Giving back to Project Gutenberg

Michael Hart, the founder of Project Gutenberg, is no more. Anybody who’s lived on the internet knows how valuable his project is. I’ve certainly downloaded a ton of stuff from the site in the past few years (I have a Sony Touch reader), but I’ve not contributed anything back.

Today I discovered their Distributed Proofreaders site. The premise is simple. Someone collects and scans a book that can be added to Project Gutenberg. The scans are OCR’d but have to be neatened up manually. e.g. page numbers and chapter headings need to be removed. Common OCR errors like “train” instead of “tram” (they call them ‘scannos’, similar to typos) also require fixing. A simple but neat interface shows the scanned page and the OCR text side by side. A registered person simply needs to carefully scrutinize the result and fix errors that may have crept in.

Their milestones are tracked here, and look very impressive.This is a wonderful way to give back (in a small way) to a project that makes the world a better place. I’ve signed up, and someone reading this – who has a passable grasp of English and a few minutes to spare everyday – probably should too.