SERIOUS Cash for QR codes

February 27, 2012

by Kerry Martin

This goes way beyond offering some dollar-off coupon for scanning a QR code in a flier for fro-yo … individuals with social media savvy could win a $40,000 cash prize offered by the federal government.

Called the CLIQR Quest (Cash for Locating and Identifying Quick Response codes), the contest was issued last week by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to understand social media’s role in mobilizing and communicating with the masses to solve time-critical problems.  There is a deadline of two weeks to find a number of codes dispersed across the country, but this isn’t like a scavenger hunt that publishes clues to lead you to each one.  You must depend on strangers (other twitter users, bloggers, etc.) to share the locations of other QR codes in their local areas.

But will this strategy of incentivizing people by a cash prize really encourage others to share information willingly?  To me, it seems like this perceived notion of ‘teamwork’ is akin to creating alliances on “Survivor.”

If the purpose of this Quest is to prepare for crisis situations that need to provide rapid mobilization for humanitarian efforts (like tsunamis, earthquakes and other disasters), what about basing the contest on those same principles of giving in times of need?  If I were to create this contest, I would offer that the prize money would go to the Red Cross or another charity that is currently helping people now—thus supporting the research’s mission of uniting people in a common goal through social media.  And to incentivize people to jump into action even faster, the prize money going to charity would start to diminish a little each day.

While this is a great way to assess social media’s power for getting information out to the public, I hope the contest’s motivation doesn’t hinder meaningful research.

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