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BBC Genome project reaches 100,000 edits

Ana Lucía González

Senior Producer, Archive Development

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Crowdsourcing has been at the heart of the BBC Genome database project since its very launch. BBC Genome offers access to the BBC’s listings from 1923 to 2009 and was made possible by scanning more than 350,000 pages of the Radio Times magazine.

We used OCR (optical character recognition) as part of the scanning process which in some cases resulted in some errors in the data stored in the database - typos, punctuation errors, contributors’ names and odd formatting from each one of the listings. Errors like this one – whose Christmas is this? (Answer at the bottom of this post).


Our request for your help has surpassed our expectations. Just today we’ve accepted more than 100,000 user generated edits since we launched ten months ago. You’ve definitely helped turn project Genome into one of the biggest BBC crowd sourcing projects ever.

Our army of volunteer editors is made up of people who were involved in particular programmes, occasional users who can’t resist the urge to remove extra commas and correct misspelled names, and the very methodical ones who will go from listing to listing, rearranging the format of the entry, to make it look neater. All this work even prompted us to develop a style guide for the editors, to help standardise the format of entries.

Some of the listings have have triggered wonderful memories for people involved with the BBC in various ways. 99-year-old Helen Clare, a wartime singing star and 1940s Radio Times cover, featured in a Radio Times article and was interviewed by the BBC after her neighbour, Simon Robinson, wrote to us here at BBC Genome to tell us about her past. We were also able to play her some of her old recordings we found in the BBC archive.

We also received a request from someone who sent a story to Listen with Mother in the 1960s, when she was 12 years old; the story was read on the programme and we were able to find a copy of her story in the BBC Written Archives Centre and send it to her. And a cast member of radio drama, Mrs Dale’s Diary, who found his own first appearances in the programmes, was able to read the script again, 60 years later, after we found a copy in the archive. Not to mention the dozens of times we’ve finally been able to put people out of their misery by answering the question “what was the song that was playing…” that had been nagging them for years.

To celebrate the 100,000 milestone, we’ve interviewed one of our or most prolific editors to discover why he felt moved to correct BBC Genome listings.“When I found out you could edit the listings, I was really determined to be an editor”, he said. We're hoping this will inspire some of our other enthusiastic editors to share their stories with us.

We’d like to say a big THANK YOU to all of the people who are generously giving their time to make this database better every day comprehensive and searchable. News about further improvements to the Genome site are published in the Genome blog.

* The programme was Liza Tarbuck's Christmas.

Ana Lucía González is Senior Producer, Archive Development

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