[Taxacom] globalnames?

Stephen Thorpe s.thorpe at auckland.ac.nz
Thu Sep 17 20:52:21 CDT 2009

Name harvesting is useful as a FIRST STEP, nothing more or less than an automated literature search, but not as an end in itself. It also would be an advance on the current "database boom", all of whom seem to be stealing what scanty data there is from each other. I have just been creating a Wikispecies page for the (officially) monotypic fly genus Tillyardomyia:
Although my page is still rather "bare bones", it is, I suggest, still a heck of a lot more substantive than what you get from the EoL or GBIF links that I put at the bottom of the page! These illustrate one of the main current problems, i.e., nice infrastructure, but no data! Since the genus is uncontroversially endemic to N.Z., you would think that the GBIF page could somehow indicate this in some way at this time - but no points at all plotted on map (as per usual), and no words "New Zealand" on the page at all...

From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Richard Pyle [deepreef at bishopmuseum.org]
Sent: Friday, 18 September 2009 1:23 p.m.
To: 'Bob Mesibov'; 'TAXACOM'
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] globalnames?

Thanks, Bob -- you have indeed confirmed my inability to communicate on this
issue, because you portray it as though my perspective is at odds with
yours; whereas in fact, they seem to be quite similar -- indeed, nearly
identical (unless you, too, are as bad at commicating this stuff as I am, in
which case I may be misinterpreting you).

> Names are not an adequate link
> to biodiversity information. In biodiversity documentation -
> whether species/higher taxon lists from sophisticated ecology
> projects in 2009 or nature notes from some short-lived
> lepidopteran newsletter of the 1930s - both scientific and
> common names can be wrong or simply missing*.

I don't believe I ever used the word "adequate".  But in the context of
historical literature, what else is there?  Why else do we even put names on
taxa, if not to put associated information into context?

> Name harvesting from digitised literature and other sources
> is just that, name harvesting. Harvesting the biodiversity
> information that Rich says 'MANY MANY MANY' people want is
> done best by human processing. Taxon specialists are the
> people to do this, but trained librarians are nearly as good.
> Grabbing only the biodiversity information tightly and neatly
> linked to names not only guarantees confusion and errors, it
> also guarantees a shallow and uninformed result.

Wow!  I couldn't have said it better myself!  Indeed, it's obvious that I
didn't say it better myself -- if you were left with the impression that I
disagree with anything you say above.

> I can hear Rich grumbling as he reads this, muttering 'But
> name harvesting would assist taxon specialists to find
> sources they might otherwise miss.' Maybe. But it would hide
> those sources in a mess that I, for one, wouldn't have the
> patience to sift through.

I guess we have slightly different views here (but only slightly). I have
more confidence that the good stuff can float to the top.  Google somehow
manages to pull off the trick for billions and billions of web pages. With
our (comparatively tiny) dataset, I imagine we could do something similar.

And the only thing I'm grumbling about now is myself, for my evident
ineptitude for communicating effectively on this thread.

> *Yes, missing. There are many, many valuable documentations
> of loosely categorised species ('caterpillar', 'worm'), and
> it's often the case that only a human, reading the report or
> studying the pictures carefully and applying prior knowledge,
> could possibly decode just what the report is talking about.

"Often" is way to soft a word here.  I'm tempted to use "Always", but to be
fair, it may be most appropriate to say "Almost always".

Third (and final) Post Today


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