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Link words to dictionary definitions
  [vote for,

Web service:

Type in a URL. The service parses the designated site and presents it to you with dictionary links for words. You can set a word-commonness threshold. Only words above the threshold get linked to their dictionary definition. Extra-cool would be a slider that changes the threshold dynamically.

syost, May 21 2002

Opera Web Browser http://www.opera.com/
[half, May 22 2002, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Google toolbar toys http://labs.google.com
Stuff Google is working on [syost, May 22 2002, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Quick Doc Review http://www.quicktopic.com
Peer review of documents. You upload an HTML doc, it inserts comment links. Your audience posts comments on each paragraph. (An undocumented feature also allows you to point it at any web page.) [syost, May 22 2002, last modified Oct 04 2004]


       Any self-respecting site should have the definitions inline (or linked - that's what hypertext is all about, after all). An alternative would be to provide links to external resources, as the HalfBakery allows for. Nevertheless, this is a pretty good idea if you disregard the extra load time required to index a page.
phoenix, May 21 2002

       phoenix, definitions as links might not be appropriate when the site is geared to a knowledgeable audience. Dictophane's purpose is to bridge the gap between the author's expectation and the inevitable mismatched reader. A reader only applies it when necessary, so it doesn't affect regular load time.
syost, May 22 2002

       The "Opera" web browser comes close to this. It has a feature that allows you to highlight a word, right-click the word then select "Dictionary" from the short-cut menu that appears. It also has an "Encyclopedia" and "Translate" choices.
half, May 22 2002

       Sounds like what [syost] is looking for, then.
phoenix, May 22 2002

       I like the idea, especially the dynamic slider. As you move the slider to one extreme all words, or nearly all, become links and to the other, only very 'difficult' words are links. I like this presentation more than the highlight and right-click method, if for no other reason than that it is just cooler.
bristolz, May 22 2002

       I like the idea, too, and was unaware that Opera had that capability.   

       I just can't help thinking about the amount of work that would have to go into this idea's implementation. You'd have to define a particular word's 'difficulty level'. It would be helpful to have a central lookup table for this (with the definitions included), but I'm not sure how likely that is to happen. You'd then need to code that word's 'difficulty level' into the page (or rely on the browser to do that). Again, the ideal situation would be to have a central database, but again I find that unlikely. Lastly, you need to code a link to the definition(s). Again, a central database would help.   

       The problem I foresee with creating a central database (even if it's distributed) is that it would be huge, people would complain about what words go into it, and how's responsible for maintaining it?   

       Without the central database, definition lists would have to be modified on an as-needed basis and probably wouldn't be supported by many sites (if you're a chemical engineering company, how much money are you going to spend to make a complex research paper readable to someone who's not a chemist - and therefore not a customer?).   

       Sorry for being so long-winded. For the record, I voted for this idea.
phoenix, May 22 2002

       <aside> I've just recently started playing with Opera. I just now figured out that the "dictionary" feature is even easier than I thought. Just double click the word and the shortcut menu appears.   

       I also like it's navigation shortcuts like right-click and drag to the left to perform the "back" function.</aside>
half, May 22 2002

       I'd prefer Opera's approach (which I've been using for a few months now) than to have every word in a document linked. I'd rather choose the words I want defined myself than have them all clickable.   

       My kid installed a bit of spyware recently (since removed). I can't remember the name, but what it did was parse each web document and link selected words to advertisers' sites, eg. the word "golf" on a CNN sports page might link to some sponsor golf site. The program used a 3 pixel thick gold underline (set up with CSS) to make its links appear different than standard links. It was a real pain.   

       Merriam-Webster (m-w.com) has a dictionary toolbar button that can be installed into IE or Netscape. Highlight a word, click the button.
waugsqueke, May 22 2002

       Thanks for the note about the very cool Opera feature. The Google toolbar [link] might be another good candidate for it.   

       As for the difficulty meter, it might be a self-learning thing: in the background, it counts the frequency of words in the pages presented to it. It would also need to do background processing to determine non-dictionary words (like some of those technical chemistry terms, for example). It could have specialty dictionaries (for chemistry, for example), and this might actually be a fee-worthy service.   

       In any case, educational usage might be the best audience for Dictophane.   

       I actually have some of the tools in place in Quick Doc Review [link] for parsing web pages and inserting links, so I might take a quick&dirty shot at it. (Quick Doc Review allows easy peer commentary on documents.)   

       Whoa, waugsqueke, I didn't notice your mention of the m-w toolbar widget. That's definitely a great step (and the Opera feature is cool too, if only it linked to a less ad-ridden dictionary). So I'll hold of implementing anything myself (there are better things I should be doing anyway :-)
syost, May 22 2002


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