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The volunteer perspective on 'What are your hopes for the future of crowdsourcing / online volunteering?'

As promised, here are the responses to one of the two key questions we asked volunteers on crowdsourcing, citizen science, citizen history, digital / online volunteer projects, programmes, tools or platforms with cultural heritage collections. Our thanks to everyone who contributed and helped spread the word!

Context: this survey had 71 responses, and this question (being compulsory) had 66 responses. The first response was on February 9 and the last response was March 1, 2021. It represents a sample of convenience, dependent on the team's reach on social media, and the membership of mailing lists and newsletters we posted to. There's further information about these informal surveys at 'We want to hear from you!', and we're happy to answer questions about our project.

What are your hopes for the future of crowdsourcing / online volunteering?
we need a toolkit for smaller institutions; need more digitization; more rewards for peer production
Regular feedback, and contact with fellow volunteers, is variable. More info re processes of what happens with vols' work would be appreciated, with links. LibCrowds v good, Georef not so good, BNA [British Newspaper Archive] editing/correcting totally unrecognised and unappreciated.
I want a better way to get groups of people to look at words marked illegible. An illegible challenge.
Zoom enables people to 'meet' and discuss these things in new ways. We need to reach out to people who would help but still not aware of the possibilities.
Accessibility and credibility are key to the future of crowdsourcing and online volunteering. Accessibility will enable more volunteers to participate, enabling more projects to reach completion quicker. Credibility will inspire more volunteers, and is earned by providing clear examples of how the project (or earlier projects) will influence research. Even a single project citation in a thesis will make the effort worthwhile for volunteers.
I think that it is so important to have pre-crowdsourcing workshops to introduce all technological tools that will be involved, and communication channels to keep everyone involved
Spread the word to people who are more likely to be interested, such as the young and geeky
Expand out to the World of Planet Earth and all Life Forms Upon it!
Using old data sources to be analyzed in new ways – example: review of health records from British postal service on Zooniverse, to understand health in Edwardian England
This project holds my interest because my workflow includes a lot of data to enter in numerous fields. In the Nest Quest Go project there were several workflows and each workflow captured just one field of data. It quickly became repetitive and then boring.
I wish there was more of an _opt-in_ educational aspect to projects. I love learning and it drives much of what I do.
More connection between platforms, better starting points. Still seeing failures as orgs set up projects I’m interested in but that aren’t set up in a way that makes it worth my time / engagement 
I feel these days there's a tendency to keep citizen science projects as simplistic as possible, but for me that takes away the possibility to get really involved because you miss the overview of the whole, and the data collection becomes rather repetitive. Also, forums are more and more replaced by social media style communication platforms, which lack a good way to organize conversations, search for something, and the sense of warmth you do find in forums.
Whilst I have the time I will give what I can to these projects.
Hopefully for museum with archival resources it becomes more mainstream, easier and less expensive to implement
making the projects easier to find- looking at ways to make the feedback and engagement with the hosts more prominent -it is easy to fix on the task and not read through the comments and reminders…
A more varied and broad base of subjects to volunteer for such as archeology, geology to name a few.
That more people will put in time to advance science/history/culture projects and that more interesting projects come up for me to participate in. Helping us to see rolling results is really useful. It kicks into my 'completion' gene and makes me want to see it done, so I am motivated to do more. 
Projects usually do not do enough of the two things I have listed above. [cross-referencing their other answer: make an obvious impact on something they care about, be easy to do]
That it can eventually lead to possible remote/online employment opportunities.
From an input perspective, I think some projects might get more accurate data entry if some of the obvious data points were given as dropdown boxes or the most common dates were pre-populated. In the Courtauld Institute archealogical photo project, there were a number of photos that were taken by the same photographer. These could have been presented as a drop down instead of having to type each time.
From my own view, I would love more UK based history projects – but I am biased! 
I think it would be good if it outlined future areas of possible study for volunteers. I think it is a bit passive in this respect. Also I would like to see more volunteers credited individually in published papers. Or explore avenues where contributors can attempt to achieve this. Some projects are better than others at doing this.
My hopes for the future of crowd sourcing/ online volunteering is that many organizations use this because at this time, not many people are comfortable going out yet.
Some of the projects I've worked on are better than others at communicating with volunteers. There are some I've worked on for quite a while, and I've never seen or heard anything from the researchers, no updates, etc. I would like to see a requirement that researchers send out, in some form, regular updates as to the progress of the research, as well as information about volunteers' contributions. I think it's great when volunteers are recognized also. Some projects recognize volunteers who have put in a certain amount of hours. I worked on one which actually included some volunteers as co-authors of the research paper that was produced, which I thought was awesome! Also, I think it would be great if there were some way for volunteers who live close to each other to get together occasionally if they so desired, maybe even meet in person with researchers on their projects occasionally to get better educated on them, get updates, etc. This could also be done technologically, via Zoom, e.g. I would also like to see more varied projects that appeal to a variety of volunteer interests.
They should provide us with some sort of digital certificate 
there's very little feedback on Zooniverse, sometimes my questions aren't answered, sometimes there's an answer but ir seems irrelevant so perhaps I phrased my question badly, sometimes the instructions aren't adequate and I find out weeks later that I've been doing it wrong.
I hope to continue like this because it is wonderful to do science together with people from all over the world.
I think that it may be important, to have, frequent, open communication with specific members who have interesting ideas, views, and use them as a consultant, sounding-board, and the like!
More people should know about it, volunteers and organisations who might need help likewise. My wish is that every small museum run by maybe not so tech-savvy people could find someone who would set a project up for them. I would personally like to find projects by region too. It's cool to be able to volunteer with a project on the other side of the world, but it would also be great to help out local organisations.
I can see it has a lot to offer as well as gain. Offers: participation over internet; enables involvement in cataloging/referencing/recording materials to help with numerous projects, which speeds up evidence gathering.
That there's more of it. That people take this opportunity to realise that it is possible to volunteer on an online platform.
To have the projects scientist be aware that running a citizen science project is a lot of work by connecting with and answering the volunteers' questions. Even if there aren't that many, just show your face every now and then. And also, listen to the people who beta test your projects, they usually know what they are talking about. Be aware that most people will not look at the Tutorial or FAQ or Field Guide and just jump in. So make the task as easy as possible. Get your grandmother/father or your 13-yo nice/nephew to test the task at hand and see what they make of it. And if you want more challenging tasks be aware that you might just get a small but dedicated group of volunteers, but then finishing a project might take longer.
I'd like to see more opportunities being offered as there are many small institutions that would stand to benefit from user contributions but I suppose they would need support, guidance etc about how to do that. So an improvement could be training for smaller organisations or to larger bodies to run projects on their behalf – possibly too complicated to work in reality though! Hopefully with the accelerated shift to online-life due to Covid-19 we will see more online opportunities coming up in the future.
I'd love to get feedback on the utility of my help. I don't need public acknowledgement.
Platforms could be easier to use (less clicks to enter data). Notification to participating volunteers of the outcome and resultant impacts.
I hope that it's easier to find a wide variety of projects to work on. Sometimes I'm in the mood for one type of work and it's not available on Zooniverse. I've had trouble finding other crowdsourcing sites.
Even more opportunities
Having supervised a big data collection effort, I think the biggest problem is checking entries for errors. It takes at least two sets of eyes to check all entries, slowly and carefully.
I am very impressed with the whole Zooniverse system, my sister in Asia and others are also involved and we have discovered much of interest and in common – so my hope is that it will continue and as some projects are completed, others will emerge. Specifically, as an historian, I would hope that we will be able to digitise and preserve so many records of all kinds which otherwise would be lost and certainly not available to other researchers and historians – or just to anyone who is interested and wants to further their knowledge. 
I'm quite content with the material and the software with which I've been working, but of course I would be delighted to see improvements in the modes of compilation and delivery as they become available.
A lot of the websites for these sorts of projects have problems on my laptop. Being able to do it on my phone and so the bus would be amazing, but lets get it working reliably on more traditional computers first.

Less technically… I am not sure. I'd like more hours in a day and to remember to do it, but that's on me not organisers.
Not as yet
Maybe greater sense of involvement for those volunteering, which might be both a social or organisational improvement.
There must be many organizations in the world that would benefit from having transcriptions of primary sources. Organizations may need more/better vehicles for getting the word out, & for making it easily accessible & "free" (or at least affordable) for participants. For people who are house bound–for whatever reasons– the ability to remotely work online is great: sense of achievement, of partnership, of contribution; opportunities to learn new info, skills.
integrating a zoom format [editorial comment: I assume this is image zoom, not video calls!]
Some entries are very standard, so the ability to cut and paste from a prior entry within that particular set of pages would be useful and save time e. g. Copyright forms. 
Also the ability to search within pages already transcribed to help name spellings E. g. Army records. Some entries more legible on later entries but v difficult to recall where previously transcribed but u sure because less legible. 
Specific page reference included when notifying a change or update within a specific project would be helpful. Sometimes this happens. When not, it's almost impossible to find which page the update was on/about.
Suggest a regular inproject update email to those contributing: eg extra transcription info such as for the Army project what accepted abbreviations of rank mean such as RSM Regimental Sergeant Major. 
A focussing function would be useful to improve the legibility of some documents
I'm not smart enough to know how to to do this, but I would like to see projects that awake the same sense of awe that makes researchers want to research in the first place. When I completed my first transcription of a handwritten document written while Henry VIII was still alive, I got it. Immediately. I understood viscerally that the person who wrote that letter was a real person very much like me, not the cardboard cutouts I found between the covers of dusty history books. I never looked back. In the past 5 years, I have transcribed more than 10,000 documents and each one completed leaves me with that sense of awe.  

You want to decipher the Dead Sea scrolls? let's crowd-source the effort to put tens of thousands of fragments together, an effort that is still not complete nearly 75 years since they were discovered.

You want to transcribe the 130,000 cuneiform tablets in the British Museum, most of which have never been read, and get them transcribed and then translated? Let's crowd source the effort to do that. What a project! It will take an inspired project design, but I believe it could be done. 
I so much appreciated being able to see the context for documents I transcribed, including entire soldiers' records, but I only noticed that feature when that transcription project was coming to an end. I'm sure that was pointed out, but somehow I missed it, so I hope you can include that feature in future text transcription projects, and also make it more prominent.
I think for me as a volunteer, one of the most helpful tools for me is exchanging my own thoughts and ideas with other volunteers and theirs. Discussion boards, maybe live ones while working on the specific subject instead of after completing a classification would be helpful if possible. 
That school children can participate; it is obvious to me, that America needs a deeper, more real, more factual relationship with the world.
It would be helpful if we could amend our entries once "Done" has been pressed. On a couple of occasions I've realised I've pressed the Done key before I've finished transcribing the page.
More standardized survey answers/format or guides for projects with similar focus areas.
More opportunities to identify animals in future migrations in African and well as adding data to those who served in the past.
I'd love to see better advertising or community communication about citizen science opportunities. It would have been fantastic if my grade school or high school partnered with a science project that we could help with.
More opportunities!
I believe even after I'm able to go back into the Museum for more in person learning – I will continue to participate in the on-line volunteering. It's on my schedule and I can do it at any time – as long as the work gets done. 
I would like to see a renewed vision by scientists and researchers in all fields of the benefits of crowdsourcing and citizen science. I would like to see school children from Primary school upwards introduced to citizen science and the benefits to projects and themselves explained, so it becomes a normal part of their lives. 
I would hope that in future crowdsourcing / online volunteering projects would seriously consider copyright and reuse prior to the start of their project. In my experience the most frequent failure of crowdsourcing projects is to consider and make explicit the free and open reuse of the volunteer generated content as well as the free and open reuse of the resources the volunteers are using to generate that content eg the scanned original documents, artworks, maps etc. Frequently crowdsourcing projects do not consider copyright and reuse as the project designers are concentrating on how to get the crowd to help solve the “why” the project exists. They miss the opportunity to assist volunteers to more deeply engage with the project content because their vision of what the project can achieve is too narrow. Too focused on the organising institution and the issue they need the crowd to help with rather than on the greater impact that could easily be obtained if the organisers widened their view to include volunteer motivations for participation and the rewards the institution can offer for engagement.
There is so much more still hidden in archives, & so much that needs to be decolonised . It was a very ordinary exercise book in an archive that led me to discover my 2x great grandfather and then a great deal of my family tree. 
That it will become more well known amongst researchers and also volunteers.
That there is wider recognition of the social value that crowdsourcing provides and creates, and that organisations which might nominally be able to provide support (like universities) actually see this sort of work as part of their core mission. It hits so many of the things that universities are required to do (and should be doing!) – engagement beyond the academy, co-creation, impact – and yet it's not something there's a great understanding of or vision for the potential. It also means that time spent on running this sort of project isn't recognised or valued, and in many cases positively detracts from time that could (in some eyes 'should') be spent on activities which bring recognition (e.g. publication in academic journals).

I wonder also if subject organisations (like the Royal Historical Society or the Historical Association) might be able to provide support in principle, by reporting on and promoting these areas in general terms?

It would be fascinating if there were a directory of ongoing crowdsourcing projects. I suspect there's loads going on that I'm unaware of.
That we find more ways to care for people online. That we embrace digital volunteering in this way for GLAMs. That we look to create online spaces which are inclusive, which aren't subject to gatekeeping, which are inviting. 
As an amateur genealogist I am particularly interested in any projects that contribute to the understanding of ancestors.
I enjoy transcription projects. Many younger people do not know how to read cursive, I feel like my particular contributions are important.

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