Hacked Vending Machine Trades Snacks For Skills
Many people have heard of crowd-sourcing. Now, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, want to develop "community-sourcing." While crowd-sourced projects harness everyday people to do everything from copyediting to galaxy-categorizing, the Berkeley researchers wanted to find a way to crowd-source tasks that require more expertise. They experimented with targeting a group of experts by modifying a snack-vending machine, which they installed in a computer science building on campus. To get a snack, people had to grade computer science exam questions on the machine's touchscreen.
The researchers will present their findings May 8 at the Association for Computing Machinery's human-computer interaction conference in Austin, Texas. They've already won a best paper award from the conference's organizers.
So are computer scientists willing to trade their expertise for KitKat bars and microwave popcorn? It seems so. After one week, the promise of junk food lured 328 people to grade 7,771 questions, in return for about $200 worth of snacks.
The researchers, themselves Berkeley computer scientists, compared the vending machine graders to 10 expert graders. They found the community-sourced graders were more accurate and less costly than single, expert graders. The community-sourced graders were 80 percent accurate, compared to 78 percent for a single expert grader, who would charge about $200 to answer the same set of exams.
"Communitysourcing leverages the speci?c knowledge and skills of the targeted community," the researchers wrote in their paper. "In return, it provides context- and community-speci?c rewards that users value more than money."
Other tasks the researchers think might work well with community-sourcing included tech support, fact-checking in journalism and market research. For market research on young men, for example, marketers could put a kiosk in the men's restroom in a bar, the researchers said. Community-sourcers should aim to put kiosks where only the people they want will go, the researchers said, and they should look for places where the people have free time, such as waiting rooms and airports.
The rewards in a community-sourcing kiosk should be more valuable than money, to people in the kiosk's location. For example, people in an airport may value a WiFi connection, the researchers wrote.
The researchers say the next step is building and studying more community-sourcing machines to test what combinations of tasks, rewards and locations work best.