As I begin to reflect on my fellowship experience, I would like to pick up where I left off. Since my last post, I worked with folks to test the tasks and workflow of the crowdsourcing component added to Hobo Archive. These tasks ask people to upload pictures of their resources and describe the resource in detail. The general consensus from folks testing the workflow is that technology is hard but communication is key. As I have been working one-on-one with members from the hoboing community, I recognized that technology is not accessible for everyone. Communicating directly with people and trying to alleviate the technical barriers to the workflow has led to simple, effective solutions so far that seem really engage people with their contributions to the archive. I learned to ask simple, key questions, like what is the resource and what do you want people to know about it. This is an example of the many methods of problem-solving I’ve encountered this summer. It is proving to be helpful for improving the quality of metadata in transforming materials into useful and searchable sources of information. Although, I would like to see the community embrace more of the technical aspects of the collection process…eventually. Even though testing the workflow took more time than expected, I am grateful for this uphill battle because it allowed me to better understand people’s technical skills and their preferred languages so I can create an online experience that works for everyone. Sometimes it is best to start with the simplest questions for problem-solving: what’s working and what is not working?
The biggest challenge that I faced this summer is time. I realized that testing workflows and achieving high levels of audience engagement with the site will take more time than I initially expected. What I learned from working directly with the community is that I am not only battling my time, but other people’s time as well. Although it can be challenging, I took the time to think about my need to approach this project with more patience and flexibility. Although this project is important to my research, it is not a priority for everyone. And, while I’m interested in this work, the nature of crowdsourcing projects do not always attract others to participate with the same level of engagement. I may have been overly optimistic about gathering feedback within an eight-week timeframe, but I am happy with the design of the workflow so far. Looking ahead, I plan to spread the word about Hobo Archive at the Hobo Convention in Britt next month. I will continue conducting oral history interviews and invite people to contribute to the site. The work continues.
Thank you to everyone at the Studio and the summer fellows for a memorable fellowship experience!