[Taxacom] iSpecies with Wikipedia

Roderic Page r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
Wed Mar 26 12:46:04 CDT 2008

I was being slightly flippant, given that Wikispecies uses Latin  
names for all ranks, which is not a convention I've seen anywhere  
else, and seems a rather forced solution to the problem of  
localisation (ITIS uses another approach, namely local names for  
ranks - http://www.cbif.gc.ca/pls/itisca/taxaget? 
p_ifx=plglt&p_lang=es).  It just strikes me as the least useful way  
to try and get something started -- adopt a convention nobody else is  

I agree that few taxonomists give a complete classification for their  
organisms (I've suggested one way to incorporate these at http:// 
iphylo.blogspot.com/2007/11/transitive-reduction.html ). The fact  
that taxonomists don't give entire hierarchies makes me wonder just  
how useful such a hierarchy really is (fragments are useful). Do we  
really need this to get things done? I suspect not.

Or, perhaps put another way, I wonder whether a classification will  
emerge by itself, rather than need to be imposed. If classification  
is a navigation system, then usability wins (the fragments mentioned  
above are a form of tagging). If it's intended to reflect phylogeny,  
then there's not much scope for argument (well, OK, much squabbling  
about where to cut the tree, but nothing serious). But if we set  
classification itself as the goal, then I think we are squandering  

I realise this is pretty inarticulate, I just think the assumption  
that we should be building a classification should be questioned.



On 26 Mar 2008, at 16:53, Doug Yanega wrote:

> Roderic Page wrote:
>>>>> and WikiSpecies:
>>>>  Wikispecies is almost useless, and I don't want to make "blind
>>>>  links".
>>>  How so? Do you think it is flawed, or just too incomplete?
>> Flawed because it isn't clearly separated from Wikipedia (which has
>> greater traction), has a bizarre classification, and is demonstrably
>> incomplete.
> The "bizarre classification" problems one sees in Wikispecies reflect
> two fundamental things: (1) Wikispecies, like Wikipedia, can only
> present a SINGLE classification (no alternative schemes can be
> incorporated except as footnotes), and (2) the classification must be
> a ranked Linnaean hierarchy.
> Taken together, those two things are inevitably going to lead to
> many, many cases where the classification will not match either (a)
> the present consensus classification of a certain clade (e.g.,
> presently, bees are classified as a monophyletic unranked taxon
> called "Anthophila") or (b) the personal preferences of a given
> taxonomist or group thereof (e.g., many folks now believe termites
> are not an Order containing several families, but a single family
> within the Order Blattodea).
> The other factor creating problems here is that few taxonomists
> actually give the ENTIRE hierarchy for their organisms in their
> publications, and this can cause conflicts between different portions
> of the hierarchy - that is, someone revises the higher classification
> of some group, and taxonomists working at lower levels are unaware of
> this change, and propose a new lower classification that does not
> dovetail with the revised higher classification; a third party trying
> to piece together the entire hierarchy is faced with a challenge to
> reconcile the disparate classifications into a coherent unit.
> It's issues like this that demonstrate the potential need and utility
> of HAVING a genuine consensus classification online and open to
> immediate modification; if every taxonomist in the world participates
> in the discussion, AND - the one crucial change needed to the "open"
> Wiki model - there are standards for arbitration of disputes (i.e., a
> proposed change cannot be made until certain explicit and objective
> criteria are met), then I see this as an attainable and desirable
> goal. The model behind how Wikispecies and Wikipedia operate is very
> close to the model needed to make this work, but the taxonomic
> community largely ignores these resources (if for no other reason
> than the justifiable concern that any work one does to improve the
> resource will be undone by a vandal or incompetent), and no model
> will work without *participation*. Frankly, I have a hard time
> imagining ANY way to convince every taxonomist in the world to
> collaborate with all the others on a *voluntary* basis: there are too
> many "rugged individualists" who will refuse to join in the effort,
> if not actively work to undermine it for their own selfish reasons.
> If you don't think the Wiki model is a viable approach to the matter,
> even if modified to require approval for changes, then what
> alternative do you see that will draw in all the world's taxonomists
> to contribute?
> Sincerely,
> -- 
> 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)
>               http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
>    "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
>          is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
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Professor Roderic D. M. Page
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