It’s been a busy summer for me – lots of stimulating conferences and events. Here’s my (eclectic) roundup of highlights:
No.1 spot has to go to the fabulous VeleHanden project, a collaborative digitisation and crowdsourcing project initiated by Amsterdam City Archives, with numerous archival partners from all over the Netherlands. I was lucky enough to be invited to the inaugural meeting of the user test panel for the pilot project, militieregisters (militia registers), in Amsterdam at the end of June.
The testing phase of the project is now well underway, and the project is due to go live in October. VeleHanden interests me for a number of reasons: Firstly, it has an interesting and innovative private-public partnership funding model and project structure. Participating archives have to pay to have their registers scanned by a commercial digitisation company, but the sheer size of the consortium has enabled the negotiation of a very low price per page digitised. Research users of the militieregisters site will pay a small fee to download a digitised image (similar to Ancestry), thus providing an ongoing revenue stream for the project. The crowdsourcing interface is being developed by a private company; in future the consortium (or individual members of the consortium) will hire the platform for new projects, and the developers will be free to sell their product to other crowdsourcing markets. Secondly, I’m interested in the project’s (still evolving) approach to opening up archival metadata. Thirdly, I’m interested in the way the project is going about recruiting and motivating volunteers to undertake the indexing of the registers – targeting the popular family history community; offering extrinsic quasi-financial rewards for participants in the shape of discounted access to digitised content; and promoting and celebrating competition between participants.
In fact, I think one of VeleHanden‘s great strengths is the project’s user-focused approach to design and testing, the importance of which was highlighted by Claire Warwick in a ‘How To’ session on Studying Users at Interface 2011, “a new international forum to learn, share and network between the fields of Humanities and Technology”. Slides from the keynote and workshop sessions at this event are available on the Interface 2011 website; all are worth a look. I particularly enjoyed the workshop on Thinking Through Networks and the practical tips on How to Get Funded should resonate with a much wider audience than just the academic community. All the delegates had to give a lightening talk about their research. Here is mine: