Proofreading the Public Domain

This is cross-posted from Chocolate and Vodka, but I’ve included different invite codes in this post.

For the last few months I’ve been working with Book Oven, a Canadian start-up whose aim is to make it easier to prepare long texts for publishing by making it a simple, collaborative process.

The first thing we’ve focused on is how to proofread a manuscript for typos. The problem with reading a whole book all at once and looking for typos is that you can get so caught up in reading that your brain starts to skip the mistakes, seeing what it thinks should be there instead of what actually is. But what if you were presented with just one sentence at a time? You’d lack some context, it’s true, but you don’t really need a lot of context to know if “teh” is a misspelling of “the” or that “their” should be “there”.

That’s what we’ve built at Book Oven, and we’ve called it “Bite-Size Edits”. It presents you with a random snippet of text, with a sentence above and below for limited context, and if you spot a typo you can suggest a correction by editing the sentence and clicking “Suggest changes” (click on the images for a closer look or visit our complete How To).

You can also tell us that the snippet is OK as it is by clicking “No changes”, or that there’s something confusing about it by clicking “Skip”.

If our calculations are correct, it will take 100 people just 10 minutes to proofread a 100,000 word book, and we want to bring that collaborative power to bear on on the public domain. Thousands of texts have been uploaded to Project Gutenberg, but although they have been very carefully proofread some still have a small number of errors. Michael Hart, Project Gutenberg’s founder, called for help in removing these errors, so we’ve set up a version of Bite-Size Edits, which we’ve called the Gutenberg Rally, to focus just on texts from Project Gutenberg and Distributed Proofreaders (Gutenberg’s proofreading site).

If you’d like to pitch in, all you need to do is pick an invitation code from the list below and visit the Book Oven Gutenberg Rally site to create a new account. When you’ve successfully signed up, please leave a comment with the code you used and I’ll cross it off the list.
Now, just a little word of warning. The site is in alpha, which means that you will almost certainly find things that are broken! We have a feedback form that you can use to let us know and a forum to discuss things (which, is itself something that’s not entirely finished, as it’s not yet fully integrated – just sign in with the same username and password that you create when you join the main site). We’d love your feedback, so don’t spare the horses!

If you explore the site, you’ll find that you can start your own projects, upload your own text (.txt files only at the moment) and can send it to Bite-Size for the community to proof. Please feel free to experiment, but be aware we’re still ironing out bugs and that we have a lot more social functionality still to unveil!

So, for the love proof-reading, get cracking! Oh, but be warned. Bite-Size Edits has been described by one usability tester as “evilly addictive”. Don’t say we didn’t tell you…

(Obviously I can’t update the list whilst I’m asleep, so if you pick a code that doesn’t work, list it in the comments and try another!)

Invite Codes

8 thoughts on “Proofreading the Public Domain

  1. Pingback: Revealing a Bit of the Book Oven

  2. qHRed4d0 — I’ve used that code.
    I do see a problem, aside from the appalling addictiveness, even with dry tomes — the pleasant design and flowing dissolve from one to the next to the next … yes, actually, bite-size indeed … you begin the next snippet before you realize the first has gone, like popcorn at the movies. I had a line that was Mr. That’s all, just Mr. And then Madison began the next line. Skip is a great option, where it’s physically impossible to delete the line break and force the following line to join up with the Mr. But then there was a line with an end quote and no beginning quote in that line or the preceding. I made a guess then, based on the feel of the language there, that it was not an error; but there’s no certainty in that.

    Anyway — it’s a lovely editing environment. Well done!!

  3. Ardobbs, the reason you got a “Mr.” all by itself was probably that the sentence cutting algorithm saw the full stop and thought that it was the end of the sentence. I don’t think we have a way to prevent that at the moment. In the original text, the line probably wasn’t broken, it’s just been chopped in an unfortunate manner.

    Regarding the seemingly orphaned quote marks, whether beginning or end, the best bet is to leave them. There is a way for reviewers to look at entire chapters (and eventually the whole book) as one piece, so they will then spot badly broken lines, inappropriate paragraphs and missing quote marks. For now, the Bite Size Edits is really just about looking for stuff that’s plainly wrong.

    Glad you like the interface. It does get addictive after a while. I’ve been using it a while now, and it still draws me in!

  4. I grabbed code 1EVSwIR9, and am actively going through a bio of James Madison. Favorite snippet so far: when, trying to demonstrate his position of liberality, he proposed a ratio of five to three (for counting slaves as people, you might recall). I’m looking forward to big things from Book Oven.

  5. Ignore the last post; I was wrong. I think I grabbed a code from the Chocolate and Vodka post instead — but I’ve lost track of which one! Sorry!

  6. Alhireth-Hotep, found the code, thanks for listing it!

    I do find it really interesting to read books in random order. It’s really weird when it’s a book you’ve read and know! Lots of fun though. 😀

  7. Whee! I’ve taken 74a4o4rN.

  8. Pingback: Proofreading the public domain | Quill & Quire

Comments are closed.