BOINC and Zooniverse

1) Learn about BOINC projects:

  • How many BOINC projects are there? How many active?

53 projects are listed on At least 42 are active and available in the BOINC run manager. At least 82 projects are active according to

How many volunteers are there, and how many are active?





Total credit



BOINC combined




  • Describe your user experience joining a BOINC project.

Installation of BOINC was easy on Linux, as the website automatically selected the Linux x64 package for me. However, the BOINC developer team should endeavor to distribute BOINC through an official package repository for at least Ubuntu, as repositories are the standard method for installation and maintenance on Linux.

The BOINC run manager is executed with a shell script, meaning that the application is highly portable but won’t have entries added to the start menu, etc.
The GUI is unattractive, and unfortunately the application crashed due to segmentation faults when I attempted to select a project category from the drop-down menu. I was still able to navigate using the “all projects” category.

I selected the project Docking@Home, and the application began work on the task “Charmm 34a2”. This task consumed negligible memory, but drove utilization to 100% for all four of my CPU cores. By default, the application did not display any indication of what it was actually computing; it only provided timers for elapsed and remaining time. Through the “Task Commands” menu I was able to display various 3D models of proteins and ligands; I still have little idea of what my CPU cores are so occupied with, but at least it seems complicated.

2) Learn about Zooniverse projects:

  • How many Zooniverse projects are there? How many active?

There are 9 active projects, and 3 retired projects.

  • How many volunteers are there? How many are active?

674,012 users were active on Saturday.

  • Describe your user experience joining a Zooniverse project.

I joined the oldWeather project. It is convenient that the project is delivered through a web app, and the site is attractive and intuitive, although the popover dialogs presented during the tutorial obstructed my view of the ship’s log.

I would prefer to donate CPU cycles to a project rather than complete dull transcription work myself. I had difficulty reading the handwritten notes, and had to concentrate completely on the task. While this suggests that the work is indeed suited to humans rather than computers, I think that the application of some OCR to at least the typed portions of the page would reduce the work expected from humans; if, for instance, the user is presented with a few handwritten tokens from the page and prompted to select the one(s) that are most likely coordinates, or fueling information, or weather observations, etc., the task would be less demanding and the user could likely complete it will idly performing some other task, like watching television. However, some users may be attracted to the requirement that they devote their full attention to the more challenging work of transcribing a page with little guidance.

If I were responsible for a Zooniverse project I would also consider directing its work to Amazon Mechanical Turk, as the limited cost of MT workers might be less than the cost of delivering and promoting the web app.

3) What are your citizen science superpowers?

  • Description of the skills you could bring to a project.

I haven’t taken a science course since high school, but I have some knowledge of data structures, machine learning, and systems architecture. I have experience with agile project management and practices like unit testing that are likely applicable. In my experience with large software projects, a small percentage of the total effort is expended on engineering or development, and a large percentage of the effort is spent on managing people and time.

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