Stories to tell: The making of our digital nation. April 2010


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A new type of digital volunteer is quietly adding to the sum of knowledge of our history and heritage on the web. Ordinary Australians have helped correct millions of lines of text in the National Library of Australia's Newspaper Digitisation Program. They have contributed thousands of photographs to the national digital picture collection. The presentation describes these projects and others from libraries and archives that you can help with. Everyone can help to improve, describe and create our digital heritage.

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  • Thank you for inviting me to speak here today. Today I am going to talk about how you can help libraries by volunteering your time to improve and create online resources especially relating to history.
  • Changing information landscape – digitised and 66% internet access
  • First we had- information Produced by a relatively few large and powerful publishers Discovered by metadata hand-crafted by librarians Expensive and centralised Then came the web and information is Produced by anyone Discovered by full text and bottom-up linking effects Cheap and distributed
  • Year 2010 – technology upside down
  • Why are libs different? The other part of the answer is because we are different to Wikipedia, Google and Amazon. We are different because we are “ALWAYS AND FOREVER” Libraries make promises on their content: Long term preservation and access Not constrained by commercial pressures Universal access “ Free for all” ALWAYS AND FOREVER
  • What is web 2.0?
  • Crowdsourcing is usually done by a large group of unpaid volunteers, rather than a company, working towards a clear big goal, for the common good. The group may use social engagement strategies such as reviewing, marking, checking, identifying items, but rather than just helping them personally these activities when joined together result in a big overall achievement being made. Crowdsourcing may but not always require a greater level of effort than social engagement e.g. rather than clicking a checkbox to rate something you may be asked to read it and categorise it. Crowdsourcing projects almost always have a big seemingly unachievable goal at the beginning.
  • For Example making out of copyright books electronically available, transcribing birth death and marriage notices so that they become searchable, creating a free online enclopedia.
  • Freedom is actually a bigger game than power. Power is about what you can control. Freedom is about what you can unleash.”
  • The most common questions people ask me are “Who are the volunteers?” and “Why do they do it?” Some people suspected that our text correctors were really library staff, which is not the case. The text correctors are real, normal people. They are anyone and everyone.
  • Enthusiams, time, knowledge
  • You can help libs
  • The motivating factors people give for doing online voluntary work are no different to those that motivate anyone to do anything, for example they enjoy it, it’s interesting and fun they’re thinking about their own personal goals and also the group outcome. They like to think that what they are doing matters to their country or the world at large so historical and scientific projects especially are big draw cards. When given a high level of trust and respect they want to repay this so work extra hard. When given a big goal they like the challenge, the bigger the better. Giving something back to the community and helping each other were often cited, and many of these projects proved for unknown reasons to be totally addictive. Especially so the Galaxy Zoo and Australian Newspapers
  • In my opinion when the public and libraries join together we have a ‘super power’ and amazing things can be achieved. Everyone in this room has the power to make this happen in one way or another. There is a lot of cognitive surplus as Clay Shirky would describe it just waiting to be harnessed. The examples I will talk about shortly will demonstrate this. Barack Obama said “Don’t under-estimate the power of people who join together …. They can accomplish amazing things”. This is true but the public could do even more if libraries committed to really pro-actively enabling this on a much larger scale. We know technically we can do it and that’s not what’s holding us back. In my experience of managing IT projects for the last few years it’s very rarely technical issues that hold us back, its other things. For example it has not been technically hard to implement text correction in newspapers so why did no one do it before? It required creative thinking to solve a problem and letting go of some of our library rules about who can do what and why and when. (rules are made to be broken….) Watch the 4 min video.
  • And now to some examples. This is the first site I am going to discuss is the site I have managed for the last 3 years. The site was released in August 2008 and contains milllions of articles of out of copyright australian newspapers from 1803 to 1954. Since release it has been heavily used.
  • It is very innovative since we not only allow, but also encourage all users to correct the electronically translated text of articles. The text is poor because it is the raw OCR and the newspapers are mostly of very poor quality. The electronically generated text created through the OCR process is displayed on the left hand side. This is also where the users can use the 3 enhancement features. Tagging of articles, adding comments to articles and correcting the text. Of the 3 the text correction is the most popular and the feature that is being most used. This innovative feature is not available in any other online newspaper service, and so has created a high level of interest from national libraries internationally. They have been watching us to see the results and activity that is occuring around this, and thinking about its wider application.
  • AN it is not necessary to login or register first, but you do need to do a captcha for the session to stop spammers and robots.
  • In Australian newspapers there is no knowledge of wiki editing, html or mark up required. It is simple to look at the image and simply correct the text by clicking on it and then saving on the left. It improves the searching for everyone.
  • The results are pretty astounding both to the National Library of Australia and the world in general. So far over 9000 users have been actively correcting text each month and they have so far corrected 12 million lines of text. They have also been using the other features especially tagging to futher improve the quality and depth of the article information.
  • Here is the ‘hall of fame’ from the AN service. The top 5 correctors show on the home page as well as in the hall of fame. Originally the hall of fame only showed the top 10 but users wanted to see more, so now it is anyone who has corrected more than 5000 lines per month. Users are still asking for entire league tables however so they can see where they are in the big picture. This is a motivating factor for them. During development it was suggested that we need to use gaming technologies to encourage people to correct text but this has so far not proved necessary!
  • Julie has media notoriety – bendigo murders. At home mother.
  • Top 6.
  • My second example is picture australia. This contains digital images from different Australia institutions. In 2006 a new feature was implemented in partnership with flickr which was to encourage members of the public to upload their own photographs on particular subjects into the national collections in order to improve the quality and depth of the collections. For example modern day people, places and events are topics we want the public to add.
  • 65,000 photos by 2,500 people
  • mosman
  • Picture Australia acknowledges outstanding contributors by name, publicly (if they agree), and in newsletters and library publications.
  • As a way to reach a wider audience and to make public domain images more widely available institutions have uploade to special area of Flickr – Flickr commons – just for cultural heritage sector. Flickr gives facilites most library and museum sites don’t eg tagging. Some have specifically loaded images that have no descriptions.
  • Trove -NLA --Aggregation of 90 million items from over 1000 libraries and other organisations Single search. Trove has features that sites like flickr and amazon do that are so popular with users. Social and data engagement features. Uploaded AN and PA to here….and able to interact with data. Discussion forum soon Thank you to newspaper text correctors!
  • Comments on essay, picture, article. We want libs to make their collections accessible via Trove. The layers of user activity sit in the database.
  • Tags/recent searches
  • Rich results, tagged results
  • Wikipedia is our most well known crowdsourcing example of course. Although we may not be able to remember life before Wikipedia it has actually only been in existence for 7 years.
  • Front page – updated in live time. English version 3 million articles. 150,000 active volunteers out of 10 million 250 other language versions also.
  • Peoples places events –article on Mosman could be improved…….Can create articles in your area of interest.
  • Off shooot Using wiki software. A partnership within the northern region of Melbourne, consisting of Darebin Libraries , Moreland City Libraries and Yarra Plenty Regional Library have successfully secured funding from the Library Board of Victoria for a new project ‘WikiNorthia’ an online encyclopedia designed to document life in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne. These three library services encompass five local council areas including Moreland, Darebin, Banyule, Nillumbik and Whittlesea. WikiNorthia is an innovative project that will encourage people across five local councils with rich cultural histories and diverse communities to get together and tell their stories providing a snapshot of life in the north of Melbourne now as well as the past. The project is the first of its type in Victoria and in fact Australia
  • Similar for Goulbourn – not necessarily successful to make an offshoot.
  • Stories and photographs of the street you lived in. Mosman – success?
  • Now to Books…. distributed proofreaders. They were established in 2000 originally to help Project Gutenberg. Their mission is to make out of copyright texts available for free online. They now work for anyone. Each country has volunteers including Australia and NZ.
  • Volunteers undertake the whole digi process – scanning, markup, conversion to e-book. 9 yrs, 90,000 volunteers, 16,000 e-books.
  • FamilySearchIndexing. A site run by the Church of Latter Day Saints in Utah. In August 2005 they enabled the Indexing part of the site which encourages members of the public to view handwritten BMD records and transcribe them. These records are then transferred into the search system.
  • The Ryerson Index is an index to death notices appearing in current Australian newspapers. It also includes some funeral notices, probate notices and obituaries. Because the Index was originally created by the Sydney Dead Persons Society, its strength lies in notices from NSW papers - including in excess of one million notices from the Sydney Morning Herald alone. However, the representation from papers from other states continues to grow, with additional papers being regularly added, so that the Index can now truly be considered an Australian index. Indexing is being continuously carried out by a team of volunteers, New newspapers.
  • WorldGenWeb – Country hub, within that by State. Transcribe BDM, shipping, electoral rolls, military, cemetries, places.Lots of choice, bottomless pit!!
  • Not necessarily full-text searchable – but online in pdf’s so does help.
  • An example one of the newspaper volunteers alerted me to is the Mariners and Ships in Australian Waters. They are transcribing shipping and other related lists, the original items are in the state archives, but this site has been instigated and set up by volunteers, not the state archives. They have 600 volunteers.
  • New sites….. We are looking for family historians to contribute ‘their convicts’ and we are looking for volunteers to follow public records, like the Police Gazettes and the various Pioneers Indexes, to find the deaths of those convicts who did not establish families, or whose families died out. ARC funded.
  • ABC Pool is a social media space that brings together ABC professionals and audiences in an open-ended process of participation, co-creation and collaboration. It’s a place to share and talk about creative work - music, photos, videos, documentaries, interviews, animations and more. Releasing abc archives for use and re-use.
  • Help create regional news.
  • Continue to help if you are doing so already. The future potential of crowdsourcing digital volunteers is mind boggling when you think of it in the world context, and how many people have internet access. In Australia alone we have 22 million people, more than half of whom have internet access at home so could potentially be volunteers. FamilyIndexSearch project report that in their first year they had 2000 volunteers and by their third year they have 160,000 volunteers correcting birth,marriage and death records. The Australian Newspapers program is set to match this easily. Publicize please. Libraries have lots of data to expose and crowdsourcing could really make a radical difference in opening up access to archives, especially in tasks where technology can’t do better than the human eye and brain. Most of the examples given required manual work using the human eye and brain, with fantastic results.
  • Nice to put faces to online entities. People to mention in audience – LRRSA, Ann Manley, and thank text correctors. Now what have I missed??
  • Stories to tell: The making of our digital nation. April 2010

    1. 1. Stories to Tell: The making of Our Digital Nation <ul><li>Rose Holley – National Library of Australia </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>The 2010 National Trust Heritage Festival at Mosman Library </li></ul><ul><li>22 April 2010 </li></ul>
    2. 2. Changing Information Landscape <ul><li>Millions of cultural heritage items are now digitised and accessible online. </li></ul><ul><li>In Australia 66% of population has internet broadband access. </li></ul><ul><li> (Dec 2009 ABS) </li></ul>Photo courtesy Genevieve Bell. Location: near Morgan, South Australia
    3. 3. <ul><li>Pre web, information was </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Produced by a relatively few large and powerful publishers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discovered by metadata hand-crafted by librarians </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Expensive and centralised </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Post web, information is </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Produced by anyone </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discovered by full text and bottom-up linking effects </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cheap and distributed </li></ul></ul>
    4. 4. Year: 2010 <ul><li>Technology has turned discover on its head: </li></ul><ul><li>Content can be created by anyone </li></ul><ul><li>Content can be described by anyone </li></ul><ul><li>Libraries, museums and archives are now even more relevant in our society and needed – why? </li></ul>
    5. 5. How are libraries different to Google/Amazon/Flickr? <ul><li>Long term preservation and access </li></ul><ul><li>Not constrained by commercial pressures </li></ul><ul><li>Universal access </li></ul><ul><li>“ Free for all” </li></ul><ul><li>ALWAYS and FOREVER…. </li></ul>
    6. 6. ‘ Web 2.0’ <ul><li>Web 2.0 = Social engagement on the internet </li></ul><ul><li>Interactions with data and other users have been enabled online e.g. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Marking, reviewing, rating, tagging, commenting on items </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>User Forums, Blogs, Facebook </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The world of hyper-linking </li></ul></ul>…… Helps individuals to help themselves……
    7. 7. Next step = Crowdsourcing <ul><li>Call on the whole ‘crowd’ to help you </li></ul><ul><li>The ‘crowd’ – public volunteers </li></ul><ul><li>Working toward a clear goal </li></ul><ul><li>Goal is big and for the ‘common good’ </li></ul><ul><li>Each person does small tasks </li></ul><ul><li>Usually using web 2.0 social engagement strategies </li></ul><ul><li>The crowd motivates each other and communicates online </li></ul><ul><li>A virtual community is formed </li></ul><ul><li>An amazing thing is achieved </li></ul>A book to read: Clay Shirky ‘Here comes everybody’.
    8. 8. For Example <ul><li>Using our knowledge to write articles to make a free online encyclopaedia. </li></ul><ul><li>Transcribing birth, death and marriage hand written records so that they become searchable online. </li></ul><ul><li>Recording local history. </li></ul><ul><li>Making out of copyright books electronically available. </li></ul><ul><li>Improving the quality of full-text historic newspapers. </li></ul>
    9. 9. What does this mean? <ul><li>For libraries, museums, archives: </li></ul><ul><li>We have rich content and need to give make it all accessible to the public. </li></ul><ul><li>We have the technology to give the public online tools to do stuff with it. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Freedom is actually a bigger game than power. Power is about what you can control. Freedom is about what you can unleash.” Harriet Rubin </li></ul>
    10. 10. For People: anyone/everyone can help Flickr: LucLeqay
    11. 11. Community has: 1. Enthusiasm 3. Time <ul><li>Transcribe </li></ul><ul><li>Share </li></ul>2. Knowledge <ul><li>Create </li></ul><ul><li>Describe </li></ul>
    12. 12. You can help libraries to….. <ul><li>Achieve goals that they would never have the resource to do themselves by giving your time. </li></ul><ul><li>Improve and add value to items and services by sharing your knowledge. </li></ul><ul><li>Help take responsibility for the curation of public cultural heritage items. </li></ul>
    13. 13. Why help? What’s in it for you? <ul><li>I love it </li></ul><ul><li>It’s interesting and fun </li></ul><ul><li>It is a worthy cause </li></ul><ul><li>It’s addictive </li></ul><ul><li>I am helping with something important e.g. recording history, finding new things </li></ul><ul><li>I want to do some voluntary work </li></ul><ul><li>I want to help non-profit making organisations like libraries </li></ul><ul><li>I want to learn something </li></ul><ul><li>It’s a challenge </li></ul><ul><li>I want to give something back to the community </li></ul><ul><li>You trust me to do it so I’ll do it </li></ul>
    14. 14. The machine is Us/ing us <ul><li>&quot;Don't under estimate the power of people who join together…. they can accomplish amazing things,&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Barack Obama 19 Jan 2009 Speaking on community engagement and involvement and voluntary work </li></ul><ul><li>You Tube Video The machine is Us/ing us. </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
    15. 15. Australian Newspapers 17 million articles now, 40 million by 2011
    16. 16. Sydney Morning Herald 1831 – 1954 now available online
    17. 17. Tag, comment, fix up articles
    18. 18. Easy…..
    19. 19.
    20. 20. Achievements <ul><li>March 2010 (1.5 yrs since release) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>9,000+ volunteers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>12 million lines of text corrected in 600,000 newspaper articles </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>400,000 tags added </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>7,600 comments added </li></ul></ul>
    21. 21. Hall of Fame
    22. 22. 391,378 lines improved
    23. 23.
    24. 24. Picture Australia
    25. 25. Contribute your photos via flickr 65,000 photos added by 2,500 people
    26. 26. L Plater’s photostream
    27. 27. Activity is valued by libraries
    28. 28. Flickr Commons <ul><ul><ul><ul><li>State Library of Queensland </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Australian War Memorial </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>State Library of New South Wales </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Powerhouse Museum </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
    29. 29. Images in public domain, add notes, tags, comments, help identify and describe
    30. 30. 85 million items from Australian organisations
    31. 31.
    32. 32.
    33. 33.
    34. 34. Wikipedia
    35. 35. 150,000 active volunteers
    36. 36.
    37. 37. WikiNorthia Online encyclopaedia for Melbourne’s northern suburbs. Funded by public libraries, created by the public.
    38. 38. Wikishepp Goulburn Library and University of Melbourne, co-ordinating writing groups for local encyclopedia.
    39. 39.
    40. 40. Distributed Proofreaders
    41. 41. 9 years, 90,000 volunteers, 16,000 e-books
    42. 42. FamilySearchIndexing
    43. 43. 160,000 volunteers – BDM records internationally 334 million names so far.
    44. 44. Ryerson index 2 million names transcribed from recent newspapers
    45. 45. AustraliaGenWeb Volunteer to Transcribe from hard copy archives or maintain a State GenWeb hub
    46. 46.
    47. 47. Shipping in Australian waters Transcribing from microfilm in NSW
    48. 48. Founders and survivors New site – April 2010. What can you tell us about convicts?
    49. 49.
    50. 50.
    51. 51. Summary <ul><li>Enhancing Australian Newspapers </li></ul><ul><li>Adding pictures of people, places, events to Picture Australia/Trove </li></ul><ul><li>Adding comments to resources in Trove </li></ul><ul><li>Wikipedia articles on local community </li></ul><ul><li>Transcribing family indexes/archives on locality </li></ul>
    52. 52. How can you help? <ul><li>Volunteer to help online </li></ul><ul><li>Publicize projects – spread the word </li></ul><ul><li>Let libraries know what you want to do with their data and how you could help </li></ul><ul><li>We need an open wiki to list all these sites that you can volunteer for…put it on Wikipedia crowdsourcing page.. </li></ul><ul><li>Create new projects </li></ul>
    53. 53. Thomas Hawk - flickr Thank you, and what did I miss?
    54. 54. Times are changing…. <ul><li>Medieval helpdesk </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>