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Darpa’s Crowdsourcer-in-Chief Bolts for Microsoft

• Noah Shachtman via WIRED
Darpa’s leading advocate for crowdsourcing and other ways of tapping new talent is leaving to join Microsoft — after only a year at the Defense Department’s top R&D division.

Peter Lee, the former head of Carnegie Mellon University’s computer science department, joined Darpa to head up its new Transformational Convergence Technology Office. The group quickly became known within the agency for avoiding the traditional cadre of military researchers — and reaching out to the rest of us, instead.

Lee helped organize Darpa’s “Network Challenge,” which sent people scouring the country for a set of 10 big red balloons in an attempt to “explore the roles the internet and social networking play [in] timely communication, wide-area team-building, and urgent mobilization,” according to an agency website.

Lee’s office also launched “Transformative Apps,” a project to create a marketplace for soldier software. “It’s like an iPhone store. Everybody figures out rapidly which apps are really the coolest. And instead of paying for the development of software, we pay for the usage,” says Dan Kaufman, director of the Information Processing Techniques Office.

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