#solo10 GreenChainReaction: it’s starting to work!

Dictated into Arcturus

The GreenChainReaction is already a success!. It’s a success because we’ve had a wonderful set of volunteers who are committed to making it work. The atmosphere in the Etherpad yesterday was wonderful. The group has worked hard to extract the scratchpad-like notes and put them into the wiki pages on Science Online (http://scienceonlinelondon.wikidot.com/topics:green-chain-reaction )

As I expected there have been bugs. Some of these had been fixed by the volunteers, and that’s a common and wonderful aspect of Open projects. There are two or three bugs the need to be fixed:

  • Spurious directories are created in the results (probably bad calls to mkdirs());
  • There are intermittent problems in accessing our server.

But other than that we’ve shown that the approach works. For example one volunteer, Richard West, has run about 15 jobs, year-by-year. That has shown that the early patents, e.g. before 1995, really don’t have any useful semantic information. We didn’t know that when we started, so that’s already a useful result. We are already finding that some patents give a large list of solvents and as a result I shall be making a minor change to the software today. One of the features of web 2.0 is that the systems are always in continual Beta.

We still welcome newcomers because there is now a critical mass of people who can help. It’s easy to run a dozen jobs while watching the Test Match, or while you’re asleep. This is not mindless, and we’re going to ask people to look at the aggregated results before uploading them. They’ll be able to get an idea of the accuracy with which text-mining works, and feedback to us problems we need to fix. So unlike programmes like SETI-at-home were all feedback is automatic, here we expect valuable contributions from the participants.

I think today should be the last day when people are likely to encounter generic problems. Many thanks to everyone and we should have a wonderful set of material to present next Saturday.

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