Hat on Top, Coat Below


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June 2, 2004

One of the reasons I’ve put up so few entries here lately is that I’ve fallen hard for Distributed Proofreaders and have been using many of my lunch hours to play there instead of write here. In case you don’t have time to go read what DP is about, the gist is that it lets people participate in building the Project Gutenburg archive of electronic books and periodicals by comparing page-sized chunks of scanned text to the original. The most important thing to note is that it lets me indulge the part of my personality that loves to nitpick without anyone getting hurt. Thanks to Lynda, who posted the link to DP over at The Usual Suspects, I now have an outlet for energies that otherwise might go into thinking bad thoughts about people who create threads in support fora with subjects like “im begging you” or “Hehehe … help?”

There is something so satisfying about taking a page of text straight from the OCR software and whipping it into shape. It’s a mini version of the high I get from decluttering a room but so much more do-able. If I just have a few minutes, I can do a page from a novel and get a little hit of satisfaction. If I have more time, I can tackle a page from a hard book and get a glow from knowing I contributed to moving that project a little bit closer to completion. If I have no time at all, I don’t have to do anything nor do I have to feel bad about not doing it.

Another great thing about DP is that it gives me an opportunity to be part of a community (in the newfangled online sense of that word) of like-minded nitpickers. Questions such as “does this period belong inside or outside the italic tag?” are not just tolerated but welcomed. In fact, the whole atmosphere over there is encouraging. I’ve never gotten anything but encouraging feedback, even when the person giving it was pointing out a few things I needed to do better. And because I don’t have a quota or other obligation to meet over there, I’m free to step back if I’m having a day when I don’t give a damn about where the period goes. That’s the thing about my nitpickiness– sometimes I delight in getting things exactly right and sometimes I think caring about stuff like that is just plain crazy. I think that means I’m human.


A year ago, I wrote nothing despite not yet having heard about DP.

Two years ago, I saw some movies.

N is for Nitpick

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