Here’s a tibdit from The Economist that I’ve been meaning to comment on for some weeks now. It seems that the “wisdom of crowds” or “wikinomics” crowd (me included, at times) will have a new example to flaunt the efectiveness of opening knowledge processes.
The Galaxy Zoo project, now changing gears into publication phase, has opened mountains of astronomical observation data for processing and analysis by amateur astronomers over the internet. People were offered raw data (images) which they could try to make sense of, identifying unusual, strange, or (conversely) evident bodies such as galaxies. The result are mountains of identifications and classifications that could not have been done by the short-handed teams of professional astronomers in anything like a reasonable length of time… ane even some really, genuinely strange discoveries such as the one called “Hanny’s Voorwerp”, voorwerp being the Dutch term for “object” and Hanny being the amateur who spotted a truly unusual ring in a lost corner of the space that was scanned and opened for analysis. You can see further detail through the links.
Beyond the immediate discoveries, this is a great example of how to tap the work and enthusiasm of “prosumers” (those aficionados with equipment, time and talent enough to do some serious work) to enable further professional work. The incentives, the processes, the infrastructure, and even the way to deal with the results are all worth looking over and learning, because it’s one thing to talk about the wonders of crowdsourcing, and another to effectively and meaningfully implement it.