Law in the Internet Society

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AaronChanFirstPaper 8 - 04 Sep 2012 - Main.IanSullivan
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FoldIt and "Citizen Science"


AaronChanFirstPaper 7 - 31 Dec 2011 - Main.AaronChan
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 Information access does not need to be unidirectional. Instead of traditional broadcast models, information is a two-way street on the Internet. Online access is a tool for empowerment, not just by giving power to users, but also in allowing them to contribute. The Web is now a vast depository of human knowledge; it can be leveraged for greater societal goals. For example, the success of Wikipedia demonstrates what can be accomplished with collaborative experience.
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Why does Wikipedia work? Under traditional capitalistic models, it should not. There is no payment, no remuneration for the hours upon hours editors put into it, yet it still exists and is constantly improved. The problem with understanding the new Information Goods Society where marginal cost of informational goods is zero is in grafting old models of compensation that ill fit the reality of online collaboration.

Is it na´ve to believe that people will contribute to the greater good merely out of their desire to improve the human condition? The failure of communism in practice was in the old economy where marginal cost does not equal zero. In the Informational Goods Society, economic models of compensation hold less weight. Eben speaks to this in the dotCommunist Manifesto.

This is just apple-polishing. There's no actual reason to be citing my writing here. There's also no "failure of communism" to discuss. Communism didn't fail, because there never was communism anywhere. You will have some recollection, I'm sure, that communism was the end stage of socialism, after the "withering away of the state." The 20th century "socialist" regimes had little enough to do with socialism, and nothing to do with anything that presupposed the non-existence of the State. The euphemism employed in the USSR was "presently existing socialism," which speaks volumes,

If compensation is not the model in the Informational Goods Society, then what is the main motivation for work?

How did the existence of monetarily uncompensated activity become "compensation is not the model"? Do you mean "not the exclusive model"? In that case the latter part of the sentence makes no sense, because what is not the exclusive model might still be the "main motivation." In fact, this "death of compensated work" meme is wrong, and the logic overall needs tighter editorial scrutiny.

Michael Goldhauber suggests that motivation on the Internet is driven by reputation.

He's Goldhaber. Editing includes both fact-checking and proofreading

This is further refined by Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, who reapplies economic concepts to the Internet.

What's the refinement? If it was worth citing, it must be worth stating. Name-dropping serves no purpose here.

Yet whatever the form the remuneration takes, it is still premised on a quid pro quo. Yet reputation would lose its incentivizing effect as the activity becomes increasingly dispersed and individual contributions are further anonymized. This is precisely the environment necessary to harness the widest participation. I focus instead on the frequently overlooked incentives of satisfying human curiosity, problem solving, and amusement as driving forces for scientific research.

If that's what you "focus on," why are we more than 30% of the way through the essay before we hear about it for the first time?
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Michael Goldhaber suggests that motivation on the Internet is driven by reputation. Yet whatever the form the remuneration takes, it is still premised on a quid pro quo. Yet reputation would lose its incentivizing effect as the activity becomes increasingly dispersed and individual contributions are further anonymized. This is precisely the environment necessary to harness the widest participation. I focus instead on the frequently overlooked incentives of satisfying human curiosity, problem solving, and amusement as driving forces for scientific research.
 These incentives drive the human attraction to games. Harnessing these incentives joins gaming with research in a way that channels mindless diversion into productive causes.
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Games and Citizen Science

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Puzzles and the Role of the Integrator

 FoldIt is computer game designed by University of Washington researchers that allows players to design protein structures by folding amino acids. Given the complexity of folding dozens, if not hundreds, of amino acids into viable protein structures, brute force computing power would not be a practical way of solving the problem with the current technology. Humans have an advantage in recognizing patterns and certain three-dimensional spatial intuitions that computers cannot currently simulate. What had stumped scientists for more than a decade, a retrovirus protease in rhesus monkeys, was solved by a worldwide consortium of players in ten days. The vast majority of these players had little biology or chemistry experience, relying only on the rules of the game as dictated by real physics. The discovery of the retroviral protease has been published in a scientific journal, naming a team of players, the FoldIt Contenders Group (FCG), as coauthors. In an interview with one of the FCG members, “mimi” preferred to be credited pseudonymously or anonymously. The main motivation for many of these players was advancement of science, not fame or recognition. They were not paid for their participation; many simply wanted a challenge and to work towards something big.
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Video games, at their most fundamental level, are sets of puzzles. Why create arbitrary puzzles when real life puzzles exist with greater implications for their completion?

For proprietary game producers, because there is more money to be made from sex and violence than there is from science. This is an example of the distortion of technology by capitalism. The primary mechanism of the essay at this point appears to be to assume the realities away.
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Video games, at their most fundamental level, are sets of puzzles. Rather than create arbitrary puzzles, game developers can insert real life puzzles within games. For example, reCAPTCHA’s verification system uses human activity that would otherwise be wasted to digitize books. Human effort is already being expended; it can be channeled into more productive uses as long as it is made sufficiently entertaining. Those in need of mass problem solving in discrete, miniature parts can outsource their puzzles to game developers.
 FoldIt is only one of several other projects collectively grouped together as “citizen science.” These projects crowdsource because they benefit from certain human attributes that are not duplicable in computers currently.
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Yochai Benkler’s paper Coase’s Penguin, or, Linux and the Nature of the Firm evaluates the motivations for contribution to the open software movement. He identifies the spontaneous creativity birthed when components from production are “sufficiently small grained, and the cost of connecting people to projects sufficiently low thanks to cheap network connections.” By breaking difficult project into discrete consumable parts and make participation as least cumbersome as possible, crowdsourced projects can harness the creative spark in a wide participatory network. While this phenomenon has been documented before, I suggest that there is an additional incentive that is a driving factor for FoldIt—specifically, gaming taps into satisfying human curiosity, problem solving, and diversion.
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Yochai Benkler's paper Coase’s Penguin, or, Linux and the Nature of the Firm evaluates the motivations for contribution to the open software movement. He identifies the spontaneous creativity birthed when components from production are “sufficiently small grained, and the cost of connecting people to projects sufficiently low thanks to cheap network connections.” By breaking difficult project into discrete consumable parts and make participation as least cumbersome as possible, crowdsourced projects can harness the creative spark in a wide participatory network. While this phenomenon has been documented before, I suggest that there is an additional incentive that is a driving factor for FoldIt—specifically, gaming taps into satisfying human curiosity, problem solving, and diversion. Humans naturally seek patterns and order. Puzzle solving is core to this inner desire.
 
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Is that an incentive, a motive, emergent human behavior? Does it matter? What's the psychology here? You seem to want us to understand that you're not using the thin psychology of the economist, but you don't actually give us any sight of the model of human behavior you are using. In what system of thinking about human behavior is diversion an incentive, or curiosity a motive? Don't you need to ask what the incentives are for solving problems or the motives for diverting oneself in one way rather than another?

Tapping into the non-gaming online behavior has been a critical model for the success of such projects as Google, which reinforces its search algorithms based on the conduct of its users.

Is this what we mean by "learning"? Or even "existing"? "Tapping into behavior" is what organisms do, right?

But given the tremendous amount of energy devoted to quick and simple online games (Farmville at its peak had 83 million monthly active users) some of that mindless clicking can be channeled into more productive projects.

What does the adjective "productive" mean here? Producing more diversion? Producing less curiosity? Producing more profits for drug companies?

People naturally seek out fun and challenges.

Umm, are you sure?
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Tapping into the non-gaming online behavior has been a critical model for the success of such projects as Google, which reinforces its search algorithms based on the conduct of its users. People may play games because they need diversion or because they intuitively seek reward and games feed on that hunger for instant gratification. Whatever the psychological motivations behind gaming, that activity can be channeled. Given the tremendous amount of energy devoted to quick and simple online games (Farmville at its peak had 83 million monthly active users) some of that mindless clicking can be channeled into projects with more social impact beyond increasing sales for game companies.
 It takes what Benkler calls an “integrator” to manage those clickstreams and combine the discrete component functions. He identifies four mechanisms for solving the integration problem.
  1. Iterative peer production of the integration function itself
  2. Technical solutions embedded in the collaboration platform
  3. Norm-based social organization
  4. Limited reintroduction of hierarchy or market forces to provide the integration function alone.
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Though the last mechanism would run the risks of the firm, real-life examples in open software, such as Mozilla and Red Hat have shown its value.
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Game developers can serve an integration function.

For scientific research, the first mechanism may not be appropriate unless the players are all sophisticated because it would require a high level integrator to atomize the tasks and divine larger meaning from their outcomes. Game designers can solve the integration problems either embedding technical solutions within the puzzle platforms, creating a social organization that encourages integration, or by introducing a hierarchy to the puzzles. In other words, scientists can outsource the integration function to designers.

Scientists can team up with game developers to create a commercially viable video game with puzzles that have real-life applications. Only a well-designed game can attract the type of click workers needed en masse for some research activities. Developers are not looking to control the outcome of their puzzles; they generally only seek to provide the highest level of profitability. With the exception of some developers who work with an eye towards aesthetic, most developers care most about a stimulating experience. In video games, that often means the highest level of amusement since the value of video games lies almost entirely in their value as diversion. While not all tasks are easily commercialized in this way, scientists should consider gaming as a source of labor.

 
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What is the similarity between Mozilla, which is a non-profit primary producer of free software, and Red Hat, which is a commercial organization supplying combinations of free software, almost all of which they don't produce, to businesses? Perhaps some actual attention to the facts would make this illustration informative, but at present it seems more confusing than illuminating, at least to a reader who actually knows what these things are.

For scientific research, the first three mechanisms may not be appropriate unless the players are all sophisticated because it would require a high level integrator to atomize the tasks and divine larger meaning from their outcomes.

I don't understand this statement. What does it mean with respect to MarsClickworkers? , the example that Benkler uses, or the anthrax detoxifier that was an initial example of folding proteins at home? Technical integration measures embedded in the collaboration platform don't seem to require "sophistication" from users. And what has that to do with "norm-based social organization"?

The reintroduction of the firm for the purposes of integration does not necessarily have to be completely noncommercial.

Indeed. One supposes it wasn't meant to imply "non-commercialness" at all. Why do you suppose it does?

Scientists can team up with game developers to create a saleable video game with puzzles that have real-life applications.

Why should "saleability" be relevant? Now we have gone from "needn't be non-commercial" to "must be commercial" without any reasoning.

The game developers are not looking to control the outcome of their puzzles; they only seek to provide the highest level of amusement.

No. They only seek to achieve the highest level of profitability. Whether that lies in producing "the highest level of amusement" is completely obscure to me, and gets no argument from you.

Scientists may benefit from game designers who can help craft seemingly mind-numbing research tasks into appealing challenges and puzzles.

What? Where did this idea of "crafted puzzles" come from? The puzzle originally proposed was the actual problem: folding a protein following particular rules to achieve a given shape. The "video game" is the physical chemistry visualization software. There's no "game-designer" involved. To describe these as "video games" is imprecise. They're not technically remotely like the games produced by entities like Electronic Arts, nor are they web services like Zynga products, nor even like the world's 900 million Tetris clones. A little attention to the technical issues might be helpful.

Overall, it feels to me like the draft has wandered somewhat off center. It is still difficult to tell what the main idea is. Even what you say is the primary focus of the essay doesn't appear until graf after graf has come and gone. I suggested looking at Benkler in order to further develop your own ideas; now we have a longish summary of Benkler that nonetheless manages to leave out most of his ideas without, apparently, much furthering your own.

The first draft gave us the material that underlies your thinking. In the second draft I hoped for your thinking. That apparently must, however, await the third.

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Scientists may benefit from game designers who can help craft seemingly mind-numbing research tasks into appealing challenges and puzzles. While folding a protein to achieve a particular shape in itself may not be appealing to the gamer population, the FoldIt? designers provided ease and competition for the activity. They are game designers in so much that they dress the actual scientific problems to make them accessible to those with no scientific background. The game is not in the puzzle itself, but the puzzle is only one aspect of the game. Instead of creating puzzles, designers can repackage actual problems and integrate them into the game. With the iterative feedback of web-connected games, these puzzles can be continually tweaked, replaced, or improved upon.
 
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With the evolution of online, collaborative gaming, even if there are not deliberately inserted scientific puzzles, the scientific community can benefit from observing gaming sociology and group dynamics. Economists can apply their theories to in-game trade economies. Sociologists can examine avatar gender preferences. The passive activity generated from participating in games can be tapped either through intentionally planted puzzles or from merely observing group behavior.
 

AaronChanFirstPaper 6 - 16 Dec 2011 - Main.EbenMoglen
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FoldIt and "Citizen Science"

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 Why does Wikipedia work? Under traditional capitalistic models, it should not. There is no payment, no remuneration for the hours upon hours editors put into it, yet it still exists and is constantly improved. The problem with understanding the new Information Goods Society where marginal cost of informational goods is zero is in grafting old models of compensation that ill fit the reality of online collaboration.
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Is it na´ve to believe that people will contribute to the greater good merely out of their desire to improve the human condition? The failure of communism in practice was in the old economy where marginal cost does not equal zero. In the Informational Goods Society, economic models of compensation hold less weight. Eben speaks to this in the dotCommunist Manifesto. If compensation is not the model in the Informational Goods Society, then what is the main motivation for work?
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Is it na´ve to believe that people will contribute to the greater good merely out of their desire to improve the human condition? The failure of communism in practice was in the old economy where marginal cost does not equal zero. In the Informational Goods Society, economic models of compensation hold less weight. Eben speaks to this in the dotCommunist Manifesto.

This is just apple-polishing. There's no actual reason to be citing my writing here. There's also no "failure of communism" to discuss. Communism didn't fail, because there never was communism anywhere. You will have some recollection, I'm sure, that communism was the end stage of socialism, after the "withering away of the state." The 20th century "socialist" regimes had little enough to do with socialism, and nothing to do with anything that presupposed the non-existence of the State. The euphemism employed in the USSR was "presently existing socialism," which speaks volumes,

If compensation is not the model in the Informational Goods Society, then what is the main motivation for work?

How did the existence of monetarily uncompensated activity become "compensation is not the model"? Do you mean "not the exclusive model"? In that case the latter part of the sentence makes no sense, because what is not the exclusive model might still be the "main motivation." In fact, this "death of compensated work" meme is wrong, and the logic overall needs tighter editorial scrutiny.

Michael Goldhauber suggests that motivation on the Internet is driven by reputation.

He's Goldhaber. Editing includes both fact-checking and proofreading

This is further refined by Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, who reapplies economic concepts to the Internet.

What's the refinement? If it was worth citing, it must be worth stating. Name-dropping serves no purpose here.

Yet whatever the form the remuneration takes, it is still premised on a quid pro quo. Yet reputation would lose its incentivizing effect as the activity becomes increasingly dispersed and individual contributions are further anonymized. This is precisely the environment necessary to harness the widest participation. I focus instead on the frequently overlooked incentives of satisfying human curiosity, problem solving, and amusement as driving forces for scientific research.

If that's what you "focus on," why are we more than 30% of the way through the essay before we hear about it for the first time?

These incentives drive the human attraction to games. Harnessing these incentives joins gaming with research in a way that channels mindless diversion into productive causes.

 
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Michael Goldhauber suggests that motivation on the Internet is driven by reputation. This is further refined by Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, who reapplies economic concepts to the Internet. Yet whatever the form the remuneration takes, it is still premised on a quid pro quo. Yet reputation would lose its incentivizing effect as the activity becomes increasingly dispersed and individual contributions are further anonymized. This is precisely the environment necessary to harness the widest participation. I focus instead on the frequently overlooked incentives of satisfying human curiosity, problem solving, and amusement as driving forces for scientific research. These incentives drive the human attraction to games. Harnessing these incentives joins gaming with research in a way that channels mindless diversion into productive causes.
 

Games and Citizen Science

FoldIt is computer game designed by University of Washington researchers that allows players to design protein structures by folding amino acids. Given the complexity of folding dozens, if not hundreds, of amino acids into viable protein structures, brute force computing power would not be a practical way of solving the problem with the current technology. Humans have an advantage in recognizing patterns and certain three-dimensional spatial intuitions that computers cannot currently simulate. What had stumped scientists for more than a decade, a retrovirus protease in rhesus monkeys, was solved by a worldwide consortium of players in ten days. The vast majority of these players had little biology or chemistry experience, relying only on the rules of the game as dictated by real physics. The discovery of the retroviral protease has been published in a scientific journal, naming a team of players, the FoldIt Contenders Group (FCG), as coauthors. In an interview with one of the FCG members, “mimi” preferred to be credited pseudonymously or anonymously. The main motivation for many of these players was advancement of science, not fame or recognition. They were not paid for their participation; many simply wanted a challenge and to work towards something big.

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Video games, at their most fundamental level, are sets of puzzles. Why create arbitrary puzzles when real life puzzles exist with greater implications for their completion? FoldIt is only one of several other projects collectively grouped together as “citizen science.” These projects crowdsource because they benefit from certain human attributes that are not duplicable in computers currently.
>
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Video games, at their most fundamental level, are sets of puzzles. Why create arbitrary puzzles when real life puzzles exist with greater implications for their completion?

For proprietary game producers, because there is more money to be made from sex and violence than there is from science. This is an example of the distortion of technology by capitalism. The primary mechanism of the essay at this point appears to be to assume the realities away.

FoldIt is only one of several other projects collectively grouped together as “citizen science.” These projects crowdsource because they benefit from certain human attributes that are not duplicable in computers currently.

Yochai Benkler’s paper Coase’s Penguin, or, Linux and the Nature of the Firm evaluates the motivations for contribution to the open software movement. He identifies the spontaneous creativity birthed when components from production are “sufficiently small grained, and the cost of connecting people to projects sufficiently low thanks to cheap network connections.” By breaking difficult project into discrete consumable parts and make participation as least cumbersome as possible, crowdsourced projects can harness the creative spark in a wide participatory network. While this phenomenon has been documented before, I suggest that there is an additional incentive that is a driving factor for FoldIt—specifically, gaming taps into satisfying human curiosity, problem solving, and diversion.

Is that an incentive, a motive, emergent human behavior? Does it matter? What's the psychology here? You seem to want us to understand that you're not using the thin psychology of the economist, but you don't actually give us any sight of the model of human behavior you are using. In what system of thinking about human behavior is diversion an incentive, or curiosity a motive? Don't you need to ask what the incentives are for solving problems or the motives for diverting oneself in one way rather than another?

Tapping into the non-gaming online behavior has been a critical model for the success of such projects as Google, which reinforces its search algorithms based on the conduct of its users.

Is this what we mean by "learning"? Or even "existing"? "Tapping into behavior" is what organisms do, right?

But given the tremendous amount of energy devoted to quick and simple online games (Farmville at its peak had 83 million monthly active users) some of that mindless clicking can be channeled into more productive projects.

What does the adjective "productive" mean here? Producing more diversion? Producing less curiosity? Producing more profits for drug companies?

People naturally seek out fun and challenges.

 
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Yochai Benkler’s paper Coase’s Penguin, or, Linux and the Nature of the Firm evaluates the motivations for contribution to the open software movement. He identifies the spontaneous creativity birthed when components from production are “sufficiently small grained, and the cost of connecting people to projects sufficiently low thanks to cheap network connections.” By breaking difficult project into discrete consumable parts and make participation as least cumbersome as possible, crowdsourced projects can harness the creative spark in a wide participatory network. While this phenomenon has been documented before, I suggest that there is an additional incentive that is a driving factor for FoldIt—specifically, gaming taps into satisfying human curiosity, problem solving, and diversion. Tapping into the non-gaming online behavior has been a critical model for the success of such projects as Google, which reinforces its search algorithms based on the conduct of its users. But given the tremendous amount of energy devoted to quick and simple online games (Farmville at its peak had 83 million monthly active users) some of that mindless clicking can be channeled into more productive projects. People naturally seek out fun and challenges. It takes what Benkler calls an “integrator” to manage those clickstreams and combine the discrete component functions. He identifies four mechanisms for solving the integration problem.
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Umm, are you sure?

It takes what Benkler calls an “integrator” to manage those clickstreams and combine the discrete component functions. He identifies four mechanisms for solving the integration problem.

 
  1. Iterative peer production of the integration function itself
  2. Technical solutions embedded in the collaboration platform
  3. Norm-based social organization
  4. Limited reintroduction of hierarchy or market forces to provide the integration function alone.
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Though the last mechanism would run the risks of the firm, real-life examples in open software, such as Mozilla and Red Hat have shown its value. For scientific research, the first three mechanisms may not be appropriate unless the players are all sophisticated because it would require a high level integrator to atomize the tasks and divine larger meaning from their outcomes. The reintroduction of the firm for the purposes of integration does not necessarily have to be completely noncommercial. Scientists can team up with game developers to create a saleable video game with puzzles that have real-life applications. The game developers are not looking to control the outcome of their puzzles; they only seek to provide the highest level of amusement. Scientists may benefit from game designers who can help craft seemingly mind-numbing research tasks into appealing challenges and puzzles.
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Though the last mechanism would run the risks of the firm, real-life examples in open software, such as Mozilla and Red Hat have shown its value.
 
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I think this is a good first draft. You've identified some phenomena you want to write about, and you've understood them to be linked to other phenomena, of which they are illustrations.

What the next draft needs is an idea about these phenomena that you can explore with your readers, rather than presenting the illustrations at the heart of the essay. Your theoretical propositions in this draft are sketchy at best. They don't lead you to a thesis which can organize your reader's new acquaintance with the material you're discussing, as you can tell from your first paragraph, which indulges at first in mystification (no one actually ever thought communication was a one-way process, after all) and winds up in obviousness. Nor does it lead to a conclusion, as your last graf shows.

You've seen that there's an economy of peer production, but you haven't figured out what you want to say about it. The best place to start is with the wonderful piece Yochai Benkler wrote ten years ago, Coase's Penguin, or, Linux and the Nature of the Firm, where peer production in general and scientific peer production in particular is given a rigorous theoretical location. From where Yochai leaves matters you should be able to pick up in one of the obvious directions, generating a new idea or two of your own.

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What is the similarity between Mozilla, which is a non-profit primary producer of free software, and Red Hat, which is a commercial organization supplying combinations of free software, almost all of which they don't produce, to businesses? Perhaps some actual attention to the facts would make this illustration informative, but at present it seems more confusing than illuminating, at least to a reader who actually knows what these things are.

For scientific research, the first three mechanisms may not be appropriate unless the players are all sophisticated because it would require a high level integrator to atomize the tasks and divine larger meaning from their outcomes.

I don't understand this statement. What does it mean with respect to MarsClickworkers? , the example that Benkler uses, or the anthrax detoxifier that was an initial example of folding proteins at home? Technical integration measures embedded in the collaboration platform don't seem to require "sophistication" from users. And what has that to do with "norm-based social organization"?

The reintroduction of the firm for the purposes of integration does not necessarily have to be completely noncommercial.

Indeed. One supposes it wasn't meant to imply "non-commercialness" at all. Why do you suppose it does?

Scientists can team up with game developers to create a saleable video game with puzzles that have real-life applications.

Why should "saleability" be relevant? Now we have gone from "needn't be non-commercial" to "must be commercial" without any reasoning.

The game developers are not looking to control the outcome of their puzzles; they only seek to provide the highest level of amusement.

No. They only seek to achieve the highest level of profitability. Whether that lies in producing "the highest level of amusement" is completely obscure to me, and gets no argument from you.

Scientists may benefit from game designers who can help craft seemingly mind-numbing research tasks into appealing challenges and puzzles.

What? Where did this idea of "crafted puzzles" come from? The puzzle originally proposed was the actual problem: folding a protein following particular rules to achieve a given shape. The "video game" is the physical chemistry visualization software. There's no "game-designer" involved. To describe these as "video games" is imprecise. They're not technically remotely like the games produced by entities like Electronic Arts, nor are they web services like Zynga products, nor even like the world's 900 million Tetris clones. A little attention to the technical issues might be helpful.

Overall, it feels to me like the draft has wandered somewhat off center. It is still difficult to tell what the main idea is. Even what you say is the primary focus of the essay doesn't appear until graf after graf has come and gone. I suggested looking at Benkler in order to further develop your own ideas; now we have a longish summary of Benkler that nonetheless manages to leave out most of his ideas without, apparently, much furthering your own.

The first draft gave us the material that underlies your thinking. In the second draft I hoped for your thinking. That apparently must, however, await the third.

 
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This is very interesting. It reminds me of the sports application where the sports news all comes from users. The difference there is that people do get credit for their contributions and perhaps gain popularity / notice from fellow fans, but it is similar in that users contribute to a community's knowledge. I like the characterization as "a desire to solve puzzles." --Sylvia Duran

 
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AaronChanFirstPaper 5 - 13 Nov 2011 - Main.AaronChan
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FoldIt and "Citizen Science"

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 Is it na´ve to believe that people will contribute to the greater good merely out of their desire to improve the human condition? The failure of communism in practice was in the old economy where marginal cost does not equal zero. In the Informational Goods Society, economic models of compensation hold less weight. Eben speaks to this in the dotCommunist Manifesto. If compensation is not the model in the Informational Goods Society, then what is the main motivation for work?
Changed:
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Michael Goldhauber suggests that motivation on the Internet is driven by reputation. This is further refined by Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, who reapplies economic concepts to the Internet. Yet whatever the form the remuneration takes, it is still premised on a quid pro quo. What this fails to anticipate however, is altruistic actions driven by a higher purpose. People engage in self-sacrifice for the greater good. They can be motivated not out of any intrinsic personal benefit, but because they believe in something more.
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Michael Goldhauber suggests that motivation on the Internet is driven by reputation. This is further refined by Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, who reapplies economic concepts to the Internet. Yet whatever the form the remuneration takes, it is still premised on a quid pro quo. Yet reputation would lose its incentivizing effect as the activity becomes increasingly dispersed and individual contributions are further anonymized. This is precisely the environment necessary to harness the widest participation. I focus instead on the frequently overlooked incentives of satisfying human curiosity, problem solving, and amusement as driving forces for scientific research. These incentives drive the human attraction to games. Harnessing these incentives joins gaming with research in a way that channels mindless diversion into productive causes.
 

Games and Citizen Science

FoldIt is computer game designed by University of Washington researchers that allows players to design protein structures by folding amino acids. Given the complexity of folding dozens, if not hundreds, of amino acids into viable protein structures, brute force computing power would not be a practical way of solving the problem with the current technology. Humans have an advantage in recognizing patterns and certain three-dimensional spatial intuitions that computers cannot currently simulate. What had stumped scientists for more than a decade, a retrovirus protease in rhesus monkeys, was solved by a worldwide consortium of players in ten days. The vast majority of these players had little biology or chemistry experience, relying only on the rules of the game as dictated by real physics. The discovery of the retroviral protease has been published in a scientific journal, naming a team of players, the FoldIt Contenders Group (FCG), as coauthors. In an interview with one of the FCG members, “mimi” preferred to be credited pseudonymously or anonymously. The main motivation for many of these players was advancement of science, not fame or recognition. They were not paid for their participation; many simply wanted a challenge and to work towards something big.

Changed:
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Video games, at their most fundamental level, are sets of puzzles. Why create arbitrary puzzles when real life puzzles exist with greater implications for their completion? FoldIt is only one of several other projects collectively grouped together as “citizen science.” These projects crowdsource because they benefit from certain human attributes that are not duplicable in computers currently. I have roughly divided them into three types of projects, though the distinctions are weak and mostly result of current computing capabilities. FoldIt fits in the group that requires certain human ingenuities that computers have not been able to simulate so far. This may include spatial reasoning, like in FoldIt. Some may benefit from human creativity, like creating RNA for nano functions in EteRNA. Others may rely on an eye for seeing patterns, like in comparing interspecies DNA in Phylo.

Another group of games are projects that require human interpretation of analog data streams. While human involvement may only be necessary now because of the limits of software or computing power, there are still uses for human interaction. This is the technological hurdle fueling CAPTCHA algorithms now. But as with CAPTCHA, eventually computers defeat them too. Ancient Lives is a project categorizing a trove of ancient Greek and Roman writings found in an Egypt. OldWeather sets players abroad ships and task them with digitalizing handwritten weather logs.

While the previous two categories are projects that can conceivably be accomplished completely by computers with improved software, the third category involves the physical world. These projects rely on players gathering data, rather than solving puzzles. They are different types of games, driven by collection rather than problem solving. After the Fukushima meltdown in Japan, a volunteer network of scientists and tech enthusiasts formed Safecast to track radiation levels in nearby areas. The group created jury-rigged Geiger counters and tasked residents of these areas with collecting data on radiation concentrations and distributions. The Global Amphibian Blitz has participants photograph frogs they encounter and upload their GPS locations. It has helped scientists track populations of amphibians for conservation and research purposes.

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Video games, at their most fundamental level, are sets of puzzles. Why create arbitrary puzzles when real life puzzles exist with greater implications for their completion? FoldIt is only one of several other projects collectively grouped together as “citizen science.” These projects crowdsource because they benefit from certain human attributes that are not duplicable in computers currently.
 
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These projects all share one central trait—the participants, or players, are not paid for their work. In some cases they may receive credit, such as named as coauthors in publications or the opportunity to name discovered asteroids, but they receive no direct benefit. Whatever reason compels them to contribute, they are not driven by capitalistic models. Perhaps this is no different than volunteer models in the old economy, but the Information Goods Society has empowered the same efforts on much larger scales. Citizen science is driven more than volunteerism, it also leverages the human desire to solve puzzles. Maybe this model would not be compelling enough to uproot the traditional capitalism, even on the Internet, but by giving the tools to accomplish these goals to more people, there will be a larger volunteer pool.
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Yochai Benkler’s paper Coase’s Penguin, or, Linux and the Nature of the Firm evaluates the motivations for contribution to the open software movement. He identifies the spontaneous creativity birthed when components from production are “sufficiently small grained, and the cost of connecting people to projects sufficiently low thanks to cheap network connections.” By breaking difficult project into discrete consumable parts and make participation as least cumbersome as possible, crowdsourced projects can harness the creative spark in a wide participatory network. While this phenomenon has been documented before, I suggest that there is an additional incentive that is a driving factor for FoldIt—specifically, gaming taps into satisfying human curiosity, problem solving, and diversion. Tapping into the non-gaming online behavior has been a critical model for the success of such projects as Google, which reinforces its search algorithms based on the conduct of its users. But given the tremendous amount of energy devoted to quick and simple online games (Farmville at its peak had 83 million monthly active users) some of that mindless clicking can be channeled into more productive projects. People naturally seek out fun and challenges. It takes what Benkler calls an “integrator” to manage those clickstreams and combine the discrete component functions. He identifies four mechanisms for solving the integration problem.
  1. Iterative peer production of the integration function itself
  2. Technical solutions embedded in the collaboration platform
  3. Norm-based social organization
  4. Limited reintroduction of hierarchy or market forces to provide the integration function alone.
Though the last mechanism would run the risks of the firm, real-life examples in open software, such as Mozilla and Red Hat have shown its value. For scientific research, the first three mechanisms may not be appropriate unless the players are all sophisticated because it would require a high level integrator to atomize the tasks and divine larger meaning from their outcomes. The reintroduction of the firm for the purposes of integration does not necessarily have to be completely noncommercial. Scientists can team up with game developers to create a saleable video game with puzzles that have real-life applications. The game developers are not looking to control the outcome of their puzzles; they only seek to provide the highest level of amusement. Scientists may benefit from game designers who can help craft seemingly mind-numbing research tasks into appealing challenges and puzzles.
 
I think this is a good first draft. You've identified some phenomena you want to write

AaronChanFirstPaper 4 - 10 Nov 2011 - Main.SylviaDuran
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This is very interesting. It reminds me of the sports application where the sports news all comes from users. The difference there is that people do get credit for their contributions and perhaps gain popularity / notice from fellow fans, but it is similar in that users contribute to a community's knowledge. I like the characterization as "a desire to solve puzzles." --Sylvia Duran
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AaronChanFirstPaper 3 - 06 Nov 2011 - Main.EbenMoglen
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  illustrations at the heart of the essay. Your theoretical propositions in this draft are sketchy at best. They don't lead you to a thesis which can organize your reader's new acquaintance with
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the material you're discussion, as you can tell from your first
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the material you're discussing, as you can tell from your first
  paragraph, which indulges at first in mystification (no one actually ever thought communication was a one-way process, after all) and winds up in obviousness. Nor does it lead to a conclusion, as your

AaronChanFirstPaper 2 - 24 Oct 2011 - Main.EbenMoglen
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 These projects all share one central trait—the participants, or players, are not paid for their work. In some cases they may receive credit, such as named as coauthors in publications or the opportunity to name discovered asteroids, but they receive no direct benefit. Whatever reason compels them to contribute, they are not driven by capitalistic models. Perhaps this is no different than volunteer models in the old economy, but the Information Goods Society has empowered the same efforts on much larger scales. Citizen science is driven more than volunteerism, it also leverages the human desire to solve puzzles. Maybe this model would not be compelling enough to uproot the traditional capitalism, even on the Internet, but by giving the tools to accomplish these goals to more people, there will be a larger volunteer pool.
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I think this is a good first draft. You've identified some phenomena you want to write about, and you've understood them to be linked to other phenomena, of which they are illustrations.

What the next draft needs is an idea about these phenomena that you can explore with your readers, rather than presenting the illustrations at the heart of the essay. Your theoretical propositions in this draft are sketchy at best. They don't lead you to a thesis which can organize your reader's new acquaintance with the material you're discussion, as you can tell from your first paragraph, which indulges at first in mystification (no one actually ever thought communication was a one-way process, after all) and winds up in obviousness. Nor does it lead to a conclusion, as your last graf shows.

You've seen that there's an economy of peer production, but you haven't figured out what you want to say about it. The best place to start is with the wonderful piece Yochai Benkler wrote ten years ago, Coase's Penguin, or, Linux and the Nature of the Firm, where peer production in general and scientific peer production in particular is given a rigorous theoretical location. From where Yochai leaves matters you should be able to pick up in one of the obvious directions, generating a new idea or two of your own.

 

AaronChanFirstPaper 1 - 19 Oct 2011 - Main.AaronChan
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FoldIt and "Citizen Science"

-- By AaronChan - 19 Oct 2011

Online Models of Volunteerism

Information access does not need to be unidirectional. Instead of traditional broadcast models, information is a two-way street on the Internet. Online access is a tool for empowerment, not just by giving power to users, but also in allowing them to contribute. The Web is now a vast depository of human knowledge; it can be leveraged for greater societal goals. For example, the success of Wikipedia demonstrates what can be accomplished with collaborative experience.

Why does Wikipedia work? Under traditional capitalistic models, it should not. There is no payment, no remuneration for the hours upon hours editors put into it, yet it still exists and is constantly improved. The problem with understanding the new Information Goods Society where marginal cost of informational goods is zero is in grafting old models of compensation that ill fit the reality of online collaboration.

Is it na´ve to believe that people will contribute to the greater good merely out of their desire to improve the human condition? The failure of communism in practice was in the old economy where marginal cost does not equal zero. In the Informational Goods Society, economic models of compensation hold less weight. Eben speaks to this in the dotCommunist Manifesto. If compensation is not the model in the Informational Goods Society, then what is the main motivation for work?

Michael Goldhauber suggests that motivation on the Internet is driven by reputation. This is further refined by Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, who reapplies economic concepts to the Internet. Yet whatever the form the remuneration takes, it is still premised on a quid pro quo. What this fails to anticipate however, is altruistic actions driven by a higher purpose. People engage in self-sacrifice for the greater good. They can be motivated not out of any intrinsic personal benefit, but because they believe in something more.

Games and Citizen Science

FoldIt is computer game designed by University of Washington researchers that allows players to design protein structures by folding amino acids. Given the complexity of folding dozens, if not hundreds, of amino acids into viable protein structures, brute force computing power would not be a practical way of solving the problem with the current technology. Humans have an advantage in recognizing patterns and certain three-dimensional spatial intuitions that computers cannot currently simulate. What had stumped scientists for more than a decade, a retrovirus protease in rhesus monkeys, was solved by a worldwide consortium of players in ten days. The vast majority of these players had little biology or chemistry experience, relying only on the rules of the game as dictated by real physics. The discovery of the retroviral protease has been published in a scientific journal, naming a team of players, the FoldIt Contenders Group (FCG), as coauthors. In an interview with one of the FCG members, “mimi” preferred to be credited pseudonymously or anonymously. The main motivation for many of these players was advancement of science, not fame or recognition. They were not paid for their participation; many simply wanted a challenge and to work towards something big.

Video games, at their most fundamental level, are sets of puzzles. Why create arbitrary puzzles when real life puzzles exist with greater implications for their completion? FoldIt is only one of several other projects collectively grouped together as “citizen science.” These projects crowdsource because they benefit from certain human attributes that are not duplicable in computers currently. I have roughly divided them into three types of projects, though the distinctions are weak and mostly result of current computing capabilities. FoldIt fits in the group that requires certain human ingenuities that computers have not been able to simulate so far. This may include spatial reasoning, like in FoldIt. Some may benefit from human creativity, like creating RNA for nano functions in EteRNA. Others may rely on an eye for seeing patterns, like in comparing interspecies DNA in Phylo.

Another group of games are projects that require human interpretation of analog data streams. While human involvement may only be necessary now because of the limits of software or computing power, there are still uses for human interaction. This is the technological hurdle fueling CAPTCHA algorithms now. But as with CAPTCHA, eventually computers defeat them too. Ancient Lives is a project categorizing a trove of ancient Greek and Roman writings found in an Egypt. OldWeather sets players abroad ships and task them with digitalizing handwritten weather logs.

While the previous two categories are projects that can conceivably be accomplished completely by computers with improved software, the third category involves the physical world. These projects rely on players gathering data, rather than solving puzzles. They are different types of games, driven by collection rather than problem solving. After the Fukushima meltdown in Japan, a volunteer network of scientists and tech enthusiasts formed Safecast to track radiation levels in nearby areas. The group created jury-rigged Geiger counters and tasked residents of these areas with collecting data on radiation concentrations and distributions. The Global Amphibian Blitz has participants photograph frogs they encounter and upload their GPS locations. It has helped scientists track populations of amphibians for conservation and research purposes.

These projects all share one central trait—the participants, or players, are not paid for their work. In some cases they may receive credit, such as named as coauthors in publications or the opportunity to name discovered asteroids, but they receive no direct benefit. Whatever reason compels them to contribute, they are not driven by capitalistic models. Perhaps this is no different than volunteer models in the old economy, but the Information Goods Society has empowered the same efforts on much larger scales. Citizen science is driven more than volunteerism, it also leverages the human desire to solve puzzles. Maybe this model would not be compelling enough to uproot the traditional capitalism, even on the Internet, but by giving the tools to accomplish these goals to more people, there will be a larger volunteer pool.


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Revision 8r8 - 04 Sep 2012 - 22:02:12 - IanSullivan
Revision 7r7 - 31 Dec 2011 - 18:19:08 - AaronChan
Revision 6r6 - 16 Dec 2011 - 19:46:01 - EbenMoglen
Revision 5r5 - 13 Nov 2011 - 16:11:43 - AaronChan
Revision 4r4 - 10 Nov 2011 - 17:41:14 - SylviaDuran
Revision 3r3 - 06 Nov 2011 - 16:03:37 - EbenMoglen
Revision 2r2 - 24 Oct 2011 - 21:52:39 - EbenMoglen
Revision 1r1 - 19 Oct 2011 - 21:07:00 - AaronChan
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