How To Help Researchers While Waiting For A Bus
A Finnish team made crowdsourcing a literal public affair by setting up large touchscreens in busy areas and watching passersby as they performed basic research tasks with them. The results were on par with those of paid online volunteers.
What's the Latest Development?
Researchers from Finland's University of Oulu set up four large LCD touchscreens in busy areas around town, each of them displaying a "touch me" button. Passersby who followed the instruction were then asked to participate in the type of data task increasingly outsourced to online volunteers: identify infected blood cells to help train detection software. Cameras watched as the people interacted with the screens. The results received were about as accurate as those from paid workers from Amazon's Mechanical Turk service.
What's the Big Idea?
Enlisting the help of online strangers for massive yet mundane research tasks has a bad side, say the researchers. Some provide fraudulent information, for example. Team member Vassilis Kostakos says they were curious to see what would happen if such tasks were put on public display, so to speak: "[P]eople walk up to [them] not knowing exactly what they want to do and usually to kill time. So we tried to find a way to tap into that." Lone users tended to use the screens the most, and they helped draw other interested passersby. The team plans to present their research at the UbiComp conference in September.
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- Bezmenov described this process as "a great brainwashing" which has four basic stages.
- The first stage is called "demoralization" which takes from 15 to 20 years to achieve.
When these companies compete, in the current system, the people lose.
- When this phenomenon happens in the pharmaceutical world, companies quickly apply for broad protection of their patents, which can last up to 20 years, and fence off research areas for others. The result of this? They stay at the top of the ladder, at the cost of everyday people benefitting from increased competition.
- Since companies have worked out how to legally game the system, Amin argues we need to get rid of this "one size fits all" system, which treats product innovation the same as product invention. Companies should still receive an incentive for coming up with new products, he says, but not 20 years if the product is the result of "tweaking" an existing one.
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