[Taxacom] taxon wikipedia type resources

Roderic Page r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
Tue Jul 29 03:57:55 CDT 2008

I'm sure Roger will have his own views but to my mind there is a world  
of difference between a mailing list, data integration, and a wiki.

A wiki is publicly visible, editable by anyone (in principle), and can  
display a complete history of edits. This means it can rapidly change,  
draw on a large community of contributors, and those contributions are  

Whatever taxonomists make of them, others are starting to explore  
their uses (e.g., see Gene Wiki http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0060175 
   for an interesting use of Wikipedia). The taxonomic community seems  
somehow afraid of them, yet I suggest this is not based on much more  
than folklore.

Mailing lists are conversations, and in the absence of archive and  
search tools such as http://taxacom.markmail.org/ , it becomes hard to  
extract information over time. The audience for any given mailing list  
is small (TAXACOM's subscribers will be a tiny subset of those  
interested in, or able to contribute to, taxonomy).

Database integration sites are important, but in many cases they lack  
ways for people to correct and annotate errors, even if those errors  
are obvious (http://iphylo.blogspot.com/2008/06/more-gbif-errors-courtesy-of-fishbase.html 
  ). The fact that errors in GBIF persist for months, if not longer,  
suggests that this model of authoritative integration has flaws. If  
GBIF, say, had simple tools for community annotation they could  
dramatically improve the quality of their data.

I suggest that we need all three. Wiki's exploit the fact the the  
number of people able to improve a wiki page is vastly greater than  
the number of "experts" on the topic of that page. Already, Wikipedia  
handily beats EOL in terms of content, a situation I don't see  
changing anytime soon.

In closing, an interesting question would be why Wikipedia is so much  
more successful than Wikispecies.



On 29 Jul 2008, at 06:38, <Tony.Rees at csiro.au> <Tony.Rees at csiro.au>  

> Hi Roger,
> My question would be, what is the scope of such potential
> "collaboration", and how is it different from (on one hand) a mailing
> list where people can ask or answer questions of a taxonomic nature,  
> (on
> another) data integration sites such as NBN, GBIF, OBIS etc., to which
> contributors can upload their own data, and (on the third hand -
> aliens/mutants only) wikipedia/wikispecies? (Although in principle the
> latter is for citations to existing work, not publication of original
> information).
> I would agree with Paddy that if you can provide a compelling enough
> answer to the first question, then EOL is a good potential home for
> whatever is possibly required, since a single one stop shop is in
> principle better than many...
> - Tony Rees
> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Roger Hyam
> Sent: Tuesday, 29 July 2008 4:40 AM
> To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: [Taxacom] taxon wikipedia type resources
> I was wondering if anyone could help me find some examples of taxonomy
> web sites that will accept contributions from general users in the
> style of wikipedia/wikispecies. To qualify they must allow anyone to
> register and contribute. Contributions must appear live, as part of
> the data without going through an editorial process. Sites that only
> allow users to comment or upload their own data don't really count. I
> am looking for collaborative works. The sites could cover any kind of
> taxonomic related information - not just actual taxa
> I am wondering why I don't come across such site in my work.
> Many thanks for your thoughts,
> Roger
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Roderic Page
Professor of Taxonomy
Graham Kerr Building
University of Glasgow
Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK

Email: r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
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