name server coverage

christian thompson cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV
Mon Jun 6 07:37:12 CDT 2005

As usual, Doug and others do not do their homework.

Doug wrote:

>>and no one seems to be up-front about what percentage of names in
their group they actually have
>>gotten into their database.

Norm will undoubtedly respond on behalf of his Hymenoptera Name Server,
but I want to point out that we have since we first went online 2000
have tried to provide users with FULL DOCUMENTATION as well as status
information on the Diptera names we served.

For status, see
and our status table
and annual reports, see
We also provide quality control indicators, see
Et cetera.

And as for warning flags, every one of our quarter of million name
records we serve has its own status indicator. And while the vast
majority are "Warning Work Record," the actual quality of most are much
better than that.

What upset me is while Doug is right about how difficult, building, and
then maintaining Name servers, people like him continue to complain but
never contribute to helping get the job done.

In the years, we have had our Diptera site online, I have noted that
there are three kind of people.

Those who find errors, omissions, etc., and write you about them so
that they get fixed, as well as those periodically send along reprints,
data files, act as reviewers, etc. They are few but we are truly
dependent on them to get the job done.

Then there are those who find errors and write to various media
complaining how bad, useless, ["induces an
undesirably false confidence"], etc., are the current products. And do
nothing else. Yes, we are not yet perfect but we are a long way along
the track to all names online, far more than we were just a dozen years
ago. So, stop kicking us and help us along.

And finally there are, the majority sadly, who you never hear from.

Oh, well ...

Sorry, Doug, but ...

F. Christian Thompson
Systematic Entomology Lab., USDA
c/o Smithsonian Institution
MRC-0169 NHB
PO Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012
(202) 382-1800 voice
(202) 786-9422 FAX
cthompso at e-mail  web site

>>> Doug Yanega <dyanega at UCR.EDU> 06/04/05 11:30AM >>>
>I've added the Hymenoptera Name Server
>nomenclator.home_page ) to the Taxonomic Search Engine
>( ).
>This adds the ability to search some 180,000 hymenopteran names.

But only using criteria in that database itself, which - as in all
such cases - means that your search engine is limited by the
resources you're linking to. For example, the HNS lacks a great many
synonyms of the valid names in the database, including one I searched
for recently, and could not find in a single web-based resource (it
turned up by accident when I was thumbing through a reprint two days

Out of curiosity, can anyone here find a web search engine or
algorithm that turns up a citation for the genus-level taxon name
"Huachuca"? How about "Chiricahua"? If so, I'd be very interested in
knowing which one gave a positive result.

I think the existence of taxonomic tools on the web induces an
undesirably false confidence - we are a LONG way from having a solid
coverage of the nomenclature online, and no one seems to be up-front
about what percentage of names in their group they actually have
gotten into their database. That is, there should be BIG RED WARNINGS
on these sites saying "This database includes only an estimated 30%
of the published names for this taxon" and so forth. True, this will
mostly lead casual users astray, while *taxonomists* are aware that a
failed search doesn't necessarily mean that a name doesn't exist (but
even then they don't know just how much of the taxasphere has been
omitted from the search, and this *would* be nice to know).

Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521-0314
phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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