The Next Frontier in Crowdsourcing: Your Smartphone

Rachel Metz in MIT TechnologyReview: “Rather than swiping the screen or entering a passcode to unlock the smartphone in my hand, I have to tell it how energetic the people around me are feeling by tapping one of four icons. I’m the only one here, and the one that best fits my actual energy level, to be honest, is a figure lying down and emitting a trail of z’s.
I’m trying out an Android app called Twitch. Created by Stanford researchers, it asks you to complete a few simple tasks—contributing information, as with the reported energy levels, or performing simple tasks like ranking images or structuring data extracted from Wikipedia pages—each time you unlock your phone. The information collected by apps like Twitch could be useful to academics, market researchers, or local businesses. Such software could also provide a low-cost way to perform useful work that can easily be broken up into pieces and fed to millions of devices.

Twitch is one of several projects exploring crowdsourcing via the lock screen. Plenty of people already contribute freely to crowdsourcing websites like Wikipedia and Quora or paid services like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, and the sustained popularity of traffic app Waze shows that people are willing to contribute to a common cause from their handsets if it provides a timely, helpful result.
There are certainly enough smartphones with lock screens ready to be harnessed. According to data from market researcher comScore, 160 million people in the U.S.—or 67 percent of cell phone users—have smartphones, and nearly 52 percent of these run Google’s Android OS, which allows apps like Twitch to replace the standard lock screen….”