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August 12, 2011

Digitalkoot: Digitizing Records Through Video Games

Yesterday a Twitter account called Digitalkoot started following me on Twitter. I check all profiles of anyone who follows me before I decide whether or not to block them, follow them back, or do nothing.

To my surprise, Digitalkoot's Twitter Profile indicated they are based in Helsinki Finland and their Twitter profile description read

Digitizing the Finnish cultural heritage through video games. Join the effort now at!
Digitizing through Video Games? I was intrigued so off I went to the website. Wow. I am  impressed!

To quote a bit from the website

Digitalkoot is a joint project run by the National Library of Finland and Microtask. Our goal is to index the library's enormous archives so that they are searchable on the Internet. This will enable everyone to easily access our cultural heritage
You can help us by playing games. Playing games in Digitalkoot fixes mistakes in our index of old Finnish newspapers. This greatly increases the accuracy of text-based searches of the newspaper archives.
Basically you play one of two games -

* Mole Bridge where you are given words that the computer did not recognize. Getting a word correct adds parts to the bridge so that the moles can cross the river.

* Mole Hunt where you identify words the computer has misread

The National Library of Finland takes scanned newspaper images, converts them using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and then needs to clean up the text. Doing this manually would require a great deal of time, money and labour. So creating games and calling on a volunteer force to play the games (playing the games = correcting the OCR'd text) was their solution. A rather clever and creative solution in my opinion.

Being curious, I logged in (you can log in via email or using your Facebook account) and started playing Mole Bridge. I don't read Finnish but I had fun anyway trying to copy the letters I saw on the screen. Digitalkoot takes all user responses and compares them but it certainly helps if you know what Finnish words are. I didn't want to waste their time inputting incorrect data so I only played for a few mintues but it was actually lots of fun. I did okay with the easy words or the numbers. Some of my moles even made it across the river!

I think this is an amazingly innovative idea and I hope other digitization projects will take note and think about creating their own fun way to encourage volunteers to help get documents transcribed and saved in digital format.

You can read more about Digitalkoot at Digitalkoot: crowdsourcing Finnish Cultural Heritage on
the Microtask blog .


FrustratedSue said...

I LOVE that idea! I hope that many, many, LOTS of projects in the US take that approach to help in proof-reading!

Rosemary said...

Innovative idea. The National Library of Australia is digitizing the newspaper archive and encourages users to clean up the text. See . It's been extremely helpful.