Crowd Sourcing the Search

The lack of coordination, fears of legal litigation and a general resistance to public involvement have resulted in a failure to make use of a tool that could be extremely powerful in this case i.e. "crowd sourcing". It is a technology development that has become mainstream and has the potential to rapidly resolve the crisis, but it is being ignored by the agencies responsible for coordinating the search. In fact, the agencies involved have actively resisted it's progress by refusing to publish primary data that is required for analysis by the crowd.

There are leigions of people out there with an immense collection of skills, experience and resources.They include physicists, engineers, pilots, mathematicians, geologists and a vast array of other people including those who simply have large amounts of time and a willing ness to help. The web has now enabled these people to combine their respective skills into a force that is many times more powerful than the sum of the parts. The effect is akin to the energy released when a nuclear fusion reaction proceeds.

Like nuclear energy, the great challenge of crowd sourcing is to harness the energy generated in a controlled fashion. If the crowd comes to gether in an unstructured way, enormous amounts of time can be wasted in filtering out the conspiracy throrists, jokers and publicity seekers who have nothing of value to contribute. No doubt this is a major reason that the authorities have shunned the process to date.

There have been some attempts at crowd sourcing that have failed miserably. Notably that of journalism. The early attempts failed to filter out the flotsam mentioned above and consequently ended up with a collection of rubbish. However, time has allowed a number of models to emerge that have been very successful. Wikipedia is one of the best developed and, in this case, it has provided unquestionably the most rigorous, timely and complete catalogue of events available anywhere.

By design, Wikipedia is not a forum for collaborative research effort. What is required is a site that centralises a the location for like-minded individuals to come together and share talents, data ideas and critique in a structured form. To some degree this developed organically in the case of MH370 because a few people with combined technical and web publishing skills built websites and blogs that eventually became centers of activity because they were referenced so often. If they had a place to go as soon as the tragedy unfolded, the fusion reaction could have reached critical mass at a much earlier stage.

Even before the web existed there were examples of the synergy created when creative minds are brought together from diverse backgrounds. The extraordinary success of the code breaking effort at Bletchley Park during the second World War resulted from the creation of teams of highly talented people from widely separarted disciplines.

Once a centre like this becomes established and achieves a few successes that reflect it's effectiveness, it will gain a degree of power that will help to encourage reluctant parties to provide data that might help in resolution of the problem at hand.

Part of what will make such a site a success will be understanding the motivation of the contributors from the crowd. Genuine contributors are willing to contribute their respective efforts entirely free of charge. They are motivated by basic human desires to solve problems, make use of their skills and help others in need.

There is also a strong human desire for notariety that can could be harnessed. The "15 minutes of fame" effect is an extremely powerful motivation (whitness the popularity and extraordinary unpaid efforts of contributors on TV talent shows), but it would need to be managed very carefully to filter out those who want noteriety without contribution.

Failure to harness these powerful human emotions is a tragic waste of human potential when the technology already exists to make it happen.