Archives, museums, universities, digital humanities centers, historic sites, and other organizations, institutions, and offices such as the Papers of the War Department through the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and the New Media, RRCHNM. Crowdsourcing is the process in which an organization or entity enlists the help of large numbers of volunteers or interns to accomplish a task or assist with a project. Two examples are the Papers of the War Department and Trove, a project from the National Library of Australia. The Papers of the War Department asks volunteers to transcribe handwritten documents from the eighteenth century while the Trove project asks volunteers to transcribe block text from newspapers.
Members of the public can partake in and accomplish various tasks relating to digital transcription while working within a digitized crowdsourcing project. The main tasks to be completed by the public within the Papers of the War Department and Trove are to transcribe or copy data and strive to make the documents more legible for the public by using computer block text next to the objects or documents.
Crwodsourcing allows the public to contribute toward an institutions goals such as through transcription. Institutions and volunteers benefit from crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing helps institutions by freeing up employees to work on and engage with other projects and it provides volunteers with the experience of an intern transcriptionist as well as a sense of accomplishment that they have contributed toward a larger project. Crowdsourcing allows volunteers to develop a new hobby, learn a new skill, or simply engage with a project, topic, or cause they are passionate about.
The most well known example of crowdsourcing is digital transcription such as through the projects listed above. Volunteer contributors will partake in tasks such as analyzing documents, deciphering handwriting or obscure text and typing into a word documentor computer software with the cleaned version or error free text to the best of their ability. It is a painstakingly and sometimes tedious process but allows the contributor to be part of a larger project. Projects that are likely to attract contributors depends largely on what the volunteers are interested in or passionate about.
The interface needed to attract contributors is a visually appealing software interface that will allow users to easily compare a document to create a typed verbatim transcript. Volunteers can subsequently correct computer errors such as with Trove project documents. Contributers may be persuaded to work on a project with a compelling interface that has a feature to zoom in and out on a document to better identify somewhat illegible or faded text. Users are free to tag certain documents to help other volunteers with locating documents that have been partially or fully transcribed. This allows for greater group collaboration and exchange of ideas to reach a consensus on what the handwritten or typed document describes. Researchers and editors can subsequently use tags to identify documents for review or to part documents as one hundred percent transcribed and accurate. This ensures collaboration between volunteers and the institution to work towards accurate and easy to read documents and information for further research. In conclusion, projects need to be easy for contributers to edit, revise, and double check each others work as they move towards a common goal.
I believe that crowdsourcing can be an invaluable opportunity for collaboration, trainingm and potentiuially networking. Crwodsourcing projects can be successful if they contain a variety of helpful features for volunteers. When I began transcription over the past few weeks I discovered that it works best under certain conditions and with certain features. First, the user should be able to easily navigate the site with the aide of a small video, powerpoint, and/or a Frequently Asked Questions, FAQ, section. Second, the user should be able to create an account to track their transcription progress and see how they contribute to the overall project. The user will derrive value or a sense of accomplishment in contributing to a specific project of interest. The user should be able to create an account in order to save their progress or return to previously edited documents. Third, the interface has to be easy to use with features such as a zoom arrow or a plus or minus to zoom in and out or magnify a particular document or collection of documents in order to potentially decipher or identify illegible or hard to read text or handwriting. Fourth, The user should be able to collaborate with other users through a comment section of potential changes or at the very least, see how and why others made specific changes. Fifth, The user should be able to easily search a database of digitized documents and select each document he wishes to work on. This includes a marker, header, or other indication on the specific documents progress such as how much was transcribed and reviewed. The user should also have access to new and one hundred percent transcribed documents. If the user is able to choose what document or collection of documents he works on then he will be persuaded, or more likely to contribute to the project and continue to contribute in the future.
Volunteers are an invaluable contribution to crowdsourcing projects. Therefore, the institutions behind those projects such as the RRCHNM, Library of Congress, National Archchives, and other institutions such as the Library of Australia need to convey crowdsourcing opportunities to the public through websites, books, social media, newspapers, and emails among other media and means of communication to obtain more volunteers and continue work on more projects and topics of interest. Crowdsourcing is very interesting and innovative because it allows everyone to participate and contribute whether they are a new contributor or someone who has frequently contributed consistently over many days to even years. It is an interesting method to bring a topic, idea, passion, or project and convey it to a public audience while utilizing public contributors ,who have the freedom to work at their own pace, to complete digitization and other crowdsourcing projects.