Considering crowdsourcing? Consider using altmetrics to identify your crowd

I’ve been reading a lot about both altmetrics and crowdsourcing, and it seems to me that there could be a link between the two.

I read about “How to run a community collection online“, by the University of Oxford’s Computing services, and I read a report on their RunCoCo work.
Their guide starts with “Once you know who your community is…” but it doesn’t help people to identify the community. This is where I think that altmetrics could have a role to play. Their documents do recommend the use of social media for engaging with the community. The guide says: “…‘be’ where your users are” and:

you need to be discoverable, available, active, open to feedback and willing to share.

It seems to me that by using altmetrics tools, you could find out where your potential users are, and how best to make yourself discoverable, available and open.

Oxford University also podcast a crowdsourcing “cautionary tale”, through which I learnt that people want to contribute to research. There is a social contract, and here are some tips on how to engage with your community:

  1. They are collaborators and not users. Cite community members on papers! (Give them credit for their work.)
  2. People should be contributing to real research. It’s not (all) about outreach.
  3. Don’t waste people’s time, eg don’t ask people to do things that machines can do just as well.

Sounds like good advice, to me!

An LSE blog post on crowdsourcing gives examples of projects and explains that:

securing user contributions is about much more than impact. They provide a venue for communities outside academia to play a meaningful role within university research, providing insight and knowledge, saving time, and facilitating the route towards high-quality outputs.

The post further explains that recent projects have been particularly adept at using social media, which of course reminds me of various altmetrics tools. The blog post also points out that the needs and motivations of the crowd who take part in such projects need to be understood and sensitively handled.

I looked at lots of examples of such crowdsourcing and citizen science projects. One project that I really like is UCL’s “Transcribe Bentham”. It has a blog, twitter feed and facebook page. Their “about us” page makes it clear who they think will be interested in their participatory initiative, and why.  They also measure publicity about the project.

I also rather like the story of a Kenyan blog that became a citizen science project. When you know that people are engaged with your work, and that they might like to become a part of it then that seems to be an ideal time to launch a crowdsourced project. And if you use altmetrics tools, then you can see when and where people are engaged.



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