The following article was written by and is copyright by Dick Eastman.Wikipedia (which is itself a crowd-sourced collection of information) defines crowdsourcing as "a process that involves outsourcing tasks to a distributed group of people. This process can occur both online and offline. The difference between crowdsourcing and ordinary outsourcing is that a task or problem is outsourced to an undefined public rather than a specific body, such as paid employees."
Wikipedia then adds a bit more detail: "Crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving and production model. In the classic use of the term, problems are broadcast to an unknown group of solvers in the form of an open call for solutions. Users—also known as the crowd—submit solutions. Solutions are then owned by the entity that broadcast the problem in the first place—the crowdsourcer. The contributor of the solution is, in some cases, compensated either monetarily, with prizes, or with recognition. In other cases, the only rewards may be kudos or intellectual satisfaction. Crowdsourcing may produce solutions from amateurs or volunteers working in their spare time, or from experts or small businesses which were unknown to the initiating organization."
Genealogists have recently become familiar with the term "crowdsourcing" because of several major projects. By far the largest was the recent indexing of the 1940 U.S. Census. On April 2, 2012, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration released the digital images of the 1940 United States Federal Census after a 72-year embargo. These census images were immediately uploaded and made available on Archives.com, FindMyPast.com, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, ProQuest, and FamilySearch.org. However, images by themselves are not as useful as they could be. In order to maximize the use of these images, hundreds of thousands of volunteer indexers and arbitrators worked to create computerized indexes of all the names that appear in the images.
The volunteers stayed in their homes or worked on laptop computers from hotel rooms, parks, bus stations, commuter trains, and elsewhere. They would view images of the original records on one half of a "split screen" display. While reading the handwritten information, the volunteers would transcribe the information into data entry fields in the other half of the display.
More than 160,000 volunteer indexers made the 1940 U.S. Census available for searching in just five months. The results are available on several web sites. Further information may be found at http://1940census.archives.gov/ and at http://the1940census.com/.
Other crowdsourcing efforts of interest to genealogists include the projects described below:
The remainder of this article is for Plus Edition subscribers only. SUBSCRIBE NOW to read this article.
If you have a Plus Edition user ID and password, you can read the full article right now at no additional charge in this web site's Plus Edition at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=22284. This article will remain online for several weeks.
If you do not remember your Plus Edition user ID or password, you can retrieve them at http://www.eogn.com/wp/ and click on "Forgot password?"
If you decide to subscribe to the Plus Edition right now, you will be able to immediately read this article online. What sort of articles can you read in the Plus Edition? Click here to find out.
For more information about subscribing to the Plus Edition of Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, visit http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/plusedition.html.