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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