The Doe Network: Naming the dead through crowdsourcing

<  The Doe Network: Naming the dead through crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is a buzzword in information technology circles used to describe work usually conducted by professionals that has been sourced to a general audience for completion. The phrase can cover everything from Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk (a marketplace for problem-solving), to MoveOn.org’s organizing efforts, to Netflix’s competition to redesign their recommendation system.

The Doe Network is crowdsourcing applied to a subject a little closer to the interests of our readers – the Doe Network has crowdsourced cold cases:

The unnamed dead are everywhere — buried in unmarked graves, tagged in county morgues, dumped in rivers and under bridges, interred in potter’s fields and all manner of makeshift tombs. There are more than 40,000 unnamed bodies in the U.S., according to national law enforcement reports, and about 100,000 people formally listed as missing.

The premise of the Doe Network is simple. If the correct information — dental records, DNA, police reports, photographs — is properly entered into the right databases, many of the unidentified can be matched with the missing. Law enforcement agencies and medical examiners offices simply don’t have the time or manpower. Using the Internet and other tools, volunteers can do the job.

And so, in the suburbs of Chicago, bank executive Barbara Lamacki spends her nights searching for clues that might identify toddler Johnny “Dupage” Doe, whose body was wrapped in a blue laundry bag and dumped in the woods of rural Dupage County, Ill., in 2005.

The Doe Network, in their own words:

The Doe Network is a volunteer organization devoted to assisting Law Enforcement in solving cold cases concerning Unexplained Disappearances and Unidentified Victims from North America, Australia and Europe. It is our mission to give the nameless back their names and return the missing to their families. We hope to accomplish this mission in three ways; by giving the cases exposure on our website, by having our volunteers search for clues on these cases as well as making possible matches between missing and unidentified persons and lastly through attempting to get media exposure for these cases that need and deserve it.

A good idea that deserves more publicity.

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