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When Everyone is a Watchdog

See original post at BRYCE DOT VC:

Tuesday a video surfaced that inspired the online world. The reactions I saw from many across my social networks were of awe and a longing to achieve their own dreams of human flight. The link was tweeted, liked and fav’d all across the web, racking up millions of views on Youtube.

it didn’t take long for the skeptics to surface. And the next day, Wednesday, Wired started to find cracks in the wingman’s story. 

Although Wired’s preliminary analysis by physicist Rhett Allain suggests the video is not necessarily a fake, computer graphics and other experts are highly skeptical. What’s more, Wired could not confirm Smeets’ education and employment information posted on Facebook and LinkedIn.

LinkedIn page for Jarno Smeets, which is linked from Smeets’ website, says that he worked at Pailton Steering Systems from 2008 to 2010. John Nollett, the group managing director for Pailton Engineering Limited, said there is no record of anyone by such a name.

Wired also contacted Coventry University in the UK, where Smeets’ online profiles claim he attended school from 2001 to 2005.

The university’s student records staff searched their full digital records database, which contains students’ names who attended from 1986 to the present. They told Wired they found only one entry for anyone by the last name of Smeets: Alexandra Smeets, who attended from 1999 to 2000. No record for Jarno Smeets could be found.

By Thursday, the creator of the video outed himself on Dutch TV as the filmmaker and animator Floris Kaayk, not the engineer and inventor Jarno Smeets. The video was, in fact, a hoax, er, art project. 

Watchdog groups are nothing new. They’ve been around for decades. But I think what we’re seeing now is an entirely new type of network effect that marries data, distribution and action.

One example of this that’s captured my imagination of late is Anonymous Analytics

From their website:

Anonymous Analytics, a faction of Anonymous, has moved the issue of transparency from the political level to the corporate level. To this end, we use our unique skill sets to expose companies that practice poor corporate governance and are involved in large-scale fraudulent activities.

We provide the public with investigative reports exposing corrupt companies. Our team includes analysts, forensic accountants, statisticians, computer experts, and lawyers from various jurisdictions and backgrounds. All information presented in our reports is acquired through legal channels, fact-checked, and vetted thoroughly before release. This is both for the protection of our associates as well as groups/individuals who rely on our work.

This is not your grandma’s watchdog group. 

Companies, politicians and individual citizens are leaving data trails that betray or validate them in entirely new ways. Informations is spreading and resources are getting pooled in entirely new ways. Individuals are collaborating and organizing information in entirely new ways. We saw it in Egypt, we saw it with #occupy, we saw it with SOPA, we’re seeing it play out with KONY2012 and we’ll see this new effect front and center going into this Presidential campaign.

As a firm, we’ve long held collective intelligence as a central investment theme. This added layer of collaboration and transparency the network enables will push collective intelligence and collective action into entirely new territory. 

And, as a firm, we’re very interested in founders looking to build companies around this theme.

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