How Automated Workflows Help Community or Collaborative Projects

Person holding a model of the earth in the palm of his hand.

Online crowdsourcing can access intelligence and expertise from all over the world.

One of the most wonderful things about the internet is the fact that it allows communities to tap into the minds and talents of many people at once – even if those people are geographically scattered.

Idea competitions and innovation contests are examples of crowdsourced projects, as is Wikipedia, the multi-lingual, web-based, free encyclopedia. Bird surveys are crowdsourced, as are more mundane projects like correcting digitized texts created by optical character recognition.

While crowdsourcing has always taken place, the web has been tremendously beneficial for the undertaking, allowing people to participate regardless of physical location, and creating digital knowledge bases that aren’t subject to the risks faced by physical archives.

Crowdsourced Projects Can Be Unwieldy; Automated Workflows Help

Starting in 1900, American ornithologist Frank Chapman proposed the Christmas Day bird count, to gather data on how many different bird species were found in the U.S. and Canada, and this bird count has taken place every year since.

As you may imagine, collecting bird count data became significantly easier and more organized with the ubiquity of internet access and smartphone technology. Now, participants can use their smartphones to enter their bird count data, and likewise, they can easily access results of previous bird counts online.

It makes sense today for crowdsourced projects to use web-based automated workflows, preferably workflows that are mobile-friendly.

Online Forms Are the Only Way to Go

A couple of years ago, a collaborative project headed by the Queens Borough Public Library and the Queens College Department of Special Collections and Archives set out to collect photographs, personal histories, and other records of daily life in Queens, New York. One part of the project had teenagers from a local youth council collect community documentation and be trained in cataloging. The teens digitized photos and recorded oral histories, and then cataloged them online.

The project involved online forms, organized into an automated workflow that allowed participants to collect and upload data remotely. Had the project been done with paper forms and archival of physical documents and photographs, not only would it have taken longer and collected less data, the archival itself would have been subject to risks like items being lost or damaged.

Elderly gentleman surrounded by young men and women.

Smartphones and the web make collecting oral histories simple and straightforward.

Workflows Can Coordinate the Activities of Many People

Another community project by the organization Northeast Historic Film was designed to catalog audiovisual materials from the 1939 New York World’s Fair. This was an ambitious undertaking, considering how long ago the event happened, and the fact that audiovisual materials were all in analog form. Moreover, the people in possession of such artifacts would be scattered throughout the world. Again, the undertaking required the organization and consistency imposed by online forms and workflows, without which, the project would likely have been completely impractical.

With Fewer Worries About Organization, Projects Can Flourish

Online forms and automated workflows help lift much of the burden involved with non-digital crowdsourced projects, and this can be the case whether you’re archiving bird populations or conducting an employee-based idea competition. In other words, using online forms and workflows for crowdsourced projects is easily scalable to any size project.

With minimal training, participants can focus their efforts on the creation of ideas or collection of information, without dreading the time that would have been spent in pre-internet days dealing with paper forms and manual workflows. Whether your goal is to gather participants for a community work day or archive artifacts scattered all over the world, crowdsourcing through the use of online forms and automated workflows is the most efficient and productive approach.

With software like PerfectForms, you have the power to create customized online forms and workflows, with the flexibility to tailor them to your exact needs. PerfectForms has a long history of helping businesses and other organizations shift from manual, paper-based processes to sleek digital ones. And the power of PerfectForms can be put to uses well outside the world of traditional office processes. We invite you to watch the demo video and see for yourself how powerful, flexible, and easy-to-use PerfectForms is. You’re sure to envision many innovative uses for online forms and automated workflows in your organization.

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