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* Making Social Media Work


February 03, 2010

Anyone know how to use the Internet to actually get results? Yes. DARPA and MIT.

Recently, DARPA (The agency who should actually take credit for inventing the Internet – 40 years ago) held a contest to see if networking over the the Web could actually enable a group of people to collectively solve problems.

The premise was fairly simple. 10 red weather balloons were  “hidden” in various spots across the United States. To win, a team had to locate all 10 balloons using social networking over the Web. The first team to do so would receive 40 thousand dollars.

And here’s where the story gets interesting. How long did it take for the winning MIT team to solve the puzzle? A couple months? Nope. A couple weeks? No – Less than 9 hours! Not only did they manage to cover a search area totaling 3,537,441 square miles to locate all of the balloons, but they did it in the amount of time you spend at the office. How’s that for a good days work?

Twitter and Facebook can actually be used to mobilize a group to solve problems over massive distances and act in a mutually beneficial way. Case in point, MIT took half of the proceeds from the win and paid the collaborators, who helped solve the puzzle, a set sum for each balloon and donated the other half to charity. So, with a strong reward/benefit message you can reach millions of people and produce results.

The fact of the matter is that we, as a community, are only using the smallest portion of the Internet’s true potential. With creative thinking and problem solving, we could do so much more.

Now get out there and look good!

Reference:

https://networkchallenge.darpa.mil/default.aspx
http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/tech/2009/12/05/intv.long.balloon.hunt.cnn.html
http://civic.mit.edu/news/media-labs-riley-crane-on-colbert-report

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