Monday, 27 October 2014

Looking for (crowdsourcing) love in all the right places

One of the most important exercises in the crowdsourcing workshops I run is the 'speed dating' session. The idea is to spend some time looking at a bunch of crowdsourcing projects until you find a project you love. Finding a project you enjoy gives you a deeper insight into why other people participate in crowdsourcing, and will see you through the work required to get a crowdsourcing project going. I think making a personal connection like this helps reduce some of the cynicism I occasionally encounter about why people would volunteer their time to help cultural heritage collections. Trying lots of projects also gives you a much better sense of the types of barriers projects can accidentally put in the way of participation. It's also a good reminder that everyone is a nerd about something, and that there's a community of passion for every topic you can think of.

If you want to learn more about designing history or cultural heritage crowdsourcing projects, trying out lots of project is a great place to start. The more time you can spend on this the better - an hour is ideal - but trying just one or two projects is better than nothing. In a workshop I get people to note how a project made them feel - what they liked most and least about a project, and who they'd recommend it to. You can also note the input and output types to help build your mental database of relevant crowdsourcing projects.

The list of projects I suggest varies according to the background of workshop participants, and I'll often throw in suggestions tailored to specific interests, but here's a generic list to get you started.

10 Most Wanted Research object histories
Ancient Lives Humanities, language, text transcription
British Library Georeferencer Locating and georeferencing maps (warning: if it's running, only hard maps may be left!)
Children of the Lodz Ghetto Citizen history, research
Describe Me Describe objects
Family History Transcription Project Document transcription (Flickr/Yahoo login required to comment)
Herbaria@home (for bonus points, compare it with Notes from Nature Transcribing specimen sheets (or biographical research)
HistoryPin Year of the Bay 'Mysteries' Help find dates, locations, titles for historic photographs; overlay images on StreetView
Micropasts Photo-masking to help produce 3D objects; also structured transcription
Museum Metadata Games: Dora Tagging game with cultural heritage objects (my prototype from 2010)
NYPL Building Inspector A range of tasks, including checking building footprints, entering addresses
Papers of the War Department Document transcription
Planet Hunters Citizen science; review visualised data
Powerhouse Museum Collection Search Tagging objects
Reading Experience Database Text selection, transcription, description.
Smithsonian Digital Volunteers: Transcription Center Text transcription
Tiltfactor Metadata Games Games with cultural heritage images
Transcribe Bentham History; text transcription
Trove Correct OCR errors, transcribe text, tag or describe documents
US National Archives Transcribing videos
What's the Score at the Bodleian Music and text transcription, description
What's on the menu Structured transcription of restaurant menus
What's on the menu? Geotagger Geolocating historic restaurant menus
Wikisource - random item link Transcribing texts
Worm Watch Citizen science; video
Your Paintings Tagger Paintings; free-text or structured tagging

NB: crowdsourcing is a dynamic field, some sites may be temporarily out of content or have otherwise settled in transit. Some sites require registration, so you may need to find another site to explore while you're waiting for your registration email.

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