Today I came across the term 'terror-scrolling', a good phrase to describe the act of glancing from one COVID-19 update to another. While you can check out galleries, libraries, archives and museums content online or explore the ebooks, magazines and other digital items available from your local library, you might also want to help online projects from scientific and cultural heritage organisations. You can call it 'online volunteering' or 'crowdsourcing', but the key point is that these projects offer a break from the everyday while contributing to a bigger goal.
Not commuting at the moment? Need to channel some energy into something positive? You can help transcribe historical text that computers can't read, or sort scientific images. And don't worry – these sites will let you know what skills are required, you can often try a task before registering, and they have built-in methods for dealing with any mistakes you might make at the start.
Here's a list of sites that have a variety of different kinds of tasks / content to work on:
- FoldIt has puzzles that might help researchers find antiviral drugs effective on coronavirus
- Zooniverse's featured task is Bash the Bug, helping fight resistance to antiobiotics, but they have a range of projects and task types from different scientific and cultural / historical disciplines.
- FromThePage is focused on text transcription and great for history fans
- The Smithsonian Transcription Centre features projects from across the institution
- SciStarter can help you find digital volunteering projects, especially 'citizen science' projects but they have other types (and if you run a project, you should register with them to help people find you)
- Finally, a plug for two projects I run at the British Library: help classify newspaper articles from Victorian newspapers for Living with Machines (as a bonus, there's something quite comforting about seeing how far we've come) or transcribe text from historical playbills for In the Spotlight.
Some of these sites offer projects in languages other than English, and I've collected additional multi-lingual / international sites at Crowdsourcing the world’s heritage – I'm working on an update that'll make it easy to find current, live projects but (ironically, for someone who loves taking part in projects) I can't spend much time at my desk right now so it's not ready just yet.