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The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

The DARPA Challenge That Didn’t Go Viral

March 22nd, 2012 / in research horizons, Research News / by Erwin Gianchandani

The DARPA CLIQR Quest Challenge [image courtesy DARPA].Earlier this month, we highlighted the Cash for Locating and Identifying Quick Response codes (CLIQR) Quest, a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) prize-based challenge seeking to advance the understanding of social media and the Internet. The challenge offered $40,000 to the first individual or team that could locate 7 posters appearing in U.S. cities bearing the DARPA logo and a quick response (QR) code. Though the challenge ran for 15 days — from Feb. 23rd through March 8th — unlike in past challenges, notably the DARPA Network “Red Balloon” Challenge, no team was able to locate all 7 posters and submit the corresponding QR codes.

The reason? (Click “more” to find out!)

Turns out DARPA limited the publicity blitz for CLIQR, opting to use Twitter to announce the challenge and encouraging participants to use their social networks to help get the word out — not traditional online media communication challenges.

According to the DARPA press release announcing the results of the CLIQR Quest:

The dynamics of social networks have provided a platform for communication research for years. The introduction of social media channels has added an element of hyper-connectedness to that research, resulting in efforts to better understand how to leverage social media as a communication channel for timely mass information, rapid mobilization of groups, and wide-area team building.


As part of DARPA’s research in this area, at 11:00 AM (EST) on Thursday, February 23, posters bearing the DARPA logo and a quick response (QR) code appeared in US cities. It was the launch of the Cash for Locating and Identifying Quick Response Codes (CLIQR) Quest — a prize-based challenge that sought to advance knowledge of social media and the Internet. After 18 hours, the winner had leveraged social media to find three of the seven possible codes.


The challenge ended on March 8 with the task unmet. While all seven valid codes were found, no one entity submitted all seven.


“Previous DARPA efforts in this research area — for example, the DARPA Network Challenge, which everyone seems to know as the Red Balloon Challenge — drove participation in the experiment,” said DARPA Deputy Director Kaigham J. Gabriel. “That challenge began with the Agency purposefully launching a communication outreach campaign to draw attention to the experiment. With CLIQR Quest, we sought to test the opposite end of the spectrum — zero excitation through public Agency announcements.”


“Although not all seven QR codes were submitted by a single source, analysis from the experiment should provide a baseline for further research into how information spreads through social media,” said Jay Schnitzer, office director, Defense Sciences Office, DARPA. “One thing that may be proven from the CLIQR Quest is that new and traditional media are not as separate as some believe them to be. In fact, they may be mutually supportive.


This leads to questions: How can explosive exponential growth in communication activities be predicted? How can network communication nodes best be identified (those nodes without which a hyper-connected communication network would not form)? How can individuals be mobilized and teams be formed to respond to disaster relief initiatives — as the CLIQR Quest attempted to do?


“Through previous DARPA challenges, the Agency has shown the value of social media for rapid collaboration and solving difficult problems,” explained Gabriel. “And, there’s still much more to learn about the dynamics of social networks.”


The winner of the CLIQR Quest will receive a prorated amount of the $40,000 prize for being the first to find and submit three of the seven valid challenge codes.

To learn more, check out the CLIQR Quest website, the DARPA press release, and a news account in InformationWeek.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

The DARPA Challenge That Didn’t Go Viral

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