[Taxacom] encylopedia of life

Shorthouse, David dps1 at ualberta.ca
Sun May 13 20:37:59 CDT 2007


This is exactly correct, but let's not start criticizing the enthusiasm
Paddy brings to the table. I'm sure that really wasn't your intent. We need
champions of a massively ambitious "experiment" like this. If it can't be
sold in the media then it may as well be dead before it starts. That is
clearly not the case now. Perhaps EoL won't be of immediate value to the
fortunate few whose filing cabinets overflow with reprints or whose hard
drives are bulging with PDFs. Let's not forget that species pages in EoL
will not have a "BioOne" subscription fee and the long-term goal is for
translations into tongues other than English. The anticipated audience
stretches way beyond the ivory tower. It's not the common names in FishBase
that really drive traffic and usage, it's their dogged effort at translating
the content they have into numerous languages.

For the privileged few who have funding to support original research, data
and efficient data exchange are ultimately the incentive. In other words,
for these folks, the snazzy presentation and flashy colors in EoL are of no
particular value, though it is nice to work in an interface that is
intuitively obvious or pleasurable. What would make EoL really compelling
for the fortunate few with ultrafast cable/DSL connections is an interface
to "Facebook" with your co-authors and, in the case of
ecological/biodiversity studies for example, a tool to intelligently merge
colleagues' data sets. How often have we had to rely on a co-author to do
this? I welcome feedback on this sort of idea in my naively new blog that
Rod Page previously linked: http://ispiders.blogspot.com. 

It is indeed sad that the "MyEoL" workbench has not been more effectively
expressed in media releases. If it were though, the story would be much like
a specimen of Carabus sp. on a pin - dry and dead.

David P. Shorthouse
Department of Biological Sciences
CW-403, Biological Sciences Centre
University of Alberta
Edmonton, AB   T6G 2E9
mailto:dps1 at ualberta.ca

-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Alex Wild
Sent: Sunday, May 13, 2007 6:44 PM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] encylopedia of life

I'm sure EoL will be a fine infrastructure for the sharing of 
biodiversity information.

However, that isn't what the EoL press release is trumpeting.  The press 
release and media coverage boast pages for 1.8 million species.  That's 
an entirely different beast.  It will require massive amounts of 
content, and content requires incentives for content providers. 

I fear that EoL has misdiagnosed the nature of the taxonomic 
impediment.  EoL falls into the common trap of offering a technological 
fix for what is, at heart, not a technological problem.  Most of the 
people who failed to volunteer their expertise in previous online 
biodiversity projects did not do so for lack of technology.  In this 
light, I find David Patterson's comment #3 a bit naive.  The 
biodiversity experts largely do have sufficient bandwidth, they have 
access to current nomenclature, and they usually have access to the 
literature of their groups (the file cabinets of taxonomists both 
professional and amateur tend towards overflowing).  What they lack is 
time and incentive.

Alex Wild
University of Arizona

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