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Screenshot of $100,000 Pyramid

You know the importance of metadata—pieces of descriptive information attached to image, audio, video, and other files that make cataloging and searching your collections easier and faster.

You may be groaning already. Creating metadata is exhaustively time consuming for individuals and smaller institutions. Even for libraries with more resources, generating metadata is a chore because it’s very difficult to do effectively by computer; everything is dependent on what’s in the audio, video, or image files.

[Photo:] Library catalogs without metadata... our hairstyles...

But there’s a new way to gather metadata—by getting your patrons to help! Dartmouth College’s Tiltfactor Lab, a research laboratory that designs games to address social issues, has created a toolset for libraries and archives that uses crowdsourcing (and fun!) to gather valuable metadata tags. The lab has identified three overlapping motivations that lead people to play metadata games:

-- They like to help or contribute to a good cause.
-- They love a particular subject area.
-- They want to compete and win.

It works like this: players participate in games like Zen Tag or Guess What? In Zen Tag, viewers are shown an image and then enter as many tags as they can come up with. There are no time limits and they earn points for each tag. In Guess What?, one player describes an image to another player across the network. The second player is shown several images and must select the correct one based on the description. (Sounds like a variation on the old “$100,000 Pyramid” show!)

The result is that players can have fun, get recognition for their contributions, feel satisfaction in knowing they have helped to improve the collection, and feel a stronger connection with their library. In turn, the library gets a bunch of useful information about its collections, new ways of engaging scholars, and a deeper bond with its patrons, which very likely leads to greater participation and more successful fundraising.

You may be thinking, “Yeah, this all sounds great, but who has the resources to install it?” Luckily, the folks at TiltFactor anticipated this concern. Metadata Games is considered Free Open Source Software, or FOSS. There are no expensive licensing fees or contracts, and anyone can install, use, and customize the games.

So put your citizen archivists to work; tell them to go play!

13 Jun 2013 | Posted by Shannon Janeczek

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