Fans of the UK televisionseries "New Tricks" may be familiar with the idea of old (or"cold") cases being worked on by a team of former detectives, in thehope that a new slant may be found and fresh leads developed to hopefully leadto finding the truth. Across the pond in Canada they seem to be employing analternative approach to cracking cold cases, using the relatively modern ideaof "crowdsourcing".



Theterm "crowdsourcing" was first coined in 2005 by the "WiredMagazine" editors Jeff Howe and Mark Robinson, in response to how theywere seeing businesses making use of the Internet to outsource work toindividuals. The word was formed by combining the essential elements of theconcept, ie. a "crowd" being involved in "outsourcing"duties.

Assuch, crowdsourcing is essentially a means of gaining a response from a largegroup of people, particularly from an online community, instead of utilisingthe more traditional approach of like minded employees.

It has been usedpreviously to break down tedious tasks into more manageable and smaller piecesof work using many volunteers / part- time workers, where each one adds a smallportion to achieve the overall result (a sort of "sum is greater than theparts" notion). 

A detective from Torontocalled Tam Bui has been given permission by his department and the familyof murder victim Mike Pimentel to utilise crowdsourcing in an effort to crackthe cold case.

Pimental was killed during a stabbing on New Year's Day back in2012, following a party he attended.  Bui's inspiration for the somewhatnovel approach was the American documentary podcast "Serial" thatrecently ended its season, leaving its audience of amateur"whodunnits" eager for the next episodes and a ready-made group (orso Bui hopes) to tap into and to hopefully assist his investigation into areal, unsolved case.



"Serial"explores a non-fictional story over several episodes and was first aired inOctober 2014, as a spinoff of the radio program "This American Life",with its creator and host being Sarah Koenig.  It reached number one oniTunes and stayed there for several weeks.

Earlyin December, Bui began to post clues on Saturdays relating to the case viaTwitter using a hashtag of #mikepimentelmurder. His first posting included afreeze-frame picture from a video that was taken during surveillance.



Theresponse to the tweets posted so far has been encouraging and despiteopposition from several critics, seems likely to assist in the investigation aseluded to by another Toronto detective, Jeff Tavares, who stated that it may bean "unique way of drawing information from the general public".

Crowdsourcingis beginning to become a more commonplace method in modern thinking. Onlyyesterday a crowdsourcing campaign was begun for the "iStand6" and ithas also been utilised with mobile apps recently.

Researchers are recognisingthat mobile devices can provide them with a novel means to crowdsourceexperiments through cognitive tests that form part of the games being played.As a result, they are provided with a bountiful supply of useful data they canuse.

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