[Taxacom] iSpecies with Wikipedia

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Thu Mar 27 06:36:59 CDT 2008

I don't see why there can't be as many classifications as there are
individuals/organizations willing to assert them.  It's my understanding
that EoL will accommodate multiple classifications (via the "Union" layer in
their data architecture), and I think this is the reality that
forward-thinking taxonomic data management initiatives need to accommodate. 

>From the content-provider side, there are a number of initiatives that
assert their own "preferred" classification across many taxa (ITIS,
Species2000, PESI, FishBase, etc., etc.); and each should present/expose
those asserted classifications to the internet in a way that other data
aggregators (EoL, GBIF, BioCASE, iSpecies, etc.) can harvest and index them

>From the user side, knowledgeable users should have the option of selecting
their own preferred classifications (could be just one, or could be many
that the user ranks). Less-knowledgeable users should be given a
"meta-consensus" classification derived from available classifications,
based on some sort of ranking system analogous to Google's PageRank (I think
of this as the "I'm Feeling Lucky" classification).  It is my hope that EoL
will head down such a path -- and perhaps provide the open-source software
tools/APIs/standards & protocols for the rest of us (including Wikispecies?)
to build upon.


Richard L. Pyle, PhD
Database Coordinator for Natural Sciences
  and Associate Zoologist in Ichthyology
Department of Natural Sciences, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org

> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu 
> [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of 
> Charles Hussey
> Sent: Thursday, March 27, 2008 12:16 AM
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] iSpecies with Wikipedia
> To Doug, Rod, Andy and others,
> I would support the construction of a consensus, or 
> management, classification specifically to assist with 
> resource discovery. With the emergence of portals (GBIF, 
> BioCASE, etc.) that return results from dispersed datasets 
> there is (at least to my mind) the requirement to return 
> consistent results and a consensus classification could help 
> achieve this. It would need to be fairly stable (even 
> conservative) and machine understandable. I guess there would 
> also need to be a mechanism for mapping other classifications 
> in use to it.
> There is an upcoming EU-funded project called PESI (A 
> Pan-European Species-Directories Infrastructure) 
> http://eu-nomen.eu/pesi/ that will be addressing this need 
> (building a management classification) and so I should be 
> interested in hearing your views on the usefulness or 
> senselessness of this together with any hints, tips and pitfalls!
> Best wishes,
> Charles Hussey,
> Science Data Co-ordinator,
> Data and Digital Systems Team,
> Library and Information Services,
> Natural History Museum,
> Cromwell Road,
> London SW7 5BD
> United Kingdom
> Tel. +44 (0)207 942 5213
> Fax. +44 (0)207 942 5559
> e-mail c.hussey at nhm.ac.uk
> Species Dictionary project: www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/ Nature Navigator:
> www.nhm.ac.uk/naturenavigator/ 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Doug Yanega
> Sent: 26 March 2008 16:53
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] iSpecies with Wikipedia
> 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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