A different way to categorize indexing projects other than by "difficulty"
A few weeks ago, I got into a great discussion in the indexing group about indexers being reluctant to try projects labeled Intermediate difficulty, and feeling discouraged when there are no Beginner projects in their language. These indexers often don't realize that the "Intermediate" records are usually fairly straightforward for someone who knows what they are doing with indexing.
It got me thinking about the actual usefulness of the three difficulty levels, especially because everybody really has a slightly different idea of what makes a project challenging due to different skills, abilities, and workflows. For example, I usually enjoy projects with a lot of information to index that take a long time per batch, but I'm not particularly fond of trying to decipher messy handwriting.
In that thread, I made some suggestions on how to implement a different, less arbitrary system for classifying projects according to their innate attributes, instead of making a rather subjective judgment about which of three somewhat nondescript difficulty tiers they rank into.
I would like the FS indexing team to consider my suggestion, so I am copying what I wrote here:
I'm wondering if maybe they might consider categorizing projects not by an arbitrary difficulty level (because honestly I've found that everybody has a different idea of what makes something difficult), but by other aspects of the project. That might better help indexers quickly find projects they enjoy. For example:
- Whether the records are typed, handwritten, or contain a mixture of the two. I know many people - especially a lot of the younger set - have difficulty reading cursive, and strongly prefer typed projects. I know we get a fair amount of people on Indexing Chat asking for help finding typed projects. And people who enjoy typed projects sometimes miss out on projects they might enjoy because the projects were marked Intermediate, and in their minds "Intermediate" might equal "hard to read". For example, those recent US military rosters were largely typed and very easy to read, but were labeled Intermediate because of the relatively large number of names in each batch.
- An idea of the number of records in each batch or images per batch. I see a lot of projects marked Intermediate that are either typed or do not have difficult handwriting, but have more records per batch than you could count on one hand, which is apparently why they were marked Intermediate. I think there are plenty of people - myself included - who do not enjoy trying to decipher really difficult old handwriting, but enjoy batches that take some time to complete. I rarely look at Beginner projects anymore (unless I'm just not interested in any of the current Intermediate projects) because Beginner batches tend to only have a handful of entries/images, and for some reason for me it just feels more satisfying to index large amounts of data at once.
- Maybe even the amount of data that needs to needs to be indexed per entry. I know I tend to enjoy projects that have a relatively good deal of information to index per individual record. I find them more interesting and also feel more of a connection to the people whose records I'm indexing. Regardless of how few or how many records there are per batch, I've noticed that projects with more information tend to be more fulfilling and memorable to me. For example, I still fondly remember those New Zealand newspaper death notices from a few years back--there were probably over a hundred records per batch, and you had to index all of the family members mentioned in each record. It took me hours to complete a batch. But it was fascinating and special to me to see these heartfelt memorials to the lives of people in that beautiful country. On the other hand, I think there are probably people out there who like projects more along the lines of the US city directories--relatively barebones lists of names.
I think what I'm trying to get at is, maybe FS could reevaluate how it categorizes projects in general. Rather than trying to make a human-biased judgment call about assigning a project to one of three rather nondescript "difficulty" categories, I think it might be easier on both FS and the indexers if projects were instead labeled according to certain quantifiable traits.
For example, the Wisconsin Birth Records 1917-1921. Right now it's just labeled Intermediate. That doesn't tell me much of what I should expect from the records. Just that they're not considered "easy" and they're not considered "super hard". In a quantified system, there might be indicators showing that this project a) contains handwritten records (I have yet to see a typed record in this project), b) contains two records per batch, and c) asks for a lot of information per record. And the project title tells me that these records are from the United States in the early 20th century, which gives me the impression that despite these records being handwritten, the script, culture, and geography should be familiar enough to me that I should not experience much difficulty reading the records.
All of that information immediately tells me what kind of indexing task I should expect, without making it sound a little daunting with that "Intermediate" label. The quantified data just tells me what it is, and leaves me to make my own judgment about how easy and enjoyable the project should be for me, personally.
Thank you for your hard work, indexing team! I look forward to seeing the system continue to improve!