[Taxacom] a looming data conflict crisis in bioinformatics?

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Sat Nov 20 03:34:28 CST 2010

Paul Kirk wrote:

>You will never, ever, convince anyone that the future of 
>biodiversity information management is by using the 'wiki system' - 
>nothing more that a digital equivalent of a piece of paper available 
>on the internet. If you need convincing, listen to the inventor of 
>the web at the TED 
>http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_berners_lee_on_the_next_web.html and 
>let us all know why you think he is wrong this time.

I think I can anticipate Stephen's response here, and the point is simple:

Insisting that all we need is more raw data is meaningless if 90% of 
the raw data in question are incorrect or fraudulent. The end result 
is going to be awfully, awfully confusing.

"The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but 
that they know so many things that ain't so." - Mark Twain

Just consider the battle of two memes:

"Obama is a Muslim" gets 1,090,000 Google hits, but
"Obama is not a Muslim" gets only 89,000.

When the truth is swallowed up by lies, letting some computer 
algorithm tell you what to believe on the internet is just asking for 
trouble. I'm not so sure Tim is thinking clearly here, unless he can 
devise an algorithm that can infallibly detect lies. And, much as you 
might hate to admit it, Wikis are very good at filtering out liars, 
ignoramuses, and crackpots - and the more people that contribute, the 
better that filtering becomes. If you don't believe that, and think 
that wikis are "nothing more that [sic] a digital equivalent of a 
piece of paper" then you really, truly do NOT understand how wikis 


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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