De-Finest De-Finitions De-Ficient?

by John Adams

Related link:

While working on this weblog entry, I needed to look up the Open Source Definition, so, having a poor memory, I googled it.

If you google define:Open Source, you get this worthy collection of definitions, from a good plain language summary:

When the source code of a computer program is made available free of charge to the general public, it's known as open source. The basis of open source software is to produce more useful and bug-free products for everyone to use. The concept relies on peer review to find and eliminate bugs in the program code, a process which commercially developed and packaged programs do not utilize. The Open Source Initiative (OSI) reviews then certifies open source programs. They have a stringent list of criteria that include making sure no one collects a royalty on the software and no person, group or field of endeavor can be denied access to the program.

to my favorite:
Software built by programmers who think technology should be distributed without charge.

(I turned into one of those programmers, just last night.)

None of them, however, are the Open Source Definition.

Out of the twenty-five definitions Google serves up, five do reference the Open Source Institute or the Open Source Definition. This HP link itself links in turn to the OSD--I think HP deserves a gold star!

Other references
GNU3, plus one website
Free Software2
AIPS++1 (it was new to me, too--but interesting!)
These last two? I just report 'em, okay?
Mac OSX1

What does define:Open Source Definition bring up? Try it--or just believe me when I tell you it brings up nothing, nada, zip, a verbal 404.

So, how do you get to the Open Source Definition from Google? Why, the obvious way, of course: "Open Source Definition", which will bring you this link to, and then, finally, to the Open Source Definition.

Quite a romp! Isn't it odd that the define: syntax in Google doesn't find the Open Source Definition?

Do you consider this entry to be about "search" or about "natural language"?


2004-10-13 16:54:54
Hardly earth shattering, or even surprising
Google can't pick definitions from any old arbitrary site for their define: functionality, the spider simply indexes a bunch of known "dictionary-like" sites. There are many, many terms, particularly domain specific ones, for which Google will serve up no or no useful definition.

I use the define: feature purely as a quick hit-or-miss preemptive strike before I descend into the regular web search. It has almost never sated my curiosity completely either; but when it works, it is often very helpful as an aid to give you promising keyword candidates for narrowing down web searches. In that capacity, it is quite valuable.

2004-10-14 05:00:31
Sort of...
Actually, there are two different things Google is doing here.

If you search for something along with the word "definition" then a little hint appears with a link taking you to, this is a slightly more discoverable version of the dictionary definition links that are added to the right of the blue bar for every search.

(Note that if you skip over this functionality hint the the OSI definition is the first result for "Open Source Definition", with or without quotes and it is even the second result for just "Open Source".)

Alternatively, if you use the "define: word" syntax then Google presents a list of definitions from around the web. I'm not sure of the exact algorithm used by Google but it seems dominated by glossaries that use the definition list syntax available in standard HTML. Follow this link for more.

2004-10-17 03:12:08
Ok. here is a
2004-10-17 03:14:43
Concise Definition of Open Source and Free Software
A Concise Definition of Open Source and Free Software Movements.

From one of my blog entries

In the last six years information technology vendors have adopted techniques and resources from two existing movements geared toward the construction of software. The newer open source movement, represented by the non-profit Open Source Initiative (OSI) corporation, emphasizes the licensing of software in a manner which encourages its collaborative development in an open environment. The older free software movement, represented by the non-profit Free Software Foundation (FSF), focuses on the ethical issues surrounding the licensing of software. The free software movement emphasizes freedoms which are often taken for granted outside of the field of software: the freedom to use, study how something works, improve or adapt it and redistribute.

The Free Software Foundation offers two software license schemes which are compatible with their own goals and those of the Open Source Initiative: The GNU General Public License (GPL) and the GNU Library General Public License (LGPL). Essentially, the GPL and LGPL licenses grant the recipient extra rights than that granted by copyright law. Both licenses insure that a contributer or distributer of a GPL or LGPL licensed work may not further impede downstream recipients the rights granted by the same license. Many developing software in an open source manner have realized that this benefit offered by the GPL and LGPL licenses outweigh any potential losses. The licensing also insures that no contributing or distributing vendor or group of vendors could potentially monopolize the market, insuring that real market competition dictates price. Just as the automotive industry can commonize on standards for the production of the mechanisms of seats, instrument panels and doors while providing brand and regional differentiation across a wide array of models, the information technology community can collaboratively develop works under free licenses. Both vendors and consumers benefit from the resulting development cost reductions and competition from use of the resulting commons.

2004-10-18 02:06:14
Library/Lesser GPL
LGPL used to be called the "Library GPL", but is now the "Lesser GPL" for reasons detailed here: