Crowdsourcing competitions have become a popular way to harness the distributed insight and talent of the masses and have been used for everything from redesigning a major brand logo to pursuing innovative military technology. However, a new study by researchers from the University of Southampton and the National Information and Communications Technology Australia has found they also produce some of the worst competitive tendencies in people.
The researchers examined several recent crowdsourcing competitions, analyzing participants' behavior using the concept of the "Prisoner's Dilemma," an element of game theory that shows how two people with a common interest may often fail to cooperate with one another.
Southampton researcher Victor Naroditskiy says they found crowdsourcing competitions were often affected by malicious behavior such as sabotaging one or more participants' progress or submitting misinformation. Malicious behavior was especially noticeable in competitions in which one participant would ultimately claim a prize.
One example from the study is a U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency contest to identify the content of shredded documents, in which the eventual winner was subjected to coordinated attacks designed to thwart their progress throughout the competition.
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