116,638 names tagged in first week!

We have gathered together the statistics for the first week of Operation War Diary – Tues 14th Jan – Mon 20 Jan. Citizen Historians are already making an extraordinary contribution to what we know about the First World War. Our team are analysing the data, preparing it for its 3 main purposes:

  1. to provide evidence about the experience of named individuals in IWM’s Lives of the First World War project – you are contributing to their permanent digital memorial
  2. to present academics with large amounts of accurate data to help them gain a better understanding of how the war was fought
  3. to enrich The National Archives’ catalogue descriptions for the unit war diaries – this will enable you and others to find what they want in those 1.5 million pages, in future

The data itself is rich and complex, so it’s going to take a while for us to complete this analysis and share the data with you. We’ll explain that process in detail in another post very soon. In the meantime we’d like to share some of the numbers that summarise the contribution many of you are making right here:

Week 1: Tues 14 Jan – Mon 20 Jan:

  • 104,167 pages classified
  • 116,638 people were tagged – including large numbers of Other Ranks (Privates, Drivers, Gunners, etc)
  • 212,832 dates tagged
  • 144,021 activities tagged
  • 24, 644 weather conditions tagged
  • 148,402  people visited the site
  • 746,972 pages were viewed
  • Peak concurrent users, approx 1,000 on Tue 14.
  • 85 diaries completed in week 1
  • Approx 1 person year of effort spent on Operation War Diary site.

Wow – thank you to all the citizen historians who made this possible!

A remarkable start

This is far beyond what we expected for our first outing. Operation War Diary  uses the Zooniverse platform to present large volumes of data (approx 1.5 million pages) for classification and tagging. This approach has been used for some time in Citizen Science — find out more at Zooniverse.org. However, this is the first pure history project to use this approach. As this is a first, there are many unknowns. The main one was “would people volunteer as citizen historians?” We now know that many of you are willing to help us and be part of history – that is essential, and knowing that we can make Operation War Diary even more effective. We can now proceed to refine the available tags and continue to enhance the classification and tagging interface.

More explaining to do

Several people have asked us to explain more about why we are using this approach for citizen history – I hope the quantity of data gathered already begins to answer that. We’ll be addressing this in more detail very soon. And some of you may be wondering why we haven’t addressed every query already – good question! We are a highly dedicated, but small team spread across 3 organisations. We have decided to focus on enhancements to the system in the first couple of weeks. We have already addressed a range of issues that some volunteers experienced in the first week. We also have lots of other exciting projects that overlap with Operation War Diary and these have also required some of our attention. This is is a long term project – its going to take a long time to tag all 1.5 million pages of Western Front War Diaries! So there is plenty of time for us to learn, improve and reach more citizen historians.

A two-way street

Finally, Citizen History is a two way street – the volunteers must get at least as much out as the effort they put in. My own experience of doing Operation War Diary with my daughter tells me that this work gives us a fine-grained, close-up view of the Western Front. It makes us think about the war in ways we never did before and leads us on to learn more from other sources. Chris Lintott, Principal Investigator at Zooniverse has a wonderful phrase for this, he describes it as an “engine of motivation,” in my home this is certainly the case.

Who else out there is learning while they help us? Please tell us about it in the comments below.

Luke Smith, Digital Lead, First World War Centenary Programme, Imperial War Museums

6 responses to “116,638 names tagged in first week!”

  1. Clare Kennedy says :

    Operation War Diary gives a unique insight into life on the Western Front. I have long been interested in WW1 and I’ve read a lot about it: history books,, novels, autobiographies and the classic WW1 memoirs, so I feel I have a fair amount of background knowledge which comes in useful when tagging the diaries.
    As I tag the pages in each diary, I feel I get to know the unit. Although the diaries are essentially military documents, I’m intrigued by the way the personality of the author of the diary comes through. I particularly enjoy the comments and asides that some authors add, I find tagging quite addictive as I always want to know what happens next!
    I feel privileged to be able to read these historical documents and to take part in this amazing project, To use an old cliché, it’s really bringing history to life for me.
    …and to think that Operation War Diary wouldn’t be possible without the internet!

  2. Hilary Corfan says :

    I agree with all the sentiments expressed above. it is a privilege to be able to read these diaries in the comfort of our own home and humbling to read the real life accounts of hardships and the tragic casualty lists. It is also very addictive which probably explains the high numbers of pages already completed. I hope that the volunteers will continue the good work. I shall certainly be pleased to do more to help.

  3. Jakealoo says :

    Reblogged this on Doing Our Bit and commented:
    Operation War Diary is a wonderful example of how an institution can collaborate with the public in a meaningful way and accomplish something quite extraordinary in the process. I haven’t had the opportunity to tag as many diary pages as I wanted but I enjoyed contributing a few hours to the project. I’m eagerly looking forward to the launch of Lives of the First World War!

  4. David Connor says :

    The detail revealed in these diaries has a significance for me, which is different to that gained by reading solely of strategy and the bigger picture.

    RAMC hospital near Bethune December 1914.
    The diary has been written weekly, a record of facts and events. The diarist announces he is leaving for England for 5 days leave, and identifies the commander in his absence.

    A week later entries recommence, with a laconic ‘Back again, in charge of the hospital’,

    The privilege of being next to the author’s pencil, as he perhaps writes alone in the small hours.

  5. Geoffrey Rose says :

    I started reading the war diaries as soon as I received the E-mail from
    It has been a total eye opener for me reading the various documents . I had no idea just how complex running the war machine was. I now feel a deep sense of obligation to the men who fought in the Great War to complete the diaries as far as is possible from my small efforts.
    When reading the diaries names appear quite frequently and you start to feel that you know them a little If they are shot or worse killed in action it can be very upsetting. When I was coming to the end of the first diary, I came across the sentence “an Armistice has been declared” I cannot express the relief I felt for the Officers and men in the battalion I was editing.
    I cannot express too strongly how important this project is to the nation and I congratulate everyone involved

  6. Hilary Ford says :

    I have chosen the diaries of the 5th cyclist division, in which my great grandfather served. From a small amount of internet research, I had thought he had mostly stayed in the UK, as articles dismissed cycles as being pretty useless in the trenches. Clearly this is not the case, as in just a few hours of tagging I have discovered that they were based in France; carried out valuable reconnaissance, sometimes under fire; were gassed, received casualties through shelling and a sniper attack; drove enemy forces out of villages, dig and repaired trenches, and a lot more. Already it has given me a much greater understanding of what my tg grandfather may have done – thank you.

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