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Welcome to Transcribe Bentham!

By Louise Seaward, on 6 December 2017

Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham

‘Many hands make light work. Many hands together make merry work‘, wrote the philosopher and reformer, Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832) in 1793.

In this spirit, we cordially welcome you to Transcribe Bentham, a double award-winning collaborative initiative which is crowdsourcing the transcription of Bentham’s previously unpublished manuscripts.

Anyone can start transcribing at our Transcription Desk.  Your transcripts will contribute to the production of Bentham’s Collected Works and preserve Bentham’s writings into the future.

Find out more about Transcribe Bentham in the sidebar menu on the left, or scroll down to read the latest news from the Transcribe Bentham blog.  Happy transcribing!

Transcription Update – 11 November to 8 December 2017

By Louise Seaward, on 8 December 2017

Hello! Welcome to the latest statistics update from Transcribe Bentham.

The past four weeks have been very busy at the Transcription Desk.  We’ve had many new transcribers joining us and our regular volunteers have been working as hard as ever.  All this means that our transcription rate has nearly doubled over the past month!  A huge thank you to everyone who has undertaken some transcription for us. We are very grateful that you can fit us in during the hectic Christmas period.

Here are the full statistics – as of 8 December 2017.

19,472 manuscript pages have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed. Of these transcripts, 18,605 (95%) have been checked and approved by TB staff.

Over the past four weeks, volunteers have worked on a total of 223 manuscript pages. This means that an average of 56 pages have been transcribed each week during the past month.

Check out the Benthamometer for more information on how much has been transcribed from each box of Bentham’s papers!

Project Update – what’s next for Transcribe Bentham?

By Louise Seaward, on 1 December 2017

As we come towards the end of another year, I’ve got my thinking cap on.  I have been considering ways in which we can improve the Transcribe Bentham Transcription Desk, following the thought-provoking results of our recent user survey and impressive activity of participants at the Bentham Hackathon.   I have also been reading about the experiences of other crowdsourcing projects and looking at the functionalities and layout of websites like Shakespeare’s World, the Smithsonian Transcription Centre, Survey of London: Histories of Whitechapel.  Armed with this information, I am working on a plan to upgrade elements of our site to ensure that it remains fun and interesting for users to interact with.  I would welcome any feedback on these ideas in the comments to this post or by email.  I will also be contacting our most active users to ask if there are any glaring omissions from my blueprint!

My thinking cap is a pink bobble hat…

Technical

There are lots of technical improvements we would like to make to the Transcription Desk – from the installation of a ‘next page’ button so that users can easily move from transcribing one manuscript page to the next to making it possible for users to download images and transcripts from the site.  A lack of resources means that significant technical changes are not possible right now but we are hopeful that we will be able to make some enhancements in 2018.  This will involve updating the site with the latest version of Mediawiki, improving our spam filters and making it easier for us to upload new material for volunteers to transcribe.

Instructions

The current guidelines for volunteer transcribers were laid out by Bentham Project researchers in 2010.  Although they have been updated slightly over the years, they are due an overhaul.  The key elements of the instructions will remain unchanged but I would like to clarify information that is currently  a little ambiguous.  I’m thinking of new guidance on how to transcribe tables, pencil markings, printed text and unusual symbols – is there anything else I’m forgetting?

Help for new transcribers

Improved transcription guidelines will be particularly important for new transcribers who join our initiative.  I am considering how I can welcome and help new volunteers, many of whom may be overwhelmed by Bentham’s complex handwriting and intricate ideas.  This question of supporting new users really came out in the Bentham Hackathon, where one team worked on a ‘sandbox’ area where users could consult simplified instructions, practice on a handful of easy manuscripts and gain more immediate feedback on their efforts.

User experience

Our most active users already know how to transcribe Bentham’s writings and they like using our site in its current form (at least, that’s what they tell me!).  But I hope that a few changes could help to make Transcribe Bentham a more enjoyable place to be.  Some of our users may be interested in signing up to a Transcribe Bentham email newsletter to receive the latest news about the project, or participating in a user forum or group where they can discuss transcription with others.  I think we can do more to showcase the work of the transcribers; making sure they understand how they are credited for the work they undertake and highlighting the interesting topics that they have been transcribing.  I also hope that more discussion of the subjects that Bentham Project researchers are working on (and would like transcribed) will be motivating for volunteers.

That all looks like more than enough to be getting on with! New and existing volunteers will be able to transcribe as they always have but I am hopeful that these small changes will improve their experience  and help us to sustain Transcribe Bentham into the future.

Transcription Update – 14 October to 10 November 2017

By Louise Seaward, on 14 November 2017

Hello and welcome to the latest statistics update from Transcribe Bentham.

We’re happy to report that our volunteers have been contributing transcripts steadily across the past four weeks.  We need to take this moment to say a huge thank you to everyone who has spent some time working on the site!   We are also planning some forthcoming improvements for our Transcription Desk, which will hopefully make it more user-friendly.  These developments are based on the results of our recent user survey and the ideas generated at the Bentham Hackathon we hosted in assocation with IBM.  More information coming soon!

Back to the statistics – these are the latest statistics as of 10 November 2017.

19,249 manuscript pages have now been transcribed or partially-transcribed. Of these transcripts, 18,478 (95%) have been checked and approved by TB staff.

Over the past four weeks, volunteers have worked on a total of 113 manuscript pages. This means that an average of 28 pages have been transcribed each week during the past month.

Check out the Benthamometer for more information on how much has been transcribed from each box of Bentham’s papers!

Project update – presenting the results of our latest user survey

By Louise Seaward, on 31 October 2017

During the summer we conducted an online survey of our super-transcribers; the most active of our volunteers who have contributed around 90% of the finished transcripts on Transcribe Bentham.  We wanted to reach out to this group to get an idea of their motivations, experience and ideas: what keeps them coming back to Transcribe Bentham and is there anything that they would like to change about the site?

Having been invited to give one of the lectures at an international conference on crowdsourcing, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to showcase the huge amount of work done by our volunteers and discuss the results of this survey.

Le Crowdsourcing: pour partager, enrichir et publier des sources patrimoniales at the Université d’Angers brought together crowdsourcing projects from France and elsewhere in Europe to share experiences and discuss best practice.  Have a look at the conference hashtag on Twitter to follow what went on.

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We heard from projects such as Itinera Nova in Leuven where volunteers help to conserve, digitise and transcribe historic registers of local alderman. The local archivist Marika Ceunen revealed that this is a vibrant volunteer community which holds regular meetings and even brews it’s own beer!

Volunteers at the City Archives Leuven

Volunteers at the City Archives Leuven

There were also presentations on new crowdsourcing projects under construction.  The team behind the Testament de Poilus project gave us a sneak-preview of their bespoke interface to transcribe and tag wills written by French soldiers in World War One and Mia Ridge from the British Library described the thinking behind In the Spotlight, the library’s forthcoming project to transcribe over 200,000 printed playbills.  Ridge talked about the sometimes difficult balance between productivity and engagement in the crowdsourcing world –  user enjoyment is crucial for productivity!

Mia Ridge (The British Library) speaking on balancing productivity and engagement in crowdsourcing

Mia Ridge (The British Library)

Transcribe Bentham was represented twice at the conference.  The first presentation was delivered by Anna-Maria Sichani, a former transcription assistant at the Bentham Project who is now working as a researcher at the Huygens Institute in the Netherlands.  Anna-Maria discussed questions of efficiency and productivity in Transcribe Bentham and displayed some impressive statistics to suggest the quality and cost-effectiveness of crowdsourced transcription.  These results are due to be discussed in a forthcoming article by the Transcribe Bentham team.

When it came time to present my paper, I decided to focus on the opportunities and challenges of user support and motivation in Transcribe Bentham.  Crowdsourcing projects are nothing without their loyal and engaged users and so user support is a vital part of sustainability in crowdsourcing.

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I explained how we try to maintain a connection with our volunteers by providing guidance and contact by email, feedback on submitted transcripts and recognition for the work that they undertake.  I also suggested ways in which we could build upon some of the suggested improvements made by the super-transcribers in our recent survey.  These new possibilities include an email newsletter for transcribers, more clarity about which material needs to be transcribed as a priority and the resurrection of a user forum where transcribers can share tips and ask questions.  We also have longer-term plans to make technical enhancements to the site that could make it more efficient and enjoyable for people to use.  Some of these ideas started to be developed at the Bentham Hackathon event that we held recently in association with IBM and we will be working on them further over the coming months.

Thanks go to the Université d’Angers for the opportunity – I enjoyed hearing about a range of crowdsourcing initiatives in France and beyond!