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Digital Archiving: Fun for everyone?

September 23rd, 2011 · No Comments

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How did one institution attract 50,000-plus volunteers to help with an archiving project?

The National Library of Finland is in the process of digitizing its archives so that they are fully searchable on the Internet. Scanning the centuries-old newspapers, journals, and documents isn’t so much the problem as is accurately transcribing the text. OCR (Optical Character Reading) software can only do so much. Standard fonts are easy enough for a computer to identify, but aging print in fancy scripts are more difficult. Obscure language, proper names, and decaying paper also interfere with OCR’s text recognition. In order for the materials to be accurately digitized, every document must then be double-checked by human eyes.

To help with the process, The National Library of Finland teamed up with Finnish technology company Microtask to come up with an innovative solution: make a game of it. Granted, it’s hard to imagine how anything like checking manuscript text against a computer’s digital interpretation could really be fun. But Microtask saw things differently—instead of pages of repetitive work, they broke down each individual word-check into what they (appropriately) call microtasks.
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Category: Developing A Digital Collection · New Tools

Saving It Because I Can

March 17th, 2010 · 1 Comment

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Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, my father brought home our first computer. It was a Mac. I can’t recall which model it was, but it was an all-in-one box with a screen the size of a small Kleenex box (I only wish I was joking!). Initially I was suspicious of this computer: having been raised on a steady diet of science fiction and comic books, I knew what computers were capable of. But my father convinced me that computers are only as smart as the person who programs them, so I gave in, turned it on, mastered the mouse and became addicted to computer gaming.

There was one game in particular that I liked. I can’t remember what it was called, but I created a group of witches, elves and trolls and we went on adventures: slayed dragons, defeated evil overlords, rescued princesses – that sort of thing. It was like a single-player, kiddie computer version of Dungeons & Dragons. I loved it, but I was also very bad at it. The computer won every time.
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Category: Digital Obsolescence