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

“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

“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?”

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