If you’re like me, you may be having trouble getting motivated to take on those big projects that you have been meaning to get to for years. (The Onion nailed this phenomenon: Man Not Sure Why He Thought Most Psychologically Taxing Situation of His Life Would Be the Thing to Make Him Productive.) The current daunting task I’m not yet getting around to is digitizing all of my old vinyl records (finally!), turning them and my CD collection into a digital archive of MP3 files.
If you are wrestling with a similar conundrum, consider these online projects. You can pick them up with very little overhead; they are good for the world and your fellow man; and there are options for both those inclined to the humanities and to the sciences.
Humanities first: Citizen Archivist is an initiative of the US National Archives to enlist a crowdsourced army to help transcribe and tag a variety of handwritten, archival material. Projects range from Franklin Roosevelt’s speeches, to records of medal awards to service members from 1941 onward, to case files of the Tennessee Valley Authority as they relocated thousands of families — and graves.
On the science side, Zooniverse collects a large number of research projects that are requesting help from citizen scientists. I have participated over the years in a number of these, from characterizing the behavior of bats in infrared video surveillance of a bat cave, to searching for planets orbiting other suns in the data from TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. Current projects include ones for identifying galaxies that harbor supermassive black holes, transcribing the notes from early women astronomers, helping to organize an archive of vintage Cuban radio broadcasts, and classifying video footage of robins, raccoons, seals, or wild Mont Blanc hares.
Pick a project, spend ten minutes or a few hours helping some researchers improve our knowledge of the world, and have fun.