Prices, competition and crowd sourcing

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NYT has an interesting article on the multi-year competition to come up with better recommendation algorithm, where the winner won one million $. Two things are worth mentioning. Netflix CEO summed it up as this: "You look at the cumulative hours and you’re getting Ph.D.’s for a dollar an hour." Not only that, they are also motivated, because self-selected.

But, for companies taking part in the challenge may be worth it, even without winning.

Arnab Gupta, chief executive of Opera Solutions, a data analytics company based in New York [which came in second], took a small group of his leading researchers off other work for two years. “We’ve already had a $10 million payoff internally from what we’ve learned,” Mr. Gupta said.

Working on the contest helped the researchers come up with improved statistical analysis and predictive modeling techniques that his firm has used with clients in fields like marketing, retailing and finance, he said. “So for us, the $1 million prize was secondary, almost trivial.”