[Taxacom] Species Pages - purpose
Dr. Rodham E. Tulloss
ret at eticomm.net
Tue Feb 3 06:57:02 CST 2009
On the Amanita Studies site, we strive for good illustrations of species from
various locations and in various conditions. Diagnostic photographs are very
desirable as well as "iconic" ones, of course. We have two levels of detail.
One aimed at high school students and above; and one for people desiring the
technical details. Our approach has required little brains (we started too long
ago to take advantage of database techniques, php, etc.) Nevertheless, it seems
that (over 9-10) years we have fairly good coverage of our target species and
have been able to go beyond morphological taxonomy a bit to show connections to
other work on the group in question in a variety of related disciplines. With
less than 600 species having names in our core genus and perhaps another 300-400
"out there," awaiting description, we do not have the page count problem that is
obvious for those dealing with larger groups.
Our thoughts on purpose have fallen within the scope of the discussion that Mary
and others have posted in recent hours.
We are in our 11th year of operation. The site was markedly enriched by a hired
assistant in the summers of 2004-2006...1/3 my age and 3x faster than I am. The
site has lagged because of my personal work and activities that are outside the
scope of mycology.
The tests of usefulness might include degree of utilization. Our utilization
has been about 8 to 9 thousand visits a year for several years (with some
increase lately, perhaps due to EOL and wikipedia links for "iconic" taxa, a two
a small lecture tour last summer) often from universities, emergency rooms,
government agencies (from a very simple, free counter service). In addition,
we're aware that many amateur groups and individuals (mostly from North America,
Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand) use the site regularly.
Length of time on the site once a visit has begun is also a possible metric of
utility. It is not uncommon for some visitors to be on the site for hours...on
a regular basis. While many visitors go to a single page (apparently to look at
a picture for a second or two) and leave the site, we do have users who visit
tens of pages per visit. I suspect that a few users are actually printing out
everything on the site (they're on the site every day for hours).
From limited data on the homebase-systems of users that visit, I would say that
the a few macromycete specialist taxonomists of the world visit occasionally,
students use the site a great deal if their graduate studies relate to
macrofungi or to the Amanitaceae, specifically. Hospital emergency rooms go to
check out what Amanita phalloides and Amanita bisporigera, etc. look like and,
perhaps, to get a link to local poison control expertise. We occasionally see
government agency users (perhaps from departments related to public health,
forestry, agriculture, etc.?). Someone from a U.S. Navy site visits our pages
We try to cover all the world's described species; but, of course, there are
parts of the world that have more limited web access or have sufficient troubles
in their lives that they aren't inclined to spend time on a specialist web site.
While we haven't the resources to make a detailed study, we know that, in the
last six months, we have had visitors from at least 72 countries from all
continents and many island nations. I would say that the data is good enough
that we can easily figure out where there is a research interest in the
Amanitaceae...when certain university users are on the site every weekday and
weekends as well.
I think the site is of occasional interest to hundreds of visitors and of much
greater interest to dozens of users. Users who are quite frequently visiting
the site make up, perhaps, 20 or so users during a given period of a few months.
Daily usage is highest during the Northern Hemisphere summer mushroom fruiting
season. In the Norther Hemisphere winter, the west coast usage rises; and the
Southern Hemisphere usage also increases slightly.
As a soft-ware developer in one part of my life, I was always frustrated that
users would try to find a work-around for a problem instead of calling to work
out a really thorough solution. Building species pages has a similar
frustration to it. You rarely meet or communicate with most of your
users/readers. You rarely get the benefit of a criticism to which you have the
resources to actually respond. "Good job," is nice to hear; but you don't make
progress without a user creatively complaining.
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