Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Exponential (or Collective) Minuteness = Big Outcomes

Last Friday, May 21, 2010, got a tweet from @justinrains informing his followers that Google search page had a small version of Pacman that you could play. Of course, I browsed to the popular search page and began playing that classic game. The beauty now was that no quarters required! I spent about two minutes playing and then moved on with my day.

My thinking was that this was not much time wasted. However, what if that two minutes is multiplied by millions of users? According to Tony Wright, the founder of RescueTime Blog, just seconds viewing or playing pacman the other day cost 120 million in productivity. How? "The average user spent 36 seconds MORE on on Friday....$120,483,800 is the dollar tally, If the average Google user has a COST of $25/hr (note that cost is 1.3 – 2.0 X pay rate)."

Wow! Small amounts multiplied results in large outcomes. What if everyone could contribute small amounts of  attention and brain power to solve problems? This is what happens with CAPTCHAs:

About 200 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that's not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into "reading" books.

What is notable is that technology enables this "collective minuteness" that yields large results. The question then becomes how can we further use it to solve problems? Can collective involvement via social media help in the search/discovery/creation of alternative energy sources? Is there a way we can use mobile computing to assist healthcare? These are not questions for the sake of a blog posting! What are your thoughts?

Posted via email from Mark's Musings

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