Category Archives: K. Dodrill

Crowdsourcing: Good or Bad?

As technology continues to expand, the access to information becomes quite easy. One can simply use their phones in order to find out what someone said 300 years ago. There are even sites that allow people to contribute by allowing them to input information or change items that might have been previously wrong. These sites are known as crowdsourcing sites. One example of a crowdsourcing site that we might not realize is Wikipedia. However, there are a lot of mistakes that occur when using Wikipedia. Since it is open to the public, anyone can input something and it does not even have to be correct. I will argue, though, that crowdsourcing is a valuable tool in gathering data. After reviewing four crowdsourcing sites that include the Martha Berry Digital Archives, the DIY History at the University of Iowa Libaries, the Cambridge Public Library, and the Transcribe Benjamin Project of the University College London, I believe that crowdsourcing allows people to gain a closer connection to those that wrote letters, able to understand what authors of newspapers meant and crowdsourcing allows people to help others by transcribing these newspaper/letters so that we may understand them better.

The negative affects of crowdsourcing would include misinterpreted information. After reviewing multiple letters from these sites, it was hard for me to tell what was being said. If someone were to transcribe one of these letters and provide false information, someone who needs that letter for an important paper will provide false information because the information about the letter was false. When reviewing the Cambridge Public Library (——-en-20–1–txt-txIN—–-), which contains over 6,000 issues of newspapers as well as other items as subject and obituary cards, they used a system called Optical Character Recognition or OCR, which the use of a software reads a page image and then translates it into a text file by recognizing the shapes of the letters. While this does provide more reassurance of characters being corrected, it does not always mean that the characters transcribed are correct. I believe that this website was one of the more easier to transcribe since the articles being transcribed were printed newspapers. This website was also well organized  when it came to have the newspaper articles set-up by using dates as well as using the titles of the newspapers.

The next site would be the Martha Berry Digital Archives ( This site is set up so that people may come in and transcribe letters in which Martha Berry hand write or typed. While some of the letters have deteriorated, most of these letters are able to be read easily. This website includes citation of the letters as well as providing a map of where the letter was written. This site also allows you to share the information from the letter to the public such as Facebook and Twitter. This will allow others to see this and then let them make contributions to that letter or somewhere else on the site. With the use of tags, finding certain topics is quite easy.  After transcribing multiple letters, I would say that this is one, if not the most easiest site to navigate as well as transcribe letters. One thing that I would do differently with the site is separate the hand-written letters and the typed letters.

The third site is the Papers of the War Department (  In order to transcribe one of the 45,000 documents, all you have to do is browse the archive, and find any document ranging from the years 1781 to 1803 and pick it. When you find your document it, you select it and then find the transcribe button and transcribe away. While it may be easy finding a document, transcribing some of the documents maybe difficult due to the hand-writing and style of the person. While this is a common theme for most transcribing sites, it is still a factor to consider. As with the other sites, this site is easy to navigate and transcribe. As long as you have an account, anyone may transcribe one of the many documents or letters from this site.

The final site is the DIY History at the University of Iowa Libraries ( With over 40,000 letters regarding Pioneer and Civil War letters, it was hard finding a letter that I was able to understand and transcribe. The letter was the one that I was able to contribute most too. While it was a short letter, it was difficult for me to understand some of the lettering. With this example to my link, I show the reasons why crowdsourcing sites are sometimes not the best places to go for information. After multiple reviews, this was the best of what I could figure from the wording. Some of the words do not make sense. This letter, however, has not been reviewed so with this, people gathering information are warned. This website overall was the second easiest to navigate as well as contribute.

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