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Tag Archives: Crowdsourcing

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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Check out these .gov webinars, training opportunities and crowdsourcing projects while you’re telecommuting during COVID-19

This surely is a surreal time as counties around the San Francisco Bay area are issuing “shelter in place” orders until at least April 7, 2020 and other cities around the country have already or will soon be following suit in order to try and curb the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). As we scramble to find work for our library staff, here’s a reminder that the .gov domain (International, Federal, state and local!) is a great place to find webinars and other training opportunities as well as pitching in on some amazing crowdsourcing projects from agencies like the Library of Congress and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Here are just a few examples for readers to explore. Let us know in the comments if you have other favorites.


Given that the Census 2020 is currently being mailed to households around the country, now’s a great time to explore all of the webinars from the US Census Bureau. They’ve got recorded webinars and courses/workshops going back to 2015 on their site covering topics from data tools, population characteristics, housing, data visualization, census data with R and so much more!

Another awesome place for webinars about government information is the “Help! I’m an Accidental Government Information Librarian” webinar series which has been hosted by the North Carolina Library Association since 2011(!). All have been recorded and available on their site as well as on YouTube. You’ll find webinars covering local, state, US and international government information — and even a few done by your friendly FGI writers on saving government data and fugitive documents hunting!

There are so many webinars out there in the .gov domain, and even some that are suitable for middle- and high school students (the younger kids might want to check out Ben’s Guide from GPO for a fun learning opportunity!). The best way to find these is to do a google search for “webinars site:*.gov” or “webinars site:*.un.org” or “webinars site:worldbank.org” (or put in your favorite government agency url after “site: “).

Crowdsourcing projects:

Crowdsourcing is another great way to use your “shelter in place” time for a good library/archives cause. Here are just a few:

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Citizen Archivist Dashboard. NARA has opened up their treasure trove of archival records of the US government so that citizens can tag, transcribe, and add comments to NARA’s records, making them more accessible and searchable. Explore all of NARA’s “missions.” There’s something there for everyone.

The Library of Congress launched its By the People (crowd.loc.gov) in the fall of 2018. The application invites everyone to transcribe, review, and tag digitized images of manuscripts and typed materials from the Library’s collections. There are so many campaigns to choose from. I’ve been chipping in on the Walt Whitman at 200 project which has been amazing since he’s one of my favorite poets.

While not technically .gov, the Zooniverse is a great platform that brings together researchers, scientists, academics with citizens in a many-hands-make-light-work manner. Projects that are in need of citizens with time and an internet connection run the gamut from arts, biology, climate, history, language, literature, medicine, to physics and space. One of my favorites actually IS a .gov project called “Old weather” where scientists seek help in transcribing Arctic and worldwide weather observations recorded in ship’s logs since the mid-19th century. This started as a British Navy project, but NARA became involved and brought logbooks of the US Navy into the project. There’s so much to explore in the zooniverse for librarians, staff and even their kids!

NARA and NOAA join Old Weather Project to crowdsource transcription of historic naval ship weather logs

According to today’s press release from NOAA, the National Archives (NARA) and NOAA are teaming up and joining the Old Weather Project hosted at Zoonivers.org to crowdsource the transcription of historic ships’ logs in order to extract critical environmental data. The Old Weather Project began over 2 years ago with British Royal Navy log books — 16,400 volunteers have transcribed 1.6 million weather observations so far! Transcribed data produced by Old Weather volunteers will be integrated into existing large-scale data sets, such as the International Comprehensive Ocean Atmosphere Data Set (ICOADS). Human volunteers are so important in this case because Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technologies cannot currently recognize hand-written text.

Before there were satellites, weather data transmitters, or computer databases, there were the ship’s logs of Arctic sea voyages, where sailors dutifully recording weather observations. Now, a new crowdsourcing effort could soon make of the weather data from these ship logs, some more than 150 years old, available to climate scientists worldwide.

NOAA, National Archives and Records Administration, Zooniverse — a citizen science web portal — and other partners are seeking volunteers to transcribe a newly digitized set of ship logs dating to 1850. The ship logs, preserved by NARA, are from U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Revenue Cutter voyages in the Arctic between 1850 and the World War II era.


Organizers hope to enlist thousands of volunteers to transcribe scanned copies of logbook pages via the Old Weather project with an eye to Information recorded in these logbooks will also appeal to a wide array of scientists from other fields – and professionals from other fields, including historians, genealogists, as well as current members and veterans of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.

[HT to Gary Price at InfoDocket for calling our attention to this project!]

EPA wants your Documerica Photos!

This is from last year, in case you missed it. (I did.):

  • Documerica Returns!, EPA blog (May 2nd, 2011).

    Almost 40 years ago, EPA’s Documerica project captured thousands of images of environmental problems and everyday life. Now it’s your turn!

    On Earth Day 2011, EPA put out a global call for current photos of life and our environment, PLUS a challenge to photograph the ‘now’ of places in Documerica. Your photo could be exhibited around the U.S. in 2012!

    Join In!
    Sign up and submit photos through Flickr!

See also:

EPA wants your environment pictures, issues public photo challenge, by Michael Cooney, Network WorldBy (01/06/12).

Searching More Than 24K Pages of Email Messages From Sarah Palin Administration

The archived email messages were released earlier today and are now beginning to roll out into searchable databases and/or PDF files.

Scanned pages are being added to databases as they become available. Many news organization are asking the public for assistance in reviewing all of the pages. Yet another example of crowdsourcing government records.

Here are three of several source provin

1. NY Times
Search NY Times: Palin E-Mail Search

2. MSNBC/Mother Jones/ProPublica
Search: MSNBC/Mother Jones/ProPublica

Updates at @openchannelblog and #palinemail

MSNBC Live Blog With Additional Information as it Becomes Available. Also, info about documents being withheld.

Background from Bill Dedman at MSNBC

3. Washington Post
PDF Files of Raw Email Messages (#1)

Click to access Dec42006-Feb202007.pdf

Additional Material

Google Map Maker links

The Scout Report has good links to CNET, Wired, and Wall Street Journal articles about Google’s Map Maker project, as well as links to the American Memory Project and the David Rumsey Map Collection:

  • With the release of Google Map Maker, users can contribute their own spatial knowledge, by Max Grinnell, The Scout Report (2011-04-22).

    In the previous millennium, those folks who wanted a high-quality map of their area might have had to go purchase or borrow an actual physical map. In recent years, online mapping tools and resources have sprouted like mushrooms after a hard rain. With all of that in mind, it is not so surprising that on Tuesday Google announced that it is allowing users to contribute changes to their very popular maps. This tool is called Google Map Maker…