[Taxacom] LSID versus names

Donat Agosti agosti at amnh.org
Wed Jun 20 04:30:26 CDT 2012

"I suspect much of this would be moot if the identifiers were perceived as adding significant value, and not merely large globs of indigestible text. This is the real problem, tackle that, and people will probably see past the ugliness."

I think that the real problem is too much talk and no tangibles. Would Zoobank work there is a chance that LSIDs would come alive. Then there would be a need to use them- otherwise its just a huge overhead for those who actually try to use them, eg Zookeys, HNS, 
But then there is also the question to what they resolve, which is another element that doesn't give them an edge over others, since machine don't really know what to do. This is a second point against using them in the pro-age of machines-doing-the-job.

Why do we want to use them?


-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Roderic Page
Sent: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 1:44 PM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] LSID versus names

Dear Rich,

You have about as much chance convincing anyone that UUIDs are beautiful as I have of convincing taxonomists to not change bionomials when shifting names across genera ;)

I understand the advantages of UUIDs, and I know you argue that in an ideal world we'd not see identifiers. But there are reasons not to like UUIDs (http://www.hyam.net/blog/archives/90 ), and the reality is we see (and use) identifiers all the time. Indeed, a lot of the much-touted benefits of identifiers (e.g., cut and paste identifier to get reference, see who is mentioning your article on Twitter by searching for the DOI, retrieve a DNA sequence from GenBank, etc.) depend on people using identifiers. We use URLs all the time, for example. Indeed, being able to see identifiers is often important for building trust (I believe I'm handing over my credit card details to someone trustworthy because it says "apple.com" in the URL, for example).

A related issue is whether identifiers are "hackable", that is, whether I can interpret what they mean and edit them to get something else. For example, if I have an identifier for an article that include the volume, can I shorten the identifier and get information on the volume? Obviously this can be problematic, but clearly taxonomists like hackable identifiers, otherwise they wouldn't embed meaning into names (e.g., if I shorten "Homo sapiens" to "Homo" and search for that I'll find other things related to "Homo sapiens") (oh the irony). UUIDs are not hackable, which could be regarded as a strength, but in some respects this can be a disadvantage as it thwarts discovery and debugging.

As much as you might wish that people didn't look at identifiers, they do. If you wanted to design a less user-friendly identifier designed to alienate reluctant users then you couldn't have done better than pick UUIDs ;) Regardless of the technical reasons for choosing them, they've done you no favours in encouraging adoption.

I suspect much of this would be moot if the identifiers were perceived as adding significant value, and not merely large globs of indigestible text. This is the real problem, tackle that, and people will probably see past the ugliness.



On 20 Jun 2012, at 09:34, Richard Pyle wrote:

>> and some example are ugly e.g., those that use UUIDs, such as the 
>> examples you gave earlier, and the ones issued by ZooBank (note that 
>> you don't have to make such ugly LSIDs).
> "Ugly"??  Seriously?  You're worried about "ugly"?!?  Ugly to whom?  To you?
> A human?  C'mon Rod -- you can do better than "ugly"!  You're 
> absolutely right about LSIDs.  I'm astonished that you still cling to the "ugly"
> argument against UUIDs!  The sooner we can get past this foolish 
> notion that GUIDs are supposed to be optimized for human eyeballs, the better.
> Rich
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Roderic Page
Professor of Taxonomy
Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences Graham Kerr Building University of Glasgow Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK

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