Archive | March 2017

Who’s doing all the transcriptions?

We reported last week that we were making great(er) progress with nearly three quarters of a million fields transcribed after 16 months. Another thing that’s interesting is to look at who is doing the work?

An important thing to know is that if you’re not logged in we just record you as an anonymous user. Just over 100,000 of our transcriptions were like that. We suspect there are some repeat visitors in there, and we hope you’ll register!

Like a lot of citizen science projects a lot of the work is being done by a small number of people. We had 6,670 registered users on the site, and just 80 people did more than half the work; starting with the top transcriber with 60,000 fields transcribed. In case this sounds unreasonable it’s the equivalent of someone who joined us when we launched and has transcribed one soldier a day … It’s great but might be only taking them 15-30 minutes a day. We need dozens more like them!

On the other end of the scale there are more than 1000 registered users who did just one transcription. Most likely—since they’re registered—they’ve come over from other Zooniverse projects, and didn’t stick around.

You can visualize this in a couple of ways. Because the numbers are so skewed we take logarithms (remember your high school or college mathematics!) to make the graphs more legible.

This is not at all unusual to Measuring the ANZACs. Citizen science participation follows a “power law”  and our project is different from galaxies and penguins just in its content.



Evan Roberts (eroberts [at] umn dot edu)



We’re making even quicker progress!

In our first year we had 545,000 fields transcribed (a field is a single box that you enter text into). Just four months later we received another batch of data, and we’ve now got 761,165 fields transcribed.

Lets put that in perspective — 40% more data has been transcribed in just over 4 months, so we’re doing even more than we were achieving in the last few months of 2016.

One of the best ways to see this is look at the weekly rolling average of daily transcriptions. This helps smooth out the day-to-day variation but also see short run changes and trends. These help us keep an eye on how we’re engaging the community. If you’re not coming back to help tell the stories of these soldier’s that’s a worry!

rolling_average Feb 2016 to March 2017 _Tuesday, 14 March 2017.png

You can see that we kept up the steady pace of transcriptions we’d started achieving from August 2016, and what’s really encouraging is that people took a break for Christmas and then came right back to it during January. This is great, and gives us some quantitative evidence that we’re building a good community of people transcribing with us. We had a class working on the site in early February (and we’ve taken out the spike right before they had an assignment due!) which has helped us out.

On average we’re getting through 1600 fields transcribed a day. This is great, and is the equivalent of about 6 soldiers’ files being completed each day. One thing we’ve noticed is that the History Sheets, which appear first, are the most worked over. We really need people to work through a whole file if they can. Eventually History Sheets will be retired when everything has been marked once and transcribed three times. But with the incredible levels of accuracy you’re achieving we can make great use of the first version of a transcription. So the more our transcribing forces can spread their effort through a file the better!

Thanks for all that you do! Lets keep going and the more you can recruit others to join the Measuring the ANZACs forces the quicker we’ll complete our journey.

Evan Roberts


Service dates tell us a lot.

I’ve been using the Measuring the ANZACs platform in my Sociology of Health and Illness class this semester at the University of Minnesota. Teaching young adults in the Midwest why soldiers’ records from early twentieth century New Zealand are relevant to modern understanding of health and illness has helped me think more deeply about the material we’re working with.

For example, a big research question in the social scientific study of health is how do stress and trauma (different, but related things) affect our lives? How do our social connections help us survive bad things. In the long term as we assemble more and more individual records we’ll also have data on the units men were in, and can investigate the experience of what happened to men who served together.

For now, we can do a lot with simple information. Take service dates which are summarized on the History Sheet (check out the Field Guide if you’re new to the Measuring the ANZACs forces). We can get an amazing amount of useful information about what affected men’s health and life from these four lines.

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The first line is very similar for a lot men, a few weeks or months training in NZ. Later in the war we think we’re starting to see men who waited longer to get to war. They will be an interesting group to compare to men who were unlucky enough to get there earlier.
The second line, “Foreign” is a measure of exposure to war which presumably is worse than kicking around camp in New Zealand where the weather is mild and you’re not in a trench. Although we only get numbers and not details off this sheet, numbers are a great starting point. Was it bad just to step into the war zone, or did time matter? What was the difference between a week, a month, a year, or several years of foreign service? How did time matter?
Finally, the third and fourth lines identify another important health experience — when, if at all, were men exposed to the influenza epidemic. It isn’t listed as such, but we know when the flu was in particular places from other sources and we can map this information into the men’s files.
The key thing here is that service dates tell us a lot about a man’s war story, but they are also the starting point for some research questions that are still important today: how does stress accumulate over time to affect men’s (and women’s) lives? Help us answer these questions by getting the service dates in the correct format: one box for each line.
As always, if you have any questions stop by Talk to meet the researchers and other members of the Measuring the ANZACs forces.