All posts by ttfnrob

Who Are The Zooniverse Community? We Asked Them…

We are often asked who our community are by project scientists, sociologists, and by the community itself. A recent Oxford study tried to find out, and working with them we conducted a survey of volunteers. The results were interesting and when combined with various statistics that we have at Zooniverse (web logs, analytics, etc) we can start to see a pretty good picture of who volunteers at the Zooniverse.

Much of what follows comes from a survey was conducted last Summer as part of Masters student Victoria Homsy’s thesis, though the results are broadly consistent with other surveys we have performed.  We asked a small subset of the Zooniverse community to answer an online questionnaire. We contacted about 3000 people regarding the survey and around 300 responded. They were not a random sample of users, rather they were people who had logged-in to the Zooniverse at least once in the three months before we emailed them.

The remaining aspects of this post involve data gathered by our own system (classification counts, log-in rates, etc) and data from our use of Google Analytics.

So with that preamble done: let’s see who you are…

This visualisation is of Talk data from last Summer. It doesn’t cover every project (e.g. Planet Hunters is missing) but it gives you a good flavour for how our community is structured. Each node (circle) is one volunteer, sized proportionally according to how many posts they have made overall. You can see one power-mod who has commented more than 16,000 times on Talk near the centre. Volunteers are connected to others by talking in the same threads (a proxy for having conversations). They have been automatically coloured by network analysis, to reflect sub-networks within the Zooniverse as a whole. The result is that we see the different projects’ Talk sites.

talk-central

There are users that rise largely out of those sub-communities and talk across many sites, but mostly people stick to one group. You can also see how relatively few power users help glue the whole together, and how there are individuals talking to large numbers of others, who in turn may not participate much otherwise – these are likely examples of experienced users answering questions from others.

gender One thing we can’t tell from our own metrics is a person’s gender, but we did ask in the survey. The Zooniverse community seems to be in a 60/40 split, which in some ways is not as bad as I would have thought. However, we can do better, and this provides a metric to measure ourselves against in the future.

ages

It is also interesting to note that there is very little skew in the ages of our volunteers. There is a slight tilt away from older people, but overall the community appears to be made up of people of all ages. This reflects the experience of chatting to people on Talk.

geo-pie

We know that the Zooniverse is English-language dominated, and specifically UK/US dominated. This is always where we have found the best press coverage, and where we have the most links ourselves. The breakdown between US/UK/the rest is basically a three-way split. This split is seen not just in this survey but also generally in our analytics overall.

geo-pie-dev

Only 2% of the users responding to our survey only came from the developing world. As you can see in a recent blog post, we do get visitors from all over the world. It may be that the survey has the effect of filtering out these people (it was conducted via an online form), or maybe that there is language barrier.

employmentemployment_cloudWe also asked people about their employment status. We find a about half of our community is employed (either full- or part-time). Looking at the age distribution, we might expect up a fifth or sixth of people to be retired (15% is fairly close). This leaves us with about 10% unemployed, nearly twice the UK or US unemployment rate, and about 4% unable to work due to disability (about the UK averaged, by comparison). This is interesting, especially in relation to the next question, on motivation for participating.

We also asked them to tell us what they do and the result is the above word cloud (thanks, Wordle!) which shows a wonderful array of occupations including professor, admin, guard, and dogsbody. You should note a high instance of technical jobs on this list, possibly indicating that people need to have, or be near, a computer to work on Zooniverse projects in their daily life.

motivation

When asked why they take part in Zooniverse projects we find that the most-common response (91%) is a desire to contribute to progress. How very noble. Closely following that (84%) are the many people who are interested in the subject matter. It falls of rapidly then to ‘entertainment’, ‘distraction’ and ‘other’. We are forever telling people that the community is motivated mainly by science and contribution, and for whatever reason they usually don’t believe us. It’s nice to see this result reproducing an important part of the Raddick et. al. 2009 study, which first demonstrated it.

when-to-classfy-routine

It is roughly what I would have expected to see that people tend to classify mostly in their spare time, and that most don’t have dedicated ‘Zooniverse’ time every day. It’s more interesting to see why, if they tend to stop and start, i.e. if they answered in the purple category above. Here is a word cloud showing the reason people stop participating in Zooniverse. TL;DR they have the rest of their life to get on with.

when-to-classfy-routine-cloud

We’ll obviously have to fix this by making Zooniverse their whole life!

This is my final blog post as a part of the Zooniverse team. It has been by pleasure to work at the Zooniverse for the last five years. Much of that time has been spent trying to motivate and engage the amazing community of volunteers who come to click, chat, and work on all our projects. You’re an incredible bunch, motivated by science and a desire to be part of something important and worthwhile online. I think you’re awesome. In the last five years I have seen the Zooniverse grow into a community of more than one million online volunteers, willing to tackle big questions, and trying and understand the world around us.

Thank you for your enthusiasm and your time. I’ll see you online…

We Need Us: Online Art, Powered by the Zooniverse

Screenshot 2014-10-09 12.08.31

The Zooniverse is the subject of a new artwork co-commissioned by the Open Data Institute (ODI) and The Space (a website for artists and audiences around the world to create and explore digital art). We Need Us is a ‘living’ dynamic artwork, powered by your activity on the Zooniverse, driven by the thriving mass of participation across various Zooniverse sites. You can learn more about it at www.thespace.org/weneedus

We Need Us has been created by artist Julie Freeman. She takes anonymised information from your clicks, counting the number of volunteers active on various Zooniverse projects, and classifications that you all create, every minute. She stores this in a new database as sets of values, while also recording the frequency of activity over an hour, a day, and a month. These sets of values create rhythms that are translated into moving shapes, and play different sounds.

The result is a set of living artworks – one for each of 10 Zooniverse projects – and more are on the way! The live data ensures constant change to the visual and sonic composition. The sounds are processed and manipulated just like the data.

Screenshot 2014-10-09 12.08.15

While many researchers have tried to analyse and understand the Zooniverse, We Need Us will be the first time someone has tackled the idea from the perspective of art. The Zooniverse community is an engine of discovery and a force unlike any other. We Need Us highlights its rhythms and patterns, showing how diverse and vibrant Zooniverse citizen scientists really are.

You can run the artwork in your web browser by visiting http://www.weneedus.org

Thanks to the Forum – and Farewell

Today marks the end of an era for the Zooniverse: the closure of the Galaxy Zoo forum. Read all about it on the Zooniverse blog.

Galaxy Zoo

Afbeelding1-500x499

After very nearly seven years online, and over 650,000 posts by its members, the time has come to shut the doors on the original Galaxy Zoo Forum. Originally an afterthought, created to deal with the fact that we couldn’t possibly deal with the volume of mail that we were getting, the Forum quickly established itself as a very special place. It generated science – the Voorwerp and its diminutive colleagues, the Voorwerpjes, the Peas and much more came from discussions amongst its boards, as well as such random fun things as the letters that power My Galaxies.

It was also a very civilized place – entirely due to the standards set by Alice and the team of moderators that followed, especially Graham and Hanny who have served most recently. The forum inspired much of what the Zooniverse tries to do today, but time has moved on and we…

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Become a Sunspotter and play Solar ‘Hot-or-Not’

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A few months ago we quietly placed a new project online. Called Sunspotter, it was essentially a game of hot-or-not for sunspot data – and since there were not many images available at the time, we thought it best to just let it be used by the people who noticed it, or who had tried it during the beta test. The results have since been validated, and the site works! In fact there are even preliminary results, which is all very exciting. Loads of new images have now been prepared, so today Sunspotter gets its proper debut. Try it at www.sunspotter.org.

On the site you are shown two images of sunspot groups and asked which is more complex. That might sound odd at first, but really it’s quite easy. The idea behind the science of Sunspotter is summed-up neatly on the Sunspotter blog:

I’m pretty sure you have an idea of which is the more complex: a graduate text on quantum mechanics, or an Italian cookbook? On the other hand, it would not be straight-forward for a computer to make that choice. The same is true with sunspot groups.

Or put another way: like many things in life, you’ll know complexity when you see it. Try it out now: it works on laptops, desktops, tablets and phones and you can keep up to date on Twitter, Facebook, G+, and the project’s own blog.

Screenshot 2014-06-13 19.39.24

Zooniverse Translations Update

Screenshot 2014-02-27 12.15.25

Last week I put out a request for translators and the response has been fantastic! There are now 9 different Zooniverse projects being worked on in more than 11 languages (more are being added every day). Specifically the response from Germany and Spain has been enthusiastic and a team of volunteer translators have now completed work, or nearly completed it, on several projects.

Planet Four is now available in Traditional Chinese. The Milky Way Project, Disk Detective, and Sunspotter are now available in German. Disk Detective and Sunspotter are also available in Spanish.

Sunspotter only launched today – and we’re super excited that it can go live in three languages at once! A big thank goes to volunteer translators Katharina Doll from Munich, Germany; Fernanda Piñeiro from Mar del Plata, Argentina; Eva Bunge from Germany; Maite Alonso from Talavera, Spain;  Jasmin Hau from Fulda, Germany; and user Hanibal94. Thank you so much everyone!

Translations are still underway in many more languages and projects. For example we will soon have Spanish and German Radio Galaxy Zoo, Hungarian Disk Detective and Farsi (Persian) Galaxy Zoo.

Screenshot 2014-02-27 12.18.36

To access different languages in projects – look for the globe icon in the top-right of the site – as shown above. On Galaxy Zoo, projects are listed in he ‘Languages’ menu – though we hope to convert this to the globe icon to bring it inline with other projects.

We hope that these new languages will widen participation in citizen science, and help light up new parts of the globe on our live.zooniverse.org map of classifications.

Screenshot 2014-02-27 12.27.26

If you’re interested in translating one of our projects, please email rob@zooniverse.org with your Zooniverse username, the language you want to translate into, and the project you’d like to translate.

More Languages, More Science: Translating Zooniverse Projects

For a long time we’ve tried to translate Zooniverse projects and this has often worked out very well. When we have done it, we have definitely seen the benefits. For example, we know that Polish classifiers on Galaxy Zoo did more classifications per-person than their English-speaking counterparts in 2011. About 8% of all our classifications are completed by people using our websites in a language other than English. We think that number should be higher.

In the last year we’ve launched Galaxy Zoo in Spanish, Traditional and Simplified Mandarin, and Italian. Planet Four is also available in Traditional Mandarin. Plankton Portal is available in Polish and French. Planet Hunters is also available in Polish, and Snapshot Serengeti is in Polish and Finnish. Finally, Whale FM is available in Polish, German and Whale.

This has all been possible because of the hard work of colleagues and translators all around the world. We’re currently working on a place to credit them for their efforts so you know who’s been making this magic happen. Particular thanks should also go to Chris Snyder and Michael Parrish, at Zooniverse’s Chicago HQ, for their efforts in making our sites and infrastructure better at handing multiple languages.

Screenshot 2014-02-19 19.50.34

If you take a look at the Zooniverse Community Map we created to celebrate our millionth signup you’ll note the strong English-speaking dominance. Whilst this understandable, it’s still not ideal. We need to light up more of the world on that map. So recently several of our core team have been working to make more and more projects translatable. Currently the list stands at:

  • Galaxy Zoo
  • Disk Detective
  • Radio Galaxy Zoo
  • Plankton Portal
  • Planet Four
  • Milky Way Project
  • Worm Watch Lab

…and more are being added all the time. If you’re interested in helping out, please email me on rob@zooniverse.org and let me know your Zooniverse username and the language, and project(s) you’re interested in translating. We hope to bring you updates soon.

Come and Meet the Zooniverse at the Citizen Science Cafe

Citizen-Cyberscience-2014

As part of the Citizen Cyberscience Summit 2014, we’re taking part in the Citizen Science Cafe 6-8pm this coming Friday, 21st February. This is an event where citizen science projects from all over the world are gathering to let everyone see the plethora of citizen science that exists. Tickets are free and you can find them here: http://cybersciencesummit.org/register/.

You can talk to some of the people behind a huge variety of citizen science projects – including us of course. We’ll be showcasing Galaxy Zoo and the Milky Way Project – but happy to talk about any of our sites at all. Hope to see many of you in London!

One Million Volunteers

zoohome-1-million

The Zooniverse is now one million strong. That’s one million registered volunteers – so in fact many more people have taken part without logging in too.

The Zooniverse started less than 7 years ago with the launch of Galaxy Zoo. We have since created almost 30 citizen science projects from astronomy to zoology. Some of you have been with us from the very start, some have only joined this week. Either way, we are constantly amazed by the effort that the community puts into our projects.

zooniverse_map

To celebrate this momentous occasion we prepared some cool stuff for you all. Firstly, check out this awesome global map showing where all Zooniverse volunteers are based.

Screenshot 2014-02-14 19.10.20

Also, we have created a new profile page for each of you where you can see some of your personal participation stats (such as what your user number is relative to the one million signups) and view your ‘ribbon’! The image above shows my own ribbon – have a look at www.zooniverse.org/me to see yours.

We continue to add new papers to our publications page all the time (we added one today in fact!) and we always strive to make full use of your classifications and discussions on Talk around our various projects. We also continue to build new citizen science projects – there are more coming up soon – so stay tuned. Meanwhile why not tell everyone you know who hasn’t taken part in a Zooniverse project to get online and register now! A great way to do this would be to share our page with your friends on Facebook. Together we’re speeding up science around the world.

Thanks for all your continued hard work – and here’s to the next million Zooniverse citizen scientists.

Disk Detective

Disk Detective

Today we’ve launched Disk Detective: a new project that asks you to help scour infrared data from NASA’s WISE spacecraft. WISE is a NASA mission surveying the whole sky in infrared. Disk Detective is backed by a team of astronomers that need your help to look at data of stars to try and find dusty debris disks – similar to our asteroid field. These disks suggest that these stars are in the early stages of forming planetary systems.

Learning more about these stars can tell researchers how our Solar System formed. Computers often confuse debris disks around stars with other astronomical objects. The Disk Detective team need your help to sort out what stars actually have these disks from galaxies and nebulae.

Screenshot Disk Detective

To take part you have to look through flipbook-style sets of images made up of multiple wavelength data from each star. You watch the object change as you move from shorter, optical wavelengths to longer infrared wavelength data. For each star you’re looking at data from multiple surveys and missions taken over many years. Bring all this data together, on the web, is a really cool part of Disk Detective.

There’s lots of data to get through and the science promises to be really interesting. Follow along on the Disk Detective blog, on Twitter and on Facebook too. In the meantime jump on the new site and have a go at www.diskdetective.org.

Stargazing Live: The Results Are In

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The Lovell Telescope observing 9io9: a candidate lens spotted by volunteers on Space Warps.

BBC Stargazing Live 2014 has been asking people to visit the Zooniverse’s Space Warps site to identify gravitational lenses: extremely rare events caused by one galaxy passing in front of another (very distant) galaxy. Tens of thousands of you have taken part and classified more than 6.5 million images.

Your classifications have already led to the discovery of more than 50 potential gravitational lenses! Amongst them are several beautiful and interesting discoveries. You can see a few of our favourite candidates above. For Stargazing Live’s third and final show we have focussed on the spectacular red arc/ring shown below, it has been nicknamed 9io9 by the team right now, because of it’s Zooniverse ID. You can see more of what our volunteers are saying about it here on Talk.

Credit: Jim Geach / VICS82
Credit: Jim Geach / VICS82

The Space Warps team have produced a model of it and currently think the background (red) galaxy is at redshift of about 2, which means the light has taken more than 10 billion years to reach us! You can see the comparison of the model and the data below. There’s a chance it could be further away but we’ll keep you posted. The nearer object (white/yellow) is about 2 billion light years away and has a mass of 100 billion times that of our Sun – which makes it about the same size as our own galaxy.

Model_and_Data_Credit_A_More
Comparison of the model (left) and real (right) data.

We know all this because we have spent the last 24 hours calling in every favour we have worldwide. The Space Warps science team, and various Zooniverse scientists from other projects, have been literally asking favours from people using the world’s biggest telescopes. We were even able to get some time on the massive Keck telescope in Hawai’i, where astronomers were having to break ice off the dome to get data. Astronomers love a good challenge!

Of course Stargazing Live is filmed at Jodrell Bank, home to one of the world’s largest radio dishes: the Lovell Telescope. This candidate lens is perfect for a radio observation – which can tell us more about its mass and position in space – and I’m excited to say that the giant dish is observing the target as I write!

Space Warps has been a huge success over the past three days and the project continues! Every classification on Space Warps helps our computers understand the whole data set, and so in a way all the objects discovered on Space Warps are the result of everybody’s combined work. You can keep up to date with news from Space Warp via the project’s blog, Twitter and Facebook sites.

A huge thank you to the BBC crew, the Jodrell Bank team, the Space Warps scientists, developers and moderators, and to everyone that took part this week. Keep clicking!