A happy new year to you all!
I will first discuss our work over the past three months. Then, I will describe our goal for the next three months.
Q4 in Review
Ambuda has had a productive but curious quarter.
This quarter, we created Vidyut, a sophisticated Sanskrit processing toolkit. Vidyut is almost ready for use on Ambuda, and we look forward to showing you the results of our work soon. As a preview, here is a demo of our Paninian word generator — special thanks to Shreevatsa R. for preparing this code for use in a web browser.
In addition, Kishore has made great progress on simplifying our onboarding and development setup, which will greatly improve our ability to onboard new engineers. Special thanks to Ashwin for his assistance here as well.
Next, our proofing work continues to go well. Suhas has conducted multiple trials of paid proofing to see how that might accelerate our work. Our initial trials have been very promising, and we look forward to continuing that work in the new year.
Finally, we have clearer strategies in place for creating a legal framework for our project and pursuing official non-profit status. This process takes time, and I will share updates when the time is right. Thanks especially to Ashwin for his recommendations here.
At the same time, however, most of the work above was not on our Q3 roadmap. I did not expect to be writing Vidyut, and creating its components took more time than I had thought. So although we have made substantial progress, there’s a feeling of having missed the mark.
I’ve also learned from conversations with our community that it’s not always obvious what Ambuda’s top priorities are or how to track progress on our overall project.
I think I can do a better job of crisply stating our goals and making our priorities clear. To start, I would like to describe the core of Ambuda, which will always be our project’s top priority.
I think of Ambuda as a pipeline. This pipeline has three critical stages, where each stage flows into the next. These three stages are:
Transcribing. We find scanned Sanskrit books and convert them to high-quality text files. We do so with the help of OCR tools, manual proofing, and applications like our proofing tool.
Structuring. Once we have a text file, we convert it into a structured format by defining headers, sections, footnotes, variant readings, and so on. So far, we have done so manually, which is tedious and error-prone.
Analyzing. Once a plain text file has been structured, we must analyze it by undoing sandhi and analyzing words. So far, we have reused data from other projects. In the future, we can use Vidyut for this task.
With this simple model in mind, here are the challenges we must face at each stage:
Transcribing can subsist on volunteer effort alone. But to truly scale, we need money. In addition, there is still plenty of room to improve our proofing tools and remove more of the tedium required in proofing a text.
Structuring is tedious to do manually but tricky to get right with software, I think this is where Ambuda is weakest, and where we have the most room to improve.
Analysing needs tools that are good, fast, accessible, and easy to use. Few tools meet all four of these criteria, which is why we created Vidyut. Vidyut has made substantial progress, but there will always be room to improve it.
Whatever else Ambuda might do, this is our core. We must ensure that the pipeline flows.
Growing the pipeline
Given the model above, what is most important? How do we ensure that the pipeline flows?
There are dozens of answers to this question: better infrastructure, better onboarding, more fundraising, more publicity, more languages, a better legal framework, more partnerships, more users, more dictionaries, …
All of these are important, and I have mentioned many of them in our community already. But looking at them now, I think these answers distract from the core of the issue. They are incidental rather than essential.
Right now, what is essential is that Ambuda should grow.
Growth energizes the community and boosts morale. Growth brings new users, new contributors, and new donors. When we grow, our growing pains become obvious, and it’s clear what our priorities are. And when growth stalls, our priority should be to grow further.
Therefore, our goal for Q1 is simple: to grow. I suggest two simple metrics to track this, and these will be our sole goals for this quarter:
By the end of Q1, our library should grow, at minimum, at a rate of one text or translation per week. The goal here is sustainable, regular growth over time. (Current rate: 0 texts per week.)
By the end of Q1, our library should have, at minimum, 4000 monthly active users. (Currently: 1800.)
Tactically, this means that our top priority is to ensure that our pipeline of texts is flowing. And that means stronger support for onboarding our engineers and helping them be productive on our platform.
Our previous quarter was necessary so that we could build a stronger foundation for the project. Now is the time to build on that foundation and grow as well as we can.
Our work is just beginning. Thank you for supporting Ambuda. If you would like to support our work with a small donation, you can do so here.
1 January 2023
Appendix: Funds as of 2023-01-01
Since I am short on time, I will update this appendix by the end of the quarter. Briefly, technical spend is consistent with our last update. We are spending more money on proofing projects and have received more monetary support to continue our work.