Taxonomic notification System

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Fri Jun 14 13:36:00 CDT 2002

> I, for instance, would be interested in an
> automatic notification when new grass taxa are described, with
> information on where they have been described.

For going on two years now, I've been contemplating an email-based
"subscription" service that would allow people to "subscribe" to whatever
taxon names (at whatever rank) they wish, and in doing so would have email
notifications sent to them whenever some new bit of information relevant to
their designated taxon names became available.  I imagine a web-based
subscription form that would allow you to select various options for each
name that you subscribed to, such as:

- whether to subscribe exclusively (only receive notifications relating to
*that* name) or inclusively (receive notifications for that name and all
child names);

- the frequency with which notifications are sent, when applicable (daily,
weekly, monthly, annually, etc.);

- whether to only notify about new taxon descriptions, or any taxonomic
assertions, or new availability of relevant specimens, or any references to
indicated taxon names at all;

- the option to restrict relevant taxa to a specified classification scheme,
or to receive notification for potentially relevant names by *any* existing
scheme (i.e., that name, and all possible synonyms of that name);

- .....and so on.

Each notification email would be a "Digest" of sorts, with links to URLs
containing details about the new bits of information that have become
available.  That's the rough outline of the concept, anyway.  I understand
that eBay has an analogous sort of email notification system that could
serve as a model, but I've not looked into how they do it. The point would
be to alleviate the need of taxonomists to spend much time actively
searching for new information relevant to their groups of interest, and
instead have such information delivered to them right in their inbox, in
essentially real time.

Obviously, to be of any value, there would need to be *some* sort of
centralized data repository that either proactively gathers new bits of
information, or passively receives it through the cooperative spirit that I
*know* so many taxonomists share.....  :-|

But my question is, would such a service be valuable to taxonomists?  In
other words, if someone built it, would you come?

Finally, with respect to Doug Yanega's post, which I personally happen to
agree with:

> Basically, I'd like to know why so many people still look only to
> take half-measures when we can do better?

The answer, I think, is that people tend to fear drastic change -- and those
fears are not entirely unwarranted.  Moreover, it's often more effective to
make a series of manageable "baby steps", rather than a single massive
leap -- especially when so many people with such disparate opinions and
needs have a stake in things.


Richard L. Pyle
Ichthyology, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at
"The opinions expressed are those of the sender, and not necessarily those
of Bishop Museum."

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