A 20th Anniversary Crossword

October 4, 2020

What would Distributed Proofreaders’ 20th anniversary be without a celebratory crossword?

Our latest brain-teaser is based on Good Stories for Great Birthdays, by Frances Jenkins Olcott, a prolific children’s author who became the first head of the children’s department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in 1898. The book, published in 1922, contains “over 200 stories celebrating 23 great birthdays of patriot-founders and upbuilders of the Republics of both North and South America. In the stories are more than 75 historical characters, men, women, and children.”

In order to solve the puzzle, first read the book – being for children, it’s an easy read. And, being an e-book, it’s searchable.

Then you can solve the puzzle in one of two ways:

  • Use the interactive version. Just click on a blank square and the corresponding clue pops up. Type in the answer and click OK (or, if you’re stumped, click the Solve button). Clicking the Check Puzzle button at the bottom gives the number of errors and incomplete words, if you want to see how you’re getting on. The interactive version can be used online or downloaded for offline solving.
  • Or, download the printable PDF version and print out the puzzle to solve it the old-fashioned way, with your favorite writing implement. Check your solution with the printable PDF answer key. No peeking! (But who’s to know?)

So enjoy a fun crossword for a great birthday – Happy 20th to Distributed Proofreaders!

This crossword was created by FallenArchangel, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer, using the free EclipseCrossword app.

Tomorrow: DP’s Knitters Who Read have stitched up something special!

Previous Distributed Proofreaders Crosswords

Marjorie Dean: Marvelous Manager

The Last of the Bushrangers

Uncle Wiggily’s Squirt Gun

An Universal Dictionary of the Marine

Nothing to Do


Distributed Proofreaders is 20! (Part 3)

October 3, 2020

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!


Distributed Proofreaders is 20! (Part 2)

October 2, 2020

As part of Distributed Proofreaders’ 20th anniversary celebration, yesterday we took a look at the public domain e-books we’ve contributed to Project Gutenberg. Today we look at:

The People

Numerous people from around the world participate in our book-preserving mission – the volunteers at DP and those who work with our partners in other like-minded organizations.

Our Volunteers

Since DP’s founding 20 years ago, more than 55,000 volunteers from around the globe have contributed to creating our e-books – nearly 40,000 e-books – making them freely available to all at Project Gutenberg.

With many people spending more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, DP has had an influx of new volunteers this year. This has not been a short-term impact of a few days or even weeks, but a sustained addition of volunteers every month. Welcome, welcome to all of you! And thank you, thank you to all of the existing volunteers who have been working steadily to keep a variety of projects available for the new volunteers to work on, as well as answering questions, mentoring, and moving the projects through the rounds of proofreading and formatting.

Numerous volunteers wear numerous hats at DP. We have a General Manager, Linda Hamilton, at the helm, appointed by the Trustees of the Distributed Proofreaders Foundation (the non-profit corporation with overall stewardship of the organization). We have our Site Administrators – the folk who keep our wheels running, affectionately known as “Squirrels” because back in the olden days, our site server was in our founder Charlz’s garage, and sometimes squirrels would visit it… You’ll read some more about their work tomorrow, when we talk about the Tools. And there are Project Facilitators who smooth the path of a project on its way to becoming an e-book.

Then we have the many people who are involved in the direct production of our e-books. This blog post on the life of a book at DP, written by one of our Squirrels, will give you an excellent idea of the process and the people involved – Content Providers, Project Managers, Proofreaders, Formatters, Post-Processors, Smooth Readers, Post-Processing Verifiers. We even have specialists to help with things like mentoring, image processing, music transcription, and projects in languages other than English.

Some of our busy volunteers have reached milestones of their own over the last few years. In August 2016, one Project Manager created his 2000th project. That means that he alone had created 6% of the projects we had worked on at that point. Nearly every proofreader and formatter at that time had likely worked on at least one of his projects. Just last month, one Smooth Reader completed smooth reading more than 1,000 books since 2007. And one of our post-processors completed post-processing more than 1,000 books.

Our Partners

Project Gutenberg is our primary partner, making all the projects we work on available via online download. They are for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost. The user may copy them, give them away, or re-use them. The e-books are all in the public domain in the United States. Since its founding in 1971, Project Gutenberg has amassed a collection of over 60,000 e-books on a vast array of topics, nearly 40,000 of which were contributed by DP volunteers over the last 20 years. Both Project Gutenberg and DP follow the principles of the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Statement, which means that the e-books we work on are not restricted as to content.

We owe a great debt to Project Gutenberg, not only because they are a repository for our work, but also because their hardworking volunteers, like the “Whitewashers” who do the final checks on all e-books submitted to Project Gutenberg, share our high standards of quality.

We’re also celebrating our anniversary in partnership with Librivox, whose volunteers – people from all over the world – record audiobooks from books in the U.S. public domain. As with Project Gutenberg’s e-books, these audiobooks are freely available to anyone. In honor of DP’s 20th anniversary, Librivox has recorded DP’s 35,000th title, Shores of the Polar Sea, and Project Gutenberg’s 60,000th title (the e-book of which was also prepared by DP volunteers), The Living Animals of the World, vol. 1.

DP volunteers have also helped with a number of preservation projects in conjunction with educational and cultural institutions all over the world. In 2018, we began assisting in Project PHaEDRA, a joint project of Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institute, in transcribing some of the Harvard College Observatory’s 19th- and early 20th-Century astronomical logbooks and notebooks. These were produced by a group of Harvard researchers that included early female astronomers and the famous Harvard Computers. And in 2019, in connection with an exhibition in at the Mundaneum in Mons, Belgium, entitled “Data Workers,” DP volunteers transcribed French and French-English texts from the Mundaneum’s archive.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the Tools that make it possible for us to preserve history one page at a time. We’re so proud to have been doing that for 20 years!

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


Distributed Proofreaders is 20! (Part 1)

October 1, 2020

Happy 20th Anniversary, Distributed Proofreaders! It’s hard to believe that today marks two decades since we began “preserving history one page at a time.” Since then, our volunteers have contributed nearly 40,000 unique titles to our partner, Project Gutenberg (watch for that next milestone very soon).

We had a massive celebration for our 15th Anniversary here at Hot off the Press, in which we explored, in six blog posts, the many milestones we had achieved since DP’s founding in 2000. By 2015, we had reached over 30,000 titles. Take a look:

For our 20th anniversary, we’d like to celebrate, this time in three blog posts on three successive days, the three key resources that make us what we are: The Books, without which we wouldn’t exist; the People – the volunteers who do the work and the partners who distribute what we produce; and the Tools, which make it possible to do what we do. After that, we’ve got a couple of fun surprises to wrap up the festivities.

Today, we celebrate:

The Books

Two months after our 15th anniversary, we posted our 31,000th book to Project Gutenberg. Now we’re fast approaching 40,000. That’s nearly 10,000 books we produced in five years – a little over six books a day. Some books fly through and get posted to Project Gutenberg in a matter of days from being made available to work on. Other more challenging ones take years. Each book is “touched” by scores of volunteers, and their ability to work together is enabled and supported by a small team of volunteer software developers, system administrators, testers, and facilitators, led by our volunteer General Manager. Here are just a few of our significant milestones over the last five years:

Public Domain Day. January 1, 2019, was the first time the pool of public domain books expanded since DP started, with books published in 1923 shedding their copyright restrictions in the United States – like Tutankhamen and the Discovery of his Tomb by the Late Earl of Carnarvon and Mr Howard Carter, published only few months after the 1922 discovery, and P.G. Wodehouse’s The Inimitable Jeeves. We celebrated a second U.S. Public Domain Day on January 1, 2020, for books published in 1924, such as Tarzan and the Ant Men by Edgar Rice Burroughs and The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley. Our content providers and project managers were pleased to identify significant works that were now freely available for us to work on and provide to Project Gutenberg for all to enjoy. We’re eager for the next one this January, when the 1925 books become free of copyright.

31,000 titles. Our 31,000th book, posted on December 27, 2015, was Colour in the Flower Garden. The author, Gertrude Jekyll, was a famous horticulturist and garden designer whose approach to garden design has had a huge impact on gardens throughout Europe, England, and North America. You can read more about her and her book in this celebratory blog post.

Holinshed’s Chronicles. On May 23, 2016, we uploaded the last of the multi-volume Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland by Raphael Holinshed. Written in the 16th Century, this extensive history of Britain was the source of many of Shakespeare’s history plays, including King Lear and Macbeth.

32,000 titles. For our 32,000th project, we posted the 8th book in L. Frank Baum’s beloved Oz series on May 28, 2016, Tik-Tok of Oz. DP volunteers worked on all the Oz books. All are available on Project Gutenberg as text-only versions; but most, like our 32,000th title, have been redone with all of the original illustrations!  See this blog post for more on this milestone.

33,000 titles. DP volunteers love to work on books with beautiful illustrations. On November 28, 2016, we posted our 33,000th project, A Flower Wedding, by the marvelous children’s book illustrator Walter Crane. In a loving tribute to this milestone, a DP volunteer tells us, “‘… decorated by Walter Crane.’ As soon as I saw those words I knew I was sunk.” There are few better examples of our volunteers’ enthusiasm for the books we preserve.

34,000 titles. And we love how our books are made! Our 34,000th title, posted on July 5, 2017, was A Manual of the Art of Bookbinding. This has everything you ever wanted to know about the hands-on side of bookbinding, and then some. It was designed for the amateur who wanted to bind just one book; or the collector who wanted to bind his private library of books; or the “practical workman” who wanted to learn the trade. You can read more about it here.

35,000 titles. Our 35,000th book was posted January 26, 2018. Shores of the Polar Sea is a gripping chronicle of an 1875 British expedition into the Arctic and the beauty, danger, and privations the explorers experienced. The author was a remarkable young man who, in addition to serving as the expedition’s medical officer, was both an artist and a scientist. We marked this milestone in this blog post. And for this 20th anniversary celebration, our friends at Librivox have recorded an audiobook version of this book more on Librivox in tomorrow’s blog post.

36,000 titles. Special recognition for 14 years of work was due to our volunteers for our 36,000th title on September 7, 2018: The 124th issue of The American Missionary that we contributed to Project Gutenberg. We posted our first issue of that periodical in 2004. Read more about it here.

37,000 titles. On April 16, 2019, we submitted our 37,000th project, French Painting of the 19th Century in the National Gallery of Art. This booklet, described in more detail here, contains many vivid colour plates and descriptions of several of the masterpieces in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. This type of booklet has helped make the world of art accessible to readers and to highlight the offerings of this major museum – and, by creating this online version, DP helped extend that audience still further.

Annali d’Italia. In May 2019, we completed and posted the 8th volume of the Annali d’Italia series, Annali D’Italia dal Principio dell’Era Volgare Sino All’Anno 1750. These important books, written by Lodovico Antonio Muratori, present the history of Italy from its beginnings until 1750.

Project Gutenberg’s 60,000th title. In July 2019, we were proud to contribute Project Gutenberg’s 60,000th title, The Living Animals of the World (volume 1 of 2). You can learn more about this milestone here. And Librivox has recorded an audiobook version of this fascinating project to help us celebrate our 20th anniversary.

The Golden Bough. In September 2019, we posted the final volume of James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough, with all 12 volumes prepared at DP. This masterwork on mythology and religion had a huge influence on the literature of the time and on modern thought. We marked this major achievement here.

Southey’s History. At the end of September 2019, we also posted the final volume of Robert Southey’s History of the Peninsular War, with all six volumes prepared at DP. Though perhaps better known for his Romantic poetry, Southey was also a fine historian, as demonstrated by his detailed account of Spain and Portugal’s struggle against Napoleon. The completion of the set at Project Gutenberg is an accomplishment of which to be proud.

38,000 titles. Our 38,000th contribution to Project Gutenberg, on November 8, 2019, was The Birds of Australia (volume 3 of 7). The seven volumes of this masterpiece of ornithology were published between 1840 and 1848 and introduced readers to 681 species, almost half of which had never been described before. The lithographic plates in the books, many produced by the author’s wife Elizabeth, are exquisite. Learn more about it in this blog post.

39,000 titles. For our 39,000 book, we were thrilled to highlight a project in a language other than English. Volume 6 of Wilhelm Hauffs sämtliche Werke in sechs Bänden (Wilhelm Hauff’s Collected Works in Six Volumes) was posted on April 27, 2020. The 19th-Century German poet and novelist Wilhelm Hauff died young, but his legacy lives on in his Märchen (fairy tales), contained in this volume, which remain favorites of German-speaking children even now. We celebrated this achievement in a blog post in both English and German.

Captain Cook and Pliny. In July 2020 we posted the last volumes of two major sets of volumes to Project Gutenberg:

Tomorrow, we take a look at the People who make all this possible. Congratulations to everyone at Distributed Proofreaders on 20 years of great books!

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


10 Years of Hot off the Press

October 1, 2020

October 1, 2020, marks not only the 20th anniversary of Distributed Proofreaders (DP), but also the 10th anniversary of this blog. For a decade, Hot off the Press has celebrated the great work DP volunteers do “preserving history one page at a time.” It was begun as part of the celebration of DP’s 10th anniversary – and it’s amazing how quickly these ten years have passed, and how much we’ve accomplished in that time. DP volunteers have contributed over 170 blog posts since then.

Here’s a selection from the Hot off the Press archives that we hope you’ll find absorbing and entertaining.

The posts published in the nine days following the blog’s founding on October 1, 2010, give an excellent idea of the wide range of work DP volunteers do. A post on Sir Walter Scott’s journal celebrated DP’s 6,000th title (posted to Project Gutenberg in 2005). A review of a 1916 astronomy book followed. Volunteer content providers shared stories of how they found projects for DP in “Turn around when possible”, Garage Musings, and In Pursuit of Poetry. Classic fiction was represented in reviews of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories and Alice Duer Miller’s Come Out of the Kitchen (with photos from the hit Broadway play). A member of DP’s Music Team reviewed Rimsky-Korsakov’s masterful Principles of Orchestration. And there was a review of the equally masterful Encyclopedia of Needlework by Thérèse de Dillmont.

Over the past decade, our blog posts have looked at the work we’ve done on books that range across many different cultures. Among them was Music and Some Highly Musical People, a survey of African-American music and musicians in the 19th Century, written by former slave James Monroe Trotter. Castes and Tribes of Southern India was seven-volume subset of a large set of volumes on the peoples of India. We reviewed The Status of Working Women of Japan, a sociological study written by a Christian missionary. One of our volunteers who worked on a dictionary of Cebuano, a language of the Southern Philippines, turned it into a smartphone app!

Many DP volunteers are bilingual and even multilingual, so our projects range across a number of different languages other than English. Hot off the Press has often featured non-English books, like our 27,000th title, Storia della decadenza e rovina dell’impero romano, an Italian translation of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. And we’ve had a few bilingual blog posts. For example, for the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation, our review of The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents was in English and French. And our review of our 39,000th title, volume six of Wilhelm Hauffs sämtliche Werke (Wilhelm Hauff’s Collected Works) was in English and German.

We DP volunteers take our mission of preserving books very seriously. This week being Banned Books Week, it’s a good occasion to mention that Hot off the Press featured America’s first banned book, The New English Canaan. Thanks to our volunteers, it’s freely available at Project Gutenberg, which shares our dedication to the Freedom to Read.

Our volunteers have also contributed accounts of the work they do at DP. In addition to the early blog posts by content providers mentioned above, we’ve had posts on the joys of proofreading, smooth reading, post-processing, mentoring, and music transcription. And a look at the life of a book at Distributed Proofreaders will give you an excellent idea of our process.

We know how to have a little fun, too. A DP volunteer created our first crossword, based on Marjorie Dean: Marvelous Manager, a juvenile fiction project we had worked on. There have been several crosswords since, including a 20th Anniversary special that you’ll see later this week.

This is just a small sample of what our volunteers have shared about the work they love at DP. Browse through our blog offerings – you’re bound to find something fascinating. Happy 20th to DP, and Happy 10th to Hot off the Press!

This post was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer and editor of Hot off the Press.


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