Thursday, January 27, 2005

Have you not forsoken...?

Thought this Universal Conjugator was kinda neat (thanks to Language Hat for the pointer).

What's neat is that you don't have to specify the language for it to start conjugating, and it'll ask you to disambiguate verbs spelled identically in supported languages. Plus, if it doesn't recognise the verb at all you can specify the language and ask it to "conjugate as regular". Funny thing, though, was when I put in the verb "forsake" (not sure if the link will work; if it doesn't, click here and type in "forsake" yourself). wondering what it'd say the past tense was. Hmm..."I forsoke, you forsoke..."? "I have forsoken, you have forsoken"??? Methinks there's a bit of over-generalisation going on here from the verb "wake".

I still remember very clearly arguing with an English teacher in primary school about the past tense of that verb. I said it was "forsook", can't remember what she thought it was but she marked it as wrong. Grrr. Anyway the web agrees with me: look at the hit counts below. Mindful of the recent Language Log posts about the inaccuracy of Google's counts, I got the Yahoo! ones as well:

Google Google restricted to English Yahoo! Yahoo! English
forsaked 729 3,460 1,300 1,250
forsook 201,000 169,000 168,000 167,000
forsought 44 41 18 16
forsoke 521 369 365 278

It should be noted though that it looks like "forsoke" was an old English spelling. So go back a few hundred years, before lexicographers started standardising orthography...and Universal Conjugator would've been right. Oh, and another thing - their Arabic conjugator needs a lot of work.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

My ideal book-cataloguing/book-sharing program

Was reading about Delicious Library at Wired. Delicious Library is a book/DVD/media-cataloguing program for Macs. That was version 1. Version 2 is going to introducing book sharing so users can search other people's catalogues via geographic location and borrow and lend media to one another.

Sounds great, and it made me think what else I'd want in a book-cataloguing/sharing program. Here's what I came up with:

- adding media: Delicious Library relies mostly on scanning ISBNs or typing in details yourself. I imagine they would also let you type in ISBNs and look up the details. They do have a problem with international UPCs, according to their FAQ. Anyway, I'd also like to be able to add stuff from Amazon or any other store, perhaps by using a bookmarklet. Say I've surfed to a page in Amazon about a book I already have. Add to MyLibrary and ta-da, it's in. And, of course, they could then pull all the book info from Amazon or wherever.

- include LOC or Dewey classification as part of the information they pull (LOC vastly preferred). I'm not sure where you could pull this from...scrape it off the LOC's catalogue? And then let you view your books in LOC order. Then you could catalogue your whole library according to that order. Wow! OK, so I'm a library geek.

- collection generation. Related to the previous point. You could take either user-defined tags for the books, or simply Amazon or the LOC's keywords for each book and identify particular interests the person has. For example, I've a lot of books relating to World War II...I'd like the software to be able to automatically identify things like this, so I can immediately identify other people's general interests without browsing through their whole collection and without them having to define their own interests.

- incorporation of online texts such as Project Gutenberg (made easier by their having made their catalogue available in MARC format) but also via other indexes like the Online Books Page at UPenn. I'm not sure how one could do this...you'd have to use some combination title/author lookup since ISBNs wouldn't be available for this. I'm sure OCLC would be able to do this since they were able to do X-ISBN.

- incorporate the ability to search your library catalogue at the same time. And if the book isn't available there OR among fellow-users within a certain geographic distance or within the same city, give you the cheapest online price according to services like CampusI.

- generate citations for books in IEEE/APA/MLA or other common citation formats.

- ability to manage papers as well. Similar to CiteULike but with the ability to add papers found from sources other than those deemed compatible. Could be through a facility that scans through the paper to identify bibliographic details - it could then prompt you to check that they have 'em correct. Or they could just peel off the title and search in Google Scholar and get bibliographic details from Google Scholar - but those might be incomplete. Or you could just key in the data yourself, I guess, but this'd be a pain. And, of course, generate citations for these papers as well! But then you'd really have to check that you've got it right.

- This is more something for Amazon, but...when you click 'I have this book in my collection' under your recommendations it adds the book to a list they maintain. I'd like to be able to search full-text (if available) among books that I have. Plus books that I've read, I guess, but they don't give you a button for 'I have read this book and don't need you to recommend this'. Actually, come to think of it, Amazon could do most of this stuff except they probably wouldn't do the book-sharing part of it. Why do that when they could get you to buy the book from them?

So that's my list. Whoa, I'm demanding, aren't I? Well, it's more wishful thinking. But if I could have a program do all this stuff I'd be really, really happy.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Whoever wrote this phrasebook must have watched Yes Minister

I can't be the only person who thought immediately of Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister while reading this Language Log post about a phrasebook decoding Britspeak. If I have the time I'll look up some appropriate passages and post them here.