It’s hard to believe April is almost here. It’s been a busy three months. Aside from spending most of my time on the usual websites+work formula, I’ve been volunteering at Distributed Proofreaders. DP corrects errors and typesets and formats texts for the free electronic library Project Gutenberg.
DP was on my To Do list since the holidays; I signed up and, just as I figured, I really enjoy helping out there. It’s a great project for people with compulsive copyediting habits, and some of the works (I can’t say all) are quite interesting and worthwhile (or at least amusing) to read and an honor to proof. I’ve had a chance to read some poetry, some W. Somerset Maugham and some of the Aeneid, among many other examples.
Although OCR seems to have come a long way since I first used OmniPage ten years ago, it still has the usual trouble distinguishing 1 from l (that’s the number one and the lowercase letter L) and 0 and O (zero and uppercase letter O). I wish I’d had DP’s custom font back then — it’s very useful in deciphering similar characters. I also learned a fantastic term for a bad OCR result: it’s called a “scanno.” It sounds so much more fun than “typo.”
The DP website is very comprehensive and it takes a little bit of time to become familiar with the navigation, but after a few days it’s not that bad. The community is extremely active and from the looks of it, very friendly and forgiving towards DP newbies. I haven’t had to ask any questions in the forums, though, because the online help resources have answered them all. It is quite refreshing to see such excellent documentation (a very good sign) on a project website, let alone a volunteer-driven project website. I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this, but DP’s proofing summary sheet [PDF] is truly a work of art and utility that covers most major DP issues, and should be a model for style references.
Since I’m still pretty much a newbie, I’m currently restricted to the first proofing stage, which has a pretty fast workflow (at least, the English books do — I don’t monitor the books in other languages). On average I can work on a few pages (usually fewer than 10) of a particular book before it moves on to the next proofing stage. If it’s a particularly difficult book (e.g. it has a lot of scannos, uses older dialect or requires special instructions to be carried out), then it takes a little longer to move on and I’ll get to work on it more. DP is pretty good about publicizing its goals for the day/month and seems to exceed every single goal — or so I’ve noticed since I started paying attention to such things. The stats aren’t surprising; DP has been around for five years and just celebrated completing its 10,000th unique title, which gives an idea of the hefty volunteer power behind the site.
Another interesting volunteer-powered literary site, LibriVox, is relatively young at 1+ years old, but it seems to be doing pretty well. The folks at LibriVox read and record public domain books to digital audio and provide the audiobooks/individual chapters or poems for free download. They encourage anyone to read, but also are in need of volunteers to help with other aspects of the project. At some point, I hope to join the effort. I’ve enjoyed a bunch of the audio selections so far; you can subscribe to the podcast to stay updated on new releases. They’re also available at Internet Archive.
One of the other items on my To Do list was to play more chess. I like chess — I learned the basic rules during my elementary school days, but didn’t play much over the years. I only play recreationally (translation: I have no idea what I’m doing). I’ve won vs. chess computers on their “beginner/intermediate” (a.k.a. “just beat me now”) modes a few times, but I have yet to beat a computer at a moderate level.
At the beginning of the year, I started playing correspondence chess. For the most part, it works well because I only have to move once every three to seven days, so it doesn’t take up nearly as much time as a typical over-the-board game would (in one sitting). On the other hand, I’ve discovered that the longer I’m away from a game, the harder it is to remember all of the possible moves/counter-moves I’d considered. Even with the aid of a notebook, there does seem to be a certain “chess momentum” that’s easy to interrupt. In any case, the point is to have fun, but I’m planning to look through game openings and work on improving my middlegame.
While researching correspondence chess sites, I found Wulegbr’s reviews and comparison chart helpful in narrowing them down. There’s also a review page for live, OTB-style chess sites.
*In this case, CC stands for correspondence chess, not Carcassonne, of which I am also a fan.