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…