How do holidays affect crowdsourcing in cultural heritage? Many people are away from work, spending time with family and friends, but is that true of the retirees that make up the bulk of our volunteers?
We thought about this last month, just after Thanksgiving in the USA. A regional holiday seemed like a good opportunity to look for patterns.
Over the previous ninety days, site visitors from the USA made up 69% of the total on FromThePage.com. On Thanksgiving, that proportion dropped to 56%. Clearly, Americans were cooking turkeys instead of transcribing marriage certificates. Looking at activity, we see overall volunteer contributions down 32% compared to the mean over the previous four Thursdays. The number of users on the platform who made a contribution (by transcribing a page, editing a transcription, leaving a note, etc.) were only 53% of the previous four Thursdays’ mean.
While volunteer activity on FromThePage was low on Thanksgiving, the profile of activity was very different. If you look at the number of contributions per volunteer, we see that number rise by 36%. Unlike the previous statistics, mean contribution per user (31) was well outside the normal Thursday range (20 to 25). So the total number of volunteers drops on the crowdsourcing platform during Thanksgiving, but those who do participate do a lot more work on the site.
Thanksgiving may be a special case, however, since it’s regional. What do we see if we look at Christmas, which is observed in the countries FromThePage’s volunteers live in? (USA, UK, Australia, Sweden, Canada).
The chart at the top of this email shows pretty clearly that from December 24-26, user contributions drop by more than 50%. Furthermore, the run-up to the holidays also sees a drop, as activity on December 22 is still around 80% of normal. If we look below, at the number of contributions per user (as a percentage of the average over the previous four weeks), we don’t quite see the Thanksgiving pattern – the number is lower for some years, but higher for others. 2020 is also an outlier on both graphs, since two newspaper articles in North Carolina drove a huge number of new users to the site on December 25 and 27. Another complicating factor is the growth of crowdsourcing platforms for library and archives staff work in 2020 and 2021 – we’d expect contributions to staff-only projects to drop to nothing during holidays, depressing the numbers of users and contributions beyond what we’d expect from volunteer-based public projects.
Here’s wishing you all a calm December, happy holidays, and a great 2023!