Pharyngula

A very cool idea

It’s the Encyclopedia of Life.

Let’s hope it takes off.

Comments

  1. #1 notthedroids
    February 26, 2008

    How would this be different/better than http://www.tolweb.org/?

  2. #2 Clan/Rewired
    February 26, 2008

    Extremely slick looking, which gives it both an approachability as a sense of “should I take this seriously or is it just a game?” But an awesome idea. Go! no seriously, go! Are on-line databases like this and Wikipedia the start of some form of Enceclopedia Galactica?

  3. #3 Sven DiMIlo
    February 26, 2008

    noththedroids:
    Did you watch the brief video? Have you ever used ToL?
    Differences look innumerable…I’ll leave the value judgment to you.

  4. #4 BicycleRepairMan
    February 26, 2008

    EOL was started after an initiative by EO Wilson, who proposed the idea at TEDtalks infront of hundreds of really rich and powerful people as his “TED wish”:

    http://www.videosift.com/video/2007-TED-Prize-winner-EO-Wilson-on-TEDTalks

    Check it out, its a really cool talk

    The difference might be that EOL has some major financial backing as a result:

    Wikipedia:
    Biologist E. O. Wilson announced a “dream” that someone would fund the project during a TED speaking engagement in March 2007,[11] a yearly forum in which luminary speakers are given the opportunity to ask for a “dream prize”. On 9 May 2007 that dream “came true” when five science foundations announced an initial $50 million dollar grant to get the project starte

  5. #5 wildlifer
    February 26, 2008

    We are currently experiencing an extremely high volume of traffic on our web site. As a result,
    you may have difficulty accessing our site. Our apologies for the inconvenience. Please try again soon.

  6. #6 Slyer
    February 26, 2008

    That’s awesome, and best of all, free! (Like the best things in life)

  7. #7 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2008

    it won’t take off until they get more bandwidth.

  8. #8 Reed Braden
    February 26, 2008

    Another victim of the PZ effect! You’ve crashed the site, I’m afraid. It looks amazing though… let’s hope they have a drive to pay for more bandwidth. I’ll gladly chip in as much as I can afford.

  9. #9 Michael D. Barton, FCD
    February 26, 2008

    I tried several times today to browse the site, but couldn’t. From their blog (http://blog.eol.org/):

    I just churned through the web logs from web machines in this cluster and there were 5.8M hits in the span of 3 hours. Most of these happened within 1 hour. We were down (and continue to experience intermittent access) for a few hours, then flipped the machines back on. Since then, there were an additional 5.7M hits, totaling 11.5M hits since 9AM this morning and it is now 2:45PM here. Wow!

  10. #10 travc
    February 26, 2008

    EO Wilson has been proposing this general idea for a good long while now (at least 5 years). The TEDtalks was far from the first time, though it seems to have made a difference.

    A big part of the original idea was using ‘expert amatures’ (imagine birders) to do species surveys and submit the data. There are some problematic issues with that though. I’m still not convinced that it can scale well beyond a tiny handful of real experts contributing data (or at least reviewing all the data). Systematics is terribly baroque even to the vast majority of biologists.

  11. #11 Steve Ulven
    February 26, 2008

    I can’t wait until the site is back up, nice job on that by the way. I love the “tree branch” effect. That is the neatest effect I have seen and will be a powerful tool in teaching evolution.

  12. #12 mothra
    February 26, 2008

    I am a taxonomist and this is NOT a good idea.

    1) There has never been much money for taxonomic research of a purely descriptive nature. A project under one aegis will inevitably take funding away from any other taxonomic projects not immediately associated under the larger name.
    This would be either direct funding loss, OR because of the profile of the larger project, some small funders for taxonomic work may decide to invest their research dollars elsewhere.

    2) It’s like the bar-code of life bandwagon. NSF was sold on the idea that by sequencing the CO1 gene, we could rapidly catalogue the world’s biotic diversity. Except that there are species- certain Diptera come to mind (imagine that) that are behaviorally, ecologically and morphologically distinct, but have identical CO1 genes.
    I am saying this project appears to be a red herring- better is to increase public awareness of the diversity crisis and increase overall funding for alpha taxonomy.

    3) Prioritization of funding to a degree not currently experienced with diverse funding sources, researchers, and projects. Related to #1, glamorous projects would receive funding: catalogue of the Characinidae of the Amazon drainage system, or, pantropical survey for medicinal plants. However, Ciidae of the world, a pictorial atlas, simply will not happen. But may also happen under a current diverse system of funding for any number of taxonomic projects from a large number of sources.

    This project has been discussed at length on Entomo-L, the entomology list serv. My impression of the discussion- and I could be wrong- was that the group of people that study more than 60% of the worlds biota seem not to be on this bandwagon.

  13. #13 Jerry D. Harris
    February 26, 2008

    I like the idea on the whole…but it has GOT to abandon the Linnean rank system — if it doesn’t, it’s only going to perpetuate an outmoded system that isn’t based on evolutionary relationships and has been abandoned by the bulk of anyone doing systematic work nowadays! If it’s supposed to be educational, then by all means, make it educational by making it reflect our current understanding of the evolutionary history of life on Earth!

  14. #14 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2008

    better is to increase public awareness of the diversity crisis and increase overall funding for alpha taxonomy.

    You’re right that there needs to be an increase in awareness of the function of biodiversity in ecosystems, but i doubt the funding sources are related.

    I don’t think this little project is going to drain much from biodiversity research funding.

    Instead, why don’t you point to one of the many projects that ARE looking at biodiversity issues instead?

  15. #15 mothra
    February 26, 2008

    This is a long tedious post about amatures and errors, may not be good general reading.

    The idea that anyone less than an expert on a group would be contributing in ways requiring scientific expertise in any type of taxonomic, biotic survey work is anathema. Once incorrect information gets into a data retrieval system it is virtually impossible to excise.

    By example: If you go to the Butterflies and moths of North America website

    http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species?l=1346

    you will see a county record of Parnassius smintheus for North Dakota. This could be ecologically significant- easternmost ‘outpost’ of a western butterfly. If we could compare this population to some western ones, learn why and how this ‘outpost’ population survives, important conservation information might be had. But, the records are wrong and the map misleading. A serious amature collector in the 1930′s from Hebron, North Dakota, put ‘possession tags’ on his specimens. These specimens (which were actually collected in the South Dakota Black Hills) now reside in the American Museum of Natural History insect collection. People use that well known collection as a firsthand data resource.

    More than a decade ago, when this website came on line, I pointed out this error. At that time, this butterfly was considered conspecific with the Old World P. phoebis, and the page had a different format. The map from that original website has been used here:

    http://www.nearctica.com/butter/plate1/Psmin.htm

    The taxonomy of the species has been revised but the errors of an amature persist.

  16. #16 Mark (Monty) Montague
    February 26, 2008

    I agree on the comparison to tolweb.

    Since this is Pharyngula, compare and contrast:

    http://www.tolweb.org/Cephalopoda
    to
    http://www.eol.org/taxa/16100587

    At least for cephalopods, eol is flashy vaporware and tolweb is a valuable research tool. Admittedly, the Cephalopod section is one of the best I’ve seen on tolweb, I tried to look up some random fish or echinoderm or something and found that whatever section that was was not so great. Also, if EOL gets well-funded, they could probably incorporate tolweb, and maybe even fund tolweb as the academic version and have a “we’ll pull your academic data into our flashy fancy-schmancy database.” I worry that if they’re competing, though, EOL’s bright colors could starve ToLweb’s academic quality of funding if there isn’t an arrangement…

  17. #17 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2008

    The taxonomy of the species has been revised but the errors of an amature persist.

    I’m not sure what your point is here, but if it is simply that amateurs create errors…

    Errors in identification and classification happen everywhere, with just about any comprehensive collection you can point a finger at, whether it’s virtual in nature like a website, or actually consists of a collection of physical specimens. Does that invalidate the value of the website in its entirety? We often ran across errors in the collections of fish at the Cal Academy of Sciences, and they were quickly fixed. Does that mean it invalidates the value of the collection to begin with?

    It’s good that there are those around that can fix noticed errors, but that hardly means any of us have the time or the resources necessary to create such a collection to begin with.

  18. #18 revmonkeyboy
    February 26, 2008

    I very much support this idea. I would like to see the data seriously examined by experts. I would also like a system of giving credit to experts, those who fund research, advanced hobbyist. This would help with the funding issue. I would really love to check out all the life known. Living and extinct. Life just boggles the mind and the world should really be aware of this simple fact. At risk of sounding like an idealist, it should be free for all the world, rich and poor to absorb and wonder.

  19. #19 Alex
    February 26, 2008

    The major differences between ToL and EoL are:

    1. EoL has orders of magnitude more funding than ToL.
    2. ToL is phylogenetic, both in focus and in architecture, while EoL is more a collection of species pages. ToL tends to focus on larger taxonomic divisions.
    3. EoL makes heavy use of automated aggregators and open participation, which means a higher volume of what will amount to lower-quality content, while ToL is constructed by experts and has a low volume of relatively high-quality content. In other words, you’ll be more likely to find something you’re looking for on EoL, but it’ll also be more likely to be wrong. It’s a trade-off.

    The taxonomic community has shown a mixed reaction to this project, and for good reason. The EoL folks are way over-hyping the project. They are making a series of unfulfillable promises about what EoL will achieve, and it’s going to come back and bite them.

    EoL is counting on the taxonomic experts to fill in the content, but they’ve not got a penny in the $50 million budget for it. It’s all gone to programmers. That’s rubbing we taxonomists the wrong way, especially after decades of funding cuts and job losses. Yet we’re still expected to pony up our time and our knowledge out of the goodness of our hearts. I plan on participating, but there’s no way I can afford the amount of time to give the project what it needs to keep up with the public promises. Not when I’ve got to keep up with my day job.

  20. #20 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2008

    but they’ve not got a penny in the $50 million budget for it.

    ah, now that’s rather unfortunate, and I can see where it might garner the ire of many. Mothra’s anger becomes clearer…

    I guess they expect experts to volunteer their time, yet again?

    *sigh*

  21. #21 mk
    February 26, 2008

    I love this idea. I just wish I could be there when in the future, after we’ve completely destroyed this planet, some alien life forms will discover this in a musty old MacBook Pro and exclaim, “Wow. What a cool little place this once was!”

  22. #22 Gregory Kusnick
    February 26, 2008

    It seems ToL and EoL have agreed to cooperate rather than compete:

    http://tolweb.org/tree/home.pages/toleol.html

  23. #23 Leni
    February 26, 2008

    Alex #18 wrote:

    EoL is counting on the taxonomic experts to fill in the content, but they’ve not got a penny in the $50 million budget for it. It’s all gone to programmers. That’s rubbing we taxonomists the wrong way, especially after decades of funding cuts and job losses. Yet we’re still expected to pony up our time and our knowledge out of the goodness of our hearts.

    Not to be snide, but if the experts don’t volunteer their time, people like Ken Hamm will be more than willing to pick up the slack.

    I’m sorry, but we, as a species, desperately need you all to share your knowledge. And we need you not to not fight overmuch about the naming of things while doing so!

    More seriously, maybe this could be a better opportunity for all parties. Perhaps potential contributers can think of something they might do to sweeten the pot- even if it is giving a certain, in all probability small, amount of money to a fund of some sort.

    Something like freerice.com

    And not to give the taxonomists a bad name, but the first thing I thought of when I saw this was “Oh great. Here come the fucking taxonomists.” You guys are so predictable! ;)

  24. #24 Jim
    February 26, 2008

    Please, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t they miss an amazing opportunity by leaving the Homo sapiens entry blank?

  25. #25 mothra
    February 26, 2008

    @Ichthyic. I could have been clearer. My specific posting of the butterfly example was to illustrate the persistence of errors by amatures on the web in a way that touches research. My overall point is that the promises overshoot the possible products to be delivered on these projects- unless there is a large involvement of amatures at levels that will ensure serious error. Alex (#18) refers to this as well.

    On the web right now, there are probably hundreds of taxonomic catalogues, some absolutely outstanding, many others only waste megabytes on servers. There are websites for general audiences such as (in entomology) Bugguide or Mothphotographers group. These serve an admirable purpose.
    Who would this worldwide compendium serve? Taxonomists do not need it- there are plenty of professional journals and outlets for their work, more and more are e-journals. Ecologists and conservationists must consult taxonomists for their species determinations outside of the ‘popular’ groups. Policy makers had better be consulting experts rather than the web. The general public could care less for (for example) the more than 1,800 SEM images and line drawings required for the identification of North American Chalcidoid wasps just to genus. Europe has almost double the number of described species of Chalcidoids than are known from North America and funding is important for the descriptions of the many, perhaps thousands, of Chalcidoids yet to be discovered in North America. How does this project in any way advance research. It is a display.

    A note on chalcidoids for the uninitiated, included here to illustrate what diversity is uncovered with years of painstaking research- no glitz allowed. The Chalcidoidea are (mostly) parasitic wasps. They roughly range in size size from a few centimeters to less than a tenth of i millimeter. External morphology of adults is as alien as any SF movie creature. Larvae in the ‘bloodstream’ of their insect hosts can, in early instars, resemble many types of zooplankton. Some species lay a single egg in a host which develops into a single embryo, others are polyembryonic, others lay multiple eggs. Some larvae ‘graze in herds’ within their host, others are aggressive and solitary- and will kill any other larva they encounter. In still others there is a caste system of larvae within the bloodstream of the host. There are larvae that ‘graze on hosts tissues and there are soldiers with large mandibles to destroy any non-conspecific or non-sibling larvae. The feeding caste larvae, not the soldiers, develop into the adult wasps. Some are hyperparisites- parasites of parasites. Many are important in biological control. Some larvae form cancerous looking plant growths called galls. Some are important in plant pollenation- figs for example. Chalcidoids are experimental animals in the arena of behavioral ecology. This is diversity undreamed of a century ago- and it took a century to uncover it.

  26. #26 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2008

    I’m sorry, but we, as a species, desperately need you all to share your knowledge. And we need you not to not fight overmuch about the naming of things while doing so!

    the problem isn’t whether it’s a worthy project or not, the problem is the common expectation that scientists as professionals will end up donating their time for free to something like this.

    it’s not expected of almost any other professional you can name.

    some of us have indeed grown weary of it (and broke).

    we studied just as long and as hard as any MD (longer in many cases), yet we are often treated professionally as if we were little more than clergymen, expected to donate our time so long as the cause is “worthy” of advancing our knowledge or contributing to society in general. It has nothing to do with “taxonomists” in and of itself; it’s a general phenomenon in science as a whole, and it contributes to the lack of good scientists overall (why castrate yourself financially, when the non-academic market is so much more lucrative?).

    50 million for programming ONLY???

    man, I spent some time programming websites for rock groups once upon a time (I worked for the company that produced NSYNC’s website to make some cash in the late 90′s). It took us exactly 2 million to produce ALL of the content, server systems, and bandwidth for the first year for that site (it received over 2 million hits on the first day, and averaged over 1 million every day it existed).

    with 50 million??

    seriously, if they didn’t spend any of this on professional scientific consulting fees, I can’t for the life of me figure out how 50 million could have been spent on programmers alone.

    something seriously fubar here.

  27. #27 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2008

    My overall point is that the promises overshoot the possible products to be delivered on these projects- unless there is a large involvement of amatures at levels that will ensure serious error

    understood.

  28. #28 Frank Anderson
    February 26, 2008

    As a systematist who knows nothing about the EOL other than the basics, I’ll admit I got sucked in by the video. I was nigh pumping my fist in the air by the end (despite one big goof I spotted), but then I’ve always been a sucker for spectacle. There’s certainly a place for engaging the public with big and flashy things, but only insofar as it really promotes education, conservation, funding for “real” taxonomy, whatever.

    I’m leery about making it open to amateurs, though there are certainly things that serious amateurs could contribute — photos, if nothing else. In malacology, some of the “amateurs” know more than most (if not all) of the experts, so who knows? And, as noted above, it’s not like experts don’t make plenty of mistakes, too. However, amateurs tend to focus on the sexy critters — is this just going to become yet another repository for lots of information about birds, mammals and other charismatic megafauna? Because we certainly need more of those.

    And did I see “PHYLUM INVERTEBRATES” in the demo??? Oy, yes I did……ouch. Not a good sign.

    Rod Page has pointed out several problems he’s seen with EOL, and I’d like to have some real comments myself, but I’ve yet to be able to actually connect to it. Well, it’s happening, so I’m willing to give it a chance and see how things develop…

  29. #29 thadd
    February 26, 2008

    I may not work with animals, but there are enough primate people in my department to know that there is no agreement on evolutionary trees, which seem to be used in this program. How do we classify H. florensiensis? What about Neanderthals and H. sapiens?
    What about domestic species, are we going to add information on them, and if so, how do we deal with all the debate about their origins etc?

  30. #30 Leni
    February 26, 2008

    the problem isn’t whether it’s a worthy project or not, the problem is the common expectation that scientists as professionals will end up donating their time for free to something like this.

    Then don’t. Presumably you people left books laying around? After we kill you and pick the meat from your carcasses we ought to be able to find a few useful books laying about.

    …it’s not expected of almost any other professional you can name.

    Apparently you have never heard of these rare beasts known as “lawyers”. Or doctors, or astronomers, or vets, or… please. Do you honestly think this is the only group of professionals who have knowledge others want for free? Bubble much?

    … some of us have indeed grown weary of it (and broke).

    Grown weary of being popular? Poor, poor things. =P

    Still, you don’t grow broke from being weary of others. You get broke from not getting funding. Here’s a chance to get some.

  31. #31 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2008

    Apparently you have never heard of these rare beasts known as “lawyers”. Or doctors, or astronomers, or vets, or… please

    oh please is right.

    why is it that the programmers aren’t expected to donate THEIR time, eh?

    50 mill for programmers, zip for the people that could actually provide correct information?

    yeah, tell me another one.

    Here’s a chance to get some.

    oops, you must have missed the part where the funding was assigned to the programmers.
    none of that 50 mill was assigned to consult any scientists for this project.

    there is no money to *get* for this project.

    I trust that might be a bit clearer for you?

    Grown weary of being popular?

    irrelevant.

    ask the writers who went on strike for several months whether they thought being popular was relevant to getting paid for their work.

  32. #32 Leni
    February 27, 2008

    Icthyic

    why is it that the programmers aren’t expected to donate THEIR time, eh?

    Obviously, because there is a worldwide conspiracy against taxonomists.

    Programmers from the get-go are cheaper. It’s basically a one time fee. Taxonomy, as I’m sure you will not be surprised to hear, changes. A lot. And without much warning.

    If you were going to build an organic database like this you’d do it the same way. Like Wikipedia did… You get it going and let it evolve. You pay the start-up costs and hope a minimal amount of upkeep will allow a valuable service to keep on running. And later on you use your advertising revenue, reputation, or whatever you have to help your contributers. Now, if you don’t think that will happen, fine. Don’t contribute then. Sitting around complaining about it isn’t going to help either way.

    So anyway, the other option is to pay four asshole PhDs to argue about classifications in perpetuity and one programmer (if that) to clean their shit up and make it presentable for the rest of humanity. We already have one of those, so I hear.

    In any case, I am thinking about sites like http://www.webmd.com/ or http://mathworld.wolfram.com/ or http://lp.findlaw.com/.

    These are huge web bases full of an astonishing amount of information for which, so far as I know, nearly no one was paid for providing. If I’m wrong, oh well. Down with programmers and “taxonomists unite”. If I’m not, yay. Look. Sometimes professionals can manage to collaborate enough to let their knowledge benefit others.

    And frankly, those sites are far more useful to the average person than this one ever will be. So your story of terrible abuse at the hands of programmers isn’t exactly pulling my heart strings.

  33. #33 Leni
    February 27, 2008

    Crap. I think I just may have lost a post because there were several links in it.

    Woops.

    Anyway, Icthyic, suffice it to say there are a lot of other databases out there. Math, physics, law, medical and health information, psychiatry, cooking, architecture. You name it.

    Clearly, taxonomists are not some horribly abused group of professionals who are forced to contribute content to other people’s websites or else. They don’t have to contribute if they don’t want to. End of story.

  34. #34 thalarctos
    February 27, 2008

    ask the writers who went on strike for several months whether they thought being popular was relevant to getting paid for their work.

    heh, I had dinner last week with one of the handful of Writers’ Guild members who’s actually based here in Seattle. Some of the finer details of the strike and settlement were quite eye-opening.

    He said that in forcing the issue, the producers had forgotten an extremely important point, the writers’ secret weapon: “We’re *used* to being unemployed.”.

  35. #35 Kanaio
    February 27, 2008

    I imagine the published research findings the EOL creators are drawing from come from paid professionals. Most of the money for environmental research comes from publicly supported or eleemosynary institutions. I don’t think EOL is charging a fee to users are they? However, if they are making substantive errors, it makes good sense for them to put a taxonomist on staff.

    Frankly, I am surprised at the backlash from this cadre. This is an awesome project, and should be supported by the scientific community. User-friendly programs such as EOL have the ability to increase funding in related areas of research and conservation by increasing public awareness.

  36. #36 stevelew
    February 27, 2008

    So anyway, the other option is to pay four asshole PhDs to argue about classifications in perpetuity and one programmer (if that) to clean their shit up…

    If it would up to me I’d opt for accepting the natural constraint that it takes alot of time to do a good job assembling something of this complexity, and enjoy watching TOL grow.

    EOL caters to the comfortable misconception that biodiversity is just lots and lots of different species, whereas TOL emphasizes the more sophisticated approach to biodiversity as a nested hierarchy of diachronic processes. That’s why EOL gets the 50 mil and more media time and will always be more “interesting” to your average expected web-surfer. I’ll stick with TOL. I have no reason to know species of cephalopods until I have a good sense of the sub-orders, super-families, families, sub-families, and genera.

  37. #37 Peter Ashby
    February 27, 2008

    Mothra:

    A note on chalcidoids for the uninitiated, included here to illustrate what diversity is uncovered with years of painstaking research- no glitz allowed. The Chalcidoidea are (mostly) parasitic wasps. They roughly range in size size from a few centimeters to less than a tenth of i millimeter. External morphology of adults is as alien as any SF movie creature. Larvae in the ‘bloodstream’ of their insect hosts can, in early instars, resemble many types of zooplankton. Some species lay a single egg in a host which develops into a single embryo, others are polyembryonic, others lay multiple eggs. Some larvae ‘graze in herds’ within their host, others are aggressive and solitary- and will kill any other larva they encounter. In still others there is a caste system of larvae within the bloodstream of the host. There are larvae that ‘graze on hosts tissues and there are soldiers with large mandibles to destroy any non-conspecific or non-sibling larvae. The feeding caste larvae, not the soldiers, develop into the adult wasps. Some are hyperparisites- parasites of parasites. Many are important in biological control. Some larvae form cancerous looking plant growths called galls. Some are important in plant pollenation- figs for example. Chalcidoids are experimental animals in the arena of behavioral ecology. This is diversity undreamed of a century ago- and it took a century to uncover it.

    Well I’ll be appreciative then if no one else will. Thankyou so much for sharing that, absolutely fascinating. I only fairly recently had the doh! of course moment of finding out that the ants are basically wasps, in their winged breeding form that is especially obvious. The info above just reinforces that, the caste specialisation, including non reproductive soldiers is just wonderful. I may have to steal this to use when arguing with creationists. Thanks again.

    I appreciate the efforts you are going to in this. In my own work I have had recourse to look at the comparative anatomy of beasties like the rodents done back in the 19thC (in Europe) and early 20thC (in the US). I collect muscular anatomies for my sins. The work of these guys just blows my mind, as does their skills in drawing. I indeed feel that I stand on the shoulders of giants.

  38. #38 Silmarillion
    February 27, 2008

    I knew I had deja vu.

    PZ, you blogged about this in May last year. An encyclopedia of life? May 9, 2007.

    I can’t remember where I left my keys, but I can remember you posting about this 8 months ago. Weird.

  39. #39 Ichthyic
    February 27, 2008

    Programmers from the get-go are cheaper. It’s basically a one time fee. Taxonomy, as I’m sure you will not be surprised to hear, changes. A lot. And without much warning.

    this hardly supports your point.

    one i WAS a programmer. (go figure: someone can do biology AND program – shocker eh?) I know exactly what goes into programming a site like this, having done similar things myself, and NO it’s not a “one time fee”. constant adjustments need to be made, constant monitoring of the back end systems, observations of patterns of usage to improve performance, etc. Kind of like what happens with taxonomic classifications as we improve our knowledge of the genetics and physiology of the organisms we study.

    to assume you can do one correctly and ignore the other is nonsense.

    So your story of terrible abuse at the hands of programmers isn’t exactly pulling my heart strings.

    what?

    now you’re just rambling. i never said anything about “abuse at the hands of programmers”.

    frankly, I don’t give a shit about the heart strings of someone who obviously doesn’t know either end of the issue, nor their ass from a hole in the ground, evidently.

    If I’m wrong, oh well.

    yeah, so stfu already, moron.

  40. #40 Kevin
    February 27, 2008
     Don't contribute then. Sitting around complaining about it isn't going to help either way.
    So anyway, the other option is to pay four asshole PhDs to argue about classifications in
    perpetuity and one programmer (if that) 
    to clean their shit up and make it presentable for the rest of humanity. 
    We already have one of those, so I hear. 

    Hhahaha this one had me in stitches..
    i am for this project cos if anything at least it generates public awareness. even this blog post generated sympathy for underpaid taxonomists.
    I also feel that having an organised virtual center for taxonomy is like kinda having a pubmed for journals. everyone will have a centralised place to go to for information and a centralised place to correct all mistakes.
    it might not turn out to be THE authoritative statement on any taxon but hell it gives a nice link that you can probably write a blog post to ridicule your colleague in their academic mistake.

  41. #41 Carlie
    February 27, 2008

    What if journals were the ones to provide the bulk of the information, rather than individual scientists? They could contract with some of the major systematic journals and set up some kind of system of tagging and scavenging information directly from articles. Of course, the journals would want (rightly so) to be paid for collating the information, and it’s easy to set up payment to entities, so that’s funding in a manner familiar to business types involved in administration. The journals hire a few people to go through and sort/compile information, it gets fed to the EOL, the scientists didn’t have to do any extra work but their names and results get out there, the information is reliably up to date, everybody’s happy.

  42. #42 Sven DiMilo
    February 27, 2008

    I may not work with animals, but there are enough primate people in my department…

    Eh…never mind. Too easy.

  43. #43 Alex
    February 27, 2008

    The Paid/Unpaid expert issue is important mainly because of *expectations*.

    EoL will have some very cool stuff and be useful to a lot of people regardless of where they go from here. I don’t think that’s the issue. The problem is that the bright lights over at EoL’s PR department went and promised completed species pages for 1.8 million species within a decade. That stated goal has been splattered across every news outlet that has covered the release.

    The only possible way to achieve that goal is with a full-time professional commitment of hundreds of taxonomists. A majority of of those 1.8 million species simply haven’t got an amateur community to do them, and text-mining tools still need editing and oversight.

    EoL has played the expectations game poorly. If they had only been about making a cool biodiversity site and stuck to that I don’t think anyone would be complaining. But now they’ve hyped themselves into a position that they can’t deliver.

  44. #44 Trey
    February 27, 2008

    “How would this be different/better than http://www.tolweb.org/?”

    There is a difference, though admittedly they seem to overlap a lot in purpose and goals.

    It seems ToL and EOL have decided to collaborate as I wrote here http://www.openhelix.com/blog/?p=168 and they have posted here: http://www.tolweb.org/tree/home.pages/toleol.html

  45. #45 David Marjanovi?, OM
    February 27, 2008

    Please, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t they miss an amazing opportunity by leaving the Homo sapiens entry blank?

    What do you mean? Should they just have copied Linnaeus’s diagnosis “HOMO nosce Te ipsum”?

  46. #46 David Marjanovi?, OM
    February 27, 2008

    Please, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t they miss an amazing opportunity by leaving the Homo sapiens entry blank?

    What do you mean? Should they just have copied Linnaeus’s diagnosis “HOMO nosce Te ipsum”?

  47. #47 David Marjanovi?, OM
    February 27, 2008

    The movie I just watched. The music is annoying. The sampling is biased — vertebrates, vertebrates, vertebrates, and two or three crustaceans maybe. The ranks are really there. The ignorance is really large enough that the movie says “Phylum Invertebrates”. The noun is adjective. Or maybe translated from Chinese it all was — topic first, comment second in every sentence. And far too poetic it waxes.

    mothra, thanks a lot for the basic information on the chalcidoids. I had no idea whatsoever…

  48. #48 David Marjanovi?, OM
    February 27, 2008

    The movie I just watched. The music is annoying. The sampling is biased — vertebrates, vertebrates, vertebrates, and two or three crustaceans maybe. The ranks are really there. The ignorance is really large enough that the movie says “Phylum Invertebrates”. The noun is adjective. Or maybe translated from Chinese it all was — topic first, comment second in every sentence. And far too poetic it waxes.

    mothra, thanks a lot for the basic information on the chalcidoids. I had no idea whatsoever…

  49. #49 Jim Thomerson
    February 27, 2008

    I am a taxonomist and I might contribute. However I am only computer semi-literate. All I see is the advertising video. I don’t see how to access it or use it or contribute to it. Any help?

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