A new design and new software

If you’ve been doing any work on the Measuring the ANZACs site, you’ll know it’s been sluggish lately. We know too, and we’re sorry. So we’re re-designing on a new underlying software platform.

Despite the problems, we are going to leave the current site up. What we’ve seen is that if you use it by marking a page, and then selecting “Transcribe this page”, there is some sluggishness; but not nearly as bad as when one goes to Transcribe. There are a class of students in Wellington who might be able to use it in this way later in June 2018. Leaving it up isn’t going to delay the new site, as the underlying software for the project is not being actively maintained.

When we launch the new site, the design will change. The experience of being in the archive flipping through a set of pages will be gone. The first task will be to sort pages. We’ve noticed that we’re not getting enough people hitting the medical attestations, which was really our motivation for the project! We live and learn. To increase the chances people hit the pages we want to see, we’ll be presenting pages in a more random order. This has its pros and cons, we recognize.

Once 3 people have voted that a page falls into a particular category (History, Statement of Services, Attestation, Medical Attestation) it will be passed along to a different workflow to transcribe that kind of page. We think we know all the varied questions on the Attestation now, and can hopefully make the experience there more similar to the other pages, where you select pre-determined questions; rather than typing both question and answer.

The workflows for transcribing each page will be somewhat separate, so at first we’ll launch transcription for the simplest pages. In other words, the Attestations will be identified but may not be immediately available to Transcribe for a period of time. They’ll come eventually.

Another change will be that transcription of each question will likely take place immediately after you’ve selected the box for it. We hope this will mean fewer pages marked up and not finished transcribing.

Designing a citizen science site for transcription of complex documents has a lot of tradeoffs, and we intend the ironic statement that we’re fighting the last war. We’re trying to correct problems from the current site, but can’t fully anticipate the downsides of the new layout. We’ll be active on social media and here to get the word out that the site has re-launched. Thanks to our thousands of transcribers who have helped us gather a significant amount of data, and learn about the challenges of crowd-sourcing the transcription of complex social data.


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