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6/4/2010
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Oil Spill Solutions Sought Online

Suggestions posted on the Web site range from executive bashing to professional solutions for stopping the stream of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

As BP and government officials grapple with the seemingly endless stream of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, an Oregon technology company hopes a new Web site will capture a pool of useful and innovative ideas from concerned citizens around the world.

Launched Thursday, WhatShouldBPDo.com was designed to organize the thousands of ideas flooding the telephone lines and e-mail inboxes of government agencies and oil company offices since last month's deadly explosion. The Web site leverages crowdsourcing, a concept based on the belief that, when harnessed, the wisdom of the masses can often generate the best answer.

"We believe the answer to capping the oil spill may emerge through the collaborative efforts of disparate individuals worldwide, from every-day tinkerers to professional scientists in the farthest corners of the world," said Dan Afrasiabi, president of Portland's ARM Insight, a provider of analytics, retention, and monetization technologies and insights, and developer of WhatShouldBPDo.com. "Technology allows us to invite people with different talents and ideas to jump in to this collaborative forum where every idea is welcomed."

Contributors post their ideas and visitors then can vote for their favorites. Afrasiabi hopes BP will monitor the Web site.

"We believe that complex problems require revolutionary solutions," said Afrasiabi. "Few problems require the urgent cooperation of global brain-power in the way the oil spill crisis does. Our hope is to quickly uncover the solution to this problem and at the same time produce a wealth of ideas to prevent or minimize the effect of future accidents which are likely to occur as the global hunt for deep water sources of energy continues."

As of Friday morning, the site had received 254 general idea suggestions -- from well thought-out comments to inane, politician- and BP-bashing statements. In addition, visitors left 19 professional idea submissions and five clean-up ideas.

BP already has received proposals from non-oil exploration experts. James Cameron, director of blockbuster movies Avatar and Titanic, offered his expertise with undersea filming and deep-sea submersible equipment; it was turned down.

In May, BP had fielded about 60,000 calls that yielded approximately 10,000 suggestions, according to the oil giant. About 2,500 individuals submitted forms with more detailed information, and BP further scrutinized 700 of those concepts, the company said.

InnoCentive, a global innovation marketplace where people solve problems for cash prizes of up to $1 million, launched a pro bono emergency situation challenge seeking a solution to the oil spill, with a June 30 deadline.

"Our connected planet needs to take a fresh approach to disaster response," said InnoCentive CEO Dwayne Spradlin. "All crisis situations are time-sensitive and we have the ability to quickly tap into our global solver network to start looking for solutions immediately. It only takes one amazing idea to slow the Gulf oil leak or minimize its impact."

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