First You Crawl, Then Walk, Then Run

I’d like to use a little analogy to open up a discussion about an opportunity we have in the Ancestry World Archives Project community.

Have you ever watched a child learn how to walk? I just spent the weekend with my brother and sister-in-law and my four, adorable nephews. The youngest is just ten months old. Do you just love this face?


This little one is pulling himself up and walking around the edges of the furniture on his chubby, little legs. It’s really too cute. A couple of times this weekend I would set him down on his feet and hold his hands and walk him around. Every time I let go he immediately plunked himself down and looked at me as if I was crazy. I’d pick him up again and cheer him on as he tried to take a few steps. I’d let go and he’d plunk himself down again. It’s a process repeated over and over with children the world round. And, I imagine that this one will be not just walking but running around to keep up with his older brothers in no time.

What I can’t imagine is scolding him for falling down while he’s learning to walk. I can’t imagine criticizing his efforts or telling him he’s doing it all wrong. I certainly can’t imagine telling him to sit still while his older brothers run around and play and just watch them show him how it’s done until he can run and keep up.

We all experienced this process when learning how to walk. But, we experience it over and over again in our lives anytime we learn a new skill or pick up a new hobby. First we crawl, then we walk, then we run.

The unique challenge we have in the Ancestry World Archives Project community is this – we have over 700 new keyers joining us each and every week. Some of them, because of previous experience, truly hit the ground running. But, the majority of them are still very much in the crawling stage. So, my questions are these:

How can we, as a community, be better at encouraging these new keyers? How can we hold their hands and help them take those first steps? How can we cheer them on? And how can we refrain from telling them to just sit there and watch the rest of us run around when they really want to get in there and play, too?

I’d love to hear from some of our more experienced community members about what you think we can do. But, I’d really love to hear from some of our newer keyers about what you need from the rest of us.

Until next time – Happy Keying!

Information and Links

Join the fray by commenting, tracking what others have to say, or linking to it from your blog.

Other Posts

Write a Comment

Take a moment to comment and tell us what you think. Some basic HTML is allowed for formatting.

Reader Comments

Could some sort of program be set up to give a new keyer the email addy for a seasoned keyer who volunteers to be a buddy? They could get answers faster than trying to navigate through to you to get an answer. On one of my first image sets, I found what I considered a big problem and had a lot of trouble finding an answer. The biggest problem was finding some one to ask

I would like to see some feedback on what I am doing wrong. Just giving me a score which reflects my accuracy without letting me know what I was doing wrong, doesn’t make me feel comfortable continuing to key.

A buddy relationship is a wonderful idea. When I started I would have loved a trusted experienced keyer to be able to see my keying and gently steer me in the right direction. I made so many mistakes and I made them again and again. As an arbitrator I see the same thing happening to new keyers.

Perhaps when a new keyer opens the keying tool for the first time, a pop-up will come up that goes over the basic keying standards and advise that each project will also have specific standards. And perhaps it should also advise how to post a question on a specific project, including how to add a screen shot.

I think personal feedback would be the most helpful thing for new keyers. It’s been discussed many times, but we still have people asking “What am I doing wrong?” and “Why is my accuracy going down?”

Without being able to see their work, we can’t tell them, and arbitrators aren’t allowed to do so. It’s very frustrating not to know why your accuracy is declining. Sometimes so frustrating that people quit trying.

As a “newbee” I have had some trouble finding an answer to an issue that is not addressed in the project instructions. A mentor or buddy that I could e-mail for a direct answer would be great.

As a new keyer, who is very sorry about the mistakes that I made, maybe a short test for each project before it can be keyed. I also agree with the others, feedback on what you are doing wrong would be great.

I would like to see a message board for each individual project, so that new keyers don’t have to hunt in several places to find the answers to their questions.

@Becky Vaught I would totally love that. I’m new myself but I think I’m starting to catch on pretty quick but having a buddy would be awesome and would make me feel much more comfortable.

I think there are two excellent ideas here. One is the mentor. The other is a trial period when one’s results are monitored. How easy to be corrected at the very beginning when you know you’re not sure what you’re doing is right. This is when the feedback is needed, not after you’ve keyed in several hundred sets!

Biggest help would be feedback. I keyed over 7000 records and then found out I misinterpreted the various places to go for “how to”. The project I was working on (Cuyahoga marriages) doesn’t have a funtioning accuracy scale, so still have no idea how I am/was doing.

A project page for each project with all information in one place would be nice. A page with general keying instructions, specific project instructions/wiki and a project message board. Perhaps there could be some person or people who are given “project lead” duties for certain projects to make sure questions are answered correctly.

Right now, the message board answers are strictly speculation and you get a different opionion from several people and really don’t know what is correct. Since the wiki can be edited by anyone, is that really correct or just someone’s opinion of what is correct?

In addition to the good ideas already posted, one thing that might help with new people (or new projects, since each project has its own foibles) is having access to a “practice area” of the keying tool, where you can download & key in pages that have already been completed and arbitrated/reviewed and then have the keying tool immediately tell you when the information you keyed differed from what was accepted, and point out where to look for help on that particular field.

The particular pages available for that could be hand-picked by an expert who’s familiar with the data (ends up with better, more representative examples), or they could be random from everything that’s been fully arbitrated/reviewed so far (_much_ easier to automate)

I know that sort of “sandbox” would help me with projects that are very dependent on being able to read 100-year-old handwriting–just getting a handle on the variations in letterforms can be tricky. (The 1919 Mecklenburg Census is one case where the handwriting used on many pages of the project bears only a passing resemblance at best to the textbook examples in the wiki and on various “Learn to read Kurrentschrift/Sutterlin” websites out there, and coming across an original was written in light pencil and then microfilmed in a poor light doesn’t help any. But even something “very easy” like the Cuyahoga Marriages project has so many different license/bann forms and some of them are partially or entirely handwritten that there are all sorts of odd cases that crop up that aren’t necessarily obvious from the project instructions or the wiki.)

I had some experience working with handwriting in graduate school, so this has been fairly easy for me. However, I would like to know when I make the same errors over and over. I have no idea what I am doing wrong unless someone gives me feedback. It is part of the learning process, and I won’t feel defeated if criticized.
Pam Colbert

Being a new keyer myself (only two months old), the ideal thing to help everyone new and experienced is to be able to review our arbitrated files to see our mistakes and how they were corrected. Then if a detail was changed and we did not understand why, we could ask.
The other item would be to see how many records make up my accuracy score and how many records are still pending arbitration. I was lucky enough to hit exceptional early during my keying and then all of a sudden my accuracy took a huge hit down to excellent but I have no idea why or on which project. This I found very disappointing and very discouraging as I was working hard to become exceptional so I could begin arbitrating. This goal became very important to me after learning about how many records are waiting to be arbitrated.

@Starr The accuracy bar is a bit misleading. It doesn’t scale properly. it has only 4 positions.

For example, you could be at 92% and be exceptional, and then drop down to 91% and be excellent.

Exceptional: 92+
Excellent: 82-91
Good Job: 70-81
Needs improvement: 69-

Anyway, even very experienced keyers drop down to excellent now and again depending on which projects they are keying. Sometimes you get a run of washed out images, or bad handwriting.


I can speak about the wiki. What I’ve discovered is that while anybody can edit the wiki. Most are fairly inhibited about doing so.

When I do about editing a project page, I make sure it is in accordance with the keying guidelines, and doesn’t stray from the keying helps within the tool. When i change the language, it is to clarify, or perhaps add a few examples or hints. Not fundamentally altered. Mostly I change the formatting, but not the text, to make the page easier to read.

I do maintain a continuous relationship with wap.

The most frequent edits by keyers are to add supplemental resources. Such as the “Learn to read Sutterlin” page.

@patty (continued)

The initial help page is set up by AWAP. It matches the keying helps withing the tool. Plus it has a couple images.

From there it may be edited… but usually the difference in actual text isn’t large.

I think, if you have the resources, that someone experienced should check the first few records of a new keyer and give them feedback.
It is easy to get into bad habits from an early stage and although most keying errors are through not reading the instructions properly, a lot of new keyers either do not read them properly or mis-interpret them.

The best advice I can give new keyers is… don’t panic. There is no shame in having difficulty reading handwriting. Things will get better with experience. As an arbiter I know it is often a subjective decision when ruling on a choice between spellings.
Of far greater concern is image sets with a large number of errors because the keyer has singularly failed to read the project instructions before transcribing.
Remember, our job is to transcribe what we see not to interpret or correct. That is the role of any researcher who seeks to make use of the information we have generated.
In short, do your best and don’t worry about your accuracy rating provided you are familiar with the project instructions and stick rigidly to them.

I like Rose’s comment regarding keying errors. If I knew what it was I was doing wrong I could make the needed corrections before they became errors!

It would also help if the drop down lists for a project matched the keying standards.

Using the Cuyahoga County Marriages as an example, the instructions tell you to key the birth place as seen, and many of them are “Cleveland Ohio” or Cleveland O” but when you type that in, the field turns red. As a new keyer, you think RED = WRONG. Not true in this case.

I know there are a lot of city/state combinations, and WAP can’t put them all in the drop down list – or maybe I just don’t understand the technical part of it – but why can’t “Cleveland Ohio” be in the drop down list? I think it would give people a bit more confidence if they saw that accepted value to then go ahead and F7 accept “Parma O” or “Louisville Ky”

I think the buddy system would be a good idea for a while and I would like to see everything to do with each project in one place only. I think the examples now added have helped a lot.

For all you newbies out there even experienced keyers and reviewers get it wrong when they first start keying a new project, so no need to feel bad. Its a steep learning curve but that is part of the challenge and for me the fun. I would’nt worry too much about your accuracy levels as these can be badly affected by keying for example an advanced project where the handwriting is often illegible even to experienced people.

A buddy/mentor relationship with personal feedback would be very helpful!

Type your comment here.

lol ooops, forgot to copy and past before.

As a new keyer having a buddy available to bounce questions off would be nice, but the biggest help would be feedback that tells me what I am doing wrong and shows me how the information should be keyed correctly. I have watched the video’s, used the help windows and read the directions repeatedly but it isn’t helping me improve because I do not know what I am entering incorrectly. It would also help if the instruction page showed a line of text laid out with the most common presentation of the information for that project and then had an example of what the keyed information should look like. I also love John H’s idea. The immediate feedback would really help and cut down on the frustration of seeing that you need improvement but have no idea how to go about improving.

*How about a message board dedicated to each project? And that you can find it when you search for it? (I’ve noticed that the some wikis now direct you to the message board) *How about determining the guidelines for the project at the beginning, instead of halfway thru (announcing – you can’t use commas, or you can use commas, or you can’t use apostrophes, or yes, you can use apostrophes). It drives one crazy! Especially when you can’t find anything written down about these ‘decrees’. *One message board had a question about whether initials with periods. The answer: Just the initials, no periods. But if there is a space between the initials, put a space, if no space, no space between the initials. Who makes up these crazy rules and does it make a difference when people are searching for their ancestors?

maybe a tutorial with a test can pop-up when a keyer signs into a project for the first time. a seasoned keyer would then be able to assist with the monitoring of the accuracy rates and address the issues that may present, thereby offering the personal assistance we have all needed and wanted when we first began.

I agree with Susan. I am new to this and would really appreciate personal feedback about the records I have keyed. I stumble around this site and sometimes find what I am looking for but individual feedback would help tremendously.

Some ideas from a fairly new person to shorten the learning curve:
Put the help resources links above the images links on the select image set page and make them in larger type so new people will see them first and more will use them. Put the getting started as the first one, but get rid of a lot of the graphics. It’s pretty, but I still haven’t read it because you have to wade through so much intro to get to any factual information. Move the pretty stuff to a separate file named “Our purpose” or something like that and link it off of the download page or intro page.
Learn the keying standards page isn’t really that in a way. It is more a newbie’s problems page. Keying standards should include the basics first like when to use blanks and type exactly what is written, etc. Put this stuff at the bottom of the list and don’t confuse us.
Make it easier to find and search the message centers for specific projects. They should be the buddy system, but they are not. It took me longer to figure out where to post a question than it took to get an answer after I finally did. I later tried to find where I had been and could not find it. Let us be able to just search by project name at least. Try typing in Valuation Registers Perth Scotland in any combination and see what you get.
I’m fairly content because I’m listed as excellent, but if I slip, I’ll get frustrated. You have percentage errors on projects. That means you are tracking corrections and should be able to give us the same information on us. The addition to the programming should not be that difficult and would really be worth it. I could pick projects that I am better at that way and would know where I was making mistakes and go to the help files. It would save you more time in arbitration than you would lose in the extra computation time it would take to give us our statistics.
I’m playing happily now and would guess that I’m walking with holding on to something, but sooner or later I will be running and the more organized the help areas are, the faster and sooner I will run.

Continuing the analogy – if the baby started by walking backwards you would try and correct it before it became a problem. Gentle advice is the way to go.

Could an additional tab be added to the keying tool (similar to ‘news’ and ‘voting’) where all current projects are listed, keyers being able to click on the name to go directly to the project wiki help page. Some new keyers seem to jump in with enthusiasm without properly reading project instructions or field help guidance first. I have seen this in particular with Perth Valuations where nearly all information on the image is being keyed (and to wrong fields) rather than the required details only. The PV wiki is clear to read with additional help notes posted to assist new keyers. Wiki pages need to advertised more boldly on the keying tool I feel as some new keyers spend much time keying incorrectly.

It would help to be able to get/give direct constructive feedback.

I’m think any additional resources would be useful.

However, I would like to have a project buddy and feedback when starting a new project. I’ve been keying off and on for several years and like to choose projects that aren’t moving all that fast. Each new project means an equally difficult learning curve.

I would like to have specific feedback from arbitrators on the images I submit, so I know what and why I’m keying incorrectly.

It would be very helpful if each project had a specific project identifier and key words. It would make searching for relevant information so much easier. For example, Buffalo Soldiers Military Returns could have the identifier BufSol and key words such Rank, Company Letter, Date, Action Place, etc. Searching by BufSolRank would result in all the information posted under that key word retrieved together.

I keep seeing people stating that new keyers don’t read the instructions before starting a project. I disagree. I have read the general keying instructions and I read the project instructions and I give the benefit of the doubt that others do as well.

I see the problem being interpretation. Until we get feedback on what we are doing wrong, all standards, examples, guidelines are open to an individual’s own interpretation and the way they absorb information. It doesn’t help when we are accused of not reading the material. Please don’t assume we haven’t.

What a great article. I had gotten my Ancestry bug around Christmas time because my grandfather is turning 90 soon and he had shown me a bunch of pictures that he had that were a hundred years old. After doing research for 3 months I realized all the work that people had to of done to let me access these records and I wanted to give back what I had received.

So I started to key when I need a break from college work (Im 20 by the way) and love it. Its been 2 weeks now and have over 500 records keyed. Like many said a trial period where I can actually see my mistakes would be very beneficial. I like to do the typewritter records since I am not too proficient with hand writing since I grew up on the computer , hoping that it would let others be able to work on the more advanced.

However my rating states that I need improvement and have no idea why. Ive only been doing easy, readable records and had read all instructions about keying for Ancestry. I believe that actual feedback with what I keyed wrong would definitely help

My experience definitely highlights the importance of immediate feedback for at least the first couple of sets submitted. Even just a list of 3 mistakes I made several times to help me improve on the next set.

I started keying last year and was fairly confident about being able to interpret instructions. I started on the North Queensland pioneer project which was typewritten and easy to read. I read the information pages and the project instructions AND the separate field helps for every field and the result? …
I ended up with a very poor result. Why?
Because the field help explained when keying that “Surnames in capitals” which unfortunately I took to be an instruction rather than a explanation of the text. I keyed thousands of records before I worked out what was happening. I’d read the advice several times to try and determine what information I was getting wrong! It must have frustrated the arbitrators no end!

It frustrated me – I nearly quit because I couldn’t work out why my percentage was so low AND it took me months to improve my percentage to an acceptable level!

By the way I love keying and helping to record all this information – keep up the great work everyone.

Totally agree with getting feedback, and not just for new keyers. Each type of image presents new questions and some of us continue making the same mistake over and over, because we don’t know its wrong. Maybe it doesn’t happen enough to affect our score, but as a genealogist who has looked at a reference document only to find that the info referring me to it was wrong, I can understand how important it is for us to do our best!

I would find it very helpful if each project page could include an example of (or extract from) a representative image with the correct keying beside it and annotations highlighting common errors. An ounce of demonstation is worth a pound of explanation.

Changes to keying instructions need to be placed in the individual field help boxes for each project rather than someplace that takes ten minutes to find.
This would greatly help both new and experienced indexers.

Feedback would be great. My accuracy rating went down, and I was doing the same project the same way the entire time, and I have no idea why. If I knew what I was doing incorrectly, I could make sure not to make the same mistake again.

Also, some sort of conduit for asking questions. I have tried to start a couple projects, only to discover that the pages I’m looking at don’t look REMOTELY like the ones on the example. I don’t want to do it wrong and make someone do it again, but I am also willing to learn. I feel like if there was some way to leave a message and say “Look at card #7 in project x” and ask a question, I’d feel much better about trying out something new & different.

I definitely enjoy doing this, knowing that somewhere down the road, my work will help someone have an “A-HA!!” moment, or find out some information on their relative. But I want to make sure that I’m doing as much as I can, as accurately as I can, in the limited time I have to do them.

PS–Thanks for giving us the chance to voice our “wish list”!! : )

Why not have an actual sample of the project and the keyed info shown on how it should look like. I am working on the Cdn Malitia Military records and there are micro filmed papers that aren’t even mentioned in the keying form.

Personal feed back on my errors would gladly be accepted from me. I hate not knowing what I am doing wrong. I have read the keying standards over and over and can not figure out what i am doing wrong.

Part of the work that I do in “real life” is as a trainer. One of the first things that we would do when asked to improve performance is to look to see what issues are occurring AND what is the actual reason for that.

From my own personal experience at the start of the year and from comments I’ve read on here the issues seem to be:
Not reading/understanding the project pages
Having specific questions that aren’t answered on the project pages
Not knowing where to easily get clarity for questions about a project
Having contradictory instructions/interpretations (often on the message boards)
No feedback/ not knowing the mistakes being made and therefore how to stop doing them.

Speaking for myself, and the sense that I get from reading here and the message boards I think there is a real passion for keying information accurately. A lot of the issues would be improved by making the communication even stronger.

I suspect that a quick multiple choice quiz before someone keys a project for the first time would help – not necessarily because people aren’t reading instruction but to help ensure that everyone has the same understanding of the instructions. To make it user friendly, ideally have it set so that you have to select the correct answer before moving on – this means that we will be absolutely certain that we know the answer.

I’m relatively new but is there monitoring and central reporting of the cause of keying errors on each project? This would allow any common errors to be identified early and communicated using a method that all keyers know about and trust as accurate information. Potentially, you could also add a basic multiple-choice question into that quiz to eliminate it being a future issue for new keyers.

I’d also suggest that for some people being able to see more images as examples would make it easier for them to understand the instructions quicker.

I think having some form of feedback is also an exceptional idea. Although it may sound like a lot of work I think that it could quickly impact the initial accuracy ratings. I think it could also potentially result in the drop out rate of new keyers being lower, presumably resulting in more records being entered.

As a new keyer, it’s just great to know that if I have a problem, I can go to the forums and there’ll be lots of people there to help me and offer advice.

I have so much enjoyed reading these comments & queries, ALL so legit & in need of sorting out.Saying what we need is great but unless answers are forthcoming,no more than a venting excersize. I am very grateful to have had timely & good help on dashboards.
Still I fret,when trying to see names which are not see-able & wonder what aid they will be to searchers later.I’m hoping they will line up with another list somewhere.

I have not read all of the comments so please excuse me if this is a duplicate. I have a 2-part suggestion:
1. Have a separate message board for each active project (move to an archive when the project is complete).
2. Choose a “project monitor”, from among the more experienced members, for each active project to speed up message board discussion and to maintain the wiki for the project.

I believe this would make it easier and faster for people to get help, keep the wiki up-to-date with answers to common project questions and issues, and reduce the load on WAP staff from relatively routine questions.

Ideally the “project monitor” would be able to review work and send (tactfully worded) suggestions to individual project participants. It would also be great if keying tool could pop-up project specific hints, like current common errors, maintained by the project monitor when starting to key an image set.

I think a tutorial video for each project would be great. Showing a person actually going through the keying of the project and providing close-up views of each step as they go along. Explaining things like “new section”. I’ve always wished for this.

I keyed over 4000 of the Alabama Reference Names files and became so frustrated with a Needs Improvement rating! I read everything I could find to try to get them right and also posted on the wiki to try to get help to no avail. I was so close to quitting when they took the Ala. files off. Now I am doing the Cuyahoga Marriage records which I think are quite easy and have done almost 1000 records and still have the low rating. Certainly it would be prudent to let a person know what they are doing wrong so they don’t continue doing it. I am getting to the point of quitting again if I don’t get some answers soon. There should be no reason why the arbitraters can’t let us know our mistakes.

Thank you all so much for the great feedback. We are reading and discussing ways to implement some of your suggestions. Keep it coming!

As a new keyer — I must say that I have received no helpful feedback whatsoever! My “score” appears to be related only to how many records I have done, not whether I have done them right. Receiving no real feedback certainly isn’t very reinforcing.

The ideas I’ve read here are good. I especially like Sheila Ross’s idea (#18), because the keyer’s transcription is addressed quickly and personally. It’s pretty difficult to hit a target if you don’t know what it is — something that teachers are reminded of constantly when writing tests for students.

Having read that most people would appreciate some sort of feedback system.. would it be possible to put a new button on the tool called (personnal arbitration) or something.. which would upload the completed set and send it for arbitration as usual.. BUT with the added benefit of allowing the arbiter to give feedback? Sending the feedback reply to the keyers Ancestry mailbox…

I would like to see a dedicated message board for each individual project. It is very frustrating to have to hunt for answers. And I’m sure the people that are answering (I’ve seen Paul’s name a lot) are tired of answering the same question all the time. Seems to me that his as well as other helpers would have a better use of their time than answering the same questions all the time. I love doing this and the difficulty of finding assistance is truly my only complaint. Fix the message boards folks! They are a mess.

About two years ago, a group of volunteer keyers had a phone conference with WAP. The purpose of this conference was to discuss how WAP could better serve their keyer/arbitrator volunteers. One of the main points was the lack of consistency in keying help and/or instructions provided. The volunteers are only a SMALL part of the overall WAP community. We wanted to understand the functionality of the interaction between WAP and its volunteer community. We felt the following suggestions would contribute to the lessening of the frustration level of the keying community. The only listed suggestion that appears to have been implemented is the change to the General Project Keying Guidelines to General Keying Standards.
Here is one of the attachments we sent to WAP to be included in the discussion points.

Suggestions that may or may not be in place in the WAP New Project Process
• Change General Project Keying Guidelines to General Keying Conventions
• Make General Keying Conventions instructional rather than answers to questions
• Standardize Keying Conventions throughout all projects
• Review the General Keying Conventions after each projects lessons learned session
• When customer has a specific data field requirement, note the variation from keying conventions in the field help instructions
• For General keying help instructions find images that reflect an example of the instruction set
• Insure Sales Force, Project Management Personnel and Engineers have a thorough knowledge the General Keying Conventions
• Insure Sales Force presents General Keying Conventions to new customers as a preferred way to key the project
• Conduct a lessons learned session at the completion of each project
• Conduct a periodic review of submitted arbitrated data for any unexpected images or data types and adjust field help instructions accordingly
• Post any change notices on the message board
• Regularly monitor message boards for early warnings of possible misunderstandings of instructions and be proactive in addressing the misunderstanding
• The diagram below is suggesting who should be involved during what process

I think it would really help new indexers and seasoned ones alike to have a more extensive set of examples for the website chosen. Much seems to be taken for granted. Perhaps a pro-forma image page could be used to submit a particular type of entry with a suggested strategy? Kim Best

Maybe each project could have a “sample” data set, showing many of the known unusual situations in the data. It would show the correct keying of the information. It could also give the keyer a chance to key the information and see that their keying matches the given “correct” keying.

By showing the desired keying entries in advance, it becomes less of a “testing” situation, and more of an information sharing situation.

Naturally explanations should be provided to cover all situations that do not follow “key as seen,” such as the omission of certain punctuation marks, and the inclusion of certain other punctuation marks.

A couple of example pages showing records that have been done (both original record and input) so I can browse and see what it’s supposed to look like would be helpful.

I agree that examples would be most helpful to me. To see the original and then next to it what a keyed page should look like for that particular project.

I have helped out with Project Gutenberg Distributed Proofreaders with keying old books and documents to release to public domain. What was really helpful was to be able to see the records that I entered, and any corrections that were made. I could then look at the original document and see exactly where my inconsistency was. This helped me to improve before entering hundreds or thousands of records.

If you haven’t seen their site, it is a great way to provide feedback and mentoring to volunteers.

I would love to be able to see exactly what I keyed incorrectly as soon as it has been arbitrated.

Thanks for letting us give suggestions!

I think all of the suggestions listed are great, but I especially like the suggestion of being given feedback as to the mistakes I have made. You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken.

1st – Thankfully the project pages are now much clearer, the more detail the better.

2nd – I agree that feed back should be offered to keyers especially when they repeat the same mistake over and over. I personally have been guilty of this and wish somebody had pointed out my mistake to me.

3rd – I also think that a keying test is a good idea. Asking someone to key 2 or 3 records off of 5 to 10 different images, set up to give a rating followed by a review of what actually should have been keyed would be a great learning tool. Even if it is set up just to re-enforce the “keying standards” it would be a great tool for both beginers and anyone who just wants to refresh their skills.

Keep up the good work….

Other keying projects I have worked on have mentors – they ‘adopt’ new keyers, giving them advice, tips, encouragement as they develop into experienced keyers.
They are given individual feedback and it is done in a supportive way.
Before starting on ‘live’ projects, new keyers work on a training system – getting used to the software and the idiosyncrasies of the project. That way, they are learning without impacting on the live project and their own statistics.
We NEED all of the above if people are not to become disillusioned. Crista says we have 700 new keyers a week – how many of these are still actively participating after a month, six months, a year? I would think very few.
I have reviewed and arbitrated sets that have been keyed with the same errors continually being made. You can tell they are the same people making the same mistakes/misinterpretations over and over. They will keep doing this until either they become totally destroyed by amazingly low accuracy ratings or someone TELLS them.
Arbitrators try very hard to get the message to the keyers. As a group, we probably spend almost as much time on the message boards, wiki etc as we doing on the keying tool much or the time. The problem is, there is no sure way to get the message to keyers.
We need to be able to tell these people what is going wrong – why, despite their best efforts, they can’t improve their accuracy. If WAP is worried about offending these keyers, or lack of diplomacy in delivering the message, there are two options.
1. Have a fully automated system that gives feedback based on what has been changed in arbitration/review. The keyer would be able to see what has been changed and ask for explanation on the message boards.
2. Have a system of mentors that can be supported and trained to do the delivery and perhaps they can maintain the keying instruction help files so there is less ambiguity in some of the keying requirements.
One final comment – when doing my research in Ancestry, I take the time to correct the occasional keying/transcription error in the live records. I may do one of these every month or so. Invariably, I receive a “thank you” email from Ancestry, welcoming my so tiny, insignificant contribution. Keyers and arbitrators who may dedicate all their spare time to these projects never receive any such acknowledgment. Maybe some personalised system of recognition could be developed. Not something that seems false and automatic, but something that acknowledges things such as an increase in the number of records/accuracy being done, participation in the Wiki and message boards etc.

[…] couple of weeks ago we discussed new keyers and how best to provide them with encouragement. You had some fantastic feedback! Today […]

Thank you all so much for the fantastic feedback. I’ve addressed some of these issues in today’s blog post. You can find it here:

I just signed up about a half an hour ago and have been reading blogs and tips since then. After reading about the problem new keyers have in contacting someone for help, I also think we should have the buddy system. I am a fast learner and a self-teacher, but there are times when I need to talk to someone with more experience to get me over the hump. Is there a reason we can’t do this?

I have 3 children and soon 7 grandchildren Crista. so know all about one step forward very wobbly. I am 65 and have cerebellar atrophy. I spend most of my day taking very unsteady small steps.

I have learned a lot about patience and wishing and hoping.