The Experimental Tribe Project
Experimental Tribe is a web platform designed for scientific gaming and social computation. Its task is to help Researchers in the realization of web-experiments by accomplishing those necessary and tedious tasks involving the management of social resources (User registration, validation, selection and pairing).
In this way Researchers shall focus entirely on the implementation of the core part of their experiment.
On the Users side, everyone may join X-Tribe and enjoy the participation in entertaining scientific experiments.
In this sense, we strongly encourage the birth and development of social communities of Users and Researchers, sharing their respective experiences.
Researchers: focus on the experiment and forget the rest
In the last few years the Web has been progressively acquiring the status of an infrastructure for “social computing” that allows researchers to coordinate the cognitive abilities of users in online communities, and steer the collective action towards predefined goals. This general trend is also triggering the adoption of web-games as a very interesting laboratory to run experiments in the social-sciences and whenever the peculiar human computation abilities are crucially required for research purposes.
Two paradigmatic examples are Foldit, a game in which players are challenged to guess the 3D structure of a protein, and Planet Hunters (a part of the Zooniverse Project), by which participants can help in identifying new extra-solar planets using NASA data of star brightnes. These are two examples of citizen science, i.e., a long-standing series of programs traditionally employing volunteer monitoring for natural resource management. In recent years, also thanks to the Web 2.0 explosion, citizen science projects are becoming increasingly focused on scientific research and amazing results have already been obtained, such as the discovery of the 3D structure of viral enzymes thanks to the efforts of Foldit players or as the new candidate planets identified by Planet Hunters’ players.
Although the tenets of human computing are being increasingly exploited, its use in the scientific community lacks systematization. The realization of a single project often requires substantial effort and web-based experiments are still far from being standard research tools. Experimentalists are left with the task of designing their own software solutions to manage interactions among participants and to build effective interfaces. Moreover, individual solutions to such problems often remain insulated with little or cumulative growth of tools and solutions. This is the reason why a versatile platform is important, for it will release researchers from dealing with the tedious non-scientific tasks inherent in the realization of web-experiments.
Players: join and enjoy
Citizen science crucial idea is that people, even without a scientific background, can help the research with the unique computation power of their mind. This task will be successful if it is sufficiently appealing. People solve problems everyday just to have fun. Think at games like sudoku, tetris or crosswords. But instead of solving fake problems, why do not challenge yourselves with real research issues?
In the last few years, scientists have often asked and obtained the help of common people, where in many cases the issues to be solved were reformulated as puzzle games. In this way, everyone can join the research. Moreover, everyone can have fun while doing something useful!