Ignite Boston – Tweaking, mixing competition and collaboration

As you probably saw from my post on processing, ignite-boston II was a blast. I was there talking about opening up science and bioscreencast.com. The talks at this Ignite were really interesting .

I especially liked the one by Ned Gulley from Mathworks who spoke of “Tweaking” a wiki-like matlab based programming contest. Tweaking is a great concept that effectively mixes collaboration with competition. In traditional code-jams and programing contests groups usually work in relative isolation to submit their best code for any given task which is then ranked at the very end and a winning group declared. In Tweaking all user entries are publicly displayed throughout the week that the contest runs. All entrants can modify and adapt each others code to move up the ladder. As each tweaked entry is submitted a secret test routine dynamically ranks the entry and it moves in the ranking. In Tweaking even single tweaks which result in a leap in functionality can move an entrant up the rankings and this opens up a whole trajectory for code improvement for all participants.To mix the wiki like collaborative element with code competitions seems to be a great way to enrich the coding experience for everyone.

Ned spoke of a series of projects , including one on SARS phylogeny and a lattice model protein folding simulation which tingled my structural biology neurons. Neds paper on tweaking talks about how tweaking is not only a fun learning experience for all participants, but also an interesting study into the nature of collaboration and the interplay of motivation , reward , collaboration and competition. If only all science projects worked like Tweaking.

Image Credit: Mathworks Tweaking protein folding competition

Ned blogs at the Starchamber, a blog whose Resident buzzwords are : synthetic biology, ambient displays, swarm robotics, wise crowds.

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One response to “Ignite Boston – Tweaking, mixing competition and collaboration

  1. Thanks for the plug Hari! We should set up a competition based on a simplified crystallography problem. Or maybe something on bio-data visualization of some kind. I’m always on the lookout for new problems, and if we can pick one that’s actually useful, we might do something useful. Our next contest is going to be in November and will have genetic alignment as its theme.

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