(Almost) One Million Giraffes

So there’s this guy. And he made a bet with his friend that he could collect one million giraffes by the end of 2010. And at the moment he has over 800,000 and the year’s not even half over. And he’s gathering all the giraffes at http://www.onemilliongiraffes.com/. And I’m covering it here because a) it’s a great example of crowdsourcing and b) who doesn’t want to browse a collection of over 800,000 human-generated giraffes?

The rules, as seen at http://www.onemilliongiraffes.com/rules: you may not use a computer to create your giraffe. (Except to scan in your drawing, etc.) You may not go to the store and purchase your giraffe. You must create your giraffe yourself (which means unless you’re a giraffe and engaging in productive giraffe-whoopee, taking pictures of giraffes at the zoo doesn’t count, because you didn’t create them.) A picture or sculpture of a giraffe counts for as many giraffes are present; in other words, if you draw a picture of ten giraffes, that counts as ten toward the final count of one million. Taking ten pictures of your giraffe sculpture from ten different angles, however, only counts as one.

One Million Giraffes has a search box. “Why?” I thought, “There is only one possible keyword.” But the search lets you specify name, age, city, and country, or any combination. I searched for giraffes made by 52-year-olds, and good heavens, I found over ten thousand. Results include thumbnails of the giraffe images, and if you click on the thumbnail you get a popup with a larger image and the name, age, and location of the contributor (I got the impression that you didn’t have to provide all that data when submitting giraffes, as it wasn’t available for all of them.) There’s also a direct link to the giraffe image and links to put it on Twitter or Facebook. As you might expect most of the images are drawings, but I also found giraffe embroidery, paintings on eggs, balloon sculpture, and one lovely fellow fashioned out of Diet Coke cans. (And a couple of drawings that looked like they were done by 5.2 year olds, but not 52-year-olds — don’t believe everything you search for.)

In addition to the searching, there are many other ways to explore the collection. You can play a game where you guess how old a contributor is by the picture they submitted (I am terrible at this game.) You can look at random giraffe images. You can look at giraffe submission statistics or explore a map. There’s a blog, of course, and an RSS feed.

This project reminds me somewhat of The Sheep Market, where 10000 sheep were created/drawing using Mechanical Turk, only all of those were computer-related (the Web site lets you pick sheep and see how they were drawn.) One Million Giraffes is a reminder of how tens of thousands of people can look at the same subject — a giraffe — a different way, and create many many many different perspectives. A large data pool of giraffes to be sure, but an equally large contemplation of how people think.

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