[Taxacom] Google Wave: potential taxonomic tool?

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Tue Jun 2 17:54:50 CDT 2009

Peter Desmet wrote:

'I think Google Wave could be a potential step closer to this futuristic "taxonomic desktop tool" that keeps popping up on this mailing list. :-)'

Many of the desktop tools people have been working on are designed to serve taxonomists working in isolation. The aim is to make individual taxonomists more productive. The EOL's LifeDesk and EDIT's Scratchpads are examples of the next step, which is to allow collaboration between individual taxonomists. It is far from clear whether bulletin boards of this kind - no matter how many other tools they access - will increase the productivity of taxonomy as a process, because the rate-limiting steps in this process are still in the heads of individual taxonomists, and their numbers are declining.

Google Wave is a bit more radical. As a medium it demands real-time collaboration, and it allows Web-wide participation by anyone interested. There is the potential here to replace individual taxonomists with 24/7 online communities of experts and non-experts focused on particular taxonomic tasks. That would boost the productivity of taxonomy-as-a-process by simultaneously increasing the number of heads involved and the speed with which tasks can be accomplished. Whether a Wave group has on-site access to sophisticated bioinformatics tools is less important than whether it's large enough to do the job efficiently.

I'm drafting a paper on this way of restructuring taxonomy. If you're interested in joining me as an author, please contact me off-list.
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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