Crowdsourcing Search: The Red Balloon Challenge

Beatriz Travieso via Manuel Cebrian

In 2009, DARPA launched the Network Challenge to explore the roles the Internet and social networking play in the timely communication, wide-area team-building, and urgent mobilization required to solve broad-scope, time-critical problems. The challenge was to be the first to locate 10 moored, 8-foot, red weather balloons at 10 random locations in the continental United States. A team from MIT won by locating all balloons in under 9 hours. We helped analyze the factors behind the team's success. We then quantified the limits of this kind of mobilization, and introduced techniques for improving information verification in mass collaboration.