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A crowdsourcing experiment in which viewers (the “crowd”) of a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) television show submitted estimates of the number of coins in a tumbler was shown in an antecedent paper (Part 1) to follow a log-normal distribution ∧(m,s2). The coin-estimation experiment is an archetype of a broad class of image analysis and object counting problems suitable for solution by crowdsourcing. The objective of the current paper (Part 2) is to determine the location and scale parameters (m,s) of ∧(m,s2) by both Bayesian and maximum likelihood (ML) methods and to compare the results. One outcome of the analysis is the resolution, by means of Jeffreys’ rule, of questions regarding the appropriate Bayesian prior. It is shown that Bayesian and ML analyses lead to the same expression for the location parameter, but different expressions for the scale parameter, which become identical in the limit of an infinite sample size. A second outcome of the analysis concerns use of the sample mean as the measure of information of the crowd in applications where the distribution of responses is not sought or known. In the coin-estimation experiment, the sample mean was found to differ widely from the mean number of coins calculated from ∧(m,s2). This discordance raises critical questions concerning whether, and under what conditions, the sample mean provides a reliable measure of the information of the crowd. This paper resolves that problem by use of the principle of maximum entropy (PME). The PME yields a set of equations for finding the most probable distribution consistent with given prior information and only that information. If there is no solution to the PME equations for a specified sample mean and sample variance, then the sample mean is an unreliable statistic, since no measure can be assigned to its uncertainty. Parts 1 and 2 together demonstrate that the information content of crowdsourcing resides in the distribution of responses (very often log-normal in form), which can be obtained empirically or by appropriate modeling.


Published under Open Access terms as:

M P Silverman, “Extraction of Information from Crowdsourcing: Experimental Test Employing Bayesian, Maximum Likelihood, and Maximum Entropy Methods”, Open Journal of Statistics, Vol 9 No 5 (2019) 571-600.

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Open Journal of Statistics





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