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Distributed Proofreaders Update for 15 October 2003

[riiiiip ... crumple ... toss!] So, there's goes my draft version for this week's column, right at the last minute too. Just in, and apparently official, the day we have all been waiting for and counting down to has made a last minute sprint and arrived suddenly before our eyes.

Project Gutenberg now provides for the world 10,000 artifacts of literature, history, and countless varieties of the human expression. As much as we have all looked forward to this day, it is still surprising to be here, and more than a bit exciting.

But before I go any further into the Distributed Proofreaders view on this historic day, there is something that needs saying. This is a significant day for everyone who has given something of their own to Project Gutenberg, and there are thousands of us. Yet as much as this event may mean to each, it is hard to imagine that any of our experiences right now are comparable to those of the person who sat down some thirty years ago and typed the words: "When in the Course of human Events . . ."

So...on behalf of all of us at DP ... Congratulations Michael! The world is now vastly different from the way you found it when you arrived.

Over at DP, the excitement has been building all month towards this day. There is much to celebrate, for today was to be a festive event in it's own right, before the news of re-publication of the Magna Carta coincided with ongoing events. Joining the party at DP are three authors celebrating this day in a personal way. October 15th is the birthday of the Roman poet Virgil, Friedrich Nietzsche and Helen Hunt Jackson.

Thanks to Tim Bonham and the festivity planners at DP, Authors' receive a new found respect and attention on their birthdays. Before this day is through, there should be 12 new books proofed by this trio. If one of these authors is a favorite of yours, it's not too late to join the party and help preserve their legacies. The doors are open all night, but looks like a full house already. Even the Forum attendance records have been broken today. Wherever you look today, this evening and into the wee hours, you will find us and be warmly welcomed.

And speaking of breaking records...the last two proofing days were a first for 2003. No month yet in this year has seen two days with over 6,000 pages proofed. We just set away two of them, back to back. And I have it on good authority, that we are about to do it again. See, here's the plan, and it's so simple, it's brilliant! Once we get enough people into the site... I'm going to lock the doors, and nobody leaves without proofing ten pages. Okay, maybe I need to work on that! But however we do it, in honor of PG's 10.000 books, DP is going to set down the best proofing day of 2003. If you think I'm over the edge here, stop by later and have a look for yourself. At least you'll be able to say: "I was there for the biggest day of the year!"

The fifteenth is also the midpoint of the month, a natural time to take a breath and see what we have accomplished for October. Back on the first we set out an objective and claimed October as 'Post Processing Month.' The goal was to see 300 books out of Post Processing and into the Verification stage. Many folks laughed at first. "You can't treat the Post process like proofing.", they said. Plus, "There's too many variables." and "This is not something that can be forced." To be fair, there was definitely some uncertainty and debate before publicly announcing the goal. Still, it was agreed a worthy endeavor and set in motion.

So, where are we now, half way down the line? As of last night, counting 14 days out of 31, a total of 162 projects had completed the Post stage this month, with 20 books set as finished on Monday alone. Frankly... many of us are surprised by just how successful the initiative has become and how contagious the support and excitement for the effort grows with each day. I won't conjecture a guess at the final count on the 31st, but that shouldn't stop you from enjoying the play!

Perhaps one of the most impressive measures of the past two weeks is offered by DP's Site Administrator, Bill Keir: "...we have almost 40 new (or newly returned to active duty) PPers so far this month - our goal there was 50.." It is beyond doubt now, that something is happening at DP, which has a very contagious quality. Over the past two months there is an increase in both attendance and participation at the site. An interesting puzzler within this phenomenon is that while a greater share of attention than normal is upon the Post process, the proofing numbers have not diminished at all. In fact, the proofing counts are well on their way to producing the most successful month of the year, if not in all of DP's history. Yes, that means we may even see a higher monthly total than was produced by the original SlashDot rush of November 2002. Stay tuned right here to see how this turns out.

So we have Birthdays, impressive posted figures and amazing page counts to celebrate... what else could possibly fit inside a single month? Well...the new source code is still worth applause, not only for performing impressively under all this added activity, but also because we are still discovering new features that were folded within it. One of these which holds our great promise for the future of DP and thus PG is the Internationalization of the site's features. That this is being phased in gradually does not diminish it's sparkle. As the workings of the Localization components are tested, we will be getting glimpses of the road out ahead of us, where DP expands to support a wide range of languages.

The full implementation of a DP in multiple languages will take some time, but a solid effort has begun. Even for those of us native to English, this is exciting to see come into focus. Help files and FAQs are already being produced in a variety of languages and there is work going on to provide multi-lingual utility and comfort to the forums. With as much effort as is going into this, you might think that content providers would understand, and maybe be a little patient . . . okay, maybe think once more! As of today, there are projects moving through the proofing rounds representing ten different languages. Clearly, the future has taken root in the present. As always, we'll be sure to follow these innovations right here.

There are two other 'quiet' happenings going on this month that people have been asking about for a while. I will only touch upon these briefly this week as an introduction to more in-depth study in the future. One is the Uber Projects designation and the other is the DP History and Lore Archive. These two endeavors are still in the early stages of development, but their future is bright. The Uber Projects are large scale works which require special needs or great resources of time and energy. As written of in previous issues, the success of DP made the creation of a special projects division inevitable. The power of distribution has made it possible to realistically consider book projects which were previously out of the realm of feasibility for digital conversion. The recent creation of an independent forum for the Uber Projects has brought them into the light of attention. So by request we are going to be exploring some of these large-scale works a little bit more with each column.

The History and Lore archive is also an item within this week's news. I can speak freely of this because I have worked closely upon it for several months now. It is very much what the title suggest: a home for the story and collective knowledge of DP so far. As this project is about the past, more or less, and not of an immediate urgency, it's growth to date has been slow to glacial-like. This week that has changed thanks to a generous offer by DP's own T. Mangrove, known and adored by his friends as Montanus. The H&L Archive now has a place to grow and prosper out of the way of the day to day affairs of book building. Over in a quiet, little corner of the Net' those of us who like to explore history can take our time preserving the knowledge and record of what we do at DP, while DP goes on its way preserving the knowledge and records of others.

So that's October from the middle of the voyage, folks! I think you all know that I would enjoy going on about the meaning of this day for the PG community and the journey of the road travelled to keep things going until this day. . .but that's Michael's job...and I wouldn't take a word of it away from him.

Rejoice in this moment, everyone! Don't let the thin air of this cynical age steal it's gift from you. There is a great and wonderful power at work here. The long-term effects of what we do at DP/PG each day cannot always be measured from where we stand. I assure you that a day will come, and it will come unexpectedly, when some rare chance coincidence occurs in your life that brings you back through the years to this very hour. Don't lose who you are today, and who you have become through participating in this dream. Rejoice!...and do it with great gladness, no matter how 'uncool' that may look to your SO. One day ... and this I promise ... you will look back this way and say: "I was there, that day, with Michael ... and you know something ... I helped make it happen."

May you always find an abundant return for the part of yourself you give to the world!

For now...

Thierry Alberto

Links to Articles

19 October 2004
18 February 2004
11 February 2004
4 February 2004
14 January 2004
17 December 2003
3 December 2003
19 November 2003
12 November 2003
5 November 2003
29 October 2003
22 October 2003
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1 October 2003
17 September 2003
10 September 2003
3 September 2003
27 August 2003
20 August 2003