Making Progress Clear on Notes from Nature

Notes from Nature is something of a departure for a Zooniverse project.  Rather than a single organization asking for help with the exact same tasks, Notes from Nature is, like its subject matter, diverse.   So we have labels of bugs, sheets of plants, fungal specimen labels, and ledgers of birds.  And we have a lot – and I mean A LOT— of images that need transcription.   Not only that, but each of those images are transcribed more than once—as mentioned in previous posts, right now each image gets 4 separate transcriptions.

All of this is preface to the main topic of this post – how do we measure “progress” with the tasks of transcribing all of this data.  The science team on Notes from Nature has talked a lot about this, and a number of complexities related to making sure that the numbers are transparent to you, our volunteers.  This post covers a fair amount about how to measure overall progress.  We also know that there have been issues with transcription counts for individual volunteers. We believe that we have solved those issues, but we’ll cover those separately in another blog post.

So, here are two of the main issues we have been dealing with and some recent solutions that have been implemented across Notes from Nature:

Issue 1: Do we measure total number of transcriptions or total number of images that are “finished” (e.g. transcribed four times)?

Solution:  We have decided to measure total transcriptions completed across all projects and within projects.  This is a change from our previous strategy which had mixed and matched these different counts on different pages.  We think the most obvious measure is overall effort put in, even if this means it is harder to know how many images have been done.

Issue 2:  Should we even measure “completeness” within a project (e.g., Calbugs)?  The reason this is an issue is that most projects on Notes From Nature have only posted a small subset of available images and there are many more “waiting in the wings”.  We don’t want to say “hey, only a 1000 more images to transcribe” and then just a little later go “Oh!  Just kidding, there are now 50000 more!” Our ultimate goal is to stage the many remaining images as smaller batches with compelling themes derived from their research or other societal values (e.g., all specimens from a particular national park or collected by an important historical figure).   This will give us a chance to celebrate the success of completion more regularly.  At the moment, we are seeking funding to do this.

Solution:  We do want to show that progress is being made on the current batch of images on Notes from Nature, but we want to avoid any confusion if more images are made available once the current sets are close to be done.  So we are showing a percentage that represents total number of transcriptions completed over the total number needed for a batch, but we link to this very blog post to explain why those may change.  We are also providing some information on progress with the images themselves, and here we provide counts of “total images”, “active images”, “complete images”.  Below is a definition of each of those terms:

total images – The number of source images currently available.
active images – The number of images that are either in progress with being transcribed or waiting for transcription.
complete images –  The number of images that have been independently transcribed four times

We hope the new changes lead to greater transparency!  We are also so awestruck and appreciative of all the participation as we pass the 5000 registered participants and 400,000 transcriptions mark- we can’t thank you enough or tell you how important the public participation has been for this endeavor.  Finally, we love comments and suggestions. Please feel free to provide some, and we’ll get right back to you.

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About Rob

Three "B's" of importance: biodiversity, bikes and bunnies. I get to express these "B's" in neat ways --- I bike to a job at the University of Florida where I am an Associate Curator of Biodiversity Informatics. Along with caretaking collections, I also have a small zoo at home, filled with two disapproving bunnies.

5 responses to “Making Progress Clear on Notes from Nature”

  1. Irv Cantor says :

    Thank you very much for the improvement in the progress metrics. More and clearer information is always a good thing. I would like to suggest that the same goal be applied to the “A Transcriber’s Life” metrics. The current wording there often sounds ridiculous – “One hour ago you transcribed 315 records”. I think what you mean is “As of an hour ago, you have a cumulative total of 315 transcribed records.” You could broaden your re-design, and consider a historical diary format showing date and number of records transcribed on each day, or perhaps some other type of informative display (a bar or line graph?).
    Thanks for listening.

  2. Rob says :

    Hi Irv, really appreciate the comment, and its also something we have noticed. Having you comment here really helped galvanize us to finally squash this “bug”. Take a look now and see if the wording is better! And thanks very much for taking the time to talk with us!

    • Irv Cantor says :

      Rob, thanks so much for your responsiveness. The changed wording really “talks to you” now and gives a sense of continuity.

  3. Susanna Boni says :

    I joined the Ornithological project on 2nd Aug this year and have transcribed over 10 ledger pages so far. I downloaded loads of bird checklist, taxo dictionariy, extinct & endangered bird list in order to correctly interpreter the various calligraphies. Main problem relates to the location, as many of the names are nearly unreadable, and even maps available on web do not help most of the time. Question now is how come on my account it looks as if I’ve done nothing, no transcriptions, no collection, nothing whatsoever???? Have I missed some step (I have signed up and keep signing-in every time) so why is this site not recording what one has volounteered to do (I mean: time-consuming, Gigabytes spending, research material downloaded..) Take into account that one page transcribing may take up to 3hr,50′, and a lot of online and offline research to get it right….. only to find that apparently I have done nothing ….. VERY DISAPPOINTING INDEED!!!!!
    Thanks for your attention to the matter

    • Rob says :

      Hey Susanna — I really appreciate this comment and wanted to get back to you ASAP. The bird ledgers, unlike the “specimen collections” which has a specimen and label (or just a label) were a new challenge for Notes from Nature. Deciding how to measure “effort and make it comparable with the other kinds of transcribing was something we didn’t manage to completely sort out. We know its an issue, and the developers involved in Notes from Nature have actually been at work on a solution. Sometimes those take a bit of time to implement but we hope to have counts and badges available sooner than later. We have a couple other things ahead of this in the queue but its on a priority short list.

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