DARPA Network Challenge

by Jason J. Jones

Wherever you are this Saturday – look up.  If you see a giant red orb, don’t be alarmed.  It just means you are part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency‘s latest experiment.

The DARPA Network Challenge is

a competition that will 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 is to be the first to submit the locations of 10 moored, 8-foot, red, weather balloons at 10 fixed locations in the continental United States.

A $40,000 prize will be awarded to whomever first submits the correct location (latitude and longitude) of all ten balloons.

Naturally, people are forming teams with varying strategies and varying success.  Many are offering bounties for each balloon location (e.g. Red Balloon Race).  Some are hoping people will participate just for the fun or challenge, and plan to donate the prize money to charity (e.g. Project Red Baloon).

Personally, I plan to sit at my computer in my pajamas all day Saturday and “watch” as it were.  I’ll be checking the Facebook groups and some of the bigger challenge-specific sites.   I may even have to join Twitter (shudder).

Keep watching the skies.  The balloons are out there…

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4 responses to “DARPA Network Challenge

  1. I was thinking the best strategy would be to recruit others to post fake balloons all over the place. If you knew which balloons were fake only you could ID the real ones.

    I could be a real evil genius, if I wasn’t so lazy… and not a genius.

  2. I think disinformation is actually a losing strategy in this game for a number of reasons.

    1) The validity of a reported balloon location is easy to verify. You can go there and see for sure whether it is there (or someone can). Contrast that to the question of where Obama was born. You can’t go back in time to see it yourself. Disinformation is more effective in that case.
    2) In spite of everything, I still believe that people are basically good at heart. I think most people will take a pro-social approach to the game, so fake sightings will be in the minority, and vastly outnumbered by reports of legitimate sightings.
    3) If you were going to go the trouble of organizing enough people to make distributed disinformation a viable strategy, then you might as well have used the same effort to organize the same people to find the true locations.

    I guess it depends on your guess as to whether your set of friends leans more towards the altruistic or sociapathic :)

  3. I was actually thinking of have people put actual fake balloons out, not just post about them on twitter.

    Altruism is a sub-optimal behavior strategy when anonymity is a component of the system.

  4. shotgunapproach

    I’m liveblogging here http://shotgunapproach.wordpress.com/

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