GTRI's first order of business was to create a Web site and a group within the Facebook community. The team also signed up for a G-mail and Google voice mail accounts to be used exclusively for people looking to contact them with information during the competition. Team members deluged their friends with Facebook invitations and encouraged those friends to invite their friends. GTRI issued a press release via its Web site and announced the team's entry via Twitter. The team's Web site received about 3,000 unique visitors prior to competition, and their Facebook group had 850 members.
To ensure that the GTRI team's Web site would appear near the top of any Google search related to the DARPA Network Challenge, Briscoe joined online discussion forums, commented on Web sites where the competition was discussed and did an interview with National Public Radio, being careful to emphasize that any prize money would go to charity.
Both M.I.T.'s and GTRI's teams needed to be on guard against being duped by fake weather balloon sightings. M.I.T. did this in part by checking the IP addresses of e-mails that claimed to be providing accurate coordinates. If the IP address identified a computer nowhere near the balloon that the e-mailer was claiming to have found, the message was looked on with suspicion. M.I.T. also asked its informants to e-mail images of the balloon they had found and/or the image of a certificate obtained from the DARPA officials stationed at each balloon site. These measures proved useful in debunking a report from a supposed informant on the campus of Brown University in Providence, R.I. After analyzing the image sent by the informant, the M.I.T. team determined that the picture was actually a copy of one from DARPA's Network Challenge Web site, doctored to look as though the balloon was hovering over Brown.
The GTRI team also received the Brown University report, which they likewise dismissed as a fake. In addition to studying e-mailed images, GTRI called friends, family and local businesses to help validate alleged sightings. They sent two team members out to Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park to confirm reports of a balloon there. Sure enough, the investigators returned with a certificate from DARPA authenticating the find.