[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.

Very best,


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