Employing digital crowdsourced information resources: Managing the emerging information commons

New Paper by Robin Mansell in the International Journal of the Commons: “This paper examines the ways loosely connected online groups and formal science professionals are responding to the potential for collaboration using digital technology platforms and crowdsourcing as a means of generating data in the digital information commons. The preferred approaches of each of these groups to managing information production, circulation and application are examined in the light of the increasingly vast amounts of data that are being generated by participants in the commons. Crowdsourcing projects initiated by both groups in the fields of astronomy, environmental science and crisis and emergency response are used to illustrate some of barriers and opportunities for greater collaboration in the management of data sets initially generated for quite different purposes. The paper responds to claims in the literature about the incommensurability of emerging approaches to open information management as practiced by formal science and many loosely connected online groups, especially with respect to authority and the curation of data. Yet, in the wake of technological innovation and diverse applications of crowdsourced data, there are numerous opportunities for collaboration. This paper draws on examples employing different social technologies of authority to generate and manage data in the commons. It suggests several measures that could provide incentives for greater collaboration in the future. It also emphasises the need for a research agenda to examine whether and how changes in social technologies might foster collaboration in the interests of reaping the benefits of increasingly large data resources for both shorter term analysis and longer term accumulation of useful knowledge.”

AeroSee: Crowdsourcing Rescue using Drones

“The AeroSee experiment is an exciting new project where you can become a virtual mountain rescue assistant from the comfort of your own home, simply by using your computer. Every year Patterdale Mountain Rescue assist hundreds of injured and missing persons from around the Ullswater area in the North of the Lake District. The average search takes several hours and can require a large team of volunteers to set out in often poor weather conditions. This experiment is to see how the use of UAV (or ‘Drone’) technology, together with your ‘crowd-sourced’ help can reduce the time taken to locate and rescue a person in distress.
Civilian Use of UAVs
Here at UCLan we are interested in investigating the civilian applications of unmanned systems. They offer a rich and exciting source of educational and research material for our students and research staff. As regulations for their use are being developed and matured by aviation authorities, it is important that research is conducted to maximise their benefits to society.
Our Partners
We are working with e-Migs, a light-UAV operator who are providing and operating the aircraft during the search.
How aeroSee Works
Upon receiving a rescue call the Mountain Rescue services plan their search area and we dispatch our unmanned remotely piloted aircraft to begin a search for the missing persons. Using a real time video link, the aircraft transmits pictures of terrain to our website where you can help by viewing the images and tagging the photos if you spot something that the Mountain Rescue services need to investigate, such as a possible sighting of an injured party. We use some computer algorithms to process the tagged data that we receive and pass this processed data onto the Mountain Rescue Control Centre for a final opinion and dispatch of search teams.
We believe this approach can reduce time and save lives and we need your help to prove it. Once you are signed up, you can practice using the site by choosing ‘Practice Mission’ from the menubar. Fancy yourself as a Virtual Search agent? If have not already done so, sign up here:
Get Started!

Inside Noisebridge: San Francisco’s eclectic anarchist hackerspace

at Gigaom: “Since its formation in 2007, Noisebridge has grown from a few people meeting in coffee shops to an overflowing space on Mission Street where members can pursue projects that even the maddest scientist would approve of…. When Noisebridge opened the doors of its first hackerspace location in San Francisco’s Mission district in 2008, it had nothing but a large table and few chairs found on the street.
Today, it looks like a mad scientist has been methodically hoarding tools, inventions, art, supplies and a little bit of everything else for five years. The 350 people who come through Noisebridge each week have a habit of leaving a mark, whether by donating a tool or building something that other visitors add to bit by bit. Anyone can be a paid member or a free user of the space, and over the years they have built it into a place where you can code, sew, hack hardware, cook, build robots, woodwork, learn, teach and more.
The members really are mad scientists. Anything left out in the communal spaces is fair game to “hack into a giant robot,” according to co-founder Mitch Altman. Members once took a broken down wheelchair and turned it into a brainwave-controlled robot named M.C. Hawking. Another person made pants with a built-in keyboard. The Spacebridge group has sent high altitude balloons to near space, where they captured gorgeous videos of the Earth. And once a month, the Vegan Hackers teach their pupils how to make classic fare like sushi and dumplings out of vegan ingredients….”

Civic Innovation Fellowships Go Global

Some thoughts from Panthea Lee from Reboot: “In recent years, civic innovation fellowships have shown great promise to improve the relationships between citizens and government. In the United States, Code for America and the Presidential Innovation Fellows have demonstrated the positive impact a small group of technologists can have working hand-in-hand with government. With the launch of Code for All, Code for Europe, Code4Kenya, and Code4Africa, among others, the model is going global.
But despite the increasing popularity of civic innovation fellowships, there are few templates for how a “Code for” program can be adapted to a different context. In the US, the success of Code for America has drawn from a wealth of tech talent eager to volunteer skills, public and private support, and the active participation of municipal governments. Elsewhere, new “Code for” programs are surely going to have to operate within a different set of capacities and constraints.”

Using Crowdsourcing In Government

Daren C. Brabham for IBM Center for The Business of Government: “The growing interest in “engaging the crowd” to identify or develop innovative solutions to public problems has been inspired by similar efforts in the commercial world.  There, crowdsourcing has been successfully used to design innovative consumer products or solve complex scientific problems, ranging from custom-designed T-shirts to mapping genetic DNA strands.
The Obama administration, as well as many state and local governments, have been adapting these crowdsourcing techniques with some success.  This report provides a strategic view of crowdsourcing and identifies four specific types:

  • Type 1:  Knowledge Discovery and Management. Collecting knowledge reported by an on-line community, such as the reporting of earth tremors or potholes to a central source.
  • Type 2:  Distributed Human Intelligence Tasking. Distributing “micro-tasks” that require human intelligence to solve, such as transcribing handwritten historical documents into electronic files.
  • Type 3:  Broadcast Search. Broadcasting a problem-solving challenge widely on the internet and providing an award for solution, such as NASA’s prize for an algorithm to predict solar flares
  • Type 4:  Peer-Vetted Creative Production. Creating peer-vetted solutions, where an on-line community both proposes possible solutions and is empowered to collectively choose among the solutions.

By understanding the different types, which require different approaches, public managers will have a better chance of success.  Dr. Brabham focuses on the strategic design process rather than on the specific technical tools that can be used for crowdsourcing.  He sets forth ten emerging best practices for implementing a crowdsourcing initiative.”

Collaboration In Biology's Century

Todd Sherer, Chief Executive Officer of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, in Forbes: “he problem is, we all still work in a system that feeds on secrecy and competition. It’s hard enough work just to dream up win/win collaborative structures; getting them off the ground can feel like pushing a boulder up a hill. Yet there is no doubt that the realities of today’s research environment — everything from the accumulation of big data to the ever-shrinking availability of funds — demand new models for collaboration. Call it “collaboration 2.0.”…I share a few recent examples in the hope of increasing the reach of these initiatives, inspiring others like them, and encouraging frank commentary on how they’re working.
Open-Access Data
The successes of collaborations in the traditional sense, coupled with advanced techniques such as genomic sequencing, have yielded masses of data. Consortia of clinical sites around the world are working together to collect and characterize data and biospecimens through standardized methods, leading to ever-larger pools — more like Great Lakes — of data. Study investigators draw their own conclusions, but there is so much more to discover than any individual lab has the bandwidth for….
A great way to grow engagement with resources you’re willing to share? Ask for it. Collaboration 2.0 casts a wide net. We dipped our toe in the crowdsourcing waters earlier this year with our Parkinson’s Data Challenge, which asked anyone interested to download a set of data that had been collected from PD patients and controls using smart phones. …
Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration 2.0
The more we uncover about the interconnectedness and complexity of the human system, the more proof we are gathering that findings and treatments for one disease may provide invaluable insights for others. We’ve seen some really intriguing crosstalk between the Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease research communities recently…
The results should be: More ideas. More discovery. Better health.”

A collaborative way to get to the heart of 3D printing problems

PSFK: “Because most of us only see the finished product when it comes to 3D printing projects – it’s easy to forget that things can, and do, go wrong when it comes to this miracle technology.
3D printing is constantly evolving, reaching exciting new heights, and touching every industry you can think of – but all this progress has left a trail of mangled plastic, and a devastated machines in it’s wake.
The Art of 3D Print Failure is a Flickr group that aims to document this failure, because after all, mistakes are how we learn, and how we make sure the same thing doesn’t happen the next time around. It can also prevent mistakes from happening to those who are new to 3D printing, before they even make them!”

Manipulation Among the Arbiters of Collective Intelligence: How Wikipedia Administrators Mold Public Opinion

New paper by Sanmay Das, Allen Lavoie, and Malik Magdon-Ismail: “Our reliance on networked, collectively built information is a vulnerability when the quality or reliability of this information is poor. Wikipedia, one such collectively built information source, is often our first stop for information on all kinds of topics; its quality has stood up to many tests, and it prides itself on having a “Neutral Point of View”. Enforcement of neutrality is in the hands of comparatively few, powerful administrators. We find a surprisingly large number of editors who change their behavior and begin focusing more on a particular controversial topic once they are promoted to administrator status. The conscious and unconscious biases of these few, but powerful, administrators may be shaping the information on many of the most sensitive topics on Wikipedia; some may even be explicitly infiltrating the ranks of administrators in order to promote their own points of view. Neither prior history nor vote counts during an administrator’s election can identify those editors most likely to change their behavior in this suspicious manner. We find that an alternative measure, which gives more weight to influential voters, can successfully reject these suspicious candidates. This has important implications for how we harness collective intelligence: even if wisdom exists in a collective opinion (like a vote), that signal can be lost unless we carefully distinguish the true expert voter from the noisy or manipulative voter.”

Smartphones As Weather Surveillance Systems

Tom Simonite in MIT Technology Review: “You probably never think about the temperature of your smartphone’s battery, but it turns out to provide an interesting method for tracking outdoor air temperature. It’s a discovery that adds to other evidence that mobile apps could provide a new way to measure what’s happening in the atmosphere and improve weather forecasting.
Startup OpenSignal, whose app crowdsources data on cellphone reception, first noticed in 2012 that changes in battery temperature correlated with those outdoors. On Tuesday, they published a scientific paper on that technique in a geophysics journal and announced that the technique will be used to interpret data from a weather crowdsourcing app. OpenSignal originally started collecting data on battery temperatures to try and understand the connections between signal strength and how quickly a device chews through its battery.
OpenSignal’s crowdsourced weather-tracking effort joins another accidentally enabled by smartphones. A project called PressureNET that collects air pressure data by taking advantage of the fact many Android phones have a barometer inside to aid their GPS function (see “App Feeds Scientists Atmospheric Data From Thousands of Smartphones”). Cliff Mass, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington, is working to incorporate PressureNET data into weather models that usually rely on data from weather stations. He believes that smartphones could provide valuable data from places where there are no weather stations, if enough people start sharing data using apps like PressureNET.
Other research suggests that logging changes in cell network signal strength perceived by smartphones could provide yet more weather data. In February researchers in the Netherlands produced detailed maps of rainfall compiled by monitoring fluctuations in the signal strength measured by cellular network masts, caused by water droplets in the atmosphere.”

We the People Update

Washington Post: “The White House launched the We The People petition site in 2011 as a way for Americans to get their government to respond to their calls for action. On the digital platform, people can create and sign petitions seeking specific action on an issue from the federal government. In theory, once a petition has garnered a certain number of signatures within a certain time frame, it is reviewed by White House staff and receives an official response.
But that’s not always what happens.
Now a new site, www.whpetitions.info, takes its own tally and highlights petitions that have received enough signatures but have not received responses. By its count, the White House has responded to 87 percent of petitions that have met their signature thresholds with an average response time of 61 days. But the average waiting time so far for the 30 unanswered petitions is 240 days. And six of them have been waiting for over a year.”