Crowdsourcing is a valuable tool in the digital humanities field and can bring together people interested in helping a particular cause. Crowdsourcing relies on the general public to gather information for a project using the services of a large number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the internet. There are two different tasks that can be completed when relying on crowdsourcing that is particularly relevant for digital humanities projects. Transcription and correction projects are most often seen in digital humanities projects, and this week I had the chance to participate and contribute to two projects with both types of crowdsourcing.
The first project I worked on was the War Department Papers project and I contributed by completing a couple transcriptions. The interface was easy to use and very straight forward. To get started you select one of the documents and ‘transcribe’. On the left hand side is the scanned document and the right side is a text box where the user will type the transcription. You can zoom in very closely on the document which was very helpful and can click and drag across the document for easier navigation. This was a great feature and made it easy to get started with this project. There was no setup needed, a user can just get transcribing. This project can be completed by anyone and was surprisingly rewarding. I might be a little biased, as I enjoy history very much, but I feel this project could be very rewarding to other members of the public that felt the call to help this cause. Transcription project do take time and effort and is not something that can be done quickly, but the nice part about the War Department Papers project is that anyone can jump in and start transcribing, and even work on the documents that have a bit of progress already done. This is truly a collaborative effort and this project in particular makes it easy and rewarding for a user to get involved. A transcription project needs to have an effective outreach efforts to get the word out about the need for contributors, because it is unlikely for people to just stumble upon this type of project on their own.
The second crowdsourcing project I was able to work with was a correction project through Trove, which is an online newspaper collection for the Australian Public Library. Trove allows a user to look through their collection of digitized newspapers, they use an OCR software to automatically transcribe the newspaper, but sometimes the software gets the transcription wrong. This correction project allows a user to make corrections to the transcription. Trove had an easy to use interface that was sleek and up to date. This made it easy and stratifying to make corrections to the articles. This interface was engaging and you can tell Trove made engagement a priority when designing this project. This was also a rewarding experience, maybe not as much as transcribing documents, but it did feel good to know that my corrections will help other readers when they go to look at these newspapers articles. This project was interesting to me and I can see how this could be very appealing to users of Trove. This project is built into their online collection and a user can stumble upon this feature just by looking at one of the newspapers. I do no thin k this type of project would need as much outreach with the way it is embedded into their existing project. I could see the general public using this feature more than taking the extra time to sit down and transcribe documents.
Both transcription and correction projects are valid forms of crowdsourcing and both can be very effective. I had very positive experiences with both projects I contributed to. The strengths of the War Papers project is the interface being easy to use, a contributor can spend as much or little amount of time on the project and still make a difference. You can see your progress along with the other documents in progress. This makes it feel like a community coming together for the cause. Trove was modern and made for community engagement as the strengths.