[Taxacom] Generic type of large genus belongs in different genus

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Wed Apr 10 20:06:27 CDT 2013

I still find it hard to fathom that computers somehow "prefer" meaningless alphanumeric strings of a randomly generated nature to virtually meaningless alphabetic strings that we call "names"! The only real difference I can think of is string length, which is obviously variable in the case of names, but can be fixed for LSIDs. But how important can that be??

From: Richard Pyle <deepreef at bishopmuseum.org>
To: 'Stephen Thorpe' <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>; 'Neal Evenhuis' <neale at bishopmuseum.org>; 'Roderic Page' <r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk>; 'TAXACOM' <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
Sent: Thursday, 11 April 2013 12:25 PM
Subject: RE: [Taxacom] Generic type of large genus belongs in different genus

> Surely something like this is the whole basic idea
> behind LSIDs? 

No, not really.  But, something similar to what you said that would be
correct would be along the lines of:

"Globally unique identifiers (of which LSIDs are just one of multiple types)
serve the function of unambiguously referring to a single object, in a way
that is optimized for use by computers.  The existence, persistence,
'actionability', and re-use of such identifiers empower software data
systems to more easily, accurately and reliably locate information related
to an object that a human user is interested in.  To the extent that an
'original combination' of a scientific name can be defined as an unambiguous
object, the assignment of a globally unique identifier (such as an LSID) to
that object is one step towards developing a computer-based system to link
original name combinations to subsequent name combinations, among which
might be a combination that you deem to be the correct combination to use to
refer to the taxon."

Unfortunately, while technically more correct, my quote is much less easy to
read, and MUCH less easy to write, than your quote.  

Doug already underscored some of the reasons why text-string original
combinations are not suitable for linking data from the perspective of a
computer (although they are certainly useful, and should be used often from
the perspective of a human).  Thankfully, nobody is requiring us to use one
or the other; it is perfectly legal, ethical, and morally acceptable (and,
indeed, HIGHLY encouraged) to make appropriate use of *both* globally unique
identifiers (for computer-computer communication), *and* original
combinations/spellings (for computer-human, human-computer, and human-human
communication).  I daresay we might even toss in author names, year of
publication and (if I may be so bold) the starting page on which the
original treatment appeared along with the original name combination.

Phew...I'm glad we've solved at least one problematic issue on Taxacom!


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