Blogs, crowdsourcing, and better modelling

A new reader asked an interesting question of me, about how to find sources of information for accurately modelling rolling stock for his chosen prototype(s).

It’s a good question, but also a big one. To recommend sources, one needs to know things like the era, the region, and the railways being modelled.

While thinking about this question overnight, I had an idea, which I’m passing to him as a post here, so that others can think on it too:

Why not start your own blog about your railway interests?

 photo crowdsourcing_zpszrazvv5u.jpg
(Build it and they will come)

This blog has become a form of crowdsourcing for me. (I’ll explain how in a moment). But let’s assume you’re new to blogging, and you’ve started one about your railway interests. What next?

I would post some inquiries on relevant newsgroups. For example, if you’re interested in the Vermont Rail System – specifically, the Green Mountain Railroad – I’d look at groups such as Vermont Railroading, NERails, VRS and Rutland.

Tell the members you’re trying to collect information to help accurately model relevant car types from the GMRC. Give them your blog address so they can follow along.

Then, as the information comes in, add it to your blog. It might be a link to a prototype or modelling website, or a manufacturer. It might be a post about printed sources (books, magazine articles), or a historical society, or a photo collection. Remember, you can always go back to blog posts and edit them, so you can update them by adding more links or more information as it comes to light.

The beauty of this is that as you collect the information, you can organize it all in one spot. What’s more, you can share the info with others.

One of the things that surprised me about writing this blog on Port Rowan is how many people found it (through searches, etc.) and then started contributing answers for my questions. In some cases, they answered questions I didn’t even know I should be asking. This is a form of crowdsourcing: I got the ball rolling by creating the blog, and then people started contributing their knowledge – often with little more than a question from me, and frequently with no effort on my part. (You know who you are: Thank you!)

The result of all this is a shared body of knowledge that I hope others are finding valuable for their own hobby interests. And, more directly, better modelling on my part.

You might find the same thing happens for you…

5 thoughts on “Blogs, crowdsourcing, and better modelling

  1. The challenge is interesting. I follow a railroad with a yahoo group and a society. Between these two basic sources a lot of information flows to those who seek the knowledge. As you have found these efforts quickly snowball with a lot of addition data flowing from questions, unrelated discussions and lots of leads for new research.
    I managed to find a source for one the railroads that interchanged with my road at an important city only to realize that group had a lot of answers to questions my railroad group was asking, but we didn’t have the “couple of key answers” that the other group thought “everyone knows that.”
    The ability to exchange information is key to all of us enjoying the hobby.
    Thanks for your thoughts and prods

  2. Trevor,
    Interesting comments, and motivates me to get back posting on my blog that I started on a whim.
    As a side note, here’s how I found your blog. My former co-worker Greg Amer posted a link on Facebook about you interviewing him for the “The Model Railway Show”. I listened to the podcast (quite good, I ended up downloading and listening to them all), and proceeded to check out your blog. Needless to say, I found your blog and have been following ever since. The RSS feed is sure handy, and I get super excited when an email shows up notifying me of a new post. I’m not sure how much I contribute to the blog as I don’t model in S, nor the CN, (I model in 1/29 the early days of Burlington Northern) but I’m sure some point in time you’ll have a question that a former rail can answer!

    • I should add, I follow a wide variety of blogs, forums, and groups. The list in no particular order; Protolayouts on Yahoo, Burlington Northern, Northern Pacific, Great Northern, Milwaukee Road groups on both Yahoo and Facebook (lots of pictures seem to be popping up on Facebook recently), local and national historical societies, MRH, LargeScaleCentral, a HO scale blog that is modeling the same area, but 20+ years later, and in contact on Facebook with former colleagues that worked the territory I modeled, along with frequently checking and researching the various online archives and resources for the Burlington Northern. As a historian, I find the research aspect to be just as interesting as the modeling and it gives, in my mind at least, a better understanding of how the railroad interacted with the surrounding community. Having worked in the railroad industry I think has made me more aware of some of the under-modeled, or unknown aspects of this hobby and I’m always happy to share when someone asks that ‘right question’.

  3. Trevor,
    I think there’s a lot of truth in your above posting. Especially the last paragraph, I often find that someone has done something, (a technique for example), that I can relate to and appreciate the effort behind it. By relate to I mean I get inspiration from it either along the lines of I can do that/use that/improve or adapt that. When I say ‘improve’ I mean put my own spin on it for my use. How I make trees for example may not work for someone, but they may think ‘ah there’s my start line’ and go from there to produce something far better. I know some people have read some of my stuff and its helped them start something, its really gratifying hear that, and it certainly works in reverse for me too. I also think its important if I’ve read something that has fired me up to do something, to acknowledge the original author or source of the kernel of the idea, and that I think helps the ‘crowdsourcing’ too, simple remembering to say ‘thanks’.

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