IF YOU care about history and you have a spare 10 minutes, why not lend your hand to a crowdsourced internet project with a difference – the data is all 100 years old.

Computers are great at lots of things, but they’re rubbish at recognising handwriting.

That’s why The National Archives needs your help over at Operation War Diary (www.operationwardiary.org). There, you’ll find high resolution digital photographs of real First World War diaries and documents. About 1.5 million pages of them.

That’s too much for one person, or even a small team of people, to go through and catalogue properly. But what if you could divide the work up among thousands of people, each doing just a few pages?

That’s what happens here. When you arrive at the site, you’ll be asked to take part, and it’s easy to do. The archivists are not looking for verbatim transcripts of the 100-year-old pages.

Instead, they want to pull out important bits of data they can cross-reference: mainly dates, locations and people’s names. After you’ve been taken through a short tutorial (which takes about five or 10 minutes), you’ll be let loose on some random pages from the archive.

It doesn’t matter if you make a mistake, either. The point of working online like this is that each page gets shown to several people, to make sure their answers match up.

It’s not just an easy way to make a small contribution to our nation’s historical records about the Great War, each page is also a fascinating mini history lesson in its own right.

Of course once all the data has been extracted, it can be handed back to the computers so they can do what they’re good at: crunching numbers. Who knows what they’ll discover?