Like a Thousand Ants Working as One

As more and more scientific research in, for example, astronomy and biology uses computers more and more intensely, computer calculating time has become scarce. Of course, the calculating power has come a long way from when mental calculating still outran the best computer, but running thousands of simulations of how a certain drug molecule docks with HIV proteases  within a limited timeframe is still outside the realm of even the best supercomputers. And this is where the consumer steps in.

Millions of people have computers connected to the internet nowadays. You start yours up in the morning (at least I do), check your email, maybe work a few hours on Word, check out some websites, etc. Then, after dinner, you might really get into it and play a MMORPG  for some hours, before shutting down the computer. Computer use? Like what they say about your brain: about 10%. The only time your computer is actually working hard is when playing that demanding online game. Now how about using the remaining 90% for the good of humanity? And this is where the World Community Grid (WCG) by IBM steps in.


The WCG offered volunteers the possibility to (in)directly aid in scientific research by ‘lending’ some of their computer’s calculating space to research projects. All you do is download a programme that will run in the background, uses processor cycles that are currently not being used. It runs a simulation, packs up the data afterwards and sends it back. Next simulation. Since its start, the WCG has used thousands of years of calculating space, saying that they’ve done “the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of years of research in less than a decade” (1). The projects the WCG runs range from looking for HIV medicines to improving the efficiency of solar cells to the search for low-costs water filtering systems.

WCG2 Continue reading Like a Thousand Ants Working as One

Smart Social Driving

We are in the Netherlands and thus, we benefit from fast (well sometimes), ‘cheap’ and mostly ‘RELIABLE’ (‘rofl’) public transportation… So what else would you need? Well, that’s were Snappcar comes in. is an online platform which facilitates car renting of personal vehicles to individuals that live in the Netherlands and own a European car driver’s license. Basically Snappcar provides the option for people that rarely use their personal car to not just let it rust in the rain outside but actually make some money out of it while assuring the car is started from time to time. Similarly, Snappcar provides a very attractive opportunity for people that are in need of a car for a specific time period.

The platform presents a classic example of buyer-seller interaction in which the sellers are the individuals that put their cars up for rent and the buyers are the people that use the platform for finding a personal way of transportation. Each group has its own individual motivation to participate. Therefore, although it is obvious that sellers use the platform to earn money, they also understand that their property does not serve its purpose if it’s not used (thus being worthless), so we can safely assume that their motivation is also the desire to share spare resources. Buyers on the other hand, are people that are in search of a method of transportation for a fixed period of time that is cheap, reliable and convenient. In their case, when it comes to motivation, although the idea of being part of a community might play a small role, their principal motivating factor is constituted by the cheaper price the system offers compared to traditional car rental agencies. Moreover, in situations in which the buyer is in need of transportation for long distances or destinations that are not mainstream, the system might prove cheaper even when compared to public transportation. Both types of users are also attracted to the system because it provides a secure environment where cars are fully insured, 24/7 road assistance is provided and participants’ identities and credentials are verified in advance.

Continue reading Smart Social Driving

Could Wikipedia be more reliable than Encyclopaedia Britannica?


It might, even though is not written by Nobel laureates and every kid with a third grade education may have access to it. Simply because of the number of contributors and the number of times articles are reviewed, corrected and modified, that is far higher than what Encyclopaedia Britannica can afford. This post, however is not about encyclopaedias, but the Wikipedia example was needed to prove a point.

Everybody nowadays uses reviews online to ascertain the quality of what we will buy, we do that on Amazon or wherever on the internet. We use peer reviews because we deem them as unbiased as one can get. This however it’s not only about buying  appliances or skimming through Tripadvisor. Sometimes you can get money out of a review.

Seeking Alpha is a platform in which investors can voice their opinion. If these opinions reach a certain standard of quality, they are published and receive comments. Now when your article is read by a thousand people you actually receive money and from that point onwards the more readers the more money. What one would not imagine is that this is not the way you make the money out of this. The real way is actually following those recommendations. Continue reading Could Wikipedia be more reliable than Encyclopaedia Britannica?

Rap Genius – The Real Meaning of Music


Have you ever been listening to the last track of your favorite artist and wondered: “What does this song really mean?”

Since 2009, a community of fans of Rap, R&B and Soul music has been trying to decipher the lyrics of thousands of songs for the enjoyment of the general public. To this end, the founders of the website have applied crowdsourcing to the annotation of songs’ lyrics.

 This is how it works: Anyone can create an account on and start annotating the lyrics of any of the songs on the website. If the song in question is not on the database yet, the user has the possibility to add its lyrics himself. The user will then select the words or lines that he wants to annotate and suggest an explanation. Other users will then rate the annotations and suggest changes. If one of the annotations is well rated by other users and is validated by the site’s moderators, it will appear in a pop-up window when curious internet users will point with their mouse at the words that the annotation intends to explain. Good contributions are rewarded with points named “Rap IQs”. Continue reading Rap Genius – The Real Meaning of Music

Worldsupporter: motivation to contribute

If someone contributes to an online recommendation or experience platform, he can have several reasons for this (Bateman et al., 2011). For example, you could help others with your recommendation, you want to use recommendations and therefore have to contribute yourself, or you could get paid or rewarded for your contributions.

A website that combines all theses reasons is This website was launched by the volunteering/travelling company JoHo, because they noticed that many people who would like to be volunteers abroad, lacked some information. Wereldsupporter brings young volunteers together to share experiences and to motivate others to go volunteering as well.  Also some specific projects can be recommended by word of mouth from experienced volunteers. The platform is very broad and offers many tools, such as blogs from volunteers, a shop where you can donate your used travel supplies, sharing of international recipes and culture, discussion fora, picture contests and more.


But what motivates people to contribute? One could argue that people who are willing to do volunteering work for others, might also be willing to share their experiences with others, with the motivation to help them. But still, people could forget sharing, or share their experiences on different websites. To keep users active on a regular basis, Worldsupporter offers two different reward systems. Continue reading Worldsupporter: motivation to contribute

#McConnelling: Participatory Democracy & Commercial Co-Creation.

Ever since Robert D. Putnam’s iconic monologue—Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community—in 2000 on the reduction of civil participation and social capital in the United States there has been a lively debate on the state of the American participatory democracy. Dated before the social media revolution, Putnam’s work highlighted the social capital-eroding role of media in American society; interestingly, however, social media subsequently enabled the combination of media consumption and participation—no matter if this is for a personal, political, or commercial nature.

While the link between a participatory democracy and business might seem far-fetched to you, we need only to direct our attention to the commercially oriented Comedy Central TV network, and its political satire programs, to comprehend the inherent connection between political interest and political participation on the one hand, and commercial entertainment on the other hand. Although there is much to be said about the role of the entertaining programs as The Daily Show or the Colbert Report in American democracy, both programs arguably have found interesting way to spur social participation in the past—just think of “The Rally to Restore Sanity” a couple of years ago. The Daily Show, however, recently demonstrated its ability to foster participation—although certainly not in the way Putnam had in mind—while promoting the commercial goals of the network and its partners.

In March, the political satire program decided to use the concept of co-creation to maintain its presence and entertaining value over a small broadcasting break. Using a political campaign commercial from Senator (Rep.) Mitch McConnell, the Daily Show host John Stewart included a segment where the show displayed segments from this commercial on the tune of ridiculing music. Continue reading #McConnelling: Participatory Democracy & Commercial Co-Creation. Selling to the crowd

In an attempt to sell products at a much higher price than the market, and at the same time have people line up to purchase its products, some sites have developed how the traditional auction system works to involve large crowds of people and create a win-win situation for everyone.

Recent winning bids

One of the most notable Dutch websites in this aspect is The website puts a certain product for the general public to bid on. Each product auction has an expiry time, every time someone bids up, the expiry time is increased by 5-30 seconds to give the chance for others to counteroffer. The bids can be done manually or automated. Where a person can limit the number of bids he is willing to make and the systems bids for him/her in the last second of the desired item auction. Every bid costs the user 1 point, the point is worth 50 cents. Continue reading Selling to the crowd

Selling your products to Justin Bieber? No way!

With the total amount of social media fans across different platforms (Twitter: 51 million followers (1), Facebook: 66 million likes (2) and Instagram: 15 million followers (3)) exceeding the population of Japan (which currently has around 127 million inhabitants), Justin Bieber is arguably the most popular person on the planet. With this popularity come a lot of perks: the best perks according to regular human beings are the endorsement deals that the Canadian superstar signs on a regular basis. One of these deals was to design his personal nail polish called ‘One Less Lonely Girl’. Certainly this was worth around $12,500,000 (4).

Since almost all major brands engage in this behavior, these celebrity endorsement deals must give the brand something in return. However, not every company has a spare $163.75 million in cash to endorse athletes (or other celebrities) like Nike does (5). So what can the smaller companies do to get the same exposure as these large global brands? Because those smaller companies can simply not afford to sponsor the superstars of today, it seems that they can only hope and pray that somebody like Justin Bieber enters their store and purchases their product. If he then writes an objective review about the product on one of his social media platforms, a logical consequence seems that the owner of the smaller company will be able to retire at an early age.

Just imagine that Justin Bieber does write objective product reviews on his social media platforms. Continue reading Selling your products to Justin Bieber? No way! a step towards innovative politics (?)

Since March 16, has started its operation on the web. It is the first Greek digital platform that enables the citizens not only to familiarize with the procedures of the legislative power but also it gives them the opportunity to communicate, assess and control their elected representatives., is the Greek version of a similar and already successful initiative that operates in five European countries (Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland, France and Austria), the ParliamentWatch.


The digital’s platform main aim is to “promote public dialogue, knowledge, political participation and accountability between citizens and politicians” (, which will be achieved by offering to the users three options. The users can ask questions and receive replies from the representatives in the Parliament, they can promote their own ideas by making proposals, share their experiences and they can also participate on debates where the “issue of the month” will be discussed. Continue reading a step towards innovative politics (?)

Everpix versus Snapchat – To pay or not to pay

Let’s say that: the more pictures we take, the less we care about them. Not so long ago, pictures used to be memories: shots eternalizing beautiful moments. With the photographic film, we only had a limited amount of pictures to take. Not to waste them, we had to carefully choose the moment, the background, and the subjects.

Nowadays, it is a little bit different. Many people like to share a shot of their dinner on social networks. When you go to parties you can see how many people are more concerned with their camera than with socializing. But what do we do with this huge number of pictures?


Most of the time, nothing. We store them in the big memory of our computer, and we forget about them. Sometimes it happens that a nice picture we took some time ago comes back to our mind. But: “Oh no! I cannot find it anymore!”

Based on these changes, the founders of Everpix created a complex algorithm able to organize the pictures of a lifetime in meaningful folders. This app selects, organizes, tags, and renames them. After the installation, the software is able to upload the pictures from your desktop and your online profiles. It had a freemium business model: The basic version was free, while upgrading to store unlimited pictures had a price. The conversion rate reached an outstanding 12.4%; it could have been a success. Continue reading Everpix versus Snapchat – To pay or not to pay

How could you trust other users when they sell?

Don’t feel like cooking yourself, but you don’t have the time nor money to go to a restaurant? can solve this problem! is a website, where people can offer their (prepared) food to their neighbours. The ‘Foodie’ (or in other words, the hungry person who doesn’t want to cook) can subscribe to the website and then see all the meals in his/her neighbourhood. The tool is not meant for any commercial interest, and restaurants and professional cooks are therefore kicked out. Cooks don’t get paid (they get a small amount to cover for the expenses of the ingredients), they merely cook for love & glory.


However, these kind of C2C platforms have some disadvantages. One of the problems is anonymity. Users could create fake usernames and as a user you generally don’t know who the cook is. But then how could a user be sure that this platform is safe? How do you know whether the cook prepared the food in a right, hygienic manner, and whether all the ingredients are safe? The website clearly states that they are not responsible for damage caused by any of the parties. So how could you trust the other users on the platform?

Continue reading How could you trust other users when they sell?

How many hours does this cost?

Traditionally, a bank is a financial institution that deals with lending and depositing money and exchanging currency. But that is overrated. A relatively newer concept is that of a time bank, where people exchange time. Some might say time is priceless, but it seems a new type of economy is appearing where time has been assigned a value.

800px-LaborNoteAlthough the digital world made time banks popular, the concept is actually quite old. Its history can be traced back to the 1820s, when an American anarchist created the Cincinnati Time Store. There, time spent during a specific activity could be translated into material goods, usually corn, meat or gold [1]. Nowadays, time banking works a bit differently: time is exchanged directly between people doing different types of activities. Thus, digital platforms where people auction (sell and buy) time have developed all over the world, Romania included. Continue reading How many hours does this cost?

Elementary, my dear Watson.

Have you ever dreamed about being a successful crime solver? Have you ever envied this old M. Holmes- or dreamed about cracking mysteries like in Criminal Minds?

Well fiction is not so far from reality as police investigators sometimes feel like they are getting nowhere and could make use of some help. As has been shown lately, the input of thousands of individuals could be as good as the one of experts, the so-called Wisdom of the Crowd. But how is this relevant to police investigations? Well, like the FBI did in 2011, investigators can sometimes seek help by crowdsourcing some of their unsolved cases.

On 30th June 1999, the 41-year-old Ricky McCormick was found dead in St Louis, Missouri. While the nature of the death was undoubtedly from criminal activity, two strange coded notes found in his pockets quickly caught the attention of the policemen. Twelve years later, despite the relentless work of the CRRU- the Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit of the FBI- those notes remain a mystery, forcing the FBI to crowdsource the problem on the internet. The collection of solutions presented by the population will be reviewed by the FBI, following a hierarchical system. No reward despite the self-satisfaction and the glory of helping the FBI is offered.


Two years later, the FBI again resorted to crowdsourcing to identify the authors of the horrifying bombing in the Marathon of Boston. An unprecedented number of calls, pictures and help from the population ensued from this open call, leading to a quick arrest of the two terrorists.  Following the same lines, numerous cities have developed apps allowing their citizen to report crimes from street disturbance to murders. Continue reading Elementary, my dear Watson.

Warning: Fraudfunding

Over the past few years, crowdfunding platforms have become more popular. Just within 5 years, the number of the platforms had risen from 21 websites in 2007 to 143 websites in 2011 (a). Crowdfunding platforms offer the opportunities for people to pursue their dreams or to raise money for good a cause.  On the other end of the spectrum, these platforms also provide opportunities for investment. However, as the popularity goes up, controlling this growing community is challenging since there are no concrete law or regulations, as can be seen in fraud cases occurring across crowdfunding platforms.

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 2.13.51 PM

Take for example the Kobe-red project on Kickstarter, which was intended to raise money for beef-based jerky made with 100% organic and beer-fed Japanese cow. This project was supported by 3,252 funders generating over $120,000! Being as successful, it was approached by two filmmakers who would like to include this project in a documentary called Kickstarted. Looking back on hindsight, it was then discovered that many features provided by the project creators on the page were suspicious, raising concerns about the legitimacy of the project. Continue reading Warning: Fraudfunding