6. Many Hands Make Light work: Harnessing the Power of the Crowd
Would you consider telling the Government which laws and regulations to get rid of, or helping the Guardian examine MPs expenses? Would you like to be able to classify galaxies, read ships logs from the First World War, or add references to a map for others to find? All that is now possible through a rapidly growing set of online crowdsourcing and community collection projects.
A ‘community collection’ is where the general public or members of a particular group are invited to contribute to a project by uploading their own content (for example pictures from the First World War, accounts of a day in their lives, or suggestions of what laws to abolish) or by adding information to existing resources (for example classify types of galaxies, mark locations on a map, or identify dodgy expenses claims).
Crowdsourcing initiatives, where a task is outsourced to the public, a community or a large group of volunteers, are becoming increasingly popular and are now used in many different areas, including academic research. An early example of a crowdsourcing project is Galaxy Zoo, which invited volunteers to look at images of galaxies and classify them according to shape - a relatively simple task for humans but difficult to do automatically. With the help of the crowd, astronomers got new and reliable data to use in their work. Several projects have followed Galaxy Zoo and can be found in the Zooniverse - a common platform for ‘citizen science’ projects in a variety of disciplines.
RunCoCo is a project based at OUCS set up to offer advice, training, and open-source software to those interested in running a community collection online. The one-year project is funded by JISC and builds on the success of the Great War Archive – a community collection that collected First World War memorabilia
Part of the RunCoCo remit is to make available and share the experiences of the Great War Archive project, to collate and make available useful information and tools that can help others run a community collection in their area. In addition to publishing guidelines and advice documents, the project is offering support to those running or planning community collection. The project has held four training events, and material from these is being made available on the project website. Another resource that the project is making available is the CoCoCo software, which can used for running a community collection online.
To try out the resources and tools that are being created, RunCoCo has run an exemplar collection. Over the summer, Project Woruldhord collected digital objects related to the teaching, study, or research of Old English and the Anglo-Saxon period of history. The project received a lot of attention both in academic circles and the media and a large number of excellent resources were submitted by people from all over the world. These resources will soon be made available online.