by Jess Hemerly, Senior Policy Analyst at Google
In 2010, I began a year-long mixed-methods study of MusicBrainz, a community music metadatabase with companion open source software that cleans up the metadata on digital music files. Studies have been conducted on various aspects of commons-based, peer-produced projects, notably free and open source software and Wikipedia. But MusicBrainz is unique: MusicBrainz contributors play the role of information scientists for this data commons, working as digital librarians, standards-setters and catalogers of music.
Understanding what drives people to voluntarily curate and contribute to a data commons benefits our overall understanding of how these commons work. If we find common characteristics among a few successful data communities, we can inform the design of data commons for other domains so that they are more likely to thrive. What follows is a snapshot of some of the more interesting findings....
Jess Hemerly is an alumna of the School of Information (MIMS 2011) and a senior policy analyst at Google. This article is based on her final project, “Making Metadata: The Case of MusicBrainz.”