names vs. "names" (was: Names for BioDiv Informatics)

Paul van Rijckevorsel dipteryx at FREELER.NL
Wed Feb 9 21:37:52 CST 2005

From: Richard Pyle <deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG>
> Evidently you know a completely different set of database compilers than I

That seems likely.
* * *

> The reason most people feel that the overall benefits of the internet and
the correct information that it gives us access to outweigh the costs of the
bogus information, is that most people have little difficulty separating the

If only that were true.
* * *

> In the paradigm that David Remsen described, the difference between a
"good" and a "bad" name will be VASTLY more obvious than the difference
between a reliable web page and a hoax.  This is because the presentation of
the names will always be within its relevant context, with all the necessary
caveats and corrections.

The latter would be nice, but was not apparent from his post
* * *

> You insinuate that database compiliers promote the perpetuation and
propagation of errors.  The exact opposite is true. Unlike the case with
bogus web sites, the goal of the name indexers is to ELIMINATE the
perpetuation and propagation of errors.  Once someone (anyone) has revealed
the erroneous nature of a name, that information gets attached to the name,
and is presented in all its glory to anyone else who encounters that name.

If only that were true. My experience (at least so far) is that usually
(exceptions excepted) it is very difficult to get a database compiler to
make any correction, or to attach information.
* * *

> The goal of organism name indexing is NOT simply to accumulate the largest
collection of names.  The goal is to stop the perpetuation and propagation
of errors.  Without indexing the bogus names and identifying them as such,
the future world is at risk of more perpetuation and propagation of such.

Yes, but the second step (identifying bogus names) is by far the most work
and tends not to get done.
* * *

> It is our job as
taxonomists to assist the non-taxonomic world in accessing information about
organisms by providing them with (mostly) unique identifers (names), so that
they can communicate with greater efficiency. I believe that the next step
in fulfilling this job is to sort out the wheat from the chaffe in
nomenclature, and do it in a way that any given correction needs to be made
only ONCE, and thenceforth forever known by all future users of biological

Yes, quite. I would like to see that happen.
* * *

From: Richard Pyle <deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG>

> > ***
> > Make that: "impossible to eradicate"
> > * * *

> *EXACTLY*  Now...imagine a world where ALL the names (bogus and
otherwise)are indexed somewhere.

That would be nice, but in the case of vernacular names it would require a
pretty well thought-out structure to deal with these. There is an enormous
amount of vernacular names out there and the relationships with scientific
names are very complex.
* * *

> And imagine that the folks at Google are plugged into that index (not
unreasonable, given the recent development of  In that
world, a single search on Google will yield links to all the relevant
information about a taxon, regardless of how incorrect the taxon name had
been.  Moreover, the search of a bogus name will provide the searcher with a
correction (i.e., "Did you mean 'Aus  bus'?").

> We can't get there without an index that maps the bogus names to the good
names.  And we can't build such an index without first having a list of the
bogus names.

Yes, but the greater part of the effort will be in making sense of the
vernacular names; the part that the list-making plays is relatively trivial.
Having just a list will be only confusing.
* * *

> There is more to biology than nomenclature.

Exactly, but names are the key, and must be dealt with carefully

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