Maintaining databases

Doug Yanega dyanega at DENR1.IGIS.UIUC.EDU
Tue Nov 28 17:06:15 CST 1995

>From: Gary Rosenberg <ROSENBERG at SAY.ACNATSCI.ORG>
>The situation that Doug Yanega postulates as difficult is exactly the
>situation I am referring to as easy.  Create a file that lists the ID
>numbers of specimens that have had the identification changed, in this case
>refined from Tribe Z to Genus A, B, or C.  Proof-read the list.  Next,
>write a macro or a query that makes the same change on each record.
[protocol snipped]
>One can specify that the operation is done only on items previously
>identified as Tribe Z, as a safeguard against typos in ID numbers.  Similar
>capabilities are available in many off-the-shelf database programs.  It
>might not be trivial to type in the numbers, but it should take less time
>to modify the database than it took to sort the specimens.

Then we are actually in agreement, though not on the definition of "easy" -
I was visualizing "difficult" and "non-trivial" to be essentially
synonymous. Having to transcribe and type in 1000 individual numbers is
not, to me, an *easy* task.

>By the way, I recall reading on Taxacom about a tagging device that could
>broadcast its ID number, allowing one to input the numbers of hundreds of
>specimens simultaneously.  It might be that as such devices are refined
>they will save enough labor to justify their cost.  Certainly database
>technology is advanced enough now to allow great increases in efficiency
>for museum collections, and other technologies will also help.

I'll have to agree with that one, as well - and these Supertags would
obviate the problems with tag orientation and placement encountered with
barcodes or even extra alphanumeric code labels (a Supertag glued to a
point or label could be invisible at the bottom of the stack of labels on a
given pin and still be "readable" without having to remove the specimen
from the unit). That would certainly be a major time-saving device. Of
course - and to return to the original topic, actually - the availability
of this technology will pretty much render other systems obsolete, and
require many collections to update if they want to use as efficient a
system as possible. Funding agencies are likely then to find floods of
requests to move to Supertag systems. In a way, were I faced with the
prospect of intitiating a new inventory program, I'd almost prefer to wait
a few years and make my initial proposal a request including this system,
rather than starting now and finding myself having to plead for an update
grant later. It's a tough call when dealing with an area undergoing rapid
development (heck, sometimes it's even tough to just buy a *desktop*
computer when you know you'll probably be in search of a new one two years
down the road!).

Doug Yanega       Illinois Natural History Survey, 607 E. Peabody Dr.
Champaign, IL 61820 USA      phone (217) 244-6817, fax (217) 333-4949
 affiliate, Univ. of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Dept. of Entomology
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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