Thursday, October 23, 2008

New search engine for Wikipedia

The English Wikipedia has a new built-in search engine, which is purely awesome. The changes are subtle but very useful. There are some behind the scenes improvements in the quality of the results but the big change is that searches now return results from the sister projects as well.

For example, if one searches for "good offices " on Wikipedia, one discovers that there is no such article, yet immediately sees a link to Wiktionary (a dictionary) that gives the definition for this term:
The beneficial services and acts of a third party; especially when used to mediate between people in a dispute
With over 2.5 million articles it is quite difficult to find something missing from Wikipedia, but if you do find such a thing now there's a chance you won't be left unsatisfied.

An other example is if you search for something that already has an article, e.g. "Bill Clinton" and you immediately receive links to some of his speeches, best quotes, and most recent news appearances.

I can hardly wait for the Hungarian Wikipedia to be migrated to this new system as this might be the very best thing that will have happened to the sister projects in a long time: they will receive greater exposure, possibly encouraging more people to contribute and the readers will have easier access to more information.

[Update]: The new system has been enabled for all Wikimedia wikis, apparently not having enough RAM was the low threshold preventing this happening earlier. The system could have a little more polishing, e.g. instead of displaying the meaningless "" as the location of the alternative search results, it could simply say "Wikiforrás" ('Wikisource' in Hungarian).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The language of bees

It has been almost a month I study English at ELTE, so far I enjoy it, although my past few weeks were a quite tiring, as I attended almost every class there was.

I mostly have seminars and a few lectures, which I cannot really attend as they are either early in the morning or conflict with my other major.

I have a lecture on Linguistics by Nádasdy Ádám, who is quite famous here in Hungary, but unfortunately it's in conflict with an other lecture. There is a corresponding seminar which I believe is quite good, the teacher tries to explain all the complicated terms as well as she can. The associated books, both the English one and the Hungarian one is quite readably, with good examples: I consider myself an expert on the topic of how bees communicate the location of food to their hive.

An other lecture and seminar pair is Academic writing, nothing really exciting there.

I would have a lecture on Introduction to literature, but the teacher's secretary always cancels it on the day of the lecture,  just about 3 hours before it should start, to make sure that nobody gets the message. It will be interesting if she demands that we know everything she was supposed to teach, but did not, just because she did not feel like it (and did not bother to send in a substitute).
On the corresponding seminar, which should "follow the lectures" almost everybody is analysing poems and other texts, we are tasked to decipher long studies on the theory and history of literary criticism.

I don't usually attend the lecture on English-American political culture, as the lecture hall has a capacity of about 50-100 people less than the number of students taking the course. There are not enough seats, its impossible to hear or see the professor, who is hard to understand even if one is close enough to hear him. The recommended reading consists of books that either cost a hundred bucks or has not been printed in the last four decades. Anyways I am hoping to learn it from somebody's borrowed notes, as I am a bit familiar with the topic from my previous studies and interests.

I have a class on British Civilisation at the other university, but mentally I count it towards my English studies. This lecture just makes me angry, as although there is always some interesting tidbit that can be learned, the professor is spreading misinformation, which is most annoying.

And last but not least I have general language practice twice a week which I enjoy so far the most.