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MIT and the DARPA Network Challenge

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the 99-red-baboons dept.

The Internet 68

mit_team writes "As you might have heard, DARPA has announced a network challenge in the vein of the DARPA Grand Challenge. In this challenge, participants are tasked with finding 10 red weather balloons distributed throughout the continental US for 8 hours on December 5. The idea is to get this to be a crowd-sourcing kind of activity, where people will use social media tools to solve this problem. Our group, the MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team, based out of the MIT Media Lab, has created a system where you get money not just for finding balloons, but for getting people to join the hunt who find the balloons, or for getting people who get people who find balloons, etc. First you have to sign up. Then you can send invitations to others to join through your own unique URL, crediting you with recruiting them. While our team is interested in winning the contest, we are also interested in studying information diffusion in social networks. Does Twitter spread information faster than blogs? Is your blog effective at spreading information? We could use your help in getting out the word. If you sign up and blog about us you will be able to see the impact that your blog has on getting out the word in real time. Win money, help science, and help charity! Kind regards, The MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team."

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Sounds like (1)

Pulse_Instance (698417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330170)

Sounds like the URLs people use to try and get the "free" iPods and stuff. I expect to see this all over forums soon.

Re:Sounds like (2, Insightful)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330824)

Precisely what it is, except with a brand that is likely to be more trusted to many of us.

Re:Sounds like (1)

pontifier (601767) | more than 4 years ago | (#30334520)

I promise not to send iPods to people who enter at my Network Challenge website http://red40k.com/ [red40k.com] unless we win, and that's how someone wants their $3000.

How about (2, Funny)

starbugs (1670420) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330218)

By sending this message out to as many people as possible, Microsoft will pay you...

3rd (0, Offtopic)

djfuq (1151563) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330274)

3rd post! weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Re:3rd (1, Offtopic)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330582)

3rd post! weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

What time zone are you in? If you're in the States - East Coast, well, starting the party early?

England, it's what, 11:13PM now? And you're pretty piss drunk about now.

Now, if you're on the West coast, it's 3:14PM - off work early?

If you're in the Midwest, I'd be pretty drunk too at this time every day.

Over in Hawaii, dude, having a hell of a lunch are we?

Japan. Ah, drunkedsan! An eye opener for your Saturday before you go into work?

China - what, the government has put a gun to your head and you have to drink!

And if you're in Europe, well, it's in the middle of the night - a weekend night - so, have a good time er, you're blacked out about now so, never mind...

Pyramid Scheme (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30330280)

And I thought Pyramid Schemes were illegal?

Re:Pyramid Scheme (1)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330484)

It's not a pyramid scheme...it's a pyramid scheme OF SCIENCE!

"Read This Notice" (4, Funny)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330282)

Dear esteemed Sir and Madam.

The University of MIT has lost its Identified Flying Baloons(IFB). We need you to locate them for us.

Join this work from home opportunity and you can earn part of $40,000 from your one bedroom apartment! *

If you don't forward this to 100 of your next best friends you will lose out on your chance to have a big enough Multi Level Network to get the reward!

Tetimonial:
"Once that happens, we send Dave $2000 for finding the balloon. Carol gets $1000 for inviting Dave, Bob gets $500 for inviting Carol, and Alice gets $250 for inviting Bob. The remaining $250 is donated to charity."

*(Chances not representative of all entrants. Some terms and conditions apply. See site for details.)

Re:"Read This Notice" (1)

Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30331412)

http://balloon.mit.edu/media/images/how_it_works.jpg [mit.edu]

I really like this triangular based scheme they've got going there. Everyone knows triangles are the sturdiest shape, so this is a good basis for the transfer of money. These techies should let some investment types in on their cool ideas.

Also, let's say I sign up directly from MIT and find one balloon, I get $2,000. Awesome, go me. MIT is out $2,000 for that balloon. If my friend Fred had referred me, I get my $2,000 and Fred gets $1,000. Now MIT is out $3,000 for that same balloon. One can see from this geometric progression [wikipedia.org] that no matter how many referrals a balloon goes through MIT maxes out their payout at no more than $4,000 per balloon or $40,000 total. As long as they only pay out money if they get all 10, they can't lose money on this. But what's to stop me as an individual from noticing that I could just refer myself 10 times or so in series and then get a payout close to $4,000 instead of the $2,000..

ponzi? (2, Funny)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330292)

Our group, the MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team, based out of the MIT Media Lab, has created a system where you get money not just for finding balloons, but for getting people to join the hunt who find the balloons, or for getting people who get people who find balloons, etc.

Maybe you could get Bernie Madoff to help.

Re:ponzi? (3, Informative)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330398)

Not every MLM scheme is a ponzi scheme. They do lend themselves to shadiness, but there are some distinctions (which is why Amway, or whatever they call themselves these days, doesn't get prosecuted into oblivion).

The major distinction is, the flow of money is linked to production of something that serves a goal outside the system. In Amway's case, that would be a sale; in this case, it would be knowledge of the location of a balloon.

missing boy? (3, Funny)

Aeros (668253) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330304)

Will there be a little boy trapped inside each one?

'Scuse the Nasty, Paranoid Mind (4, Interesting)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330312)

Of course, these charming folks would never dream of using the project to map out, in a loose but enlightening way, the contacts of some of the more net-savvy people around. And keeping that info for future reference, of course.

Vonnegut would loved it.

Re:'Scuse the Nasty, Paranoid Mind (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330414)

They could just check Facebook (I don't mean everybody on Facebook, I mean they could set some net-savvy roots and work from there).

Re:'Scuse the Nasty, Paranoid Mind (1, Flamebait)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330600)

The more net-savvy people around don't use twitter or facebook, etc.

Re:'Scuse the Nasty, Paranoid Mind (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330874)

The more net-savvy people around don't use twitter or facebook, etc.

Depends. I know several people who could easily be called "net-savvy" who use Facebook to keep in touch with family/friends. And when I say "net-savvy" I'm not talking about people who know how to use Google or Wikipedia to find information, I'm talking about people who administer servers/networks, and participate in "grey hat" operations involving the security of other servers. Contrary to popular stereotypes, most of the sysadmins and people savvy about things like how the 'net actually works have friends and social lives.

Despite worries about the privacy on Facebook, it's not that hard to remain relatively anonymous while still giving people a way to get back in touch with you 20 years later. Just control what kind of information you give them. Twitter, on the other hand, is a complete and utter waste of bandwidth and a blight on the 'net.

Re:'Scuse the Nasty, Paranoid Mind (1)

ckedge (192996) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330956)

So we can identify them by exclusion!

Re:'Scuse the Nasty, Paranoid Mind (1)

dissy (172727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30332130)

So we can identify them by exclusion! ...

Well played sir!

Re:'Scuse the Nasty, Paranoid Mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30332340)

The more net-savvy people around don't use twitter or facebook, etc.

The most net-savvy people will be storming DARPA's servers with DOS attacks tomorrow. Good luck submitting your winning entries!

Re:'Scuse the Nasty, Paranoid Mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30338634)

Mod parent up! Why the flamebait rating? Twitter and Facebook is shoved at you from every side and medium it takes a few marbles above the average pleb to avoid them. I find a reply mentioning those who are savvy using facebook and the bit about social lives. If belonging to an online social site is the bar by which we mention whether or not someone has a social life, that is pathetic. You may as well be in WoW or some other fantasy land e-medium.

Re:'Scuse the Nasty, Paranoid Mind (1)

slcdb (317433) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341478)

No, but they might try to use what they learn to figure out the best strategy for finding something else... or someone else... they'd like to find. *Cough* Osama bin Laden, et. al. *Cough*

Re:'Scuse the Nasty, Paranoid Mind (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342708)

> ...these charming folks would never dream of using the project to map out,
> in a loose but enlightening way, the contacts of some of the more net-savvy
> people around.

It's all part of the plan these evil geniuses hatched forty years ago when they invented the Internet.

This sounds way to much like Amway! (2, Funny)

richardkelleher (1184251) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330332)

The description of the payouts sounds so much like Amway, I almost ran screaming from the room and torched my computer.

Re:This sounds way to much like Amway! (1)

bradorsomething (527297) | more than 4 years ago | (#30332616)

"It's not Amway! It's a tiered balloon marketing program!"

Well now... (3, Interesting)

war4peace (1628283) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330368)

Although it sounds like fun, I can see some flaws in this approach. First off, I think that whatever you don't ask for and lands in your Inbox/IM windows is SPAM if it contains this kind of URLs. People don't ask if you want to participate, they simply assume you would love to participate and will endlessly spam you with mass messages, e-mails and even calls.
Last time I have encountered such an URL sharing spree was no earlier than a week ago, due to a stupid site that promised that people would win whatever items if they get a certain number of clicks on an unique generated URL, just like it's the case here. All I can say is that I had to sign out from all my IM accounts because of that, and after things cooled down and I started my Yahoo messenger again, it froze due to the sheer amount of offline messages. Turned out that some people sent their bloody link over 1000 times via mass messages. So it's not funny at all, because people all get heated up about it and apply every dirty trick in the book to get an edge over the others:
- Make redirecting web pages and give you a false link by advertising other stuff.
- Threaten you to click on the link
- Beg you
- Send the link every 10 seconds or so
...and so on

In this particular case, I'm safe (not in the US) but I've had my share in the past. And I don't like it.

Re:Well now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30330564)

Except this sounds like more of an affiliate scheme rather than a page-view based ad scheme. Note that you get paid if you recruit someone who eventually finds a balloon. The goal isn't to sign up as many people as possible, but to sign up people who will actually be committed to the challenge.

A DARPA Network? (0)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330382)

Bah! Whatever could come of that?

All I can say is those damned balloons better stay the heck off my lawn.

Re: Off (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330434)

They will. But they'll get stuck in your crab-apple tree.

Oh, great, now MIT has a spam club (4, Interesting)

mtrachtenberg (67780) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330438)

It's not just spam, it's a spam pyramid scheme. If this doesn't say something about our culture, I don't know what would.

Re:Oh, great, now MIT has a spam club (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 4 years ago | (#30334148)

The whole 'giving of money' thing is the giveaway. Demonstrate our social networking skills by paying people - yeah that's really healthy.

It sounds like.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30330454)

The MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team is smart enough to begin their social networking exercise with a "discussion" on Slashdot, and a convenient link to join their project...

Blondie (1, Interesting)

Ssherby (1429933) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330536)

99 red balloons go by....

Re:Blondie (3, Informative)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330616)

Nena..

Re:Blondie (1)

fucket (1256188) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330628)

You mean Nena [wikipedia.org] .

What about doing it for charity? (1)

dncsky1530 (711564) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330608)

I know it's easy to motivate people by the prospect of making a dollar or two however the money would have a greater impact to a charity.

We've created a team [windarpa.com] to win this prize and we need your help. However we don't offer a dollar or two, just that you get a say in which charity the prize money will go too.

Find us on facebook! [facebook.com]

Re:What about doing it for charity? (1)

starbugs (1670420) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330920)

"RED" would be an excellent charity.
It would work if it was only MIT.

I'll cut myself! (0, Offtopic)

Bugcheese (1473705) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330612)

I'll cut myself!

Why not 99 Red ballons? (1)

starbugs (1670420) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330798)

99 Red balloons
Floating in the winter sky
Twittering till fingers hurt
Darpa money going somewhere else
Web 2 Point O springs to life
As our tax-dollars slowly fly
Focusing eyes on the sky
As ninety-nine red balloons go by

So like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30330800)

a pyramid scheme

...and the winner is (1)

tomcode (261182) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330884)

Spamford Wallace!

Anyone know where I can buy weather balloons? (2, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330930)

I mean, bulk rate. Like, buttloads of 'em.

And some red paint? (2, Interesting)

Gavin Scott (15916) | more than 4 years ago | (#30331056)

Not like anyone would even contemplate such a thing of course...

G.

Re:And some red paint? (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 4 years ago | (#30332772)

Actually red is a standard weather balloon color [scientificsales.com] , it's easier to see against a cloudy sky. But the really big ones don't seem to come in red very often.

"Crowd sourcing" intelligence collection (0, Flamebait)

Animal Farm Pig (1600047) | more than 4 years ago | (#30330978)

Today it's red balloons, in ten years it will be people who are found (for whatever reason) to be socially undesirable. Be sure to thank DARPA, MIT, and all the other entrants when they kick in your front door.

Re:"Crowd sourcing" intelligence collection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30331146)

Today it's red balloons, in ten years it will be people who are found (for whatever reason) to be socially undesirable. Be sure to thank DARPA, MIT, and all the other entrants when they kick in your front door.

Scary, huh! I'm counting on ObiWan Knobe to tell the searchers ... this isn't the balloon you are looking for.

The future... (2, Interesting)

seifried (12921) | more than 4 years ago | (#30331210)

"All citizens, a murderer is on the loose. At exactly 4:23pm everyone needs to go outside and look for this man (picture shown on the TV), if you see him call 911 immediately." - paraphrased from Farenheit 451 f memory serves

This type of thing, if it works would be an incredibly powerful tool in an emergency (you need to find a specific car, a truck with a shipping container, etc.). I'm glad to see DARPA embracing the future they themselves helped create 40 years ago!

MIT versus the world (5, Informative)

courtarro (786894) | more than 4 years ago | (#30331242)

MIT's strategy is very interesting. Several groups (like our team [ispyaredballoon.com] ) have been forming their teams for weeks, but MIT appeared on the scene just today, and it's fascinating that they got a front-page Slashdot plug. I give them lots of credit for flooding the scene with mentions in such a short time. Whereas some teams give their winnings to charity (like ours), others entice balloon spotters with cash portions of the earnings, and MIT has decided to do a little of both.

DARPA is the sole decider of how difficult this competition will be. Will they place the balloons in dense urban areas, or will the launch them in small rural communities?

Best of luck to all the teams tomorrow, MIT included. I hope that the contest winner will write a paper describing their strategy, both in network-building and in launch-day data collection.

Wanted: Montag (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30331366)

Citizens, be on the lookout for Montag the criminal.

This is only a test using red balloons, so pretend it isn't the largest spying test in US history.

Found One! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30331562)

Just kidding : )..

I think the biggest problem with this challenge is its statistically much more likely that random people across the US spot the balloons and report them, or blog about them. The people who find the balloons don't necessary have anything to do with the search teams.

Luftballon (0, Offtopic)

kindbud (90044) | more than 4 years ago | (#30331664)

Did you ever wonder how many English speakers think "luft" is German for "red" thanks to the English lyrics of Nena's song?

Satellite? (1)

Tibia1 (1615959) | more than 4 years ago | (#30331706)

Somehow hack some satellites and create a perfect algorithm to locate balloons? No big deal, right?

What I want to know is .... (2, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30331896)

... what will our government be doing while we're all looking up in the air?

High tech vs low tech contest? (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 4 years ago | (#30332788)

Laughing at you for not RTFA: the balloons are on the ground.

But seriously, I think what they'll be doing is looking for the red balloons using satellite surveillance. As I've posted before [slashdot.org] , I think this is the non-secret half of a cameras-vs-eyeballs contest: can satellites find objects of interest faster than a motivated network of humans?

DARPA is mapping society. (1)

DigitalEntropy (146564) | more than 4 years ago | (#30333156)

That concerns me. What does the Department of Defense need from understanding the intimate social structures of the nation? So, for free, you're going to voluntarily tell the Department of Defense--those who were once involved in the search for Communists during McCarthy's heyday--everybody you have contact with, or influence over?

Sure, the auspices of the data, in an abstract, non-personally identifying manner, are relevant. But there's another purpose entirely by adding incentive to participate.

First and foremost, it breaks the scientific mold and corrupts the data. All of their data must be taken in the context of the incentive. It can only be applied to other situations that have a similar context. That severely limits the usefulness of the data, and negatively impacts the value of the data.

So what is the true value of this data, and how will it be used in the long run. Also: how long do they plan to keep it? (Until another McCarthy comes along on a witch-hunt? Who then, do you know, that would damn you to interrogation and thorough, disruptive inspection by the DoD?) They say it all with: "Is your blog effective at spreading information?"

I say, "Fuck red-balloons." Find me 10 people willing to die for the sins of everybody that ever lived. Hell, find me 10 Taco Bell dishes that don't make me shit my pants every time I sneeze.

Re:DARPA is mapping society. (1)

shaka (13165) | more than 4 years ago | (#30334072)

Yeah, spot on.

Except, of course, the only information being submitted to DARPA is the location of the ten balloons.

The ones "mapping society" and whatnot are MIT, and all the other teams that participate - teams that are nothing else than loosely connected people trying to accomplish something together.

So, it's a number of groups of loosely connected people mapping their respective interconnections. It's a true threat to society, I tell you!

Re:DARPA is mapping society. (1)

DigitalEntropy (146564) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336482)

Well, the MIT terms and conditions suggest that the data will be anonymized for MIT's purposes, so MIT will not use the data in a personally identifiable way. But, the terms and conditions also state:

"You grant us a non-exclusive, royalty-free, fully-paid, worldwide, irrevocable license to use, reproduce, adapt, modify, publish, translate, create derivative works from, communicate to the public and display the Tracking Data."

So, while they limit their own use, they grant themselves the right to provide the raw data, with personally identifiable information in tact, to some other entity.

So, which one of us RTFA?

Re:DARPA is mapping society. (1)

shaka (13165) | more than 4 years ago | (#30351410)

I'm sure you read the fine article.

The MIT may reserve whichever rights they want, and it still won't be DARPA secretly mapping society.

The Red Menace (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30335338)

You're looking for red balloons, you say? Red balloons secretly distributed across our nation by members of our own defense department? Just how deep does this conspiracy run?

Re:DARPA is mapping society. (1)

slcdb (317433) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341536)

Allow me to posit an alternative interpretation. DARPA is not interested in mapping our society. They're interested in learning what the most effective strategies are for quickly locating things that they *know* exist and are "out there", but don't know their exact locations. Perhaps the application of such a strategy could be useful for one of DoD's other pet projects. You know, the one where they're trying to find Osama bin Waldo and his Al Quaedian friends.

Nah, clearly that would just be too far-fetched a theory. Clearly, what we need is an explanation with a much higher dose of paranoia, hidden agendas, conspiracies, Big Brother, and a helluva lot of tin foil hats.

Would have been amusing... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30340974)

...had it been won by a group that did not use the Internet at all.

Re:Would have been amusing... (1)

ViViDboarder (1473973) | more than 4 years ago | (#30343402)

A network of smoke signalers maybe? Possibly some CB Radio fanatics or Morse Code collectors?

ScuttleMonkey just made lots of $$$? (1)

happyjack27 (1219574) | more than 4 years ago | (#30355038)

if posting the article counts as getting new members...
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