The investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing looks like it could be a landmark example of how to exponentially expand the number of people helping in a probe.
Yes, it was a very large event and so there are going to be a lot more witnesses. And, yes, the fact that the event was a sporting event means a lot of those people would be using cameras (in contrast to, say, a church service).
But law enforcement is calling for anyone with pictures or video of the race to offer the digital data to authorities, with the hope that the bomber can be identified.
And last night, there was this:
An intelligence bulletin issued to law enforcement and released late Tuesday includes a picture of a mangled pressure cooker and a torn black bag, like the one seen below that was first obtained by MyFoxAtlanta.com, that the FBI says were part of a bomb.
Why release the photos? Maybe investigators are trying to get more people to look for the right things in their home videos.
Here is the pressure cooker:
And here is the remnants of a black backpack:
This is, basically, "crowdsourcing." Wikipedia (an example of crowdsourcing, itself) defines it as:
"the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers. Crowdsourcing is different from an ordinary outsourcing since it is a task or problem that is outsourced to an undefined public rather than to a specific, named group."
Look at this website called The News Junkie - which links to a site called 4chan. I'd link to 4chan, but it's an anonymous site that doesn't archive anything and puts a limit on discussions. Popular discussions get deleted within an hour. Seems stupid, but what do I know?
Regardless, these 4chan readers are helping do the investigative work for authorities:
Obviously, there are a lot of pitfalls when you open the investigation up to untrained amateurs. But it's, essentially, canvassing the area for evidence and eyewtinesses.
In this, the area is the worldwide web.