Submarines & Crowdsourcing

“None of us is as smart as all of us” – Japanese proverb

In 1906, organizers of a country fair invited a crowd of nearly 1000 attendees to guess the weight of a large ox as part of a giant raffle. No one was right, but the crowd’s average was only a pound away from the animal’s actual weight

Every industry has harnessed crowd intelligence at one point or another. But now, with the advent of the information age, tapping into the source has become less complicated, whether it concerns direct accessibility to research or content creation.

I have never been much of a Google fanboy but I had to give them some serious respect after reading about their challenge this February offering 1 million dollars in bounties for hackers who could demonstrate security deficiencies and holes in its Chrome browser during the Pwnium context during the CanSecWest conference in Vancouver – it was a brilliant plan – not only did it show great confidence in its product but also acknowledged that there are people out there that know more than them, and tapping that potential out there only made sense – and it’s a move that few companies would be brave enough to try in their same shoes.

Last year, Google offered a $20,000 bounty, on top of the base $15,000 Pwn2Own prize, for anyone who successfully downed Chrome, but there were no takers. Chrome is currently the only browser eligible for the Pwn2Own contest that has never been brought down, Ars Technica notes. Contestants have indicated that difficulties bypassing Google’s security sandbox is the reason they’ve avoided the browser and focused on the Internet Explorer and Safari browsers instead.

OK, so offering financial inducements to get community members to improve a product isn’t the most original idea, but then this article really showed some of the power of leveraging the knowledge of people


A Navy officer expert in tracking subs was also asked to play the game. He used time-honored Navy anti-submarine warfare operations tactics, but the highest he placed on a leader board was third. On most he was fifth or sixth.

Testing and challenging naval tactics with the youth of the world – now that’s a novel idea and a powerful one – kind of like in Mercury Risingwhen that autistic boy cracks the newest American encryption scheme that researchers had placed into a youth puzzle magazine just to help make sure that noone in the public could crack it – just in case….

And for those of us familiar with the movie, The Last Starfighter– this sounds very familiar…….its naval warfare instead of space jockey but close enough…

But crowdsourcing has really started showing up in new areas such as Compassion of all places – I am sure everyone has read the story of the senior citizen lady acting as bus monitor who was cruelly verbally abused and so the online community came to her aid and within 24 hours raised over $400,000 after one generous soul sent out the word to the online community that perhaps people could pitch in and raise enough money to send her on a vacation  – started seeing stories like these as of a few years ago once online collaboration tools made community fundraising easy as PayPal.  Best use of money? ….hmmmm, well, I wish it could be spread across many worthy causes but the point is how powerful these new social media tools are.

Sites like Kickstarter now allow budding entrepreneurs the chance to tap the online community for venture capital for technology projects, even money to make movies – if you can find enough people out there that like your pitch

Originally found this site through hearing stories like this one where someone wanted to make kits turning iPod Nanos into a sweet watch


For the right uses, crowdsourcing has become a very powerful and effective tool.


image – Sure hope it rains tonight….


About bradosterloo

.NET Software Developer working for Innovative Systems, LLC in Mitchell, SD
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