I love “open-source” projects such as the Netflix Prize.

The Netflix Prize seeks to substantially improve the accuracy of predictions about how much someone is going to love a movie based on their movie preferences. Improve it enough and you win one (or more) Prizes.

They are doing something that more and more companies will find to be a very good (and daring) business decision.  They are taking all of the super-secret data they have about what Netflix users rate movies and giving it away! 

Many companies would consider this a dumb business decision because now competitors can take that information and use it in a similar to service their customers.  The “secret” that many companies do not understand is that the data itself is not super-secret, it’s the recommendation-algorithm that really counts.  This is similar to how everyone can find out what the chemical composition is of Coke, but the recipe for making it is kept secret (aka. the algorithm for how to make it.)

If things like this interest you, read the book Mavericks At Work or read the Maverick Manifesto [PDF].

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