Crowdsourcing Tolstoy

 at the NewYorker: “When Leo Tolstoy’s great-great-granddaughter, the journalist Fyokla Tolstaya, announced that the Leo Tolstoy State Museum was looking for volunteers to proofread some forty-six thousand eight hundred pages of her relative’s writings, she hoped to generate enough interest to get the first round of corrections done in six months.

Within days, some three thousand Russians—engineers, I.T. workers, schoolteachers, retirees, a student pilot, a twenty-year-old waitress—signed on. “We were so happy and so surprised,” said Tolstaya. “They finished in fourteen days.”

Now, thanks largely to the efforts of these volunteers, nearly all of the great Russian writer’s massive body of work, including novels, diaries, letters, religious tracts, philosophical treatises, travelogues, and childhood memories, will soon be available online, in a form that can be easily downloaded, free of charge. “Of course we realized there are some novels on the Internet,” Tolstaya said. “But most [writings] are not. We in the museum decided this is not good.”…

The definitive, ninety-volume jubilee edition of Tolstoy’s works, compiled and published in Russia from the nineteen-twenties to the nineteen-fifties, had already been scanned by the Russian State Library. However, converting the PDFs into an easy-to-use digital format posed a challenge. For one thing, even after ABBYY, a company that specializes in translating printed documents into digital records, offered their services for free, proofreading costs were likely to be prohibitive. Charging readers to download the works was not an option. “At the end of his life, Tolstoy said, ‘I don’t need any money for my work. I want to give my work to the people,’ “ said Tolstaya. “It was important for us to make it free for everyone. It is his will.”

That was when they hit on the idea of crowdsourcing, Tolstaya said. “It’s according to Leo Tolstoy’s ideas, to do it with the help of all people around the world—vsem mirom—even the world’s hardest task can be done with the help of everyone.”…(More)”