One of the beauties of the Internet is that, previously immense and insurmountable projects, suddenly become possible, when people from all over the world come together to participate. This is called crowdsourcing. The most well-known one of course, is Wikipedia, and it set the high standard for all other crowdsourcing projects that followed.
I’m sure a lot of you have heard of the SETI project where participants donate computing power to search for extra-terrestrial life, as well as the Electric Sheep screensaver, where you can vote for your favourite, as well as submit your own designs. Oh, and we can’t do a crowdsourcing post without mentioning Project Gutenberg, where you can volunteer as a proofreader of scanned book pages.
Today, we are going to look at 5 others, which might be worth donating some of your time to.
Run by the University of Iowa, DIY History is a project where participants get access to the library’s massive digital archive, containing hundreds of thousands of items. The University says that their librarians could never get through it all on their own, so they are calling on the public to help them.
After receiving some of the documents, they need you to transcribe, tag, and comment on the document. Then send it back, whereupon it becomes searchable, and of more use to the public, and to researchers.
Do you walk around your neighbourhood and see things that need fixing? Are these problems there long-term and never dealt with? If the problem is not an emergency (a massive hole in the ground would count as an emergency — a cat up a tree wouldn’t. You get the drift), then you can report the issue through SeeClickFix.
It relies on groups of people reporting the same things, which then forms a pattern that needs to be dealt with. The site says that anything submitted is a “public report”, so I can only assume that it goes straight to the relevant local council.
Slicify is an interesting service which lets you rent high-performance Linux Virtual Machines from a marketplace of individual providers based all over the world.
There is a list of providers, and you choose and pay for the one that can meet the requirements of the machine that you need. You pay by the hour, and that’s it. If you feel like making extra money, then you can rent out your Windows PC’s extra power as part of the network. Don’t quit your day job though, as it isn’t huge money. It all depends on how many cores and RAM your computer has. When I put my computer through, it quoted me a maximum monthly rate of $111.00 — if I left the computer on 24/7. So the money would only be helping to pay the increased electricity bill in my apartment.
To quote the site:
On January 15, 2006, the Stardust spacecraft’s sample return capsule parachuted gently onto the Utah desert. Nestled within the capsule were precious particles collected during Stardust’s dramatic encounter with comet Wild 2 in January of 2004; and something else, even rarer and no less precious: tiny particles of interstellar dust that originated in distant stars, light-years away.
Before they can be studied, though, these tiny interstellar grains have to be found. As we have discovered since we started the Stardust@home project in 2006, this is not easy. Unlike the thousands of particles of varying sizes collected from the comet, scientists originally estimated that Stardust would collect only around 45 interstellar dust particles. After a thorough search of about one-third of the collector, we have so far found only four particles that appear to be interstellar. So they are incredibly rare and precious.
So the science lab needs your help. First, you need to undergo online training and pass a test. So they are picky in who they let in. If you finally make the grade, you will get access to the “virtual microscope” and be asked to search for more dust particles. But they warn it is long-term tedious work, but rewarding if you find something.
This final one is similar in many ways to DIY History which we have just profiled. There are many records, mainly the various Censuses, which have been scanned, but are not yet searchable. To do this, the information on the documents needs to be transcribed, so anyone searching only needs to put the details into a search box and press “enter”.
If you feel like taking part, just download some of the records to your computer, transcribe the document in the spaces provided, and upload them back to the site. Then have a warm fuzzy feeling that you may have helped someone find out something about their family history.
Do you volunteer in any crowdsourced projects online? We know about all the common ones, but are there any rare ones that we should hear about, that don’t get the publicity it should? Let us know in the comments below.
Image Credits: Bubble of communication Via Shutterstock