20:54 April 7, 2013

How the fuck do you find an open source thesaurus?


This is a long standing problem. As a writer and lover of nomenclature , I fequently find myself wanting to express a concept maybe related to a word but not quite that word. (Aside: a word of advise on usage of thesauri: these days, the above is my primary usage of these catalogues of synonyms. In my youth, I used thesauri to look up (ahem!) "cooler" words (and, more validly, to avoid repeated usage). Today, IMHO, I consider this a Bad Idea, or at least a bad way of thinking about the problem. Writing, like, what everything?, is a manifestation of intent. Words carry connotations; word choice should be the choice to convey precisely what you want to say. That said, do whatever the hell you want.)

So for dictionaries, after several years of wikipedia fueled desire, http://www.wiktionary.org/ appeared and garnered my canonization as dictionary of choice. I hate the mediawiki software, but that is more than offset by ramifications of a lexicon for, of, and by the people. It is not ad-hampered. The definitions are basically good, or as good if not better on average than any free online dictionary (it is the pursuit, not the cost, that is of primary importance to me). But while Wikisaurus could gain my blessing...it just isn't there yet, in part from my back-seat opinion because mediawiki isn't good software for a thesaurus (that is to say: for word relations). But for whatever reason, it never shows up in my search results for (e.g.) synonym complexity and when I have tried to use it, often my word wasn't found (nor even a placeholder!). I'd feel worse about not helping it off the ground if mediawiki wasn't such awful crap that is essentially a daily frustration (where the fuck are sectional permalinks in 2013??? Oh, and whoever thinks the redirection and/or lack of redirection is cute and/or clever...I wish upon you that Thesaurus was actually a large dinosaur, ten times the size of T-rex, that wants a you for a nibble). Several years ago, someone -- maybe Ian Bicking ? -- gave me a link to a open source/open knowledge thesaurus but somehow I lost it. I have subsisted on the poor man's approach of googling "synonym <word>", but its time consuming, the free (as in crap) thesauri are often of poor quality (ya know, so you can buy the pro version or other product; its a feature of capitalism!), and the ads! The ads are so awful! Popups, lightboxes, screaming monkeys... whatever it'll take to annoy you into apathy. There was a site -- can't recall nor care to -- where you had to answer market research questions to get your synonyms. Nice. The Robot will soon be complete!

Googling open source thesaurus didn't yield much. On my search adventure, I came across http://www.vocabularyserver.com/ which looks cool but not usable for my purposes (or at all? Really its about word relations of which what I want from a thesaurus is a subproblem), http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/jared/aiksaurus/ which didn't find the words I was looking for or give any way to add them and the URL (human-facing URLs ftw o/ .... at least if you're on the humans' side, which is of course (literally) the only side) let's me know its basically not supported, and http://wordnet.princeton.edu/ which is another word-relation based thesaurus (which, btw, is what I consider the correct approach; albeit donning my writer hat I still need a front-end for actual use as a thesaurus) which looks pretty cool but still not really fleshed out enough in terms of data nor does it seem possible to modify entries, which is kinda necessary for what I'm calling "open". None of these were the site I previously used, which I still have no idea what it was. There were more results; those were just the top three and kinda the only ones that were actually what I was looking for, even remotely.