About a year ago, while overwintering back in St. Petersburg, Russia and helping take care of our newborn son, I conceived a scheme for making written English easier to learn and more accessible to everyone from special needs students and dyslexics to home-schooled children to just about everyone who has ever struggled with the horribly irregular English spelling. This scheme, which I called "Unspell," uses a dialect-neutral phonemic representation of spoken English. I invented a special set of symbols for this purpose. A year of work went into perfecting a system that captures all the significant phonological distinctions of English and that is easy to read, easy to write and easy to learn. Two pieces of software—called “unspell” and “respell”—will convert from English text to this representation and back in a process that is largely automatic, allowing people who have good command of spoken English to read and write perfect English without having to so much as look at English spelling!
While I was writing and speaking on the subject of collapse I was often asked what my qualifications are for doing so. Am I an economist, a historian, an anthropologist, a sociologist? Alas, I am none of the above, and that makes me an amateur. But as far as Unspell is concerned, I have all of the requisite qualifications: I have an advanced degree in applied linguistics, a degree in computer engineering, and well over a decade of experience working as a software engineer, engineering manager and systems architect in a variety of high-tech start-up companies.
I have been able to complete the design for Unspell in my spare time working together with a few volunteers. But now that it is time to develop and deliver software, this model will no longer suffice. I have to register and organize a company, buy software licenses, lease servers, pay contractors and so on. The first step is to raise some seed money, which will be used to put together a demo that can be shown to prospective investors. I hope to raise the seed money this month and to complete the demo during the first quarter of 2014.
And this is where I need your help. Writing and talking on the subject of collapse was interesting and perhaps useful. It was also very time-consuming, and definitely nonrenumerative. I hope that, in recognition of my efforts, you will consider helping me raise the seed money I need to launch this venture, either directly, by donating yourself, or by spreading word of Unspell among people you know. In return, I promise to do my utmost to give you the satisfaction of having helped create a major public good.
To find out more about Unspell, please visit http://unspell.it.
To donate, please go to the Unspell crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo.com.