[Taxacom] Occurrence data...

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Sat Feb 19 00:39:30 CST 2011

Ken Walker wrote:

"You should never try to pre-define what the user wants."

Guarantee of failure, right there. If you haven't a clue what the user wants, how can you claim to be doing something useful? How can you ask for millions of dollars to build and maintain something you promise will be useful, without knowing whether potential users will want what you're offering, or not?

One reason the bottom-up biodiversity resources are so good is that their creators have a very clear idea what the users will want, because the users will be people with the same viewpoint as the creators. What happens when you don't have *any* such focus? Fail. It might be different if biodiversity aggregators could grow 'organically', spontaneously, anarchically - they would then reflect what users want out of them. Have they grown like that? Nope. They've been highly structured and organised top-down from the word 'go' to suit the needs of people who like aggregating data.

Want an example of biodiversity resources growing 'organically'? It exists, it's called the Web, and those inflexible, buggy, error-ridden, short-lived nodes within it are aggregation projects. Time and time again interested people (users) have looked for something on the Web, not found it, and decided to provide it themselves. Linking these growth points is smarter then trying (and failing) to create 'portals' to the riches of biodiversity information. As I posted to Taxacaom last May: " there is a mountain of biodiversity data. Numerous specialist workers are chipping away at it and taking off high-quality chunks and handing it out to anyone interested in those taxa. Elsewhere on the mountain, people have set up several big marquees with signs saying 'Get all your biodiversity data here!' Unfortunately these promoters don't have much to offer yet and what they have is more suspect than what the large number of specialist diggers are producing.'

"It that is your aim then just develop static fact sheets and that's all the user gets."

I don't understand what you're trying to say. Strip away the elaborate interfaces and data structuring and you're back down to what gets aggregated: data, facts. You think the users don't want those facts? And why 'static'? Unless maybe no one publishes on a particular taxon, in which case the literature is static, or no one adds another occurrence record, in which case the occurrence information is static.
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
Ph: (03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
Webpage: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/?articleID=570

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