It’s Friday, and if you’ve made a habit of hanging around this blog on Fridays, you know it’s time to vote for the innovator of the week. This week, as with every week, there was no shortage of innovation. We had the self-critical chatbot, a new way to dispose of your corporeal remains, and then there was Wal-Mart and

We couldn’t resist another opportunity to pit an establishment company against the non-establishment black-hat hacker community. So continue reading to learn more about how these two innovated this week, and then cast your vote for the innovator of the week.

Wal-Mart: Wal-Mart has long been the target of consumer derision, while at the same time achieving record sales. The company has been the subject of documentaries exploring its highly efficient production chain and its effect on local communities. But Wal-Mart’s latest big move isn’t another Super Store, it’s to the Web.

Enter, @WalMart labs.

The project is the result of Wal-Mart’s acquisition of Kosmix in May, which fused the social media power of the independent start-up with the retail and brand power of a corporate behemoth. The marriage, as Wal-Mart Stores Vice Chairman Eduardo Castro-Wright explains, gives Wal-Mart a far greater foothold in the digital retail arena:

For Wal-Mart, the move is, arguably, long overdue. The company has been overshadowed online by larger Web retailers such as Amazon and eBay. As Post blogger Dominic Basulto writes:

For years, Wal-Mart has been stymied in its retail expansion plans byvocal opposition from local communities and the equivalent of a black eye to its PR handlers. But what if a Wal-Mart store turns into something very different — an environmentally sustainable place to buy cutting-edge tech gadgets and gizmos like the iPad 2, while getting offers and promotions that perfectly align to your likes and behaviors?

What if, indeed. It remains to be seen whether Wal-Mart will be able to capi­tal­ize on @WalMarLabs, and if the partnership will produce the returns it seeks. The world of hacking has a leader board, and it may mean bad news for the high-profile targets of black-hat hackers. These include major corporate and government Web sites used by millions daily. The high-scorers are recorded on the Web site, with points allotted according to the level of hacking difficulty. The larger, more complex and more popular the site, the higher the points. The leader board is a simple concept, but RankMyHack’s score board has much larger implications than the arcade terminal at your local Dave & Busters. As guest contributor Brian Fung writes: brings to hacking what has lately taken the social media world by storm: gamification. Gamification aims to boost consumer engagement with a commercial brand using mechanics that include virtual awards, badges or points. In the case of hacking, competition for prestige is already built into the community’s social fabric. But’s gamified approach could have the added effect of expanding what was once an exclusive club.

The creation of a ranking system is, on its face, a simple thing. After all, high-scorer boards are nothing new. Then again, the acquisition of a company, as is the case with Wal-Mart and Kosmix, is also a run-of-the-mill activity. But the gamification of hacking and the embedding of social media into the core of one of the world’s largest companies have the potential to fundamentally change life as we know it online.

Read more news and ideas on Innovations:

It’s official: Hacking has been gamified

Wal-Mart’s cosmic voodoo

Quick, someone tell Ben Bernanke...

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