Kanal 2
14:40 - 14:50
Statement Talk
The Digital Library: No Robots Allowed!

Short thesis

Project Ben Yehuda is a digital library allowing access to public domain Hebrew literature, aiming to make a complete archive of Hebrew texts digitally available, preserve it and expose it to new audiences. It is the largest, open and digitized Hebrew library in the world, with no other literary project of similar scope.
While the project promotes digital innovation, it never relied on OCR or any automation of the meticulous, sometimes tedious, work done by hundreds of volunteers.
Why? Join us!


Project Ben Yehuda (PBY) is a volunteer-based digital library and digitization effort, allowing access to Hebrew literature for the past 20 years.

PBY aims to make accessible a comprehensive library of Hebrew language literature for Hebrew readers worldwide, preserve it and expose it to new audiences. It is the largest, open and digitized Hebrew library in the world, inspired by the Gutenberg project, with no other literary non-gov & npo preservation project, world-wide, to reach similar scope.

Complete reliance on volunteer staff, highly diverse but with substantial participation by retired (60+) women, brings with it unique challenges, especially with digital content and a digital work environment - PBY has no offices and all work is done online.

PBY was founded prior to Wikipedia (1999!) but was built on and fosters the same free culture and open source ideals. PBY software is free and available for reuse (e.g. Yiddish!) on GitHub; PBY has no paywalls and no ads - simple public access; PBY enables free-to-download (DRM-free) ebooks, as well as bulk packaging for analysis and offline access.

While the project relies on and promotes digital innovation, PBY does not use OCR or any automation processes in the meticulous, sometimes tedious, work done by its hundreds of volunteers. Why?

The lesson PBY learnt, after examining integration of these technologies several times, is that complete automation end-to-end is impossible. When one automates only some tasks in the workflow, the non-automated tasks become even more tedious, even more monotonous, repetitive, devoid of any human spontaneity, whimzy, connection. The remaining human-volunteer tasks become themselves, robotic.

Uri Aviv will interview founder of PBY, Asaf Bartov. Following a 2-3 min intro we’ll present an interview/conversation about the technical, social and organizational dilemmas of automation in general, the automation of volunteer-work in PBY in particular, with referral to our decentral event.