What would you work for?

Posted on January 16, 2014 | in Library | by

One of the benefits of a blog as a publishing platform, is that we can use it for a whole range of tasks, from publishing news about new acquisitions or services, to showcasing iconic items in our collections, or to throw out new ideas.  Blog posts can cover a whole range of subjects from the serious to the silly.

This post is on the later end of the spectrum, but may have a serious point!

In many areas of life, and certainly in libraries with significant collections, there is often a large amount of enrichment that can take place in order to better exploit something.  If that enrichment or input can be split up into many small tasks, then the burden or effort can be split up among many people.

A word has been coined for this: ‘Crowdsourcing’.  Of course crowdsourcing is not really a brand new idea, and is already being successfully used in many ways, whether that is for funding of new product developments (Kickstarter), the classification of galaxies (GalaxyZoo), transcribing menus (What’s on the menu?) assisting with optical character recognition (reCAPTCHA) or checking the output of an automated building inspector (Building Inspector).

Often, the projects that are used to enrich collection data rely on the goodwill or interest of the general public to get involved.  Other mechanisms are available where micro-payments (a few pence at a time) are offered for online participants to undertake small tasks such as this.  A good example of this is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

One area we could use crowdsourcing in the library is to enhance the metadata of items, in particular images.  Very often our image collections are cataloged with where the image came from, who created it, and when they created it, but the data doesn’t always include details of what is in the image.  Another related issue is that we have many old photos of Edinburgh, and it would be great to work out where they all are (see other blog posts about this).

However I received an email this afternoon from an electronics company who love to mix the physical and the electronic.  They detail a project they have built as a kiosk, where a user approaches, undertakes a task, and is rewarded with a bar of chocolate.  The title of their blog post is ‘Will Work 4 Candy‘.

Here comes the slightly silly part…!  How effective might a chocolate-bar-dispensing-image-description-kiosk-booth be?  Let’s say we had one in the library foyer, and in return for describing the contents of three images you were rewarded with a chocolate bar?  If each chocolate bar costs 30p, we could describe 10,000 images for only £1,000 which would seem quite cost effective!

Would the incentive of a chocolate bar be enough to divert someone from their daily activity for 5 minutes of their time?  Or would it divert people too much, or divert them for the wrong reasons and we end up with very low quality descriptions because all they are interested in is the reward?

Whilst thought processes like this can seem a bit silly, it can sometimes be that from these come good ideas.  So if anyone fancies a chocolate bar in return for their thoughts, let me know!!!

What would YOU work for?!


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