This story is from the category Life
Date posted: 15/08/2012
"It's potentially a new way to do science."
In 1714, the British government held a contest. They offered a large cash prize to anyone who could solve the vexing "longitude problem" -- how to determine a ship's east/west position on the open ocean -- since none of their naval experts had been able to do so.
Lots of people gave it a try. One of them, a self-educated carpenter named John Harrison, invented the marine chronometer -- a rugged and highly precise clock -- that did the trick. For the first time, sailors could accurately determine their location at sea.
A centuries-old problem was solved. And, arguably, crowdsourcing was born.
Crowdsourcing is basically what it sounds like: posing a question or asking for help from a large group of people. Coined as a term in 2006, crowdsourcing has taken off in the internet era. Think of Wikipedia, and its thousands of unpaid contributors, now vastly larger than the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Crowdsourcing has allowed many problems to be solved that would be impossible for experts alone. Astronomers rely on an army of volunteers to scan for new galaxies. At climateprediction.net, citizens have linked their home computers to yield more than a hundred million hours of climate modeling; it's the world's largest forecasting experiment.
But what if experts didn't simply ask the crowd to donate time or answer questions? What if the crowd was asked to decide what questions to ask in the first place?
Could the crowd itself be the expert?
That's what a team at the University of Vermont decided to explore -- and the answer seems to be yes.
See the full Story via external site: www.sciencedaily.com
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