Distributed Proofreaders is 20! (Part 3)

As part of Distributed Proofreaders’ 20th anniversary celebration, we’ve taken a look at the books we work on and the people who make our e-books possible. Today we take a look at:

The Tools

There have been many updates behind the scenes in the past few years to modernize and maintain our website, software, databases, and documentation. Some of these changes are visible to users in the interfaces we use, and some are invisible but critical. Our “Squirrels,” the site administrators responsible for keeping Distributed Proofreaders’ (DP’s) website running smoothly, and our developers have been very busy.

First, a quick word about the complexity of our operation: Crowdsourced processing of e-books through several rounds of proofreading and formatting, one page at a time, takes a lot of moving parts from a technical point of view. To get a better idea of the user experience, check out our Walkthrough — it’s an excellent preview of the basic process.

Here are just a few technical highlights from the past several years:

2016

  • Set up an Official Documentation section in the DP Wiki so that core official DP documents can be easily located by volunteers and maintained by DP administrators.
  • Converted and loaded our Proofreading and Formatting Guidelines (in all their languages) into the Wiki official documentation for better accessibility and maintenance.
  • Migrated to new and more powerful development and test servers.
  • Updated the DP logo in all our environments.
  • Added Formatting Preview capability to help formatters check for potential formatting problems.
  • Modernized DP code and migrated to a more modern and supported operating system (Ubuntu 14.04).

2017

  • Enhanced our website’s security and usability by introducing SSL.
  • Upgraded our operating system and migrated to a new hosting facility.
  • Launched the French version of the DP website – translated by French-speaking DP volunteers and implemented by our Squirrels.
  • Upgraded the forum and wiki software.
  • Redesigned the Project Manager page to make it more user-friendly.

2018

  • Moved the DP code to github.com for improved code management.
  • Upgraded our operating system to Ubuntu 16.04.
  • Introduced a question at registration to identify how new volunteers found us.
  • Added XML and RSS feeds for Smooth Reading, among many other updates.
  • Updated the DP Walkthrough.
  • Organized post-processing tools into a Post-Processing Workbench so that post-processors could check e-books for errors before submitting them to Project Gutenberg.

2019

  • Made major improvements to the Search Tool and Project Manager Page.
  • Completed work to speed up the site.
  • Added a French version of the DP Walkthrough – le Parcours Guidé.
  • Updated the forum software again and converted the forum database to allow a search for shorter words.
  • Upgraded memory on the production server.

2020

  • Made many system changes and added DP Sans Mono – a special font created by a DP volunteer – as a web font, in preparation to support Unicode.
  • Converted the site to support Unicode. This was a massive change. If there were only one system enhancement to list for these past five years, this and all the work that led to it would be the one!
  • Added our first extended Unicode character suite and have continued to add character suites since then. These suites are pre-defined groups of characters that we use for working with our texts and which allow us to use characters from languages such as Greek and Polish that are not available in the Basic Latin suite.
  • Made a major upgrade to guiguts, one of our important post-processing tools.
  • Issued a new release of the dproofreaders source code: R202009. This is a monumental release as it is the first one to fully support Unicode. Our source code is available under the terms of the GNU General Public License, version 2.

Over the past several years there have been many, many more documentation updates and software improvements, too numerous to list, and more are in the works. Thank you to everyone who identified the need for them, coded them, tested them, provided feedback, and installed them, and to everyone who continues to support them.


There it is! Twenty years of great Books, incredible People, and excellent Tools – all continuing to make e-books available to everyone, everywhere, for free. I’m looking forward to what the next 5 years — 10 years — 20 years brings!

This post was contributed by WebRover, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.

Tomorrow: A special anniversary crossword!

One Response to Distributed Proofreaders is 20! (Part 3)

  1. genknit says:

    Interesting post. Thanks, all you squirrels and everyone, who make it possible for me, as a smooth-reader, to do my job at DP.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: