Daily photo

I Spy A War Room

Today was the big day. I joined 6 of my coworkers for the war room experience, taking in balloon sighting information and parsing truth from fiction. By the end of the day we had correctly located 9 of the 10 balloons, which exceeded all my expectations. It was a blast talking to strangers from around the US and gathering raw data from all over the internet. In the end we were not the victors, but we did well in our own right.

On the top left of the photo is the projected image of our Google Maps balloon tracking page, complete with a list of recent balloon reports from our website. We could easily discover mismatches in reported information (often misinformation from other teams) and anyone could follow up with reporters who left us email information. Not pictured, a whiteboard contained partitions for each of the 10 balloons. We put information pertaining to each known balloon numbers in that balloon's box, along with a confidence percentage. A checkmark indicated "a sure thing". Twitter was a big source of information, both true and false. We had to analyze incoming TwitPic and TweetPhoto posts for Photoshop trickery, and in several cases we were able to locate (or confirm) balloons in cities using only the background contents by matching buildings to satellite imagery in Google Maps, Google Earth, and Bing's cool Bird's Eye view.

In the end we fell prey to a false sighting of balloon 8 in Albany, NY, which was actually located in Katy, TX. However, we never received any mention about Katy, so I feel better knowing that we didn't mistakenly ignore any valid data about that balloon - we simply didn't receive any.


  • Matt Malone
  • December 7, 2009
  • 10:22 am
I'd say your project was a success regardless of whether you were the winner.
  • Bela
  • December 7, 2009
  • 11:21 am
Congratulations...Wish I'd seen a balloon! what an awesome attempt though :-)
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