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Distributed Proofreaders Update for 4 February 2004

So how has 2004 been for you, so far? It is hard to believe that New Year's eve was more than a month ago, but here we are two steps into February. For the record, I like this year. It has an expressively expansive quality to it—exciting but with a clearly intentional creativity. Sometimes a new year starts off at a slow pace. The weeks following the holidays find many people a little disoriented and often in need of well earned recuperation. This is not one of those years.

January left the gate like Sea Biscuit and never looked back or seemed to recognize anything to its side. As if to herald the pace of the year ahead, one of the first moves of the new month was to seal the count on another 1,000 completed book projects. Sound familiar? It should. In January, DP put the finishing touches on the 3,000th text, which as reported to that time was The Anatomy of Melancholy. I emphasize this item again today, looking back at January, because it deserves attention within the larger context of DP's accelerating development and efficiency. It was only last September that DP celebrated the 2,000th Gold text. It took three years to achieve that accomplishment. In a little over three months that followed, half that number again was delivered to PG. At the present pace—nearly 3,175 complete at present—it is clear that the pace of production is sustaining. Near to the Ides of March, DP will complete the 4,000th project.

What January has revealed, to those who are tuned in to such things, is that DP has secured a stabilized production model that delivers the goods. If you were watching closely through 2003, then you are familiar with the many growing pains and trials the project passed through on the way to this plateau. Granted, it takes a little bit of objectivity to appreciate the vista of events which prove this conclusion. If you step back a few paces you will recognize the evidence soon enough.

Perhaps the biggest news event of January is the implementation of the Distributed Proofreaders code base by a respected network of international archives, known now and hereafter as DPEU. It is justified that this significant and historic development is well celebrated and we will do just this a little later. In truth though, the initiation of the DPEU's pre and public test phases augments the ongoing enlargement and enhancement of DP, it does not define it. The embrace of the DP model magnifies the validity of the past year's decisions and the overall course set in place by Charles and DP administrators. All the more worthy of 2004's initial promise is the manner in which DPEU has not simply utilized the existing code and model, but with wide open arms welcomed the DP community into their own. Each day that passes reveals more the exciting path which awaits us all up ahead. And if you will allow me to quote Rick Blaine, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

While the spotlight was upon the European camp as it mustered forces and set up the perimeters, many developments were unfolding back at the home foundry. As much of this activity has been taking place behind the scenery, you may be wondering "what activity?" Well, that's why they pay me 12 year Scotch here, to keep you 'up on the latest and tastiest.' The initiatives employed in January and carrying on into this month will have profound influence upon the year ahead and for this reason alone you should be aware of them if you plan on sticking around for the mid-term future.

Does anyone remember the California conference all the way back there in December? This was no mere social gathering, but a well planned coordination of some of the most prominent minds working towards the enrichment of the public domain on and off the Internet. Nor was this a singular event. This was the first of what will be many and regular such conferences. The California meet produced a bounty of benefits to DP, some of these began cooking away even before everyone returned home from the conference and continue to do so. Other plans and initiatives have begun to be implemented and will become more and more evident with te passing of time.

To frame these roughly, I will set them into three tiers:

  1. Network Architecture
  2. Administration & Community
  3. Production enhancement.

Time and space does not allow me to go into great depth, so I will explain briefly what these are. If I am worth my measure, their significance to the course of DP through 2004 shall be self-evident. The network architecture is pretty much that; an enhanced edifice for DP to live and work within. A new and independent server will soon house the entire structure of the site, with the exception of archival material. The primary reason for this is allow more personal and immediate management of the heart and soul of the machine, so to speak. As the actual moves draws closer we will take a deeper look into the significance of this step and how it benefits the future growth of DP.

The administration and community is actually the body of Distributed Proofreaders. Without these two essential components we would be little more than a loosely organized endeavor towards a good cause. The awareness of this truth has been the motivation for an extensive process of careful planning, dedicated effort and thoughtful consideration and selection. The building of community within DP began with earnest sometime last summer. We have all seen the result of this over the past several months, and we have each felt its value in our hearts. This is not an effort that can be invested once and sustained indefinitely, nor is it a labor that can be entrusted to any group of individuals. Community building and growth is an ongoing process, which is only ever enriched and enhanced by the participation and care of the many, not the few. There are enough of us who, having experienced the worth of what DP's community offers, will not let this effort falter. Over the past month I have been working with a wide range of participants from all corners of DP to discuss areas of future development and inclusion into the cultural landscape being defined by the journey of this project. Stay tuned to future columns and forum posts as these exchanges take on more concrete forms.

A healthy community, like a healthy project, stays that way through the attentive and loyal work of a core team of people willing to take on the responsibility of direction and administration. Adding to this team is an important and well-weighed process. For the most of us, coming to DP is an option. If we feel like dropping off the site for an extended length of time, we do. After all, it is a volunteer endeavor. To 'step up' and accept one of the caretaking roles of the project requires a greater level of commitment than most of us are willing to take on. From the other side of the process, there is the challenge of presenting the offer to members. If someone feels that such is role is not desirable for any reason, you don't want them to feel any different about the project because they are quite comfortable contributing as they presently do.

Every page proofed counts at DP. "Preserving History One Page at a Time" is far more than a catch slogan. From my perspective, which I have heard echoed by many others, a big part of what makes DP so important to our age is the openness for an individual to participate an do something that really matters—even if all they have to spare are are a few free minutes in a day or week. A larger role in the daily workings of DP is not for everyone, nor should it be. At the same time, there is something very special that needs to be said for and about those who make that commitment to become part of a steady and sustaining tier of guidance on this project. The promise of future growth would remain just that, a promise, without an expanded team to see to the care of its fulfillment.

Through January we witnessed the definition of roles which have long existed without name yet with great respect for a long time. While there are thousands of us who proof, a few dozen who manage projects and a few dozen more who work in post processing, there are but a rare and special number working in that crucial stage between a completed text at DP and a posted text at PG. It is quite hard to express in word the esteem and affection many of us in the PG/DP community hold for Tonya and David. As wordy as you all know I am, this column will not be expanded by my efforts to succeed at such an expression. Titles may not do justice to the depth of their contribution either, but they are still denoted with a great respect. Post Processing & Verification Coordinator is a challenge to fit on a door plaque, but a full name for a full role was essential.

If you have been active in the forums recently, you may have by now recognized that DP has a new Site Administrator these past weeks: Pourlean. Now I know she has been testing her wings so far, but as an supporter for a long time, I am putting a deserved spotlight where it belongs, on one of DPs hidden assets. My faith in DP's future is greatly strengthened with such dedicated hands added to the helm.

This brings us to the other important enhancement to DP's management, the creation of an entirely new branch of navigators. To allow the Site Administrators more freedom to focus upon ... well administration, a new role has been created to manage the many and varied needs of active texts; the Project Facilitators. The work of the PFs is to assist and expand the powers and labors of the Project Managers and where need to liaison between proofers and post processors to assure a greater quality and expediency to the entire on-site production process. Stepping up to the task of right at the start are four well known and adored (certainly adored by me) members of the DP regulars: DMKazoo, Francisca, Papeters and VelkVelk.

Congratulations to the new administrative branch of DP!... and also to you Big Bill, I envy you... up there like Apollo on Helicon surrounded by so many Muses.

Finally then, the third initiative, presently underway, the production enhancement. We are just weeks away from the open test phase of a new code foundation, perhaps one of the grandest yet. While I cannot reveal the details just yet, I can assure you that possibilities for innovation and extended utility have been well planned and addressed. The actual coordination for the test phase is closely associated with the implementation of the new server structure for DP. The underlying strategy to all of the current initiatives is well planned coordination. The ground has been secured, the intended structure mapped out, a well exercised and dedicated set of teams are in place. From here on out across 2004 what we are going to witness is steady and impressive growth. You have been a part of this venture until now, helping to make this very day possible... stay then, and help assure the reality of a truly wondrous future.

Speaking of that wondrous future, let's take at the happenings on the outskirts of the DP Empire, over in Europe. It was just around the middle of January that an announcement appeared in the forums, inviting experienced members to sign up over at a whole new, but different, DP, to participate in a vigorous pre-test phase of site establishment and de-bugging. Little by little with each passing day, more and curious veterans made the pilgrimage. Within a week's time the results of this collaboration lead DPEU's directors to declare the project ready for public testing. Today, the idea of archives associated with, yet distinct of PG utilizing the DP system full scale is a reality, and an impressive one.

The utilization of the DP code by Project Rastko' alliance of library archives has illuminated the ground of future possibilities for expansive implementation. Through the next three weeks of the public test phase the atmosphere across both sites is certain to be charged with ideas and inspirations. Having had close involvement with the initial test phase, what stays with me constantly is a resurgence of that exciting and kinetic perception of the Web back when Mosaic first appeared, and all things seemed possible. I can state that I am not at all alone in this experience. Over the weeks and months ahead, I believe very strongly that we are going to witness a wide revival of those idealistic and creatively charged days throughout both sites... and where better for this spirit of our age to rise again online than within communities allied to Project Gutenberg?

Over 200 members have signed up to help establish DPEU and work out all the bugs and bumps during the test phase. And these are no mere onlookers. Long-standing members of the Rastko community of archives, side by side with the most prominent figures of Distributed Proofreaders, have rolled up their sleeves and given a strong and dedicated effort to see that everything comes together for the best. In the words of Project Rastko's president, Zoran Stefanovic, "This achievement is far advanced of our initial plans and well above our highest expectations."

One of the key features incorporated into the DPEU test phase is the ability to work with texts in the UTF8 character set. This is essential for the realizing of producing texts in the range of language groups that the Rastko archives will be processing though DPEU. Here, to my eyes is the most exciting event to witness each day, as the projects stands more and more upon its legs; the varied array of languages entering and moving through the proofing rounds.

The localization of the system is another wonder to watch come to life. The personal page, proofing interface and forums are being translated into Bulgarian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Macedonian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, and Ukrainian. Over 40 projects from amongst these languages are within the system. Some of them are already ready for posting to PG. The total pages proofed so far is nearing 10,000. ("Ten times more than expected.")

As the testing period commences I will be participating and staying close with the directors of the project. Stay close to the newsletter for all the latest news... or if you want more—and I hope you do, or I am falling down on the job—then sign up at, if you have not already, and be a part of the beginning of something historic within your own time.

So that was January. As you can see now, the shape of the remaining months of '04 have already been outlined by these initial developments. And if you wonder, what might be happening to the 'bread and butter' work of DP while all this is going on, do not give it another thought. January was also the most productive proofing month in DP's history. In the first 31 days of the year, we proofed 224,230 pages together.

Fasten your seat belts, everyone! This ride's just gettin' under way.

Stay then, on into this exciting year, and give from the yearnings of your heart!

The best in ourselves for the world!
The best in the world for ourselves!

Until next week...

Thierry Alberto

Links to Articles

19 October 2004
18 February 2004
11 February 2004
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15 October 2003
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1 October 2003
17 September 2003
10 September 2003
3 September 2003
27 August 2003
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