Social media falls short in DARPA's CLIQR challenge

Nobody claimed the grand prize in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's challenge to test the potential effectiveness of social media during a disaster, Information Week reports.

Late last month, DARPA began its Cash for Locating and Identifying Quick Response Codes (CLIQR) challenge. The goal was for participants to use social media to locate seven posters placed in different cities across the country. The posters, which represented assets responders might need in an emergency situation, bore a QR code and DARPA's logo.

There was a catch, though: DARPA introduced the CLIQR challenge on Twitter and used only nontraditional means of getting the word out about it, which meant no official agency press releases and no promotion through blogs or other non-social media sites. (Participants were encouraged to use their own social networks, including Facebook, to spread the word, however.)

CLIQR was modeled after the DARPA Network Challenge in December 2009, in which contestants were asked to use the Internet to find the locations of 10 red weather balloons scattered around the country. That challenge was solved in less than nine hours, but it was more heavily promoted.

“That challenge began with the agency purposefully launching a communication outreach campaign to draw attention to the experiment,” said DARPA Deputy Director, Kaigham J. Gabriel said in a release. "With CLIQR Quest, we sought to test the opposite end of the spectrum — zero excitation through public agency announcements.”
 
Although the $40,000 first prize offered to the winner will go unclaimed, the contestant who located three of the QR codes will receive a prorated amount, DARPA said.

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