Open-Source Merriam-Webster’s

Possibly piggy-backing on the success of Wikipedia, and using the collaborative potential of the internet to keep themselves current, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary has opened the doors to user contributions. Submissions go online immediately and unedited. And it’s catching on — re-load the new words page a few times a day and you’ll see an entirely different set.

What’s missing here is any kind of collaborative filtering. You can’t edit the “open” entries, you can’t even vote on them. Which, I assume, will soon leave MW with a “ginormous” pile of mostly garbage entries that they won’t know what to do with. And, I just realized when I tried to link to “ginormous,” they’re providing no interface to permalinks for individual words. So it’s a start, but a weak one. I’m wondering whether MW really gets it, or is just riding a buzzword, trying something – anything – to not look like a crustacean clinging desperately to the back of a giant turtle.

If they do decide to open the dictionary further, it raises all kinds of questions about their status as a lexical authority. And they’ll have lots of fun new infrastructural problems to grapple with (wikipedia consumes massive amounts of technical and human resources that the closed MW doesn’t have to think about).

I wonder what the first word to migrate from the open dictionary to the canonical one will be.

Thanks Paul

Music: Tennessee Ernie Ford :: River Of No Return

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