Today I learned that a lot of people do gaming all the time. In fact, at least 17 million gaming hours are spent every hour. There’s no doubt that this is a lot of time spent, considering that there are a lot of problems to solve in this world. Can we motivate gamers into people that generate revenue or solve problems in real life on a global level?
After thinking about this, I gave it a thought and realized that we can’t change gamers. However, we could try changing the games instead. Is it possible to somehow harness human processing power in scenarios where computational processing power isn’t sufficient? Imagine what 17 million hours an hour could do for humanity. That’s what I call generating value! I did some research, and realized that others had been thinking about this as well.
At first, I came up with an interesting TED talk shown below.
This incredibly inspiring talk empowered me to continue on my quest for an answer, or just a possible solution. Moving on through the list of results, I found a guy who had actually managed to succeed in harnessing these powers before – a guy who happened to be the creator of the ReCaptcha project.
This project as a whole is quite exciting, since it (when used by millions of people worldwide) helps digitize books! I didn’t know this until I saw the actual conference by TEDx.
This was an interesting discovery. The solution is simple, yet elegant, and works. But why does it work?
When working with crowdsourcing systems, one may assume that it’s quite relevant whether or not the general concept is attractive, so that people are actually motivated to use it. For some people, they will be motivated to contributing for the cause itself. However, looking at it realistically, people would rather not use it at all, unless it would somehow benefit themselves or gain value. So why does ReCaptcha work? It’s quite safe to say that there’s no element or source of motivation in this system.
Nobody wants to sit along all day and fill out codes. However, there’s a general need to administer and manage things online through already established systems. In these systems (from the product owners side) there’s a need for security and identification. Whenever the general user’s need or interest in the system exceeds the value in the time spent on filling out those security codes, the user is willing to use the final system, and hence, the captcha security system is being used.
Perhaps crowdsourcing could be implemented in current systems? Of course, this would require the product owners to reshape their product entirely. But it would be worth it!
Let’s back up a bit though. What about scenarios where motivation is in fact needed to establish a crowdsourcing synergy effect? I decided to start a discussion on a general business/real-world-issue forum. Quickly, the question paid off, and a lot of people showed interest in the concept. To many, however, the concept wasn’t new at all, and they had witnessed other alternative crowdsourcing solutions in action. Going through the list of replies as of the 19th of December 2011, the most interesting are displayed below.
You do realize this is already done, right? I mean, it wasn’t long ago there was that big news wave when they figured out that rare protein folding via a free protein folding game they’d distributed to people.
Ah, Foldit, that’s what it was called.
After this reply, I felt kind of stupid sharing my general idea to anyone. Obviously, crowdsourcing has been done more excessively than first thought, and has apparently flourished in especially biological and nanotechnology areas of research. Reading on from the list, another guy finally came up with a phrase and term describing the phenomenon.
It’s called Human Computation or Crowdsourcing, and has been done to some extent, but the full potential is definately not tapped yet. If you manage to get any useful data at all from the WoW crowd, you’ll be a millionaire. Most of the games like this I’ve seen have been little browser games that are fun for a few hours. There’s one game, for example, in which two players are shown an image, they name it, and if they name it the same, they score. This is used to create search tags for images in the internet. (I can’t find it right now, but I believe Google has cloned it for itself). I and my friend actually planned to create a company that’d use crowdsourcing to transcribe speech to text (but it fell apart before we got it started).
Moving on, a different post confirmed the existence and usage of crowdsourcing in even more systems across the web.
This thread may be interesting to you, especially the video linked in the OP.
Following this link leads to a post describing a project initially started by the same guy who started ReChaptcha! Apparently, this project (Duolingo) allows you to learn new languages while contributing to translating the web into a different language (yes, the whole web – more specifically Wikipedia and other knowledge resources). All great concepts!
Ah well, it’s been a long day of research. I’ll continue my research and general thinking tomorrow, and then hopefully summarize and combine the overall discoveries at the end of the week, to make something useful out of it. Wish me luck!
Oh, and if you have a great crowdsourcing idea that will motivate people to use it while still helping for the general good, let me know. The Flamefusion team might be your best developer resource!