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Domesday Reloaded: Do it yourself!

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Brett Tremble Brett Tremble | 10:41 UK time, Friday, 10 June 2011

When the Domesday project first launched back in 1986, the World Wide Web was not yet born. It probably wasn't even a doodle on the back of one of Tim Berners-Lee's discarded envelopes. Much of what the Domesday project attempted to do is now common practice across the internet; concepts such as mapping geographical areas on a computer, uploading and retrieving information through searches and so on.

At the time though, what impressed me the most as a 1980s schoolchild was the way that the BBC were able to mobilise the British public to create a resource like the original that would provide testimony of a moment in time for countless millennia to come. And all for no reward other than being a part of history.

A lot of the project relied on schoolchildren to gather and submit information. As Maggie Philbin pointed out in her recent blog about the Domesday project this means that a lot of fascinating minutiae has been recorded that probably would have remained unremarked upon by adults with other priorities.

Nowadays, this kind of mass participation to create a shared resource would be called 'user generated content'. It is of course nothing new: the UK's Mass Observation project pioneered such collaborations in the late 1930s, but now it is a lot easier for you to become involved in similar schemes and share your thoughts and observations with others.

Many news reports rely on user generated content for their images and video.  The popularity of mobile phones and digital cameras mean that there is a vast army of potential reporters ready and waiting whenever a story breaks. In countries and areas where the BBC has little or no official access, such as Syria, it may be the only way that news will reach the outside world. When stories such as this are broadcast now, the newsreaders will often implore viewers to send in content that they may have as a matter of routine.

But it's not just mass protests and grim natural disasters where the BBC needs your help - take the BBC's two landmark nature series Springwatch and Autumnwatch for example. While Kate Humble and Chris Packham do a sterling job anchoring everything from their cosy BBC standard-issue shed, the programme relies heavily on viewers interacting with the team to create compelling content. On the Springwatch site you are positively encouraged to join in by sharing your nature pictures on the programme's Flickr group (take a look at our glossary to find out more about Flickr) and upload your videos of wildlife to the BBC site.

No longer are nature programmes the kind of dry documentaries where knowledgeable animal experts relate complex facts in a hoarse whisper to an attentive well behaved audience. These days your contribution to Springwatch is every bit as important as that of all those experts on remote islands being dive-bombed by enraged gannets.
As the name Domesday Reloaded implies, the BBC needs your help once more. A series of programmes are planned for later in the year and again the British public are being urged to interact with the BBC and send in their photographs, stories and comments. You can download activity packs from the Domesday site which will help you find the sort of information and details that the BBC are looking for in your local area and start collecting information to share.

And no, you won't be paid for your time, but just imagine your humble contribution being pored over by generations of BBC viewers hundreds of years from now. Exciting, isn't it?

Brett is a Content Producer for BBC WebWise, and has been creating web content for the BBC for ten years. He loves fine ale and vintage wine, cathedrals, music of all genres and classic British comedy, and has a huge collection of rare vinyl records.

UPDATE: The Domesday Reloaded project has now ended, and is no longer accepting submissions. You can, however, still peruse the data to your pleasure.


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