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Putting the Pieces Back Together Again: Contest Webs for Large-Scale Problem Solving

Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing, Portland, OR, February 25-March 1, 2017

15 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2017 Last revised: 8 Feb 2017

Thomas W. Malone

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Jeffrey V. Nickerson

Stevens Institute of Technology - School of Business

Robert Laubacher

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Center for Collective Intelligence

Laur Hesse Fisher

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Center for Collective Intelligence

Patrick de Boer

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Center for Collective Intelligence

Yue Han

Stevens Institute of Technology - School of Business

W. Ben Towne

Carnegie Mellon University

Date Written: March 1, 2017

Abstract

A key issue, whenever people work together to solve a complex problem, is how to divide the problem into parts done by different people and combine the parts into a solution for the whole problem. This paper presents a novel way of doing this with groups of contests called contest webs. Based on the analogy of supply chains for physical products, the method provides incentives for people to (a) reuse work done by themselves and others, (b) simultaneously explore multiple ways of combining interchangeable parts, and (c) work on parts of the problem where they can contribute the most. The paper also describes a field test of this method in an online community of over 50,000 people who are developing proposals for what to do about global climate change. The early results suggest that the method can, indeed, work at scale as intended.

Keywords: Collective intelligence, climate change, contests, contest webs, knowledge reuse, coordination, incentives

JEL Classification: D23, J01, L23, O31, Q42, Q54

Suggested Citation

Malone, Thomas W. and Nickerson, Jeffrey V. and Laubacher, Robert and Hesse Fisher, Laur and de Boer, Patrick and Han, Yue and Towne, W. Ben, Putting the Pieces Back Together Again: Contest Webs for Large-Scale Problem Solving (March 1, 2017). Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing, Portland, OR, February 25-March 1, 2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2912951 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2912951

Thomas W. Malone (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

E53-333
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-6843 (Phone)
617-253-6843 (Fax)

Jeffrey V. Nickerson

Stevens Institute of Technology - School of Business ( email )

Hoboken, NJ 07030
United States

Robert Laubacher

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Center for Collective Intelligence ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Laur Hesse Fisher

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Center for Collective Intelligence ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Patrick De Boer

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Center for Collective Intelligence ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Yue Han

Stevens Institute of Technology - School of Business ( email )

Hoboken, NJ 07030
United States

W. Ben Towne

Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

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