Lexary User-Generated, User-Edited, “Crowdsourced” Reference Library

Excerpt from the patent specification

3.5 USE Subsystem Lexary Reference Tool

A Lexary is provided to further enhance the functionality of the Lexivote subsystem and USE subsystem.

The Lexary is an electronic reference tool that includes two basic reference features, entries and senses. The Lexary serves the combined functions of a dictionary, thesaurus, grammar book, and stylebook. An entry is a word, phrase, punctuation mark, or other datum that may be included in such reference materials. A sense is a definition, synonym, antonym, usage note, or other descriptive content that explains the entry with which the sense is associated. Thus, a sense can be a dictionary sense (e.g., a definition of a word entry), a thesaurus sense (e.g., a synonym or antonym of a word entry), a grammar sense (e.g., a usage note pertaining to a punctuation mark entry), or a style sense (e.g., a usage note pertaining to an editorial convention entry, such as idiomatic usage of a phrase or proper citation of a source).

The Lexary provides a mechanism through which users can submit entries and senses. Additionally, so that the Lexary can serve as an authoritative source of information, the Lexary also provides a number of quality control mechanisms. Without such mechanisms, the anarchy and misinformation that characterizes many user-generated-content sites would almost certainly overtake the Lexary also.

When a new sense is submitted, whether in association with an existing entry or a new entry, the new sense is marked “proposed.” In order for the sense to move beyond proposed status to “approved” status, it must receive a predetermined threshold number of “subscriptions,” a subscription being an indication of approval of the sense by a registered user.

Once approved, the sense becomes published as part of the Lexary such that a search on the given entry will return the given sense as an authoritative statement. Over time, as the number of Lexary users increases, users with unusually high levels of linguistic understanding will periodically encounter senses that have been approved but are not completely accurate. The Lexary therefore provides a “challenge” mechanism through which the user can call an existing approved sense into question and seek to supplant it with an improved version of the sense. The challenge is denied or upheld through a special voting procedure that involves only a small portion of the whole user community, namely, the users who have already demonstrated an outstanding track record with respect to contribution of material to the Lexary. This track record is represented by the user’s authority rating.

A general method of creation, deployment and use of the Lexary system appears in flowchart form in FIG. 101. First, a group of databases necessary for use in the Lexary system, such as those depicted in FIG. 100, are created 10101, as are a group of interfaces through which users can submit, review, search, subscribe to, challenge, flag, and edit entries and senses 10102.

Once the Lexary has been made available to the public, a user logs into his or her UET Company account 10103 and, if the user so desires 10104, the user enters a term search through the Lexary search interface 10105. Search results are returned to the user 10106, including an entry or entries matching the search term and a sense or senses associated therewith.

If the user wishes to add a new entry 10107, the user enters information pertaining to the new entry through a new entry submission form 10108, and if the entry does not already exist 10109, the entry is added as a new entry record in the entries database 10111.

An entry is not searchable through the official published Lexary until at least one sense associated with the given entry has been approved. If a user wishes to add a new sense 10112 to be associated with an entry, the user enters the new sense through a new sense submission form 10113 and a new record is created in the senses database and related to the given entry record in the entry database 10114. The new sense is marked “proposed” at this point. If the entity does exist 10109, the user is so informed 10110.

If the user wishes to review proposed senses 10115, he or she submits a search on the term to be reviewed 10116 and results are returned to the user 10117. If there are some pending proposed senses associated with the search term 10118, the user clicks through to a sense review page 10119. If the user wishes to subscribe to a sense 10120, he or she clicks the “I subscribe” link and a new record is created in the sense subscription database 10121 noting the subscription of the user to the given sense 10122.

Occasionally, users will propose inappropriate senses in an attempt to be funny or offensive. If the user wishes to flag such a sense 10123, the flagging process depicted in FIG. 108 is followed 10124. If the user wishes to challenge an approved sense 10125, the sense challenge process depicted in FIG. 111 is followed 10126. If the user wishes to alter a choice he or she has formerly made–such as a sense or subscription he or she previously submitted–, the choice editing process depicted in FIG. 109 is followed 10128.

If a user wishes to alter previously submitted terms, senses or subscriptions 10127, the choice updating process depicted in FIG. 109 is followed 10128.

Any time a choice made by a user affects a calculation used in the Lexary system, the process of performing this calculation is restarted 10129. For instance, sense approvals are based on the number of user subscriptions; thus, when a user submits a new subscription, a sense selection process, depicted in FIG. 110, must be followed again; running of the process need not occur immediately but rather can be conducted at regularly scheduled-intervals at the choice of the UET Company. Similarly, since a user’s authority rating is based upon approved senses, an authority rating process, depicted in FIG. 107, should be followed when a sense authored by a user has become approved.

For the sake of simplicity, the following figures depict excerpts from sample web pages for a limited scope deployment of the Lexary, specifically, one that serves only as a dictionary. It should be understood that one of ordinary skill in the art can easily modify the depicted pages so as to allow the searching, submitting, and editing of non-dictionary entries and senses, such as grammar and style entries and senses. It should also be noted that the same basic processes disclosed herein can be used for management of longer entries, such as encyclopedia entries, although the Lexary is primarily aimed at serving the purposes described above.

FIG. 102 depicts a Web submission form 10201 through which a term can be looked up in the Lexary. FIG. 103 depicts an excerpt from a sample results page 10301 generated and returned to the user in response to a Lexary search query.

The results page 10301 displays all approved senses associated with the term searched. Additionally, the number 10302 of subscriptions to each sense is displayed to the right of that sense. The user ID 10303 of the user who submitted the given sense is also displayed, as is the authority rating 10304 of this sense author.

A link 10305 to a page that displays pending proposed senses associated with the entry, such as the page depicted in FIG. 105, is displayed. A link 10306 to a page including a Web submission form through which a new sense for the entry can be submitted, such as the “Submit New Sense” page depicted in FIG. 104, is also displayed. An advertisement 10307 also appears. An advertiser pays the UET Company to serve the advertisement 10307 each time certain terms are searched in the Lexary.

When a user wishes to submit a new sense, he or she does so through a Web submission form such as the form 10401 in FIG. 104. For a dictionary sense (as depicted), the submission form includes fields for a part of speech, a qualifier (such as transitive or intransitive in the case of verbs), a definition, an etymology, and a usage note. Clearly, additional fields can be used and different fields should be used for different types of entries, e.g., grammar or style.

If a user wishes to subscribe to a pending proposed sense, he or she does so by clicking an “I subscribe” button 10502 appearing in the review proposed senses page 10501 depicted in FIG. 105. If a user wishes to flag a proposed sense, he or she clicks a “flag” link 10503 to initiate the flagging process depicted in FIG. 108. Inappropriate use of the Lexary can result in demerits which subtract from a given user’s authority rating; enough demerits can result in a negative authority rating 10504.

FIG. 106 depicts an excerpt from an example “Sense Challenge Submission” form 10601. Through such a form, a user may submit a challenge to a currently approved sense. Such a challenge may be necessary when an approved sense is good enough to have received enough subscriptions to be approved but nonetheless is, in the eyes of the challenger, incomplete or otherwise imperfect. Fields to be included in a sense challenge page should include an “explanation for the challenge” field and a “proposed alternative” field.

An embodiment of the authority rating process is depicted in FIG. 107. In the depicted embodiment, a user’s authority rating equals the total number of “qualifying subscriptions,” where qualifying subscriptions are defined as subscriptions by other users to approved senses that were authored by the user being rated, minus any demerits. Certainly, other formulae for producing an authority rating can be used. For instance, a recursive definition, using one or more known techniques for handling recursive equations, can be used. Such a definition might define a first user’s authority rating in terms of authority ratings of other users who have subscribed to senses authored by the first user.

The flagging process is depicted in FIG. 108. After a flag has been submitted by a user 10801, UET Company staff reviews the flagged sense 10208. If the staff determines that the flagged sense was not submitted in good faith 10803, the sense record pertaining to the flagged sense is deleted 10804 and a negative history note is entered in relation to the user account of the submitter of the flagged sense 10805. Such a negative history note may result in demerits per UET Company business rules. If the violation is sufficiently egregious or part of a pattern of misconduct, additional action may be taken 10806, such as suspension of the offending user account.

Occasionally, users will find that they no longer agree with senses they themselves have submitted or with senses to which they have previously subscribed. In such a case, the user can follow the choice editing process depicted in FIG. 1Q9. The user browses the “My Lexary Choices” page 10901, from which he or she can review previously submitted subscriptions and senses 10902. If the user wishes to alter such a choice 10903, the user selects the choice to be modified 10904 and makes the appropriate change 10905. If the user alters a sense 10906, the altered sense is treated as a new sense submission 10907: all previous subscriptions to that sense are voided and the modified sense enters “proposed” status. This measure is necessary so that approved senses are not subsequently altered into a form that would not have received such approval from the community.

Senses are approved through a sense selection process such as that depicted in FIG. 110. The UET Company can choose 11002 to weight subscriptions with reference to the authority rating of the subscribing user 11004 and 11005, or to simply count all subscriptions equally 11003. Whichever methodology is chosen, the score of a sense is compared to a predetermined threshold 11006, and if the score meets or exceeds this threshold, the sense is approved 11007.

Senses are challenged through a sense challenge process depicted in FIG. 111. If a user wishes to submit a challenge, he or she does so through the submission of a form such as that depicted in FIG. 106, and a new record is created in the sense challenges database 11101. Provided that the submission meets minimum requirements for completeness 11102, the author of the challenged sense is notified and given the opportunity to submit a rebuttal to the challenge 11103. After this rebuttal has been received or a certain period of time has elapsed, a panel of users who are considered “top members” are notified of the challenge. Top members are users with the highest authority ratings, and the top member panel may consist of approximately 300 to 500 top members.

Top members panel are notified of a challenge 11104.

Panel members must cast a vote agreeing or disagreeing with the challenger’s case within a certain period of time 11005, each vote being a record in the sense challenges votes database. If not enough votes are received to reach a quorum 11106, the challenge fails. But if a quorum is reached and enough votes for the challenger are received to meet or exceed a predetermined threshold 11107, the challenge is upheld and the challenger sense replaces the challenged sense 11108. The UET Company can choose whether a successful challenger sense inherits all the subscriptions of the challenged sense it replaces or simply is awarded a minimum number of subscriptions to become approved. The UET Company can also choose what happens to the replaced sense.

The viability of the sense challenge process relies upon the participation of top members. A top member who repeatedly fails to respond when asked to vote on challenges may be removed from the top members panel and replaced by another top member 11109.

The Lexary can be integrated with the Userithm search engine system to produce an even more effective search mechanism. FIG. 112 depicts an excerpt from a web page including a USE search submission form 11201; this particular USE embodiment provides two simple search components.

When a search query submitted through this form 11201 contains search terms that appear in the Lexary as entries with more than one associated sense per entry, the user is presented with a secondary selections page such as that 11301 depicted in FIG. 113. This page provides an input field 11302 next to each available sense so that a user can eliminate ambiguity by selecting the particular sense of the word that he or she intends.

For instance, if a user submits a search query that includes the words “rubber” and “stamp” as depicted in the example in FIG. 112, he or she may be presented with a secondary selection page such as that 11301 depicted in FIG. 113. This page 11301 displays two approved senses associated with the word “rubber” in the Lexary. This page also displays two approved senses associated with the word “stamp” in the Lexary. The user can either bypass the use of secondary selections by clicking a “bypass this step” button, or he or she can check a checkbox next to the sense in which he or she intends the word, thereby indicating his or her secondary selection, and then click the “search according to my selections above” button to submit the search query.

This process is summarized in the flowchart depicted in FIG. 114. When a user submits a query 11401 and the chosen search methodology relies in part upon the meaning of the given word 11402 (as opposed to a search simply for the appearance of a word in a domain name, for instance), the submitted search term or terms are looked up in the Lexary 11403. If any of the search terms appear as entries in the Lexary with more than one associated sense 11404, a secondary selections page such as that depicted in FIG. 113 is presented to the user 11405. If the user chooses to refine his or her search through the use of a secondary selection 11406, the search is performed with reference to the particular sense or senses selected by the user 11407. Otherwise, the search is performed as usual without reference to secondary selections 11408.

Searches performed using secondary selections can be enhanced by reference to the thesaurus-like functionality of the Lexary. Specifically, the usage of synonyms of a particular sense of a word in a document helps to indicate that the word is being used in the intended sense in the document. Thus, while the process of submitting a thesaurus entry is essentially similar to the process of submitting any other type of entry, a thesaurus entry submission process is depicted in FIG. 114B. In the depicted embodiment, while viewing senses associated with an entry, a user locates the particular dictionary sense for which he or she wishes to submit a synonym 11411. The user then clicks through, using a link such as that 11421 depicted in FIG. 114C, to view the thesaurus entry related to the given sense 11412. The user can then view thesaurus senses associated with the particular dictionary sense of the word, and, if desired, the user can click through to a Web submission form whereby he or she can submit the new thesaurus sense 11413. The new thesaurus sense then enters “proposed” status as usual 11414, allowing other users to submit subscriptions 11415, and the sense approval process is followed as usual 11416.

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