[Wikipedia-l] Developers needed!

Stan Shebs shebs at apple.com
Tue Aug 24 17:51:03 UTC 2004

Gerard Meijssen wrote:

> [...] You presume that little is known about many species, when there 
> is traction among the serious amateurs and the professionals, you will 
> be amazed how much is known about things on a species, subspecies, 
> variety and forma level.
That's because there are many for which little is known - I just
recently added a beetle family (Glaresidae) for whom none of the
larvae have never been identified, nor is anything known about their
life history, not even what they eat.

> The scientific descriptions of taxons are inherently public domain, 
> there is no single resource that collects them. I know of a Yahoo 
> group that has some descriptions on line for cacti. There are more of 
> these small resources. By having an open place where these things can 
> be posted with some assurance that they will remain there, you already 
> have something that adds value beyond the current ToL and gives 
> validation to the idea of a Wikispecies.
The implied comment here is that really-detailed WP content runs
the risk of being deleted, but as far as I know that's never
happened to species descriptions, and there are a bunch of valued
pages discussing obsolete taxa. Adding detailed info and making
sure it's accurate is simply a painstaking process, and there
aren't very many people doing it; most of the time I just get
the basics written down and move on, on the theory that breadth
is more useful than depth, if one only has so much time. For some
beetle families WP now has the sole English description to be found
online anywhere, believe it or not, so we're not quite to the point
of needing every beetle species yet.

So the value of a separate wikispecies hangs on where Wikipedia
draws the line on its content; as far as I know, no one has
ever actually drawn a line at less than "everything known about
a species".

By contrast, if I proposed importing my database of 147,000+ types
of postage stamps, about half of all types known, I bet a lot of
people would say "too much detail for the encyclopedia!" :-)


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