At best you think crowdsourcing is a marvellous thing where people get together to achieve a common goal. At worst you think getting people to do that is cheaper than hiring them. But there is always the assumption that the people are good and the intention is pure. And sometimes, not so much.
We completed three documents in five days, at a breakneck speed that put us third among 9,000 competitors. We had just two documents to go. The secret to our success was our size and our system. My collaborator, computer scientist Manuel Cebrian, and I had created a platform that allowed thousands of individuals to work together on these scrambled documents. Plus, we rewarded assistance by enticing key players with a share of the $50,000 bounty, should we win.
However, my optimism faded suddenly on Day 5. My phone rang, and Cebrian shouted, “We are under attack!” I swung open my laptop and logged into the system, only to see thousands of man-hours of meticulous work disappear in seconds, as virtual paper scraps scattered before me in all directions. It was the first in a series of attacks sustained by our team, and marked the end of our winning streak.
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