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I have an idea in my head, but I have not the skills nor the resources to create it on my own. I think the SE format is not perfect, but with some adjustments would be a good place for idea to take off. I've spoken to co-workers and family members about this, and have received mixed results, so I'm expecting some downvotes for this, but I'll give it a shot:

In it's most basic form, a dictionary is a list of short and sweet definitions for various words. For normal general reference, this is most often all that is needed. However, the definition is not always complete and leaves room for ambiguities.

For example, the definition for the word "room" from tfd.com (item 2a) is

"An area separated by walls or partitions from other similar parts of the structure or building in which it is located"

But is that good enough? Is the space within a single-'room' building really a room, then? (Think outhouse/storage shed/etc). How high must these so-called partitions be? (I have a crate for my dog in a room, is the space within that crate also a room?)

More than that, sometimes words are added to the 'official' dictionaries, and sometimes they are removed. We all have to wait for the day that happens, and some people may agree, and some may disagree. With this new site, words can be accepted or rejected based on feedback from the community as they appear.

My idea then is to take any word to define and post it as a 'Question', then answers will come together to complete the definition. Comments and such would be to ask such questions as above, re: single-room structures. Answerers would then amend their definitions to account for these special cases.

Tags could be used to confine the scope to a language and or/part of speech (noun, verb, etc).

This doesn't really fit the normal SE standard, but there are other sites which deviate from the Question/Answer form (Code Review, Code Golf to name two I am more familiar with).

Overall, I suppose I want to merge things like Wikipedia (definitions, but not encyclopaedic ones), Wiktionary (less etymology, more visible discussion), and SE (community creation, approval, modification).

Is this a reasonable idea that anyone else besides me is interested in? Should I kill the proposal now?

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closed as off topic by Robert Cartaino Jul 13 '12 at 17:25

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Doesn't English.SE suffice? –  Robert Harvey Jul 13 '12 at 15:23
@RobertHarvey It's not a pure definition site, though there are some definite similarities. Plus, I would want to expand to other languages (almost acting as a multi-language reference). –  Gaffi Jul 13 '12 at 15:25
@Gaffi, so basically a site like Wiktionary except with more in-depth examples and less etymology? –  Brandon Jul 13 '12 at 15:30
I think this is a problem which has been well solved elsewhere on the Internet. –  meagar Jul 13 '12 at 15:32
@Brandon Yes, and more visible discussion about the definitions and the reasoning for them. –  Gaffi Jul 13 '12 at 15:33
I'm wondering if there should be a badge for 'horrible question'. ;-) –  Gaffi Jul 13 '12 at 16:16
@Gaffi: That in itself is a horrible question. :) –  Daniel Jul 13 '12 at 16:17
@Danielδ Darn, should have searched before asking a duplicate question. –  Gaffi Jul 13 '12 at 16:19
Vetting proposals is off topic for this meta. These discussions belong in Area 51. Thanks. –  Robert Cartaino Jul 13 '12 at 17:25
This question made me poop a little. –  Won't Jul 14 '12 at 14:51

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Speaking from an ideological standpoint, Stack Exchange lends itself to community consensus, something that works well when the question is about something fairly technically complex (like parsing HTML or fixing rendering failures). However, "defining" a word is something very easily done and very easily done incorrectly. Definitions are best left up to official authorities (like Merriam-Webster).

From a practical standpoint, there is a different concern. Something like Stacktionary will be very, very data-heavy. If a single word could be proposed as a question, you'll have endless amounts of questions, with each question prompting a large load of answers that debate on the definition of the word. If you're also planning on expanding to other languages, I can easily see Stacktionary taking up a prohibitively large amount of data storage with very little return.

I like your proposal, but I just don't think it's practically feasible. I don't know much about Stack Exchange's data storage capability, but I think that Stacktionary would just be too much data storage for features that are easily supplemented or replaced by searching an online dictionary. I could easily post over a thousand questions just by going through the dictionary I have at home (Define "a", "A+", "A10", "A#", etc). The world doesn't need another Wikitionary, but with more discussion.

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Not to mention that I foresee something like Stacktionary requiring more powerful moderating tools than SE currently uses. As far as I know, moderators can't force an answer to be accepted and it would very easy to post up several synonyms of "idiot" and accept a bogus answer like "Jesus" just for trolling. –  Yawus Jul 13 '12 at 15:40
Well, I appreciate the feedback. Thanks! –  Gaffi Jul 13 '12 at 15:46
I'm not sure how the data load would be prohibitive. Speaking just about the English language, Oxford Dictionaries estimates there are between 250-750,000 words in the English Language. SO proudly lists that it has 3.3 million questions - each consisting of many words and most with multiple answers consisting of many words. –  Farray Jul 13 '12 at 16:01
I would argue this would be less data heavy. We have 3 million questions on Stack Overflow. There are far fewer words in the English language. –  meagar Jul 13 '12 at 16:03
The problem isn't about how many words can fit in a question, it's the fact that each question will be ONE word. There are roughly 36 pages of entries on Wiktionary archives with each page containing about 8000 entries. And that's English only. The current Stacktionary proposal hints that there will be expansion to other languages, some of which may have a vocabulary rivaling or even larger than English. –  Yawus Jul 13 '12 at 16:03
@Yawus Right, I get what you're saying, but I disagree. If a question can be only ONE word, then the number of questions is limited by the number of words. If a question can be a combination of words, such as SO's current model, the number of questions can be much greater than the total number of words. –  Farray Jul 13 '12 at 16:08
The other issue I tried to hint at is that Stacktionary would be unneccessary data. Yes, we'll probably be able to hold 250k-750k words in Stacktionary. But then, a potential user might as well just pick up an Oxford Dictionary instead. Part of the reason why Stack Overflow is so successful is because it occupies a unique niche. There is no reference material on or off-line that is anything like it. –  Yawus Jul 13 '12 at 16:08
SO's niche is not remotely unique, they just do it better than anyone else. –  Matthew Read Jul 13 '12 at 17:53

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