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Searching For Balloons in a Social Network

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Red balloon challenge

Credit: Courtesy of MIT

The U.S. Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA) launched the Red Balloon Challenge in December 2009, placing 10 red weather balloons in random places across the county and offering $40,000 to the first team to use social media correctly identify the coordinates for all 10 balloons.

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) team won the contest, casting a wide net across numerous social networks, adding an incentive to those users that contributed to finding the correct coordinates. In the process, the researchers collected and analyzed a large amount of data on the size and scope of Internet connections and recently published their research.

The researchers, led by MIT's Alex Pentland, used a recursive incentive mechanism, which they found was more effective than other common marketing strategies that use incentives. The promise of a staggered reward spurred people to quickly reach out to others, instead of newsletter subscribers, who showed a more delayed response, according to the MIT team.

From MIT News
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Abstracts Copyright © 2011 Information Inc. External Link, Bethesda, Maryland, USA 


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