George just announced a wonderful new initiative. It’s a collaboration between Flickr and the Library of Congress called simply The Commons.
The library has a lot of wonderful historic images. Flickr has a lot of wonderful people who enjoy tagging pictures. Put the two together and let’s see what happens.
I think this is a great idea. They get access to the collective intelligence of our parallel-processing distributed mechanical Turk. We get access to wonderful collections of old pictures. And when I say access, I don’t just mean that we get to look at them. These pictures have an interesting new license:
no known copyright restrictions. This covers the situation for pre-Mickey photos that once had copyright that wasn’t renewed.
The naysayers might not approve of putting metadata in the hands of the masses but I think it will work out very well indeed. Sure, there might be some superfluous tags but they will be vastly outweighed by the valuable additions. The proportion will be at least 80/20 which, let’s face it, is a lot better than 0/0. That’s something I’ve learned personally from opening up my own photos to be tagged by anyone: any inconvenience with deleting “bad” tags is massively outweighed by the benefits of all the valuable tags that my pictures have accrued. If you haven’t yet opened up your photos to tagging by any Flickr user, I strongly suggest you do so.
Now set aside some time to browse the cornucopia of pictures from the Library of Congress. And if at any stage you feel compelled to annotate a picture with some appropriate tags, go for it.
I really hope that other institutions will see the value in this project. This could be just the start of a whole new chapter in collaborative culture.