Recruiting the World: So how's that going for you?

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Lightning talk for the inaugural DC Digital Cultural Heritage meet-up 20 September 2012. http://www.meetup.com/Digital-Cultural-Heritage-DC/events/78880882/

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  • http://www.meetup.com/Digital-Cultural-Heritage-DC/events/78880882/
  • So I discovered that the tactic of “crowdsourcing” – perhaps one of the more challenging ideas to have come out of recent technology practice - has in fact been employed by the Smithsonian, avant la lettre, since its founding days. This reference makes it a lot easier to talk to colleagues who may be concerned about change and adopting what seems to be a radical new practice. It is also a reminder that chances are any really good idea we have has been done before, and those precedents offer useful guidelines and caveats for subsequent implementations!To me, a department of one at the Smithsonian, tasked with developing a mobile strategy and serving as a consultant and advisor on mobile initiatives across 19 museums, 9 research centers and the Zoo, crowdsourcing is not just a nice idea. It’s the only practical solution I have for a very real shortage of resources and staff. And whether or not there is an economic crisis happening, we will never have enough money, time and staff to do all that we could, should, and want to do at the Smithsonian or any other museum. So our vision for mobile at the Smithsonian is to “recruit the world”: to use mobile radically, to create a more sustainable organization, one which is not just limited to the ideas and work that its paid staff can realize, much less to just putting our content and interpretation in people’s pockets on their mobile devices. Rather, we want to recruit the world to help us deliver on our mission. And we want to make the future and success of the Institution co-dependent on that collaboration.
  • And we have known this from our founding days. Secretary Henry first introduced “crowdsourcing,” avant la lettre, by using the new communications technology of his day – the telegraph – to receive weather reports from participants in his national weather map project from across N and S America.Secretary Baird recruited citizen scientists to collect specimens for the Smithsonian’s natural history collections, which were shipped to DC by the other important technology of the 19th century – the railroads.Today the work of the Smithsonian is done in no small part thanks to volunteers who outnumber our paid staff.
  • Chris Anderson also suggested this tactic at the Smithsonian 2.0 conference, calling it the “crazy idea” of working with citizen curators to turn the Smithsonian into a Wikipedia of the Physical World.
  • To tell how something or someone is doing, you have to have some standard or benchmark to compare against. Quality is, as Chris Anderson said, largely in the eye of the beholder and relative to its contemporary context. But against what scale do you measure “recruiting the world?”There’s one benchmark we can use to set the bar – Wikipedia. You’ve probably all seen some version of this pyramid, or an “engagement ladder” like this. It tells us that in fact the majority of that work is done by a tiny number of people at the top of the engagement pyramid: the specialists and enthusiasts in niche subjects.
  • The Smithsonian currently has more than 20 mobile apps and websites, and more than that number again of podcasts and other downloadable audio, video and text content that people are using every day on their mobile devices. But today I want to focus on three in particular in which we’ve attempted to integrate some of the radical ideas from Shirky, Howes, Burgund and others: Smithsonian Mobile, Stories from Main Street, and Access American Stories.
  • 228 available for playback through the app Tennessee and West Virginia have been our most active states where the exhibition is on tour. We had a single contributor talking about the town where she grew up in upstate New York over ten entries!
  • Soft launched with opening of the exhibition last week. None of these apps has had a dedicated marketing budget, but are actively trying to organize events to solicit contributions to AAS.
  • Amy Sample Ward usefully identifies two different kinds of engagement of mass audiences:“Crowdsourcing invites diversity by encouraging anyone with an idea or interest to participateCrowdsourcing levels the playing field so it isn’t just your “favorites” or those you already know that get to play”http://amysampleward.org/2011/05/18/crowdsourcing-vs-community-sourcing-whats-the-difference-and-the-opportunity/
  • In the Wikipedia example, the base of the engagement pyramid is very broad, 400m visitors per month, compared to the 85,000 people contributing articles nearer the top of the pyramid.
  • Here the community base can be much narrower and still achieve the project’s desired results. The community has special skills and interests as well as a very well-developed network, so a smaller number of individuals in the eco-system get the job done.
  • To tell how something or someone is doing, you have to have some standard or benchmark to compare against. Quality is, as Chris Anderson said, largely in the eye of the beholder and relative to its contemporary context. But against what scale do you measure “recruiting the world?”There’s one benchmark we can use to set the bar – Wikipedia. You’ve probably all seen some version of this pyramid, or an “engagement ladder” like this. It tells us that in fact the majority of that work is done by a tiny number of people at the top of the engagement pyramid: the specialists and enthusiasts in niche subjects.
  • Recruiting the World: So how's that going for you?

    1. 1. “Recruiting the World”So how’s that going for you? DCHDC 20 September 2012 @nancyproctor proctorn@si.edu
    2. 2. SI Mobile’s Vision Recruit the world to increase and diffuse knowledge by using mobile platforms to enlist collaborators globally in undertaking the real and important work of the Institution. Put the Smithsonian not just in the people’s pockets, but in their hands.9/20/2012 Nancy Proctor, proctorn@si.edu 2
    3. 3. “A Wikipedia of the Physical World” http://smithsonian20.si.edu/schedule_webcast2.html
    4. 4. Wikipedia’s World 1,487 85,000400 millionper month http://www.flickr.com/photos/cambodia4kidsorg/4294119350/
    5. 5. 20+ SI Mobile Projects to Date http://si.edu/mobile
    6. 6. Access American Stories
    7. 7. http://amysampleward.org/2011/05/18/crowdsourcing-vs-community-sourcing-whats-the-difference-and-the-opportunity/
    8. 8. Crowdsourcing
    9. 9. Community-sourcing
    10. 10. The Smithsonian’s World? http://www.flickr.com/photos/cambodia4kidsorg/4294119350/
    11. 11. Product, or Process?The process of crowdsourcing projectsfulfills the mission of digital collectionsbetter than the resulting searches [withmetadata enhanced by crowdsourcing]. – Trevor Owens http://www.trevorowens.org/2012/03/crowdsourcing- cultural-heritage-the-objectives-are-upside-down/ 13

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