[Taxacom] Wikipedia classification

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Thu Jul 2 01:20:30 CDT 2009

It sounds like there's agreement in this discussion and Rod Page's blog that Wikipedia/Wikispecies is emerging as a very useful taxonomic resource, that it's getting better, and that it has structural and administrative problems - top among these being rigidity of format and variable quality of expertise.

I think there's also agreement (or maybe 'acceptance' would be better here) that there will always be a plurality of taxonomic compilations online. If EoL ever flies (I have doubts) it will have WikiXXXX as competition, along with dozens of specialist sites; great efforts like http://www.collembola.org aren't going to disappear just because Wikispecies or EoL covers Collembola. There will never be just one, all-purpose, authoritative Web source on biodiversity. Why should there be?

We get back to a question raised in earlier TAXACOM discussions: who will use which online resources, and for what purposes?

I don't think this question has been asked often enough by the top-down compilers/developers of online biodiversity resources. Many people seem to think that information is information, and that the more you put up on the Web, and the more different ways the information can be shared and linked, the better. A smaller number of people (I hope) think that it's possible to structure a website so that anyone can find any information they're looking for, quickly and easily, in a form suited to the particular user.

This is a very interesting approach that might be called 'many sizes fits all'. I wish it luck. In the meantime, I expect that the bottom-up WikiXXXX resource will expand and change to satisfy user needs not covered by the likes of collembola.org, and in 5-10 years' time will be everyone's biodiversity handbook. EoL will be to WikiXXXX as the expert-written Encyclopedia Britannica is to Wikipedia.

If you accept that view is realistic, the new question to ask (one that Wikipedia editor Doug Yanega has already answered) is: How can I as a taxonomist help WikiXXXX get better faster?
Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
(03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
Website: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/mesibov.html

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