[Taxacom] saturday morning fun

dipteryx at freeler.nl dipteryx at freeler.nl
Mon Nov 29 02:46:03 CST 2010

Van: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu namens Jim Croft
Verzonden: ma 29-11-2010 1:04

> To be fair, the only reason GBIF is 'feeding us shit' is 
> because 'shit' is what we gave them.

Not at all sure about that. What has been playing through my 
mind is the idea that a data aggregator is an agency which can 
be characterized by "Data in, garbage out". It is a complete 
mystery to me why GBIF uses something known to be so completely 
worthless as the taxonomy of the Catalogue of Life; nothing good 
can come of that ...

Like some other list-members, I tried a small test, for which I 
selected a genus where it is known to be essential to be explicit 
about the species concept used in order to be able to interpret 
and handle data, in anything like a meaningful manner. 

Using the GBIF data portal, the most noticeable thing is how much 
work it is to use, before getting to any data. There is indeed a 
significant degree of completely irrelevant material linked from
this entry (the wondrous ways of computers!), but this is easily 
identifiable, so not much of an actual problem. There is no apparent
awareness of the species-concept issue, with more than one species 
concept used happily side by side. So, a lot of work (and 'expert' 
knowledge required), but basically usable. This in contrast to the
Wikipedia entry, which requires very little work on the part of the
reader for him to be completely misinformed. Wikispecies is preferable,
although it offers only little information, with a 25% rate of error
(as compared to the source it was copied from), but at least it
indicates its source, and it has selected a relevant source.

On the whole it proves that the casual user is best advised to just
use Google (which not only did turn up the relevant information but
quickly showed me a very nice site unknown to me): this is less work
and yields more useful results (a higher ratio of information/amount
-of-work) than trying one of the self-advertised high-profile sites
(obviously, the 'expert' does not need advice).

Paul van Rijckevorsel

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