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Digitising Finnish history using crowdsourced volunteers

Learning points

The challenges Microtask’s engineers had to overcome were daunting. One problem, for example, was how to deal with malicious players who deliberately type in the wrong words (one tireless volunteer spent over an hour and a half doing just this).

To identify such volunteers, the system begins the game feeding the player only “golden tasks”, to which Microtask already knows the answer. Once the player demonstrates that they are actually trying to play properly, the ratio of these verification tasks gradually lowers. This process is completely invisible, so even if spammers understand the mechanism, they will not be able to cheat it.

Other challenges included thorny mechanical issues like deciding the type of gameplay to implement (the first prototypes required input methods other than typing which proved to be very inefficient), issues around the number of parallel players required to crosscheck answers, and scalability of the system. There were also more mundane issues, for example some people were unwilling to use their Facebook account to sign in with the games (a very vocal minority requested login by email, so this was introduced a couple of weeks after the launch).

Microtask has identified a number of areas in which the next project can improve upon the current version of Digitalkoot. It wants to:

  • take steps to minimize redundancy while checking the accuracy of tasks;

  • be able to distinguish between words belonging to a title or to the text body;

  • add soft keys for keyboards without the letters “å, ö, ä”;

  • add new types of microtasks; and

  • improve gameplay mechanics and reward mechanisms (i.e. figure out in which contexts the game interface undermines efficiency instead of increasing it).

About this case study
Main Contact

Ville Miettinen

Founder & CEO, Microtask

Email: wili@microtask.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/wili
Blog: http://blog.microtask.com


Ville Miettinen wrote this case study for Governance International on 1 September 2012.

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