[Taxacom] A romp through an aggregator

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Tue May 25 05:59:36 CDT 2010

"How would you approach providing a more direct and consistent pipeline to the sort of data being discussed here in a fashion that scales and actually meets others requirements?"

Pipeline from where? An EOL-style Web portal? But in this particular case there are already 3 portals: my Millipedes of Australia site, Wikispecies and the Australian Faunal Directory, which will feed into the Atlas of Living Australia (AFD is out of date but I'm currently updating it). Or you could see Google as a portal, since it links to all 3 of these. The generic nomenclator I referred to (published in print in 1971) was updated to 2000 and is available as a downloadable spreadsheet on an NSF-funded PEET website. My MoA site has much more taxonomic info and a locality mapper built on a database of specimen records I maintain. There is a great deal of millipede information already available and more can be accessed by asking specialists, like me, or the diligent German workers who've scanned to PDF the bulk of the millipede literature and who make individual works available for study purposes on request. If the dream is to sit at a computer somewhere and access *all information about every millipede species* at the single click of a mouse - sorry, it ain't going to happen. That pipeline is never going to be built. There aren't enough millipede experts, and they're already far too busy.

"How can others who are more detached from grass-roots navigate to the sources we need?"

Same way we always did: library/online searching to the roots (primary sources) and ask-an-expert. But just as before, don't say 'Tell me everything you know about millipedes', which is what the aggregation industry seems to be doing.

"However, if by "top-down" you mean there is no merit in trying to come up with a set of agreements that allow these data to output in a consistent manner, discoverable in a comprehensive manner, and accessed in as near-real time as possible, then I disagree."

You want consistent, comprehensive and fast. I want specific answers and I want them to be correct, and I don't care if that takes time. When you sacrifice data quality for speed and consistency you get the horrible example I described.
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
Webpage: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/mesibov.html

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