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Getting results for “shockingly little money”

MIT researchers were able to solve DARPA’s ultimate needle-in-a-haystack balloon hunt in just nine hours. Not just because they were especially brilliant, but because they knew how to motivate and organize thousands of people to solve a problem. As Peter Lee, a DARPA project manager, put it: “They got a huge amount of participation from shockingly little money.”

Crowdsourcing is a process that fascinates all of us at SmartBrief on Social Media. It can provide fantastic results, but it’s a little more complicated than just asking the Internet to do you a favor — see our ongoing experiment with re-tweeting readers. It requires the know-how to energize and then coordinate the efforts of strangers who are typically working for little or no pay. While the DARPA experiment shows unequivocally that crowdsourcing works, it’ll be some time before researchers can decode what MIT’s efforts say about crowdsourcing best practices.

Have you ever crowd-sourced a project? How did you energize and coordinate your fans?

Image credit, Nikada via iStock