Tag Archives: crowdsourcing

Collaboration Won $1,000,000!

Yesterday I wrote about the Netflix prize — $1,000,000 awarded to the team BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos for creating an algorithm that was 10.06% better at recommending movies that customers would like.

Improvements came quickly and then bogged down. Here are the highlights:

  • 2007 $50,000 progress prize —  BellKor with an 8.43% improvement
  • 2008 $50,000 progress prize — BellKor in BigChaos with a 9.44% improvement. This team was a combination of the two front runners BellKor and Big Chaos
  • 2009 $1,000,000 grand prize — BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos at 10.06%. This team was a combination of BelKor in Big Chaos and Pragmatic Theory. Another collaborative team, the Ensemble (a merger of the Grand Prize Team and Opera Solutions and Valdelay United), tied but their final submission was submitted 20 minutes later.

“This has been one of the wonderful discoveries in the competition, that blending teams can lead to substantial gains…” said Chris Volinsky, a scientist at AT&T Research and a member of BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos Team. Blending different technical skills (statistical and machine-learning techniques) “only works well if you combine models that approach the problem differently. That’s why collaboration has been so effective, because different people approach problems differently.”

Some of the factors that affected predictions were:

  • people rate movies they saw a long time ago differently than the ones they saw recently
  • movie watchers tend to rate movies differently on Fridays versus Mondays
  • a rating given on a Monday is a poor indicator of other movies the viewer will like

Other companies are also using crowdsourcing to solve real problems. Check out these websites to see some of the opportunities offered through these clearinghouse sites:

What problem would you like to solve by offering a prize?

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Crowdsourcing at Netflix

The challenge: Create an algorithm that was 10% better than the one Netflix was currently using to recommend movies to subscribers and win $1,000,000!

The contest began on October 2, 2006 and was expected to take some time. It is a great example of crowdsourcing, or community-based design, which allows organizations to become more porous and tap talent outside of their organization.

“It’s been quite a drama,” said Neil Hunt, Netflix chief product officer. “At first, a whole lot of teams got in — and they got 6-percent improvement, 7-percent improvement, 8-percent improvement, and then it started slowing down, and we got into year two. There was this long period where they were barely making progress, and we were thinking, ‘maybe this will never be won.’

On September 21, 2009 Netflix awarded the $1M Grand Prize to the collaborative team “BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos.” Tune in tomorrow to find out about the role of collaboration in this contest!

Debbie

Being Porous

“Winning companies today have open and porous boundaries and compete by reaching outside their walls to harness external knowledge, resources and capabilities.”

–Wikinomics, by Don Tapscott & Anthony D. Williams

What does it mean to be porous? According to Websters, Porous is an adjective meaning 1. possessing or full of pores; 2a. permeable to fluids, 2b. permeable to outside influences; 3. capable of being penetrated, as in porous national boundaries

Porosity is actually the measure of the void spaces in a material. Examples of porous materials are sponges, cork and sandstone.

When we’re thinking about collaboration, porous might mean:

  • To allow new/different ideas to seep in
  • To be willing to offer your ideas to others
  • To be willing to change your mind
  • To have room for new/different points of view – to not be closed off

In the next few blog posts, we’ll explore a technique for being more porous and an example of a company inviting in external knowledge.

In what circumstances is it easy for you to be porous? When is it most challenging?