Saturday, June 27, 2015

UPDATE - Why I'm not longer interested in solving challenges for Innocentive

I wrote a blog post a few months ago about entering problem solving competitions on the crowd-sourcing website Innocentive - Exercise your brain by solving problems for Innocentive. I was psyched about working on the challenges back then, and entered a bunch of Innocentive competitions. I didn't win any of them - so you could potentially call this a case of sour grapes - but in any case, I'm considerably less enthusiastic now. There's a few problems that I see with the whole setup.

The most recent challenge I thought seriously about entering for was this one: Seeking Improved Document Identification and Verification Methods. It's about automatically identifying documents that are submitted by customers (usually financial records that are scanned in and uploaded).

It sounded interesting, and I put many hours of thought into it. But when reviewing the challenge, there were many, many unanswered questions. There's a forum for asking questions on Innocentive, so I did. But the answers I received were perfunctory and had no depth. It struck me that for a question of this complexity, involving all kinds of internal company processes and systems, you can't write a single page document presenting a problem. Solving this kind of problem requires you have full and complete access to the details of a problem - potentially sitting at a table with people who understand the problem, or experiencing it yourself. Then you make proposals, set up trials, do experiments, do some tinkering. That's how you come up with more ideas to test, and more potential solutions.

The limited information that you have about the challenge, the lack of interaction with the people that have presented the challenge, and the lack of feedback on the actual challenge - and the fact that you hear nothing back about your own solution, or the solution that was chosen - that makes the whole experience less than satisfying.

Interesting - I found this post on LinkedIn when I was doing some research, which goes into the same points that I made above. The writer actually received a few Innocentive awards, though.


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