An overdue Measuring the ANZACs update

It has been too long since we shared a progress update with our loyal transcribing forces. Thank you, as always, for the work that you are doing with us to build towards a complete transcription of New Zealand’s World War I soldiers.

Last year we reported that we had carried out initial assessments of transcription quality, and built our procedures for key fields to allow us to piece together a coherent record of one soldier’s life. The challenge, evident on reflection, is that even if all three transcriptions we have on a person are very similar (even identical) we have to develop a process for saying that. It’s the transcriptions that are just different, but basically saying the same thing that need work to reconcile.

With those processes built, we have begun research projects to scope what we can do with the data. As you know, our goal is to build a very large datasets of tens of thousands of soldier to measure height and weight and health. At the moment we don’t have tens of thousands of complete records (so please keep transcribing, and tell your friends to join in!) so we are taking advantage of the depth of information on a smaller number of records to explore other aspects of soldiers’ lives. 

One particularly interesting aspect that you, our citizen transcribers have noticed, is the misconduct citations. Working in a Sociology department with great criminologists, Evan Roberts  has recruited students to analyze the misconduct citations. As our transcribers will know, what we ask with misconduct citations is that you identify whether or not there’s a citation. So we’ve been checking how accurate those Yes/No answers are. Mostly pretty good. We think a few people are led astray by our instructions that you answer yes if there’s “anything below” the heading Conduct Sheet. Literally speaking, the marriage and children information is below the heading, but we ask people to identify Marriage and Children information in a separate set of marking and transcription steps.

We’ve identified that offenses fall into about six key categories:

  • Absence without leave, or overstaying leave
  • Drunkenness
  • Insubordination or disrespect
  • Disobeying orders
  • Theft or damage of property
  • Other offenses

Punishments came in four general types

  • Deprivation of pay
  • Deprivation of liberties (eg. confined to barracks)
  • Reprimands from officers
  • Physical restraint (Field Punishments #1 and #2)

A fascinating aspect of the relationship between offenses and punishment is what happens if someone is drunk as well as committing other offences? Does the drunkenness intensify the punishment, because it’s another thing done wrong, or does the drunkenness, in a sense, excuse and explain why someone damaged property or was out late? Our initial analyses suggest that the excuse and explanation perspective was more common. We can also see through this analysis, paired with the data you have transcribed how misconduct fit into careers. Soldiers who committed misconduct while still in the lower ranks seemed to have a harder time getting promoted as one would expect. However, soldiers already promoted to the lower officer ranks and then committing misconduct seemed to have innoculated themselves from getting demoted. The initial promotion showed they were worthy, and minor misconduct did not hold them back.

A new and re-designed site: We are excited to share with you plans for a new and re-designed site. We will be introducing what we hope is a streamlined process. One thing that will likely be lost in this new design is the ability to browse through all 30 or more pages of a long file. But by doing this, we hope that people will get all the way through shorter segments of files, of no more than 10 pages.

The re-design will start with a task sequence that just asks people to sort pages into our four types, plus “Other”. Once a page has been voted into a page type, it will be available for marking and transcription. We are going to try and take advantage of your work transcribing all the question test for the attestations by having pre-specified items on both pages of the attestation as well, now that we know all the questions. There will still be an option to transcribe a question and answer, if necessary.

We hope that the new site may be up and running by the end of summer, and we’ll let our loyal transcribers help us out with testing. The new site will allow us to collaborate better with other researchers who want to upload and transcribe a particular set of men’s files. Currently this is clunky at best. Stay tuned, tell your friends to join us, and please keep transcribing!



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