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The Kids Open Dictionary Builder: Do they define better than they punctuate?

Vieux Bandit's bookshelves with lots of books. Click to FlickrLower your geek radar detector. You got me. I am a tech blogger. I also have a degree in library science. Guilty as charged, just put me on a cell block with wireless and a supply of graphic novels.

I am a librarian who is really okay with wikis. Would I accept every entry in one as gospel? No, but questioning is good in print, too. I believe wikis are, by and large, a decent starting point for further research, like any encyclopedia. If you're writing your doctoral thesis using only wikis, we seriously need to talk. Now.

Wikis, online open encyclopedias, I can deal with. The Kids Open Dictionary Builder makes me fear the future, and not because of all the talking monkeys and flying robots, either. Yes, I said The Kids Open Dictionary Builder, and I typed it just as the name appears on the Creative Commons blog. The blogger there typed it as it appears on the project's home page. Grammatical structure is not the writing skill that comes to me most naturally, but, guys, when you're educators pushing an open dictionary, it is comforting to see the name punctuated correctly.

The Kids' Open Dictionary (ahem) sets my fearful librarian heart a-flutter in other ways. I will spare you too much information from my General Reference Studies (nor will I pain you with Intro to Cataloging), but I'll try to sum up the concern. Though language is fluid and shifts (sometimes rapidly) as the world changes, there are also needs for linguistic anchors, almost. Words being defined need frames of reference where multiple people can see the word in use and pull similar connotations from the word, even if they can't produce identically worded definitions. Opening words to definition without being able to point to solid examples of use (or even misuse) or being able to quantify how often the word is used in a given manner pretty much ruins any hope of a dictionary having any real authority or weight.

That, and is The Kids' Open Dictionary (ahem) needed? Really? I'd be more inclined to try pushing existing online dictionaries from known sources and publishers to either tailor some online offerings in a widely accessible format to children, or perhaps I'd buy my kid an "age appropriate dictionary" (if age appropriateness is truly a concern with dictionaries).

I might take them to the library, too. I hear they've got books, movies and puppet shows. For real, puppet shows.

Tags: book, creative commons, CreativeCommons, dictionary, Kids Open Dictionary, KidsOpenDictionary, library, open access, OpenAccess, opensource, wiki