[Taxacom] Google, Wikipedia, and Fungi

Cynthia Parr parrc at si.edu
Wed Sep 2 08:36:58 CDT 2009

Paul and others,

It is true that the CC licensing EOL is using puts off some
contributors. Because this is the same licensing that Wikipedia is
using, those same contributors won't share their knowledge there,
either. That means less impact for this knowledge, and unfortunate
gaps in the megaprojects (GBIF faces the same problem).

Personally, I'd be delighted if folks share their knowledge on
Wikipedia. EOL and anybody else can and will re-use it, and add value
to it. My philosophy has always been, engage with the project that
suits your own needs. That means, if you have an existing online
community database, by all means contribute there. Where possible,
that database should offer its information to others. That includes
Wikipedia and EOL. The value that EOL adds is the assurance that
review status is going to be clear, that it should eventually be a
relatively comprehensive source that includes legacy sources, and that
there will be APIs useful for scientists and other projects.

Steven Thorpe said that some consider EOL to be closed source. Not
true. Every person on the planet could contribute text or images to
EOL. Granted, it isn't as easy as Wikipedia and we need to work on
that. But there is an Add text button everywhere and you and your
10-year old niece all could contribute to EOL knowing that your work
won't get overwritten by someone else.

As it happens, we've been working on the strategy for Wikipedia
content and would be happy for feedback. Those of you who have
registered as EOL curators have already seen this.

The idea is that we'll bring Wikipedia content onto EOL pages in two
ways, to the extent possible. First, we'll bring the whole thing
(including references) into a single EOL section. Second, we'll
automatically break up the sections and put them into the appropriate
EOL chapters and subchapters. We'll only be able to do that if our
parser can do it sensibly, so we won't try if the structure of the
page isn't standard.

The Wikipedia content will be immediately publicly displayed on EOL
with a yellow background -- clearly unvetted -- until an EOL curator
reviews it and decides to trust it. Then that content remains the same
on EOL until a curator provides a new URL pointing to the specific
version of the WIkipedia page that they want to replace it.

This curator step is crucial -- it is how the scientific community
indicates to the world that a particular Wikipedia page version passes
the review test.

What do you think? Would you be more willing to contribute to
Wikipedia under these circumstances? Is it too much work for EOL
curators? Is it a hybrid that is ungainly or has vigor?

Just FYI -- Wikipedia is in the process of establishing its own
quality control mechanism. In certain parts of the project, a trusted
editor must review content before it shows up on the site. My
understanding is that to be a trusted editor you have to have a
certain number of edits on Wikipedia. Even if that's only typos.

Rod Page said "Leaving aside the negotiations that would be involved,
it would be straightforward to insert pages for every "accepted" taxon
into Wikipedia." Amen. Someone should use this statement (and selected
bits from this thread and your analysis) in the negotiations.


Cynthia Sims Parr
Director of the Species Pages Group
Encyclopedia of Life http://www.eol.org
Office: 202.633.8730
Fax: 202.633.8742
parrc at si.edu

Mailing address:
National Museum of Natural History
P.O. Box 37012
MRC 106
Washington, DC 20013-7012

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