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LinuxWorld: Metaphors -- Of open source, the scientific method, and the OED

Mar 07, 2000, 04:59 (10 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by J.S. Kelly)

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"The Oxford English Dictionary, considered the ultimate authority on the English language -- and called the "greatest dictionary in any language" by the Daily Telegraph and the "greatest work in dictionary making ever undertaken" by the New York Times -- would appear to be an open source work in every sense of the term."

"While doing research on the Internet one day, I discovered that work on the OED started in the middle of the nineteenth century. The undertaking was so enormous that its editor, James A.H. Murray, issued a public appeal for help early in the dictionary's development.

"In what became known as the reading program, paid and volunteer contributors known as readers have provided the OED editors with quotations that illustrate the use of particular words. Reader contributions are processed by a core editorial team. The system has been in use (though not continuously) since 1857.

"I must say I was surprised when I found out about that because I'd frankly not expected such a prestigious work to have received contributions from just anybody. I'm embarrassed to admit my surprise because I do believe in open source software. And if open source can create really great software, why shouldn't it also create great dictionaries?"

Complete story.