In an October issue of “Science News,” an article on the “Deep Network” monitoring of the sea floor, reported on how the general public may monitor the sea floor through the Neptune system of underwater microphones and web cams through LIDO (Listening to the Deep Ocean) (requires Flash). New discoveries have been made by citizens watching and listening as well as researchers. A Ukrainian teen watching noticed a mysterious creature through the web cam. He described it as a “sea monster with a mustache” and reported the sighting to the scientists through the site. Examining the footage, they identified it as a Northern Elephant Seal, known to dive deep, but never tracked to a depth of 900 meters. In another example, they discovered the song of a North Pacific Right Whale, thought to be extinct since 1951, giving hope to whale fans and scientists around the globe. A great example of science opened up to the public.
Steve Fossett, famous as an aviator and balloonist, the first person to fly solo nonstop around the world in a balloon, died famously, too. When he was reported missing flying his plane over the Nevada desert, web users turned out to help locate the pilot or evidence of the crash. The flight range covered more than 20,000 square miles (52,000 sq. Km), a nearly impossible area to search on foot or even by plane. Google contributed to the search with new satellite images in Google Earth, encouraging people to “put their eyes” on the area through more than 300,00 278-square-foot images of the area. A week after his disappearance, it is estimated that more than 50,000 people joined the effort, the largest and most complex peacetime search for an individual in US history.
When it comes to crowd-sourcing, there are fewer successful businesses than WordPress. WordPress began with Matt Mullenweg saying “there must be something better than this,” and Mike Little responding from thousands of miles away across a continent and sea. Ten years later, thousands of contributors from around the world use WordPress to help millions manage their websites.
Matt admitted to me once that one of the scariest decisions he had to make was to “trust the crowd,” giving up control and delegating responsibility for WordPress to others, and learning to trust the masses to help make WordPress better. I can’t say that I would have been so brave.