Sunday, 25 March 2012

Crowdsourcing: the crowd ‘rations’ its experience to make it last

When I am at work I feel I have far too much to do and that my ambitions can never all be achieved. This tends to make me feel despondent. However in crowd sourcing projects it is well known that providing way too much work and impossible goals is a very powerful motivator. Rather than leaving individuals in the crowd feeling despondent it drives them to put in even more hours.

I know from experience that this is the case because online volunteers working on the Australian Newspapers text correction have told me this.  Also after adding thousands of new pages to the service, surges in text correction would be observed.  This was a regular pattern.

Last week I was alerted to a great article in the Guardian about crowdsourcing and two good blog posts on crowdsourcing in cultural heritage.  All three articles are well worth reading and give some fascinating background to specific crowdsourcing projects. They all touch on the fact that the crowd wants to be given as much work as possible.

Crowdsourcing Cultural Heritage: the objectives are upside down, by Trevor Owens 10 March 2012  

Ben Brumfield noticed that in his transcription project one of his most valuable power users was slowing down on their transcriptions. The user had started to cut back significantly in the time they spent transcribing this particular set of manuscripts. Ben reached out to the user and asked about it. Interestingly, the user responded to explain that they had noticed that there weren’t as many scanned documents showing up that required transcription. For this user, the 2-3 hours they spent each day working on transcriptions was such an important experience, such an important part of their day, that they had decided to cut back and deny themselves some of that experience. The user needed to ration out that experience. It was such an important part of their day that they needed to make sure that it lasted.

Galaxy Zoo and the new dawn of citizen science, by Tim Adams, 18 March 2012

The volunteers only worry that the source of their obsession will dry up, and that they will run out of visible galaxies to classify. "In the beginning," Alice Sheppard said, "we all were enjoying it so much that we didn't like the idea of getting to the end." As it has worked out, more data sets have kept becoming available just as one tranche of images has been classified; now Sheppard believes that the work will continue to expand like the objects of its attention, "though no one seems quite sure how many galaxies are in the Hubble database?"

So the lesson we can learn from this is that we must give our crowd as much work and new data as we can.  We don’t want our crowd to have to ‘ration themselves’ because we haven’t left them enough work to do.

Photo: a worker bee eats the last crumbs of my sticky date pudding.

1 comment:

  1. This is extremely interesting - it may seem counterintuitive, but I know that I always enjoy a big challenge; it's much more fun to make 100 pies than 2, as long as you are working with others, if you know what I mean!