WWW Science: p2p lending; dunbar number in twitter; and eBay for ideas

Today, The Economist talks about Science inspired by the WWW (find the article here – it’s cool). From it, few notes on crowdsourcing, on p2p lending, and on the Dunbar number in Facebook and Twitter. Finally, a project idea: eBay for ideas.

  • One such project, called GalaxyZoo, used this unpaid labour to classify 1m images of galaxies into various types (spiral, elliptical and irregular). … those involved in Herbaria@home scrutinise and decipher scanned images of handwritten notes about old plant cuttings stored in British museums
  • One project used a peer-to-peer moneylending site to show that a person’s physiognomy is a reliable predictor of his creditworthiness (see article). The other project confirmed anthropologists’ observations about the sizes of human social networks using data from Facebook (see article).
  • Bernardo Huberman and his colleagues looked at Twitter, a social networking website that allows people to post short messages to long lists of friends.t first glance, the networks seemed enormous—the 300,000 Twitterers sampled had 80 friends each, on average (those on Facebook had 120), but some listed up to 1,000. Closer statistical inspection, however, revealed that many of the messages were directed at a few specific friends, revealing—as with Facebook—that an individual’s active social network is far smaller than his “clan”.

Project Idea: eBay for ideas

Situation: Journalists are now used to having their every article commented on by dozens of readers. Indeed, many bloggers develop and refine their essays on the basis of such input. Yet scientists lag when it comes to employing the latest web-based social-networking tools to open up scientific discourse -most researchers still limit reviews of their work to a few anonymous experts.

Complication: Scientists publish, in part, because their careers depend on it. These [publications] can readily be put in a curriculum vitae to impress others. They have little incentive to participate in social nets discussions


  • Design a market for great ideas, just as a site such as eBay does for coveted objects.
  • Determine a measure of impact the sharing of a good idea or of a good comment

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