Archive for April, 2013

Crowdsourcing 1.0

In one of those exercises peculiar to Hollywood and to schools of the Valle de los Españoles, a friend and I were assigned the task of tabulating the results of the various contests for “most popular/handsome-beautiful/energetic/bright/athletic and most studious student;” and “most popular/helpful/patient/best and most teacherious teacher.” Under cover, the two of us also invented a somewhat derogatory category we called “most unpopular teacher” and then stuffed the ballot box with the name of the assistant principal (whom we very much liked) and added “votes” for a few others just to cover our tracks.

Fortunately, since both of us were “counting challenged,” we had more ballots than voting students and we were immediately discovered. The interesting thing, though, was that many, if not all, of the teachers in that school system were far above average and rather than give us the punishment we deserved, the object of our prank held a general assembly and used the incident as a teaching moment: a thirty minute lecture on democracy and citizenship and the ethics required for both.

What bothered him was not his “selection” as the “worst teacher ever” but that we, his students, knew so little of the system we had the good fortune to be born into and, by luck alone, were a part of something that others had fought and died to gain and protect. He said that a vote was “sacred” and that it should never be bought or sold or denied or given lightly and only if done responsibly could the decisions of the many favor liberty over tyranny and justice over the unfair distribution of both the benefits and the burdens that our peculiar form of governance—one that we both belong to and own—guarantees.

Similarly, but on a totally different scale, is something called “crowdsourcing” which posits that, on average, a group of people is more knowledgeable than an individual. The procedure has had some successes as when the French sought a way to preserve food, and when the Brits put together the Oxford Dictionary. But it also has had its failures, as in the more recent effort by some to identify the Boston marathon bombers that fingered a pair of teenagers whose only fault was that they dressed like teenagers.

Given all of this, I thought it might be possible to use crowdsourcing as a way to pick out the nine clues—among nearly twenty possibilities—found in Forrest Fenn’s poem. And, in the interest of fairness, which is the ethical part of crowdsourcing, I would share the results with everybody. Plus, given my admitted problems in counting, I left all of the comments to stand so that you can make your own count. Here is mine with the vote totals and in the order they appear in the poem:

1. Begin it where warm waters halt; (5)
2. And take it in the canyon down. (5)
3. Put in below (5)
4. The home of Brown (5)
5. There’ll be no paddle up your creek (5)
6. Just heavy loads (6)
7. Found the blaze (5.5)
8. Tarry scant (6)
9. Marvel gaze (6)

This list may or may not help you. It only confuses me. But that’s because I know that one respondent counted a non-existent number seven and not just a few others preferred to discuss the meanings of “Tarry scant” and “Marvel gaze;” and then almost demanded that they be included as clues. And so I did.

I must say that this result is no more and no less than what I expected. But, from time to time, and as the delinquents come in, I will update so that maybe, just maybe, someday, we can figure it all out. For now, however, it appears that Forrest Fenn has won again.

Still locked up.

Still locked up.

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A while back, one of the more forward looking of the photography professors at the Santa Fe Community College decided that what everybody needed was a course in “Surreal Photography” just to “tweak our creativity.” Since I had no concept of the concept “surreal” and given that I almost always need to be “tweaked,” I signed up for the course. And then I found out that we, the students, were each to give a presentation on something to do with surrealism, preferably on a surreal photographer.

As the course progressed I made a great many attempts to capture a surreal photograph and failed miserably. A manufactured poor imitation of a New Yorker cartoon was the best I could manage:

In keeping with the latest New Yorker fad, you can put in your own caption.

In keeping with the latest New Yorker fad, you can put in your own caption.

And then I tried a different tack—one with captions:

Trotsky rescues Jefferson from a porn shop in Lordsburg.

Trotsky rescues Jefferson from a porn shop in Lordsburg.

And I still didn’t know what a photograph had to be to be “surreal.” So, when it came my turn to spend my twenty minutes in front of the class talking about a surreal photographer, I chose a friend, Debbie Fleming Caffery, (a rather famous and quite good photographer; look her up) whose photographs are sometimes called “surreal.” But I did it with a twist. I wanted each fellow student, and the professor, to rate each of the thirty photos I chose on a scale of zero to five as to where they fell in terms of their “surrealiness.” There was absolutely no agreement on any of the photos by any of us including the professor.

Which brings me to Forrest Fenn’s hidden treasure chest and the clues he has given us in his poem, “The Thrill of the Chase.” Those of you who follow this blog know that there is a disagreement between Forrest and me about how many clues there are in that poem. He says “nine” and I say that there are at least fifteen and now, after some disaggregation, I propose eighteen potential “clues” and that either he has forgotten how to count or he has added an additional piece to the puzzle and expects us to choose the correct nine out of the eighteen disaggregated potential clues.

So here is today’s homework. What follows is that poem with the eighteen potential clues highlighted and, if you so choose, choose the nine you believe to be the real ones. However, if you want to participate, do it honestly; no trying to throw us all off by giving “clues” you really don’t think are clues. All of your choices will be shown so that all of us can share in the confusion.

As I have gone alone (1) in there

And with my treasure bold,

I can keep my secret where,

And hint of riches new and old.

(2) Begin it where warm waters halt

And (3) take it in the canyon down,

(4) Not far, but (5) too far to walk,

(6) Put in below (8) the home of (9)Brown.

From there it’s (10) no place for the meek,

The (11) end is ever drawing nigh;

There’ll be (12) no paddle up your creek,

Just (13) heavy loads and (14) water high.

If you’ve been wise and found (15) the blaze,

(16) Look quickly down, your quest to cease,

But tarry scant with marvel gaze,

Just take the chest and go in peace.

So why is it that I must go

And leave my trove for all to seek?

The answers I already know,

I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.

So hear me all and listen good,

Your effort will be worth (17) the cold.

If you are brave and (18) in the wood,

I’ll give you title to the gold.

So there you have it. Just make a comment in the comment area giving the numbers of the clues you think are the real clues. I need to say, however, that I gave the same exercise to my team of treasure hunters (wife, two musicians, daughter-in-law, lady friend, and grandson) and there was no agreement at all except between me and this guy:

Hunter looking for treasure bugs.

Being sleuthy.

and that’s because we both like bugs.


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