Crowdsourcing Reflection


Reflection on crowdsourcing projects

There has been an increasing trend in the use of public involvement for online crowdsourcing projects. Holley writes that crowdsourcing enables a large group of users to work together on a collaborative project which with a particular goal and which often brings significant results.[1] Galaxy Zoo is a good example of a simple crowdsourcing project, where users with an interest in astronomy are asked to identify an object from a dataset created by the Sloan digital Sky Survey.[2] Users are asked to classify an object from one of three images they think most closely resembles it. This enables the user to participate in the project interactively and assists the creators of the project by providing information. There are now an increasing number of cultural and heritage based crowdsourcing projects, Old Weather [3] and Transcribe Bentham[4] are two such projects which have a dedicated public following, subscribers to these projects and others like them are now being termed as citizen historians.

Both of these projects are interesting and offer a real sense of contributing to a significant result. The Old Weather project requires the user to transcribe ships logs and input information such as dates, weather, wind forces and ships positions. The website is well laid out and has an easy to follow tutorial, with a link to more experienced users who are happy to offer advice. The project does offer a sense of competition with users being able to progress from cadet to captain depending on how many logs they transcribe. However it is quite a narrow field of interest and the logs can be somewhat repetitive. I think that this type of project is only of interest to someone with a specific interest in maritime history or climate change. The crowdsourcing project Transcribe Bentham was established in order to speed up the amount of papers transcribed and to engage the public with Bentham’s ideas. Transcribe Bentham is different from Old Weather as it requires users to transcribe complex manuscripts which are often hard to decipher due to the handwriting. Transcribe Bentham appeals to both academics and citizen historians, its site is quite difficult to navigate for first time users but the online tutorial is informative and helpful.  In addition to this the site also offers practice manuscripts which enable users to build up confidence and skills. I think that Transcribe Bentham takes the work more seriously as all transcriptions have to be sent for approval first before they can be published, this is not the case with Old Weather but this may be because Transcribe Bentham is more of an academic site.  I enjoyed transcribing on both these sites, but I preferred Transcribe Bentham as the manuscripts were more interesting for an historical point of view.

[1] R. Holley, ‘Crowdsourcing: How and Why Should Libraries Do It?’ D-Lib Magazine, vol. 16, no. (2010).

2‘Galaxy Zoo’.; consulted 18 March 2015

3 Old Weather – Our Weather’s Past, The Climate’s Future’,; consulted 12 March 2015

4‘Transcribe Bentham: Transcription Desk’,; consulted 11th March 2015


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