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Transcribe NLS 
Crowdsourcing at the National Library of Scotland 
Scotland's National Collections and the Digital Humanit...
Transcribe NLS 
Question: 
What is crowdsourcing? 
Answer: 
More than just free labour! 
Actively engaging the public in o...
Transcribe NLS 
Plans at NLS: 
manuscript transcriptions - Transcribe NLS 
printed text (OCR) corrections 
indexing/taggin...
crowdsourcing transcriptions 
around the world 
National Archives USA http://www.archives.gov/citizen-archivist/transcribe...
What can we learn from them? 
crowd activity level 
only 21% of registered transcribers produce transcriptions 
70% of tra...
What can we learn from them? 
what the transcriber wants 
guidelines on how to use the tool 
be able to flag up issues wit...
What can we learn from them? 
What is off-putting? 
extensive and complicated instructions 
hard-to-read handwriting 
tech...
What can we learn from them? 
how to keep the crowd motivated 
• feeling trusted and respected 
• recognition – “show us h...
What can we learn from them? 
lessons learned 
• reply to enquiries promptly or else you lose your transcribers 
• the pub...
What is it that we want to build? 
Easy to use  no complex mark-up encoding 
No resources for moderation  self-moderatio...
Transcribe NLS 
Materials for transcription: 
Marjory Fleming diary 
mountaineering diaries and notebooks 
recipe books 
g...
It will be great! 
Well, let’s define “great”…
Thank you 
Ines Byrne 
National Library of Scotland 
i.byrne@nls.uk
Transcribe NLS: Crowdsourcing at the National Library of Scotland
Transcribe NLS: Crowdsourcing at the National Library of Scotland
Transcribe NLS: Crowdsourcing at the National Library of Scotland
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Transcribe NLS: Crowdsourcing at the National Library of Scotland

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Presentation by Ines Byrne, National Library of Scotland. Invited talk at a workshop for 'Scotland's National Collections and the Digital Humanities,' a knowledge-exchange project hosted at the University of Edinburgh. 12 September 2014. http://www.blogs.hss.ed.ac.uk/archives-now/

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Transcribe NLS: Crowdsourcing at the National Library of Scotland

  1. 1. Transcribe NLS Crowdsourcing at the National Library of Scotland Scotland's National Collections and the Digital Humanities Workshop 3: Research and/as Engagement 12 September 2014 Ines Byrne, Digital Collections Specialist, National Library of Scotland i.byrne@nls.uk
  2. 2. Transcribe NLS Question: What is crowdsourcing? Answer: More than just free labour! Actively engaging the public in our collection development Work we could never resource ourselves
  3. 3. Transcribe NLS Plans at NLS: manuscript transcriptions - Transcribe NLS printed text (OCR) corrections indexing/tagging
  4. 4. crowdsourcing transcriptions around the world National Archives USA http://www.archives.gov/citizen-archivist/transcribe/ University of Iowa http://diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu/ National Archives of Australia http://transcribe.naa.gov.au/ The Smithsonian https://transcription.si.edu/ Transcribe Bentham http://www.transcribe-bentham.da.ulcc.ac.uk ScotlandsPlaces http://www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/transcribe
  5. 5. What can we learn from them? crowd activity level only 21% of registered transcribers produce transcriptions 70% of transcriptions come from 3% of active transcribers on average, one transcriber contributes 2 working hours per week on average, one transcriber works on 6 pages per hour
  6. 6. What can we learn from them? what the transcriber wants guidelines on how to use the tool be able to flag up issues with more experienced transcribers personal activity logs to keep track of their activity and history
  7. 7. What can we learn from them? What is off-putting? extensive and complicated instructions hard-to-read handwriting technical issues with the tool complexity of mark-up encoding
  8. 8. What can we learn from them? how to keep the crowd motivated • feeling trusted and respected • recognition – “show us how we fit into the big picture” • the outcome – “tell us what your aim is – we want to help achieve it” • clear instructions – “we will work better if we know what you want from us” • ability to communicate with other transcribers • constantly adding more material to be transcribed – “keep us busy”
  9. 9. What can we learn from them? lessons learned • reply to enquiries promptly or else you lose your transcribers • the public have more spare time than you can imagine • moderation raises quality but is time-consuming (Bentham’s 2 moderators could have produced 2.5 times more transcriptions than the crowd did) • one system doesn’t fit all content  adapt your tool to fit your material • majority of transcribers are not very experienced • invest in training videos • go live quietly to be able to deal with all the issues arising • no transcriber felt being exploited
  10. 10. What is it that we want to build? Easy to use  no complex mark-up encoding No resources for moderation  self-moderation (loss of quality control) High-level control  registration required
  11. 11. Transcribe NLS Materials for transcription: Marjory Fleming diary mountaineering diaries and notebooks recipe books genealogy materials
  12. 12. It will be great! Well, let’s define “great”…
  13. 13. Thank you Ines Byrne National Library of Scotland i.byrne@nls.uk

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