5.5.1 Motivate participants

The biggest challenge in designing a scientific mass collaboration is matching a meaningful scientific problem to a group of people who are willing and able to solve that problem. Sometimes, the problem comes first, as in Galaxy Zoo: given the task of categorizing galaxies, the researchers found people who could help. However, other times, the people can come first and the problem can come second. For example, eBird attempts to harness the “work” that people are already doing to help scientific research.

The simplest way to motivate participants is money. For example, any researcher creating a human computation project on a microtask labor market (e.g., Amazon Mechanical Turk) is going to motivate participants with money. Financial motivation may be sufficient for some human computation problems, but many of the examples of mass collaboration in this chapter did not use money to motivate participation (Galaxy Zoo, Foldit, Peer-to-Patent, eBird, and PhotoCity). Instead, many of the more complex projects rely on a combination of personal value and collective value. Roughly, personal value comes from things like fun and competition (Foldit and PhotoCity), and collective value can come from knowing that your contribution is helping a greater good (Foldit, Galaxy Zoo, eBird, and Peer-to-Patent) (table 5.4). If you are building your own project, you should think what will motivate people to participate and the ethical issues raised by those motivations (more on ethics later in this section).

Table 5.4: Likely Motivations of Participants in the Main Projects Described in this Chapter
Project Motivation
Galaxy Zoo Helping science, fun, community
Crowd-coding political manifestos Money
Netflix Prize Money, intellectual challenge, competition, community
Foldit Helping science, fun, competition, community
Peer-to-Patent Helping society, fun, community
eBird Helping science, fun
PhotoCity Fun, competition, community
Malawi Journals Project Money, helping science