[Taxacom] global species lists and taxonomy ( was Re: Draft Checklist ...)

Shorthouse, David davidpshorthouse at gmail.com
Thu Aug 29 20:34:27 CDT 2013

> Which again is useless to non-taxonomists who want a single definitive
> answer - and even if we assume that you can develop an algorithm that
> can produce a fully-resolved tree, is it a tree that the taxonomic
> community would unanimously support? Everyone is talking about tools to
> allow taxonomists to evaluate classifications more objectively, but
> that's not what the end users of taxonomy want or need, and not at all
> what I was referring to.

To take your argument to its natural conclusion Doug, it's not really a
single definitive answer that the "non-taxonomist" is after. Rather, they
want to know what is its name (scientific or vernacular, no matter) and how
to identify it. A user who asks in what family a particular taxon is placed
is already operating at a much higher level. To most, classifications are
an implementation detail not unlike Google's PageRank algorithm. They need
not know how or why Google's search works. If they don't get an acceptable
answer, they have the freedom to iterate on other terms. There is room for
multiple competing classifications (the more the merrier!), but the
reconciliation of these need not (and should not!) be exposed to users.
What should be exposed is a flattened, efficient view into our world of
taxonomic graphs with the freedom to iterate on their search.

David P. Shorthouse

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