Thursday, May 22, 2008

A better mouse trap

I have had the privilege to participate at a conference on lexicography at the Aarhus School of Business. It was a truly enjoyable conference; I learned a lot, I talked a lot and I even had the pleasure of presenting about Wikis, Wiktionary, OmegaWiki, the need for standards and SignWriting. As each of these subjects are broad enough to present for half a day, it is not strange when people find that one aspect that is of special interest to them, only becomes clear when talking in the coffee break.

There were several presentations that really made me sit up and listen. Presentations about the preservation of knowledge about Tamil crafts, Bavarian dialects, Brazilian learners dictionaries, specialised tools for the teaching of English, electronic pocket dictionaries in Japan .. the list goes on. Really special for me was a talk on Wiktionary.

I have a tender spot for Wiktionary, I know how much it has improved over the years. I know the people, their dedication and the amount of effort that goes into constantly improving what is essentially unstructured data. Given that I am a bureaucrat and admin on several projects, given that I am still running a bot on most Wiktionaries, I have a clue what is going on.

In the presentation the terminology of business terminology was considered. Business, was looked at and the information was found wanting. There are many translations but several were considered to be wrong, archaic... OmegaWiki is a better mouse trap, it does allow for annotations. But in order to be better mouse trap, it has to catch more mice.

The traffic numbers demonstrate the relevance of Wiktionary; it is the biggest resource of its kind on the Internet. This is in my opinion why it is an important resource. When lexicographers want to make an impact, they have to do better. If they want to cooperate, they will find people knowledgeable, interested and enthusiastic. They will have to tread carefully because their scientific reputation is not what will make this work, it will be their ability to listen, to be judicious in their effort and in their ability to share on an equal footing.
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