ACT Seminar - Jason Hartline/Northwestern University, "The Theory of Crowdsourcing Contests", ACES 2.402

Contact Name: 
Jenna Whitney
Feb 22, 2012 1:30pm - 2:30pm

There is a sign-up schedule for this event that can be found at

Type of T

alk: "The Theory of Crowdsourcing Contests"

Speaker/Affiliation: Jason
Hartline/Northwestern University

Talk Audience: UTCS Faculty, Gradua

te Students, Undergraduate Students, McCombs and Economics Students, Out

side Interested Parties

Date/Time: Wednesday, February 22, 2012, 1:

30 p.m.

Location: ACES 2.402

Host: Greg Plaxton

Talk Title:

The Theory of Crowdsourcing Contests

Crowdsourcing contest

s have been popularized by the Netflix
challenge and websites like TopCod

er and Taskcn. What is a
crowdsourcing contest? Imagine you are designi

ng a new web service,
you have it all coded up, but the site looks bad

because you haven''t
got any graphic design skills. You could hire an ar

tist to design
your logo, or you could post the design task as a competi

tion to
crowdsourcing website Taskcn with a monetary reward of
$100. Co

ntestants on Taskcn would then compete to produce the best
logo. You then
select your favorite logo and award that contestant the
$100 prize.

nIn this talk, I discuss the theory of crowdsourcing contests. First,

I will show how to model crowdsourcing contests using auction theory.

ond, I will discuss how to solve for contestant strategies. I.e.,

ose you were entering such a programming contest on TopCoder, how
much w

ork should you do on your entry to optimize your gains from
winning less

the cost of doing the work? Finally, I will discuss
inefficiency from t

he fact that the effort of losing contestants is
wasted (e.g., every con

testant has to do work to design a logo, but
you only value your favorit

e logo). I will show that this wasted
effort is at most half of the tota

l amount of effort. A consequence
is that crowdsourcing is approximately
as efficient a means of
procurement as conventional methods (e.g., auct

ions or negotiations).

Joint work with Shuchi Chawla and Balu Sivan.


Prof. Hartline as been a member of the EECS faculty since 200

At Northwestern he teaches undergraduate courses on algorithms and

ata structures, and graduate courses on mechanism design and

on. Before joining Northwestern he was a researcher at
Microsoft Researc

h in Silicon Valley where he worked on auction theory
and its application
to selling advertisements on Internet search
engines. His Ph.D. is in c

omputer science from University of
Washington, Seattle.