DARPA Balloon Challenge - Team Metafilter December 4, 2009 3:29 PM   Subscribe

DARPA Balloon Challenge - Team Metafilter - This Saturday

The DARPA Network Challenge is this Saturday, Dec. 5th. Tomorrow!

We've discussed this before. It's time to get involved.

We need people willing to do any of the following:
  • Organize people
  • Look for balloons
  • Analyze and verify balloon sightings
Cortex has offered to be our official submitter.

To submit a balloon sighting use this form.

Please do not use that form if you're not a metafilter member. Please do not share the link outside of metafilter. If it begins to attract false results we'll cut it off and post an alternate.

It's okay to post third-party sightings using that form, but please explain the details of your source in the submission form.

To volunteer your time tomorrow to organize people or verify balloon sightings, please sign up using this form.
posted by odinsdream to MetaFilter-Related at 3:29 PM (111 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

So very cold here. If one floats by my window I'll be sure to report it.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:42 PM on December 4, 2009


Any chance of link to this on the front page?
posted by stirfry at 3:54 PM on December 4, 2009


I got parts of the south bay covered.
posted by special-k at 4:14 PM on December 4, 2009


Despite the snow forecast, I'd be willing to do some driving around Baltimore / DC as long as it isn't icy if someone else is game. I posted something on the other forum, but didn't get a response. :(
posted by youcancallmeal at 4:22 PM on December 4, 2009


Any chance of link to this on the front page?

Cortex has offered to sidebar it perhaps.
posted by odinsdream at 4:27 PM on December 4, 2009


Just to be clear: There are literally two people who are organizing this so far. We desperately need organizer people. Please.
posted by odinsdream at 4:33 PM on December 4, 2009


Sidebar is a go!
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:12 PM on December 4, 2009


Okay. I think there is ZERO chance of a balloon going up here in Brooklyn, or my lower Manhattan work area, but I'll keep my eyes open and if by "organizing" you mean people call or text or email me saying "OMG WTF A BALLOON" I think I can do that.
"
posted by vrakatar at 5:45 PM on December 4, 2009


If MeFi wins this with 0+ε organization, I'm going to be pretty fearful of the state of the nation's defenses.
posted by DU at 6:04 PM on December 4, 2009


If I spot one I'll let cortex know.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:04 PM on December 4, 2009


I'll keep my eyes peeled!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:11 PM on December 4, 2009


we're in the ATL area, and if we see one we'll let y'all know.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:31 PM on December 4, 2009


I've got downtown Columbia, MO covered.
posted by schyler523 at 7:09 PM on December 4, 2009


I'll keep an eye out in Harrisburg, PA.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 7:11 PM on December 4, 2009


i'm going to cruise around cape cod looking for a balloon. a couple of other places in eastern MA that seem plausible, too.

i'm available for diversion to check out any supposed sightings in the areas. my contact info is on the volunteer form i filled out.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:43 PM on December 4, 2009


I hope someone's covering Fort Collins, CO.
posted by decagon at 8:31 PM on December 4, 2009


How do Jr. spotters report?!
posted by vapidave at 8:51 PM on December 4, 2009


Sorry. Steven Segal ate my brain.
posted by vapidave at 8:55 PM on December 4, 2009


I will be cordoning off a no-go area in suburban Maryland for the purposes of denying all balloon flight. With enough cooperation from neighboring anti-balloon militants, I expect to push all remaining DARPA elements into Lakehurst and Manchester, New Jersey. Once contained, and with the challenge forfeit, all evidence of this state-sponsored surveillance exercise will be purified in radiant flame.

No gods, No masters

:P
posted by cowbellemoo at 8:56 PM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'll certainly keep my eyes open.
posted by andythebean at 9:23 PM on December 4, 2009


Beware of false baloons lofted by other teams.

Loft false baloons to confuse other teams.
posted by vrakatar at 9:37 PM on December 4, 2009


I'll be attempting to cover a small (and by small I mean, like, neighborhood sized) area near the outskirts of Chicago. Aurora area, to be exact.

Doubt I'll find anything but if by some way I do, I'll report it. Eyes peeled.
posted by Askiba at 9:46 PM on December 4, 2009


I'll be driving around Memphis, TN tomorrow, and will keep an eye out.
posted by Woney at 1:06 AM on December 5, 2009


I've got the western part of Augusta GA covered!
posted by TedW at 1:14 AM on December 5, 2009


I'll be stuck inside at work all day but will look out the window occasionally in Fayettenam....
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:29 AM on December 5, 2009


Cube's in Boston and points along the water today, and hopefully that'll afford me a better view.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 5:10 AM on December 5, 2009


Out in far North Fort Worth, TX, as if. Looking anyway.
posted by haunted by Leonard Cohen at 6:10 AM on December 5, 2009


Hey! Woney took my area! I'm telling Mom!
posted by JeffK at 6:16 AM on December 5, 2009


I'll be making a trek out to central MA (Berlin), I'll keep my eyes peeled.
posted by bondcliff at 7:06 AM on December 5, 2009


We've got a nicer balloon submission tool. Please check it here:

http://mefiballoons.dyndns.org/
posted by odinsdream at 7:09 AM on December 5, 2009


I've updated the post to link to that tool, odinsdream.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:16 AM on December 5, 2009


I'll be out and around Bergen County NJ today so I'll keep my eyes open!
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:36 AM on December 5, 2009


Thanks cortex!
posted by odinsdream at 7:38 AM on December 5, 2009


I-35 between Oklahoma City and Stillwater will be covered for today.
posted by suckerpunch at 7:42 AM on December 5, 2009


Currently on the cahallenge site: "Balloon #6 - Launched, but not displaying DARPA Logo." That seems to mean that nine of the balloons are displaying the lovely DARPA logo but ONE IS NOT. There may also of course be imposters.
posted by longsleeves at 8:33 AM on December 5, 2009


longsleeves: haha that sounds like it's on purpose.
posted by amuseDetachment at 8:51 AM on December 5, 2009


Following 'balloon' tweets is extremely productive for the social networking component of this.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 9:34 AM on December 5, 2009


There's a hefty amount of spam, though.
posted by odinsdream at 9:36 AM on December 5, 2009


I mentioned it to my husband and my son. They're both out and about today, so we've got our little section of central Kansas covered.
posted by amyms at 9:48 AM on December 5, 2009


Anyone in Providence RI? I saw a photo linked on twitter with a balloon near RISD. Seems like a likely place for a fake though.
posted by blaneyphoto at 10:11 AM on December 5, 2009


What charity is the money going to?
I am making calls to friends and need to be able to tell them what we're up to.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:31 AM on December 5, 2009


The most recent info I can find in the forum is that we were thinking about landmine removal:

The HALO (Hazardous Area Life-Support Organisation) Trust is a non-political, non-religious NGO, registered in Britain as a charity and in the United States as a 501(c)(3) Not-for-Profit organisation. HALO specializes in the removal of the hazardous debris of war.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:35 AM on December 5, 2009


HALO is what was settled on.
posted by odinsdream at 10:57 AM on December 5, 2009


I'm not sure if there is a live-chat location for this project but if any of the admins of the project board are around: can one of you guys make a top-level post over there that can serve as live-chat this afternoon?
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:02 AM on December 5, 2009


awesome odinsdream, thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:02 AM on December 5, 2009


Global topic started for Live Chat on the forum.
posted by odinsdream at 11:18 AM on December 5, 2009


Thanks! - the link is under "Real World Strategy".
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:26 AM on December 5, 2009


It should appear in whatever forum you select.
posted by odinsdream at 11:27 AM on December 5, 2009


oh even better!
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:31 AM on December 5, 2009


This is cool. I was planning on avoiding the gym today until this gave me an excuse to leave the house. I'm on the east side of Tucson and heading east. I'll let you cool kids know if I see anything.
posted by The Potate at 11:48 AM on December 5, 2009


If anyone's in Santa Barbara please let us know.
posted by odinsdream at 12:39 PM on December 5, 2009


Anyone who can, go to a public park in Santa Barbara.
posted by odinsdream at 1:07 PM on December 5, 2009


odinsdream - please mefi mail me the location in SB that you're thinking of.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:15 PM on December 5, 2009


If you recognize the corners of these buildings from somewhere in San Francisco, please update us.
posted by odinsdream at 1:27 PM on December 5, 2009


Anybody near the NYS museum in Albany and can go take a picture? We'll <3 you if you can confirm that location for us. memail me and/or odinsdream with your phone number and a pic, please.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 1:51 PM on December 5, 2009


On the SF one, if I had to guess, I would say that's the new main library at the civic center on the right and the old library, now incorporated into the Asian Art Museum on the left. Just a guess. The new bldg has a different cornice line on the west (main/front) elevation but on the north/Grove? side it's kinda like that.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:04 PM on December 5, 2009


I kept my eyes peeled as I was driving around northern Virginia today, but didn't see anything. It was a fun thing to do at stoplights, though!
posted by gemmy at 2:11 PM on December 5, 2009


otherworldlyglow: This looks like a great match! Thanks. This is my google street view guess.
posted by odinsdream at 2:17 PM on December 5, 2009


Can anyone drive there to verify?
posted by odinsdream at 2:18 PM on December 5, 2009


odinsdream -- I'm on my way to the local parks here in Goleta. Any specific ones you have in mind?
posted by spiderskull at 2:52 PM on December 5, 2009


Yes, we can. On our way.
posted by gingerbeer at 2:53 PM on December 5, 2009


spiderskull: Chase Palm Park, here.
posted by odinsdream at 2:56 PM on December 5, 2009


It's not sf civic center area.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:20 PM on December 5, 2009


gingerbeer: Do you mean you were physically there and did not see it?
posted by odinsdream at 3:21 PM on December 5, 2009


Yes. It's not near the SFPL. We drove all the way around it. No red balloon visible in the SF civic center area. We're willing to give another spot a try if someone has an idea but otherwise will head home.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:26 PM on December 5, 2009


Thank you, negative confirmation is just as valuable. No need to keep driving around.
posted by odinsdream at 3:32 PM on December 5, 2009


My uninformed guesses would be: the Presidio, Mission Bay, or Yerba Buena Center.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:43 PM on December 5, 2009


What if a group of us wandered around Google's SF StreetView map? I've already started near 2nd and Bryant...
posted by spiderskull at 3:49 PM on December 5, 2009


Isn't the bay area partly cloudy today? there's nary a cloud in the sky, this is more SoCal/Southwest weather.
posted by amuseDetachment at 3:51 PM on December 5, 2009


klangklangston, specius, holyrood, mandyman and I found the Santa Barbara balloon. Thanks AmbrosiaVoyeur for the tip.
posted by k8t at 3:57 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Twitter says Union Square for the SF one. But I think time is up.
posted by gingerbeer at 4:02 PM on December 5, 2009


How many do we have?
posted by spiderwire at 4:06 PM on December 5, 2009


Union Square pic?
http://twitpic.com/sacnb
posted by amuseDetachment at 4:14 PM on December 5, 2009


Grounded.
posted by spiderwire at 4:19 PM on December 5, 2009


Looks like no team found anywhere close to all ten.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:21 PM on December 5, 2009


Not true ;)
posted by spiderwire at 4:22 PM on December 5, 2009


The geocachers found 7 and I know of at least one team that found 7+
posted by spiderwire at 4:23 PM on December 5, 2009


The MIT team won.
posted by bh at 5:34 PM on December 5, 2009


Well sheeeeeeit. Leave it to MIT to do that.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:35 PM on December 5, 2009


The MIT team were paying people $2,000 for each correct location. It's the perfect strategy.

Balloons - Press release
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:38 PM on December 5, 2009


While no team has found all of them on their own, there's trading going on on Twitter and presumably elsewhere. #NetworkChallenge and #10Balloonies were very busy last I looked.
posted by clauclauclaudia at 5:45 PM on December 5, 2009


I walked right by the edge of Tonsler Park in Charlottesville today and didn't see it.

It was snowing and I was trying to scurry to the store and back, but still ...
posted by nangar at 6:00 PM on December 5, 2009


Wow. Thanks for ignoring flyover country DARPA.
posted by graventy at 6:17 PM on December 5, 2009


I am a little disappointed that the balloons weren't more thoroughly (or, really, at all) middle-of-nowhered. I suppose it makes sense—smallish cash prize by DARPA standards suggests relative ease of the expected effort, and having no one win would be kind of a letdown and so keeping things findable is good PR in making a satisfyingly reportable narrative likely—but it's a let down in any case. I wish it had been something that required a serious organized canvassing effort across the board.

I suppose there's the argument to be made that the smart teams are the ones who managed to predict this kind of distribution with confidence.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:24 PM on December 5, 2009


So how many did the MeFi team correctly locate?
posted by booksherpa at 6:58 PM on December 5, 2009


For those of us who were fascinated by this but did not have a chance to participate (flyover country my foot! *stamps said foot*) would it be possible to open up the forum you guys used to the public? I'm really interested in seeing the post-mortems on this challenge and how the day went down on there.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:26 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


So how many did the MeFi team correctly locate?


We had three: Charlottesville (the coordinates were actually reported by a journalist), Portland [courtesy of a mefi user, I'm sorry I forget the user who submitted it], and Santa Barbara [courtesy of klangklangston, specius, holyrood, mandyman, k8t, and AmbrosiaVoyeur].
posted by fizzix at 7:50 PM on December 5, 2009


Here's the Santa Barbara balloon - pictures of us with it to follow.
posted by k8t at 9:05 PM on December 5, 2009


Not bad, team! Not bad at all.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:06 PM on December 5, 2009


What's sort of funny about this Santa Barbara balloon -- klangklangston, holyrood, specius and mandyman and I are all friends from way back. We were organizing gettogether in SB today ANYWAY.

We went winetasting downtown and Ambrosia Voyeur SMS'd me saying that the balloon was in SB, and then a bit later in the park that was 5 MINUTES from where we were located.

So we walked over there and saw it 15 minutes before they took it down.
posted by k8t at 9:13 PM on December 5, 2009


That was fun, I'm glad we gave it a shot. Thank you to tarheelxcon, odinsdream and the others who were very dedicated to getting the forum up and running etc!
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:17 PM on December 5, 2009


The MIT team were paying people $2,000 for each correct location. It's the perfect strategy.

Paying $2K to get a pair of eyeballs? What is this, 1999?
posted by dhartung at 9:33 PM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Here's the internal MeFi data collection site, i distabled any restrictions and it's now set to public, but all the buttons don't do anything. In it, you can see reported locations, and the twitter geoparsing results. Notice how much garbage data there is, even with trying to limit it!

I've scrubbed all reports data (except for mefi username if reported, tell me if you don't want anything there).
posted by amuseDetachment at 9:49 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


For those of us who were fascinated by this but did not have a chance to participate (flyover country my foot! *stamps said foot*) would it be possible to open up the forum you guys used to the public? I'm really interested in seeing the post-mortems on this challenge and how the day went down on there.

Sure, check it out here.
posted by odinsdream at 9:54 PM on December 5, 2009


i distabled... err "I disabled".
posted by amuseDetachment at 9:58 PM on December 5, 2009


Here we are with the balloon.
posted by k8t at 10:10 PM on December 5, 2009


k8t: Man, I'd be way too scared to hold the balloon like that, even though I know it'd be safe.
posted by amuseDetachment at 10:13 PM on December 5, 2009


Fascinating, thanks amuseDetachement + odinsdream.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 10:23 PM on December 5, 2009


The MIT strategy for building a reporting network:
Have all your friends sign up using your personalized invitation. If anyone you invite, or anyone they invite, or anyone they invite (...and so on) win money, then so will you!

We're giving $2000 per balloon to the first person to send us the correct coordinates, but that's not all -- we're also giving $1000 to the person who invited them. Then we're giving $500 whoever invited the inviter, and $250 to whoever invited them, and so on... (see how it works).

It might play out like this. Alice joins the team, and we give her an invite link like http://balloon.mit.edu/alice. Alice then e-mails her link to Bob, who uses it to join the team as well. We make a http://balloon.mit.edu/bob link for Bob, who posts it to Facebook. His friend Carol sees it, signs up, then twitters about http://balloon.mit.edu/carol. Dave uses Carol's link to join... then spots one of the DARPA balloons! Dave is the first person to report the balloon's location to us, and the MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team is the first to find all 10. Once that happens, we send Dave $2000 for finding the balloon. Carol gets $1000 for inviting Dave, Bob gets $500 for inviting Carol, and Alice gets $250 for inviting Bob. The remaining $250 is donated to charity.

posted by beagle at 5:19 AM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Shouldn't that be Bob and Ted and Carol and Alice?
posted by Sailormom at 7:05 AM on December 6, 2009


And the MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team won [PDF]!
posted by ericb at 7:07 AM on December 6, 2009


We had a lovely chat with the dudes hanging out at the Santa Barbara balloon!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 8:02 AM on December 6, 2009


And the MIT Red Balloon Challenge Team won [PDF]!


RENAISSANCE OF WONDER
posted by captain cosine at 10:30 AM on December 6, 2009


MIT understands that the way to build a network quickly is with the awesome power of the AllAdvantage extended referral credit
posted by milkrate at 12:40 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Shouldn't that be Bob and Ted and Carol and Alice?

Alice, Bob, Carol, and Dave (and other names down the alphabet) are standard placeholder names in cryptography discussions (and other related fields).
posted by dhartung at 1:37 PM on December 6, 2009


Who would have guessed that those MIT guys would have outsmarted everybody?
posted by Bonzai at 10:24 PM on December 6, 2009


I'm actually amazed the MIT team won -- I think their slashdotting was really the defining factor there.

Also, were there no false reports? Did that not play a role?
posted by breath at 10:31 PM on December 6, 2009


MIT's team advert on Slashdot.

AllAdvantage was a weird company, and not the only Pay to Click company. I remember folks in college getting a couple hundred dollars a month by gaming the system with various hacks. In the end, AllAdvantage lost $102.7 million.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:54 AM on December 7, 2009


AllAdvantage lost $102.7 million

It started with $200 million in venture capital, and went on to lose $102.7 million. Don't they really mean that it lost $302.7 million, or was the venture money somehow recovered?
posted by Chuckles at 10:49 AM on December 7, 2009


breath: There were reports, including one contextless photo, of a balloon in Seattle, but there was no balloon in Seattle — so at least one group/person was putting a little effort into misdirection.
posted by hattifattener at 11:36 PM on December 7, 2009


we're 26!
posted by k8t at 3:51 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


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