[Taxacom] wikipedia & taxonomical authority

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Thu Jul 31 12:00:49 CDT 2008

>One could ask at what point do we need to know "who". Given that we 
>have access to a history of edits, we can judge the value of the 
>In the case of the changes to the Helice crassa page, the update to 
>the genus Austrohelice was made by  "Dysmorodrepanis" ( 
>   ), who we can see has a long history of editing. We can also engage 
>that user in conversation ( 
>   ), if we wish.
>Just how important is knowing who "Dysmorodrepanis" actually is? Don't 
>we have enough information to make some judgement of who good they 
>are? Isn't this roughly how we make judgements "offline" (i.e., we 
>look a a body of work and make a judgement, base don our own reading, 
>and the reaction of others). I'd hate to think we attribute authority
>simply based on a name.

Actually, if you check their user page, you can see that they've 
published at least one journal article, live in the Northern 
Hemisphere, and come from Germany. They're ranked 257th among all 
Wikipedia editors, with over 36,000 edits. The biologist with the 
highest ranking is Stemonitis, ranked 33rd, with over 86,000 edits. 
There's a small cloud of us way down in the list (rank >3000), with 
edit counts between 5-10K, such as myself. I wouldn't be too 
surprised if some of those anonymous others in that cloud (I am not 
anonymous there, incidentally, though on occasion I wish I were) are 
readers if not contributors to Taxacom.

Bear in mind that editing Wikipedia consists pretty much ONLY of 
transcribing information from primary and secondary sources; 
objectivity and familiarity with the subject matter is about all that 
is required to be a stellar contributor. That being said, there is 
still clearly a shortage of truly expert editors, so it would be 
wonderful if more Taxacom readers were helping edit.

Incidentally, it's interesting about Google rankings for Wikipedia 
entries - they can change considerably based on whether one uses the 
common name versus the scientific name for the search.


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

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