The Vineyard, available at vineyard.lds.org, is a new Church site that allows members across the world to contribute their time and talents to do the work of the Church. Designed as a crowdsourcing site, the Vineyard allows large numbers of people to perform small tasks remotely and independently towards a larger goal.
The Vineyard (vineyard.lds.org) is the first crowdsourcing application created by the Church. You can find minute-sized service opportunities here and spend as little or as much time as you want.
The word crowdsourcing stems from two words: crowd plus outsourcing. You may have heard of astronomy crowdsourcing projects, where volunteers classify shapes from thousands of images taken by telescopes. If you can chunk the work into easy-to-do bits, volunteers are more apt to participate. The work is somewhat anonymous, with no obligation or long-term expectations.
Currently the tasks in the Vineyard help digitize the documents of the Church so they can then be distributed globally. To get started:
- Go to vineyard.lds.org.
- Sign in with your LDS Account.
- Click the Opportunities tab. Here you can choose the types of activities you want to perform. There are four categories: Church Publications, Church Multimedia, Translation, and Family History.
- Click Save to My Workspace.
- On the My Workspace tab, click Start.
Each service category has several activities you can choose from. For example, in the Church Publications category, you can compare paragraphs, identify page breaks, or match paragraphs. Much of the content was converted in various ways (from PDFs, scanned, XML, microfilm, and so on), and needs checking.
In this example, you’re checking to see if the paragraph on the right is found in the text on the left. This check is necessary because the original document was machine-scanned and converted to another format.
The Vineyard’s current opportunities involve mostly Curriculum and Audiovisual tasks. In the future, other departments at Church headquarters will look for ways to chunk their work into the Vineyard, too – especially with translation. Expect to see the opportunities increase over time. Regardless of the department sponsoring the activity, the Vineyard will be the same consistent front door to community efforts.
Why not just hire more workers to do the job in-house? Why crowdsourcing? Certainly the traditional method is a possibility, but it wouldn’t leverage the potential for mass collaboration in an organization whose members are constantly seeking opportunities to serve.
For example, you may know that the Church has an actual 80-acre vineyard in Madera, California. Except for one employee, the vineyard is entirely harvested and maintained by volunteers.
The idea with the online vineyard is essentially the same: “many hands make light work.” The twist with crowdsourcing, though, is that when the tasks are chunked into minute-size efforts, more people participate. With more participation, you can have a greater gain in productivity without exhausting the energies of any individual.
(Left) With the traditional model, you hire a few people to do all the work. It can take a long time and be costly. In the crowdsourcing model (right) you make the tasks easy and open up the work to everyone. Because of the simplicity of the tasks, greater numbers of volunteers willingly participate. The work is accomplished faster, and no single individual gets exhausted.
With a body of 14 million Church members, if 1 percent of the membership performs just 5 minutes of service in the Vineyard, this equates to about 4 years of work (assuming one individual working 8 hour days). Increase the percentage to 5 percent, and you have the equivalent of 20 years of work – all done in a short amount of time.
Challenges to Crowdsourcing
Although our members are service-oriented, persuading members to serve in this environment has challenges. Rather than serving side by side with peers, you’re working online in an independent, semi-anonymous way. The larger purpose of what you’re doing may not always be clear. And the tasks may not feel as fulfilling as directly helping someone in need.
Still, the site is new, and the way members feel towards service will probably overcome these obstacles. You can bet that if the tasks involved a more spiritual dimension, such as tagging scriptures, participation would skyrocket.
LDSTech versus the Vineyard
What’s the difference between LDSTech and the Vineyard? Both sites are targeted at community projects. But whereas LDSTech is a platform for collaborating on projects with a core team, the Vineyard chunks up tasks so they can be distributed and completed somewhat anonymously by thousands of members.
Whereas the community efforts on LDSTech are often completed on your own computer, with tools such as the LDSTech integrated development environment, the tasks on the Vineyard can be completed within the browser itself.
Additionally, whereas tasks on LDSTech require some technical background, the Vineyard’s tasks do not require a particular technical skill.