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Distributed Proofreaders Update for 19 November 2003

Transitional periods are often disconcerting. History reveals that people throughout the world develop a fondness for the known and potentially familiar. While working on the upgrade of a web site interface a couple of years ago, I was involved in a debate with another designer over the scale of some new additions. He argued for keeping the old designs just as they were, adding that this was sure to be the preference of the existing audience. Then, as if to solidify his stance he said, "The only person who likes regular change is a wet baby."

He did not win that day, but his words were tattooed upon my memory, by their charm. I have thought about them now and again, because I do not necessarily agree with their view. I believe that there is a certain type of individual who thrives within a transitional environment. Granted, you will not find large crowds of such people in any one place. By nature, such a person tends to be more at home in a small, loosely woven social cell. I can speak for this group because I am kin. After observing and interacting with the DP community for 9 months, I would say that here is the largest gathering of situational nomads I have ever encountered.

Change is a constant at DP. The project is like a river which is different every time that you wade in, transforming even as it flows around you. This dynamic nature does not suit everyone, and after a taste or two a number of folks will move on. Among those who have stayed with DP for a measurable time are some who would never consider leaving, not with any lasting seriousness, anyway. It is this fair sized circle of people who are ever in the midst of the great transformations to the project. It might be fair to say that they are in fact the very agents of change, always at the heart of the latest upgrade, feature addition or process innovation.

In searching for the thread to tie the weekly news with the production focus of this week, I found myself looking into these ever turning wheels of change that have made DP the unique success it is today. There is a loosely worded creed of sorts which is passed around the community now and again. While it is not officially stated anywhere, it comes very close to a standing policy. It goes more or less like, "If you see something that clearly needs doing, take the initiative and set it in motion. Others will soon join with you and iron out the wrinkles."

Whether this process works or not is now beyond the shadows of doubt. Distributed Proofreaders itself is an example of this method; the follow through of an idea from one person is today a collective endeavor of thousands. Whether it is an easy choice to embrace such a process and remain dedicated is a topic for another column.

One example of personal initiative at DP was introduced in last week's newsletter and will be explored a little further today. This is the development of the series of tool programs that help automate the different stages of text processing. The people who built these tools did not wait for approval or instructions, they saw a need and they went to work at constructing a satisfying solution. Over time, with trial and input, they evolved their initial efforts and continue to do so today. The exact measure of value these programs and scripts have added to DP's output is not possible to calculate. After you have used some of them a few times, it becomes clear that whatever the specific measurement, this contribution has made a profound difference in the both the degree and quality of DP's final product.

Among the most widely used tools are Steve Schulze's guiprep and guiguts, their alter egos Winprep and Winguts; the tool suite of GutAxe; GutHammer; GutSweeper; GutWrench, written by Bill Flis and the Re-Wrap and Indent script created by Bill Keir. These are by no means all the tools available to assist the DP process but those which are utilized in the Pre and Post production stages, that have been featured within the column previously. There are many other tools which have become incorporated into the proofing process. One is the customized proofing font, which makes it easier on the eyes to spot less obvious errors. Another valuable assist is the transliteration panel for Greek letters, originally created by DP's Donovan and long since incorporated as a fixed component in the proofing interface.

In future columns we will explore each of these tools a little further. A permanent feature for the off-line programs and scripts is presently being constructed upon the newsletter archive site. Here, tools will be available for download to independent text developers along with background information and extensive help files. This effort has the full support of the tool masters, thus the archive feature should evolve into a valuable resource over time. Here in the column we will be providing space for the developers to introduce the tools in their own words. his week we begin our spotlight with the suite of tools created and maintained by Bill Flis.

Next week we spotlight the tools of Steve Schulze and take a closer look at the forerunners of today's tools; GutCheck and PRTK (Proof Reader's Tool Kit). This week is still unfolding around us and there is much change taking place, even as I write these words. The most prominent alterations in recent days are immediately obvious to any regular visitor to the DP forums. In fact, it is fair to say that if you tend to the familiar and cozy, you may still be a little startled by the depth and width of the to this week's forum transformations. While it may seem to have occurred with the suddenness of an earthquake, the reorganization is long in planning and implemented with the best intentions for DP's future.

The most important thing to be aware of is that nothing has been lost or removed. It may require a little searching around, but you will find everything is still there. Several new forums have been created, some for better organization, some to make the forums more friendly and accessible to new members and others were added because their time had come. Among the new additions is a tier specifically set aside for new proofers and new forums for Project Management; Mentoring; Promotion, even a gathering place for historical events and discussions of significance to the various DP cultures.

It may all be somewhat overwhelming at first. If so, take your time exploring and getting accustomed to all the new avenues and interesting side destinations. Just keep in mind, there's still proofing and content development to do! Not that the new forums will fare much better than anything else at slowing us down. I am running out of superlatives to relate this continuous growth in production. If October called us to reach up and stretch to be the best that we could, November is making that expanded effort look like our average workaday pace.

We reached 2,500 distinctive texts posted to PG in the past week, without even much of a murmur in the forums. In November alone, 215 projects have been posted. By month's end that number will be greater than any previous month. The same looks to be true for all other measurements of production as quality and output continue to expand. On this course, November shall be the finest month to date for Distributed Proofreaders, and it appears certain that at December's end there will be great things to celebrate. The year behind us was nothing short of wondrous from beginning to end. The year ahead is already shining with promise and bright indications of great prosperity for world's first free and international library. If they only knew what was in store for 2004, many book lovers would agree, change is a good thing!

Until next week...

All the best!

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
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12 November 2003
5 November 2003
29 October 2003
22 October 2003
15 October 2003
8 October 2003
1 October 2003
17 September 2003
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3 September 2003
27 August 2003
20 August 2003