Dictionary Robot

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Dictionary Robot Logo.png

Dictionary Robot [1] is a site I made to help users look up a bunch of words at once. Its purpose is to help students complete their vocabulary homework in less time. The target users are students in grades 3-9.

While visiting the site, the user enters their vocab list. They can enter in the list either comma separated, space separated, or linebreak separated. Then user is then presented with a list of possible definitions for each word. After they select definitions for all of the words, they are presented with a list which they can either copy or print out using the PDF print view.

The definitions are retrieved from a public kDict server. These definitions are in the public-domain and such are not the clearest. Most of the definitions are from the 1913 Websters Dictionary which makes them dated. However due to copyright concerns, I am stuck with what I can afford. In an attempt to remedy this, I track how many times a definition piece is used. Hopefully as the site is used the best definitions will float to the top.

In addition, I take the definitions I receive and use complex regular expressions to chop up the definition into multiple pieces. Often a word has multiple definitions and students should choose which definition to use.

Initial Development

I spent about a month off and on doing initial development in the summer of 2007. I had created the site because I had an AP Psychology vocab project. Steps:

  1. design and branding (I did all of the design myself)
  2. rounded corners box
  3. open/close javascript
  4. dictionary querying (using a library)
  5. flow along pages and multiple steps.

I tend to create the branding and visual design before I code any of the actual working parts. I know this is backwards, but it reflects how I think.

Restart in 2009

The site sat barely-working from August 2007 until February 2009. I had considered it a failure and deemphasized it from my accomplishments list. I restarted work on the project for the FreshBrain scholarship contest. It only took a few hours to get the site working again.

I decided to remove all of the js and iframe visual elements. I decided it was more important for the site to be fast and work reliability than to have nice page loading transitions. In the future I should use Javascript to build more functionality - not add visual effects.