Distributed Proofreaders is 22 years old today, and we’re celebrating our anniversary with a bit of poetry. Congratulations to all the volunteers who have helped in “preserving history one page at a time” all these years!
Which major league contains these teams: United States, Poland, Texas, Yorkshire, Midnight Crew, P3 Archers, Procrastination, and more? Why, Distributed Proofreaders (DP), of course, a “major league” producer of e-books for Project Gutenberg.
Teams? Yes, DP volunteers have the chance to join any of over 400 Teams and “talk” online to other DP users with similar interests in the Team forums.
Let’s look at the range of topics the Teams focus on; the experience of being a Team member; and which Teams have stayed the course and flourished over nearly twenty years.
Types of Teams
We can broadly classify Teams as either “social” or “technical.”
Social Teams bring together those DP users who live in a particular part of the world, use a certain language, or share an interest outside DP.
Technical Teams are linked to some part of the DP process, such as proofreading, formatting, smooth reading, etc.; or to a special skill that may be needed in some of the books we work on, such as processing illustrations. There’s even a Team for DP Bloggers!
How Teams Work
Anyone registered with DP may join up to six Teams. They’re listed in the Team list, which gives a link for you to join any that interest you, or even enables you to start a new Team if you think you’ve identified a topic likely to support one.
Your Team memberships are listed on your profile for other users to see.
Each Team has a page with a mission statement and a link to the Team discussion thread, which appears in the Team Talk area of the DP Forums. You can take part in active Team discussions – which you can do even if you’re not a formal member of a Team – or see if you can revive an old Team with a peppy new post.
DP Teams: Facts
Oldest Teams: The first batch of Teams, established in February 2003, included Nederlands, Northern Virginia, Michigan, Florida, Aussies, Canada, Graduate Students, Finland, and the ironic Team Non-Competitive (“for people who hate the concept of teams and all the competition that goes with it”).
Newest Teams: The Teams to have got off the ground in 2022 are Vancouver and P2+1 (for volunteers who work in the second proofreading round and want to qualify for the third round). The next most recent Team to get started was launched in 2020: Cookbook Lovers.
Team with most members: UK, with 855 members.
Team with most posts: Keep Your Chin Up (“for those who proofread despite having some physical difficulty”), with 29412 posts.
Teams with the wackiest names: • Sgt. Proofers Lonely Hearts Club Team (“For every lonely heart feeling lonely and lost in this E-niversum”). • Distributed Avoirdupois Team (“for people who love proofing but don’t love the pounds that mysteriously attach themselves to a figure seated at a computer”). • No, really, I am not goofing off (“for those who should be doing their real work instead of proofing”).
Teams Then and Now
Teams became a feature of DP in 2003, not long after DP itself was born in October 2000. Since then, 413 Teams have been launched. Naturally not all of these have remained highly active, but those that are still active provide a lively environment for discussion.
Among “social” Teams, most of the active ones have a national or language focus: Western Europe makes the running with Team Germany, en français, Team Italia, Spanish, and Nederlands especially busy. There are also a few other “social” ones that have long been well attended, including Keep Your Chin Up, Proofing with Cats, and Knitters Who Read.
Active “technical” Teams, more closely focussed on DP work, include some centered on stages in the DP process: for instance, Smoooth [sic] Readers; the new P2+1 team described above; and F2 Fanatics, for volunteers working in the second formatting round. Some popular Teams offer specialist advice and assistance to other proofers, such as Music, Illustrators, Index, Turn the Tables, We’ve Got You Covered (designing custom covers for books without an original cover image), and Ad Addicts (some of our books were published with pages of adverts that present complex design issues).
The P3 round – the third stage of proofreading in which volunteers closely check each draft e-book to ensure that it matches the original – has two Teams with posts every day. One is the P3 Archers, who target projects calling for a quick finish. Then there are the P3 Diehards, who in recent months have made remarkable progress in “pushing along those P3 projects that are languishing in the list” – Diehards now usher even the largest and most challenging projects out of P3 within just a couple of months.
So, what place do Teams have within DP now? Do people still want to interact online in this way? After all, since Teams were first thought of, the rise of social media has provided many other opportunities for online socializing. The people who started the first DP Teams back in 2003 might not have predicted the proliferation of Teams and which Teams would be active now. But Teams have evolved to occupy several niches where people do find it satisfying and useful to take part, and the example of the P3 Diehards has shown how Teams can still do a lot for DP’s productivity. DP’s Teams provide both a sense of community and mutual aid in DP’s mission to “preserve history one page at a time.”
This post was contributed by Neil M., a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer.
I am one of the thousands of volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders. We’re Distributed because we’re located in different places all over the globe and we’re Proofreaders because we read text looking for errors. We turn out-of-copyright printed books into electronic eBooks, which have selectable/searchable text and which are also suitable for text-to-speech software, and then make those eBooks available to all, for free, via Project Gutenberg.
Once we have a scanned image of a page from a printed book, we run Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software on it to turn the image of text into actual editable text. The OCR accuracy is good, but tends to still leave many mistakes (what we call “scannos”) in the created text. We then, in multiple passes, verify the OCR’s results.
In striving towards a high quality for the finished eBooks we aim for a consistent result from all the many different volunteers. This is achieved by following a set of Proofreading Guidelines which explain what to change and how to do it.
And to help people familiarize themselves with the Guidelines, we have a set of Proofreading Quizzes and Tutorials. These act as an instructional aid for people to learn what to do and also as an ongoing refresher course, as it is strongly recommended that all volunteers redo the Proofreading Quizzes every six months or so.
The Proofreading Quizzes start with the basics and gradually introduce more and more elements, covering what to do with things found in easier books through to quite hard and challenging books. Each quiz is accompanied by a brief tutorial which explains everything one needs to know to complete the quiz.
Part of such a scanned image of a page from a printed book might look like this:
and the OCR software may have generated for it the text:
We then compare that OCR generated text with the scanned image of the printed page and correct any mistakes which the OCR made to have the text be the same as in the image:
It’s very much like those spot-the-differences types of games/puzzles. Whilst Proofreading we ignore things like italics and just verify the text has the correct characters. Layout and style issues, such as italics, are dealt with in later Formatting rounds of our process.
The quiz process lets volunteers actually try their hands at proofreading as they work through the quizzes and tutorials. And it provides the answers online in an automated way — you don’t have to wait for feedback.
Here’s a little quiz to start you off:
Do you have an attention to detail?
Do you like those spot-the-differences games?
Do you like learning new things and facing new challenges?
If you have answered yes to these questions, you may enjoy being a Proofreader at Distributed Proofreaders. Try the Proofreading Quizzes and find out!
This post was contributed by FallenArchangel, a DP volunteer.