An Internet Gold Rush
Gold discovered at Sutter’s Mill, Calif., 1848, causing the ‘49er gold rush. Today, another type of gold rush is on, as companies “prospect” for solutions on the Internet.
The ideas expressed in old spaghetti westerns and what we see happening in the Internet today are not all that different. The Old West (at least the one portrayed in the movies) was all about good and bad and the basic freedoms and, sometimes, the lawlessness of a new territory. The Internet is all about success and failure and the basic freedoms and, sometimes, the lawlessness of new technology. To continue the analogy, consider the Internet enterprises that are comparable to Old West activities like bounty hunting and prospecting, featuring lively “eccentrics” (today played by inventors and CEOs). Whether these Internet companies will succeed or go the way of the spaghetti western remains to be seen, but they may have a starring role in the way new technology is spawned.
In the Old West, prospectors often went from town to town looking for the next gold strike in hopes of hitting it rich. Today, an Internet service named Innocentive acts like an Old West gold trader, telling mental prospectors (scientists) where to look for gold and then paying them when they bring their product in.
Innocentive was created by Ely Lilly’s e-R&D department with the idea that, using the Internet, Ely Lilly and other companies could access a large pool of scientists. Innocentive CEO Darrel Carroll says, “Lilly hires a large number of extremely talented scientists from around the world, but like every company in its position, it can never hire all the scientists it needs. No company can.” Innocentive has made using the Internet to find freelancing scientists a reality. Think of it as creating a community of prospectors willing to travel to the next gold vein.
Companies, called “seekers”, approach Innocentive and set an award for the solution to a problem. The seeker pays an access fee and a smaller fee for each problem posted. Casual Web surfers can only see basic information about the posted problems, to protect sensitive or proprietary information. Only registered users—called “solvers”—can access the full details of the problems after accepting confidentiality and other protection requirements.
Visit Today’s Chemist at Work to learn more about the internet gold rush.
Excerpted with permission, Today’s Chemist at Work
Copyright © 2002 American Chemical Society