Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Going to CI Foo

I am very much looking forward to going to Collective Intelligence Foo Camp this weekend.

CI Foo is a Tim O'Reilly gathering hosted by Google to discuss how we can build systems that use "networked computers and humans working together to solve interesting problems."

It looks to be a remarkable event. The list of people invited includes Hal Varian, Peter Norvig, Rodney Brooks, and Luis von Ahn. Recommender experts such as John Reidl, Eric Horvitz, and Paul Resnick will be there. Brent Smith and Kim Rachmeler are coming from Amazon Personalization. Gary Flake, Blaise Aguera y Arcas, David Gedye, and Matt Hurst are coming from Microsoft Live Labs. Caterina Fake, Joshua Schachter, and many other startup innovators will be attending.

Should be fun! If you see me there, please say hello!

Update: As I did for the last Foo Camp event I got to attend, I will try to post a summary of some of the conversations afterward.

Update: Caterina Fake did not attend, but Larry Page made a brief appearance.

Update: Four days later, I have posted a summary of some of the discussions I was part of at CI Foo.

6 comments:

jeremy said...

Quick dumb question: Before you build systems that use "networked computers and humans working together to solve interesting problems.", do you have a sense or idea of the types of interesting problems for which you would be building these systems?

Are you thinking about things like web scale image labeling? Or are you thinking even bigger problems?

Greg Linden said...

Hi, Jeremy. Frankly, the term "collective intelligence", like AI or machine learning, is incredibly broad. What is and is not collective intelligence is probably just a matter of degree.

For example, in collaborative filtering, people rate items, but then machines figure out which other people are similar to this person from those ratings and what information to share between them.

In del.icio.us and Flickr, people tag bookmarks or pictures primarily for their own use, but those tags end up having value for others when shared.

Wikipedia is a collective effort of many thousands where machines provide tools to ease that effort and search the information.

But, hey, even core web search exposes relevant information from humans by eliciting relevance information from the links, clicks, content, and other information people have provided. And, personally, I think web search is collective intelligence. So, where does this stop?

I am guessing a bit here, but what I think Tim is trying to get at is ideas for new tools that help people help people at very large scale. The goal is to discover the wisdom of the crowd in the noise, "harnessing collective intelligence", as Tim puts it.

Robert said...

Cool, glad you got to go. If only I was smart and hip enough to get invited.

Greg Linden said...

Robert, I wouldn't think of the invites that way. Clearly, there are many smarter people and hipper people than me who will not be attending. I think Tim is just trying to invite a diverse group of people with different experiences.

jeremy said...

what I think Tim is trying to get at is ideas for new tools that help people help people at very large scale. The goal is to discover the wisdom of the crowd in the noise, "harnessing collective intelligence"

Yes, yes, I very much understand the wisdom of crowd stuff. I was asking more about the problems, rather than the solutions. The "what" you'd be solving, rather than the "how" you'd be solving it.

So for that "what", you mention item recommendation (books, movies, music), web page finding (via delicious, web search, etc.) and collective encyclopaedic authoring.. basically the same set of problems that currently exist.

What I was wondering is whether there was going to be any sort of "branching out" in the nature of the problems themselves. At the conference, would there be any thought of how you could apply collective intelligence to the problems that, say, Kiva.org are trying to solve? Ie can you figure out how to use collective intelligence to self-regulate a micro-lending environment? Or to the problem of grassroots political organization, using collective intelligence to help people figure out how and where to make the biggest political different or impact in their communities, nationally, abroad, etc.

That's the sort of thing I was looking for.

Greg Linden said...

Hi, Jeremy. Right-o, I think that is the idea behind the conference, exploring new problems that might be able to be attacked in new ways with these techniques.

The particular examples you mention -- reputation and fraud prevention in micro-lending, keeping people informed and engaged in politics -- are great. I am sure there will be many others, probably some completely crazy things, some more practical. I will try to post here about at least some of what is talked about after the event.