Crowdsourcing the Clean-Up with Freeze Tag!

As most of our readers know, we encourage tagging on our online collection and we created Tag! You’re It to make that contribution more fun and more relevant.  We’ve been surprised at the tagging that has taken place, how much of it is really excellent work and how committed some people have been to making our collection even more searchable.  In the ten months since our collection has gone online, we’ve seen 69,579 tags—3,815 system tags automatically extracted from our internal collection system, 58,107 contributed by members of our Posse and 7,657 created by anonymous users. By far, the best results have come from our Posse of logged in users—both in terms of quantity and quality (fewer than 1% of Posse-generated tags have been removed).  The auto-generated system tags are mostly OK, but they could use some human vetting. The tags generated by anonymous taggers can sometimes be a different story.

We designed our system to accept tags from users who might not want an account and that’s been both valuable and a bit of trouble.  On one hand, the 7,657 tags by anonymous contribution are nothing to sneeze at, but we’ve had to keep a close eye on those submissions and have deleted roughly 6% of them due to complete inaccuracy.  We could eliminate the capability to add tags anonymously, but 94% of those contributions are of great value and, more importantly we want our online collection to be welcoming to anyone with or without an account.  That said, there are plenty of people testing us just for fun and when the tags “how long will it take you to delete this tag” and “are you going to block me” showed up on the scene, there was only so long it was going to take an overworked Technology department to do something about it.  We knew the Brooklyn Museum Posse would have a lot to do with the solution.


The hunt for the Governor gang of bushrangers. A posse of mounted police, aboriginal trackers and district volunteers. Jimmy & Joe Governor were sighted at Stewarts Brook on 12 September 1900 – Stewarts Brook, NSW / by A C Jackson (via State Library of New South Wales on the Flickr Commons).

Today we are introducing a new game called Freeze Tag! which puts control of the tags back into the hands of our most valued community members.  If you are a member of our Posse, you can delete tags from object pages−this is new, previously we were not allowing tag deletion except by system admins. For any tag that is deleted, it takes another two pairs of Posse eyes to “agree” within Freeze Tag! before that tag’s fate is sealed.  On the other hand, if three Posse members within the game think the tag should be saved, it will be restored.  After a short stint on the live site, all tags created anonymously will automatically be “challenged” and moved into the game for vetting by Posse.  Freeze Tag! is designed with all that great Wisdom of Crowds mentality−influence is minimized by each Posse member coming to their own decision independently, then we aggregate into a collective decision to determine if a tag should stay or go.  After all, why should one person decide the worth of a tag, when a collective decision may be more accurate?  It will be interesting to see the results of this and we’ll report back as we see what happens.

To start Freeze Tag! off with a bang, we’ve populated it with all the anonymous tags to date and, in addition, thrown in all those auto-generated tags that need a bit of human review.  This may sound complicated, but I think when you play Freeze Tag!, you’ll agree that all the complicated goings on behind-the-scenes is bundled up in a pretty simple package that, we hope, is fun to play.  No spoilers or anything, but be on the lookout for cameos from our own on-site security posse.

Rock on, Posse—thank you for all your incredible work to date and we hope you continue to have fun with us as we move forward with our collection online!