[Wikipedia-l] species directory

Stan Shebs shebs at apple.com
Mon Aug 23 20:19:09 UTC 2004

I think there is room for such a project to co-exist with wikipedia,
but I think you're vastly underestimating the human obstacles to
creating something that is not just a weak half-clone of WP content.

The chief problem I see is to get some sort of cross-discipline
cooperation. For instance, FishBase has made a good start with fish,
but the database entries for beetles or plants will be mostly
different; sure, there is some sharing, but the coleopterists'
approach to taxonomy is (seemingly :-) ) rather more chaotic, and,
well, the botanists have seven different ways just to define the
concept of "species", not least because plants easily do the
equivalent of crossing humans with tamarins and getting fertile
offspring, and molecular info doesn't necessarily demystify either.
So you're talking about pushing all of these specialists into a
single framework, and if they don't fit well, they're not going to

So before talking to developers about software, you need to talk with
people in different areas and get an agreement in principle. Could
the FishBase guys sign on to import their data into a cross-phylum
project? Are there coleopterists able and willing to mechanize the
immense number of characters that differentiate their subjects? Will
specialist experts even want to participate in a wiki that anybody
can edit, or will they only want a more controlled environment?

And finally, what content would this have that is not just as
appropriate for WP, and do the WPers agree with setting that
boundary? For instance, the full list of papers reporting every
sighting of a species of plant seems too detailed for WP, but I
could imagine a parallel set of "dig deeper" articles that go all
out on that sort of thing.


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