Occasional thoughts on diverse subjects

September 8, 2000

From the "Free Enterprise vs. Free Expression" department: NUblog has collected its commentary on the International Olympics Committee's struggle against the internet. Not any specific part of the internet, mind you, but the very concept of the internet itself. Global, real-time reporting of Olympic results undermines their ability to sell exclusive broadcast rights in each country. How serious is this? Well, the IOC has recently declared that atheletes cannot discuss their own experiences on their own websites. As NUblog puts it, "How's that for content management?" #

Now then, my earlier comments about breaking web browsers into components got me thinking about component sofware in general. The classic example for this sort of thing is spell-checking. Instead of each application having its own spell-checking code and dictionary, make a central spell-checking service available to all software. This is a great idea, and we may see it happen sometime. (Mac OS X allegedly will offer such a service, for instance.)

Now if I were doing it, I'd build spell checking in such a way so that it could happen as I'm typing and I'd make it so you could choose to mark misspelled words as they're detected or to wait until you explicitly ask to see them. You'd be able to switch modes easily, of course. That way, you can disable it if it gets distracting, but know that it's still checking the words in the background. Multiple selectable user dictionaries, the works.

But why stop there? The other big uses for massive word databases are thesauri and hyphenation dictionaries. I say, make them both globally available. I want my word processor/web browser/drawing package to be able to say "Hey, I can break 'arglebargle' to make it fit on the line!" I want to be able to pull up synonyms no matter where I'm typing. And I want to be able to replace the default components with better ones should the opportunity arise. #