing in E-Governance


Paper by Jayakumar Sowmya and Hussain Shafiq Pyarali: “The rise of Web 2.0 paradigm has empowered the Internet users to share information and generate content on social networking and media sharing platforms such as wikis and blogs. The trend of harnessing the wisdom of public using Web 2.0 distributed networks through open calls is termed as ‘Crowdsourcing’. In addition to businesses, this powerful idea of using collective intelligence or the ‘wisdom of crowd’ applies to different situations, such as in governments and non-profit organizations which have started utilizing crowdsourcing as an essential problem -solving tool. In addition, the widespread and easy access to technologies such as the Internet, mobile phones and other communication devices has resulted in an exponential growth in the use of crowdsourcing for government policy advocacy, e-democracy and e-governance during the past decade. However, utilizing collective intelligence and efforts of public to find solutions to real life problems using web 2.0 tools does come with its share of associated challenges and limitations. This paper aims at identifying and examining the value-adding strategies which contribute to the success of crowdsourcing in e-governance. The qualitative case study analysis and emphatic design methodology are employed to evaluate the effectiveness of the identified strategic and functional components, by analyzing the characteristics of some of the notable cases of crowdsourcing in e-governance and the findings are tabulated and discussed. The paper concludes with the limitations and the implications for future research”.

NESTA: 14 predictions for 2014


NESTA: “Every year, our team of in-house experts predicts what will be big over the next 12 months.
This year we set out our case for why 2014 will be the year we’re finally delivered the virtual reality experience we were promised two decades ago, the US will lose technological control of the Internet, communities will start crowdsourcing their own political representatives and we’ll be introduced to the concept of extreme volunteering – plus 10 more predictions spanning energy, tech, health, data, impact investment and social policy…
People powered data

The growing movement to take back control of personal data will reach a tipping point, says Geoff Mulgan
2014 will be the year when citizens start to take control over their own data. So far the public has accepted a dramatic increase in use of personal data because it doesn’t impinge much on freedom, and helps to give us a largely free internet.
But all of that could be about to change. Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations have fuelled a growing perception that the big social media firms are cavalier with personal data (a perception not helped by Facebook and Google’s recent moves to make tracking cookies less visible) and the Information Commissioner has described the data protection breaches of many internet firms, banks and others as ‘horrifying’.
According to some this doesn’t matter. Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems famously dismissed the problem: “you have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” Mark Zuckerberg claims that young people no longer worry about making their lives transparent. We’re willing to be digital chattels so long as it doesn’t do us any visible harm.
That’s the picture now. But the past isn’t always a good guide to the future. More digitally savvy young people put a high premium on autonomy and control, and don’t like being the dupes of big organisations. We increasingly live with a digital aura alongside our physical identity – a mix of trails, data, pictures. We will increasingly want to shape and control that aura, and will pay a price if we don’t.
That’s why the movement for citizen control over data has gathered momentum. It’s 30 years since Germany enshrined ‘informational self-determination’ in the constitution and other countries are considering similar rules. Organisations like Mydex and Qiy now give users direct control over a store of their personal data, part of an emerging sector of Personal Data Stores, Privacy Dashboards and even ‘Life Management Platforms’. 
In the UK, the government-backed Midata programme is encouraging firms to migrate data back to public control, while the US has introduced green, yellow and blue buttons to simplify the option of taking back your data (in energy, education and the Veterans Administration respectively). Meanwhile a parallel movement encourages people to monetise their own data – so that, for example, Tesco or Experian would have to pay for the privilege of making money out of analysing your purchases and behaviours.
When people are shown what really happens to their data now they are shocked. That’s why we may be near a tipping point. A few more scandals could blow away any remaining complacency about the near future world of ubiquitous facial recognition software (Google Glasses and the like), a world where more people are likely to spy on their neighbours, lovers and colleagues.
The crowdsourced politician

This year we’ll see the rise of the crowdsourced independent parliamentary candidate, says Brenton Caffin
…In response, existing political institutions have sought to improve feedback between the governing and the governed through the tentative embrace of crowdsourcing methods, ranging from digital engagement strategies, open government challenges, to the recent stalled attempt to embrace open primaries by the Conservative Party (Iceland has been braver by designing its constitution by wiki). Though for many, these efforts are both too little and too late. The sense of frustration that no political party is listening to the real needs of people is probably part of the reason Russell Brand’s interview with Jeremy Paxman garnered nine million views in its first month on YouTube.
However a glimpse of an alternative approach may have arrived courtesy of the 2013 Australian Federal Election.
Tired of being taken for granted by the local MP, locals in the traditionally safe conservative seat of Indi embarked on a structured process of community ‘kitchen table’ conversations to articulate an independent account of the region’s needs. The community group, Voice for Indi, later nominated its chair, Cath McGowan, as an independent candidate. It crowdfunded their campaign finances and built a formidable army of volunteers through a sophisticated social media operation….
The rise of ‘extreme’ volunteering

By the end of 2014 the concept of volunteering will move away from the soup kitchen and become an integral part of how our communities operate, says Lindsay Levkoff Lynn
Extreme volunteering is about regular people going beyond the usual levels of volunteering. It is a deeper and more intensive form of volunteering, and I predict we will see more of these amazing commitments of ‘people helping people’ in the years to come.
Let me give you a few early examples of what we are already starting to see in the UK:

  • Giving a whole year of your life in service of kids. That’s what City Year volunteers do – Young people (18-25) dedicate a year, full-time, before university or work to support head teachers in turning around the behaviour and academics of some of the most underprivileged UK schools.
  • Giving a stranger a place to live and making them part of your family. That’s what Shared Lives Plus carers do. They ‘adopt’ an older person or a person with learning disabilities and offer them a place in their family. So instead of institutional care, families provide the full-time care – much like a ‘fostering for adults’ programme. Can you imagine inviting someone to come and live with you?…

Lessons in the crowdsourced verification of news from Storyful and Reddit’s Syria forum


at GigaOm: “One of the most powerful trends in media over the past year is the crowdsourced verification of news, whether it’s the work of a blogger like Brown Moses or former NPR journalist Andy Carvin. Two other interesting efforts in this area are the “open newsroom” approach taken by Storyful — which specializes in verifying social-media reports for mainstream news entities — and a Reddit forum devoted to crowdsourcing news coverage of the civil war in Syria.
Storyful journalist Joe Galvin recently looked at some of the incidents that the company has helped either debunk or verify over the past year — including a fake tweet from the official account of the Associated Press about explosions at the White House (which sent the Dow Jones index plummeting before it was corrected), a claim from Russian authorities that a chemical attack in Syria had been pre-meditated, and a report from investigative journalist Seymour Hersh about the same attack that questioned whether the government had been involved….
Reddit, meanwhile, has been conducting some “open newsroom”-style experiments of its own around a number of news events, including the Syrian civil war. The site has come under fire in the past for some of those efforts — including the attempt to identify the bombers in the Boston bombings case, which went badly awry — but the Syrian thread in particular is a good example of how a smart aggregator can make sense of an ongoing news event. In a recent post at a site called Dissected News, one of the moderators behind the /r/SyrianCivilWar sub-Reddit — a 22-year-old law student named Christopher Kingdon (or “uptodatepronto” as he is known on the site) — wrote about his experiences with the forum, which is trying to be a broadly objective source for breaking news and information about the conflict….
Some of what the moderators do in the forum is similar to the kind of verification that Storyful or the BBC’s “user-generated content desk” do — checking photos and video for obvious signs of fakery and hoaxes. But Kingdon also describes how much effort his team of volunteers puts into ensuring that the sub-Reddit doesn’t degenerate into trolling or flame-wars. Strict rules are enforced “to prevent personal attacks, offensive and violent language and racism” and the moderators favor posts that “utilize sources, background information and a dash of common sense.”

Continued Progress: Engaging Citizen Solvers through Prizes


Blog post by Cristin Dorgelo: “Today OSTP released its second annual comprehensive report detailing the use of prizes and competitions by Federal agencies to spur innovation and solve Grand Challenges. Those efforts have expanded in the last two years under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, which granted all Federal agencies the authority to conduct prize competitions to spur innovation, solve tough problems, and advance their core missions.
This year’s report details the remarkable benefits the Federal Government reaped in Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 from more than 45 prize competitions across 10 agencies. To date, nearly 300 prize competitions have been implemented by 45 agencies through the website Challenge.gov.
Over the past four years, the Obama Administration has taken important steps to make prizes a standard tool in every agency’s toolbox. In his September 2009 Strategy for American Innovation, President Obama called on all Federal agencies to increase their use of prizes to address some of our Nation’s most pressing challenges. In March 2010, the Office of Management and Budget issued a policy framework to guide agencies in using prizes to mobilize American ingenuity and advance their respective core missions. Then, in September 2010, the Administration launched Challenge.gov, a one-stop shop where entrepreneurs and citizen solvers can find public-sector prize competitions.
The prize authority in COMPETES is a key piece of this effort. By giving agencies a clear legal path and expanded authority to deploy competitions and challenges, the legislation makes it dramatically easier for agencies to enlist this powerful approach to problem-solving and to pursue ambitious prizes with robust incentives…
To support these ongoing efforts, the General Services Administration  continues to train agencies about resources and vendors available to help them administer prize competitions. In addition, NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) provides other agencies with a full suite of services for incentive prize pilots – from prize design, through implementation, to post-prize evaluation”

Why This Company Is Crowdsourcing, Gamifying The World's Most Difficult Problems


FastCompany: “The biggest consultancy firms–the McKinseys and Janeses of the world–make many millions of dollars predicting the future and writing what-if reports for clients. This model is built on the idea that those companies know best–and that information and ideas should be handed down from on high.
But one consulting house, Wikistrat, is upending the model: Instead of using a stable of in-house analysts, the company crowdsources content and pays the crowd for its time. Wikistrat’s hundreds of analysts–primarily consultants, academics, journalists, and retired military personnel–are compensated for participating in what they call “crowdsourced simulations.” In other words, make money for brainstorming.

According to Joel Zamel, Wikistrat’s founder, approximately 850 experts in various fields rotate in and out of different simulations and project exercises for the company. While participating in a crowdsourced simulation, consultants are are paid a flat fee plus performance bonuses based on a gamification engine where experts compete to win extra cash. The company declined revealing what the fee scale is, but as of 2011 bonus money appears to be in the $10,000 range.
Zamel characterizes the company’s clients as a mix of government agencies worldwide and multinational corporations. The simulations are semi-anonymous for players; consultants don’t know who their paper is being written for or who the end consumer is, but clients know which of Wikistrat’s contestants are participating in the brainstorm exercise. Once an exercise is over, the discussions from the exercise are taken by full-time employees at Wikistrat and converted into proper reports for clients.
“We’ve developed a quite significant crowd network and a lot of functionality into the platform,” Zamel tells Fast Company. “It uses a gamification engine we created that incentivizes analysts by ranking them at different levels for the work they do on the platform. They are immediately rewarded through the engine, and we also track granular changes made in real time. This allows us to track analyst activity and encourages them to put time and energy into Wiki analysis.” Zamel says projects typically run between three and four weeks, with between 50 and 100 analysts working on a project for generally between five and 12 hours per week. Most of the analysts, he says, view this as a side income on top of their regular work at day jobs but some do much more: Zamel cited one PhD candidate in Australia working 70 hours a week on one project instead of 10 to 15 hours.
Much of Wikistrat’s output is related to current events. Although Zamel says the bulk of their reports are written for clients and not available for public consumption, Wikistrat does run frequent public simulations as a way of attracting publicity and recruiting talent for the organization. Their most recent crowdsourced project is called Myanmar Moving Forward and runs from November 25 to December 9. According to Wikistrat, they are asking their “Strategic community to map out Myanmar’s current political risk factor and possible futures (positive, negative, or mixed) for the new democracy in 2015. The simulation is designed to explore the current social, political, economic, and geopolitical threats to stability–i.e. its political risk–and to determine where the country is heading in terms of its social, political, economic, and geopolitical future.”…

Google Global Impact Award Expands Zooniverse


Press Release: “A $1.8 million Google Global Impact Award will enable Zooniverse, a nonprofit collaboration led by the Adler Planetarium and the University of Oxford, to make setting up a citizen science project as easy as starting a blog and could lead to thousands of innovative new projects around the world, accelerating the pace of scientific research.
The award supports the further development of the Zooniverse, the world’s leading ‘citizen science’ platform, which has already given more than 900,000 online volunteers the chance to contribute to science by taking part in activities including discovering planets, classifying plankton or searching through old ship’s logs for observations of interest to climate scientists. As part of the Global Impact Award, the Adler will receive $400,000 to support the Zooniverse platform.
With the Google Global Impact Award, Zooniverse will be able to rebuild their platform so that research groups with no web development expertise can build and launch their own citizen science projects.
“We are entering a new era of citizen science – this effort will enable prolific development of science projects in which hundreds of thousands of additional volunteers will be able to work alongside professional scientists to conduct important research – the potential for discovery is limitless,” said Michelle B. Larson, Ph.D., Adler Planetarium president and CEO. “The Adler is honored to join its fellow Zooniverse partner, the University of Oxford, as a Google Global Impact Award recipient.”
The Zooniverse – the world’s leading citizen science platform – is a global collaboration across several institutions that design and build citizen science projects. The Adler is a founding partner of the Zooniverse, which has already engaged more than 900,000 online volunteers as active scientists by discovering planets, mapping the surface of Mars and detecting solar flares. Adler-directed citizen science projects include: Galaxy Zoo (astronomy), Solar Stormwatch (solar physics), Moon Zoo (planetary science), Planet Hunters (exoplanets) and The Milky Way Project (star formation). The Zooniverse (zooniverse.org) also includes projects in environmental, biological and medical sciences. Google’s investment in the Adler and its Zooniverse partner, the University of Oxford, will further the global reach, making thousands of new projects possible.”

Selected Readings on Crowdsourcing Data


The Living Library’s Selected Readings series seeks to build a knowledge base on innovative approaches for improving the effectiveness and legitimacy of governance. This curated and annotated collection of recommended works on the topic of crowdsourcing data was originally published in 2013.

As institutions seek to improve decision-making through data and put public data to use to improve the lives of citizens, new tools and projects are allowing citizens to play a role in both the collection and utilization of data. Participatory sensing and other citizen data collection initiatives, notably in the realm of disaster response, are allowing citizens to crowdsource important data, often using smartphones, that would be either impossible or burdensomely time-consuming for institutions to collect themselves. Civic hacking, often performed in hackathon events, on the other hand, is a growing trend in which governments encourage citizens to transform data from government and other sources into useful tools to benefit the public good.

Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Annotated Selected Reading List (in alphabetical order)

Baraniuk, Chris. “Power Politechs.” New Scientist 218, no. 2923 (June 29, 2013): 36–39. http://bit.ly/167ul3J.

  • In this article, Baraniuk discusses civic hackers, “an army of volunteer coders who are challenging preconceptions about hacking and changing the way your government operates. In a time of plummeting budgets and efficiency drives, those in power have realised they needn’t always rely on slow-moving, expensive outsourcing and development to improve public services. Instead, they can consider running a hackathon, at which tech-savvy members of the public come together to create apps and other digital tools that promise to enhace the provision of healthcare, schools or policing.”
  • While recognizing that “civic hacking has established a pedigree that demonstrates its potential for positive impact,” Baraniuk argues that a “more rigorous debate over how this activity should evolve, or how authorities ought to engage in it” is needed.

Barnett, Brandon, Muki Hansteen Izora, and Jose Sia. “Civic Hackathon Challenges Design Principles: Making Data Relevant and Useful for Individuals and Communities.” Hack for Change, https://bit.ly/2Ge6z09.

  • In this paper, researchers from Intel Labs offer “guiding principles to support the efforts of local civic hackathon organizers and participants as they seek to design actionable challenges and build useful solutions that will positively benefit their communities.”
  • The authors proposed design principles are:
    • Focus on the specific needs and concerns of people or institutions in the local community. Solve their problems and challenges by combining different kinds of data.
    • Seek out data far and wide (local, municipal, state, institutional, non-profits, companies) that is relevant to the concern or problem you are trying to solve.
    • Keep it simple! This can’t be overstated. Focus [on] making data easily understood and useful to those who will use your application or service.
    • Enable users to collaborate and form new communities and alliances around data.

Buhrmester, Michael, Tracy Kwang, and Samuel D. Gosling. “Amazon’s Mechanical Turk A New Source of Inexpensive, Yet High-Quality, Data?” Perspectives on Psychological Science 6, no. 1 (January 1, 2011): 3–5. http://bit.ly/H56lER.

  • This article examines the capability of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to act a source of data for researchers, in addition to its traditional role as a microtasking platform.
  • The authors examine the demographics of MTurkers and find that “MTurk participants are slightly more demographically diverse than are standard Internet samples and are significantly more diverse than typical American college samples; (b) participation is affected by compensation rate and task length, but participants can still be recruited rapidly and inexpensively; (c) realistic compensation rates do not affect data quality; and (d) the data obtained are at least as reliable as those obtained via traditional methods.”
  • The paper concludes that, just as MTurk can be a strong tool for crowdsourcing tasks, data derived from MTurk can be high quality while also being inexpensive and obtained rapidly.

Goodchild, Michael F., and J. Alan Glennon. “Crowdsourcing Geographic Information for Disaster Response: a Research Frontier.” International Journal of Digital Earth 3, no. 3 (2010): 231–241. http://bit.ly/17MBFPs.

  • This article examines issues of data quality in the face of the new phenomenon of geographic information being generated by citizens, in order to examine whether this data can play a role in emergency management.
  • The authors argue that “[d]ata quality is a major concern, since volunteered information is asserted and carries none of the assurances that lead to trust in officially created data.”
  • Due to the fact that time is crucial during emergencies, the authors argue that, “the risks associated with volunteered information are often outweighed by the benefits of its use.”
  • The paper examines four wildfires in Santa Barbara in 2007-2009 to discuss current challenges with volunteered geographical data, and concludes that further research is required to answer how volunteer citizens can be used to provide effective assistance to emergency managers and responders.

Hudson-Smith, Andrew, Michael Batty, Andrew Crooks, and Richard Milton. “Mapping for the Masses Accessing Web 2.0 Through Crowdsourcing.” Social Science Computer Review 27, no. 4 (November 1, 2009): 524–538. http://bit.ly/1c1eFQb.

  • This article describes the way in which “we are harnessing the power of web 2.0 technologies to create new approaches to collecting, mapping, and sharing geocoded data.”
  • The authors examine GMapCreator and MapTube, which allow users to do a range of map-related functions such as create new maps, archive existing maps, and share or produce bottom-up maps through crowdsourcing.
  • They conclude that “these tools are helping to define a neogeography that is essentially ‘mapping for the masses,’ while noting that there are many issues of quality, accuracy, copyright, and trust that will influence the impact of these tools on map-based communication.”

Kanhere, Salil S. “Participatory Sensing: Crowdsourcing Data from Mobile Smartphones in Urban Spaces.” In Distributed Computing and Internet Technology, edited by Chittaranjan Hota and Pradip K. Srimani, 19–26. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 7753. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. 2013. https://bit.ly/2zX8Szj.

  • This paper provides a comprehensive overview of participatory sensing — a “new paradigm for monitoring the urban landscape” in which “ordinary citizens can collect multi-modal data streams from the surrounding environment using their mobile devices and share the same using existing communications infrastructure.”
  • In addition to examining a number of innovative applications of participatory sensing, Kanhere outlines the following key research challenges:
    • Dealing with incomplete samples
    •  Inferring user context
    • Protecting user privacy
    • Evaluating data trustworthiness
    • Conserving energy

Government's Crowdsourcing Revolution


John M. Kamensky  in Governing: “In a recent report for the IBM Center for the Business of Government, Brabham says that an important distinction between crowdsourcing and other forms of online participation is that crowdsourcing “entails a mix of top-down, traditional, hierarchical process and a bottom-up, open process involving an online community.”
Crowdsourcing in the public sector can be done within government, among employees as a way to surface ideas — such as the New York City government’s “Simplicity” initiative — or it can be done by nonprofit groups in ways that influence government operations. For example, a transportation advocacy group in New York City has created a site where citizens can report “near miss” accidents, which are then mapped to determine patterns. The idea is that, while the city government already maps accidents that have happened, hazardous traffic zones can be detected and resolved faster by mapping near-misses without waiting for a large number of actual accidents.
Brabham offers a strategic view of crowdsourcing and when it is useful to address public problems. His report also identifies four specific approaches, describing which is most useful for a given category of problem:
Knowledge discovery and management. This approach is best for information-gathering and cataloguing problems through an online community, such as the reporting of earth tremors or potholes to a central source. This approach could also be used to report conditions of parks or hiking trails or for cataloging public art projects as have been done in several cities across the country.
Distributed human-intelligence tasking: This approach is most useful when human intelligence is more effective than computer analysis. It involves distributing “micro-tasks” that require human intelligence to solve, such as transcribing handwritten historical documents into electronic files. For example, when the handwritten 1940 census records were publicly released in 2012, the National Archives catalyzed the electronic tagging of more than 130 million records so they could be searchable online. More than 150,000 people volunteered.
Broadcast search: This approach is most useful when an agency is attempting to find creative solutions to problems. It involves broadcasting a problem-solving challenge widely on the Internet and offering an award for the best solution. NASA, for example, offered a prize for an algorithm to predict solar flares. The federal government sponsors a contest and awards Web platform, Challenge.gov, that various federal agencies can use to post their challenges. To date, hundreds of diverse challenges have been posted, with thousands of people proposing solutions.
Peer-vetted creative production: This approach is most useful when an agency is looking for innovative ideas that must meet a test of taste or market support. It involves an online community that both proposes possible solutions and is empowered to collectively choose among them. For example, the Utah Transit Authority sponsored the Next Stop Design project, allowing citizens to design and vote on an ideal bus-stop shelter. Nearly 3,200 people participated, submitting 260 high-quality architectural renderings, and there were more than 10,000 votes leading to a final selection….”