Minimalism AND functionalism

Jim Croft jrc at ANBG.GOV.AU
Sat Sep 9 09:52:56 CEST 2000

Eric wrote:
>A similar sort of problem must occur commonly with specimen databases. For
>example, how to you capture a "location"? You might prefer to have lats,
>longs, and elevations nicely geocoded to the nearest meter, but the label
>on a older specimen might not say much more than "in a shady little
>billabong along Reedy Creek, back of Beyond". It's desirable to be able to
>store that information one way or another, even when it doesn't fit into
>your preferred structure, but used structured data when you can get it.

We had a real example of this sort to thing here the other day.  Someone
wanted a list of tree species from New Guinea, so we attacked our specimen
database with a query for records with New Guinea or Iran Jaya in the
locality field and tree in the habit and notes fields - this seemed like a
logical thing to do at the time.  The result was absolutely disastrous
because to lack of rigour in these free text fields.  There were herbs,
shrubs and vines all through the list because they were  recorded as
growing in, on, under or around trees.  But on the surface, it seemed  like
a fairly reasonable and straightforward query to make.

>I suspect that how all this eventually gets used will depend substantially
>on the sorts of editing and markup tools that are developed. I don't really
>anticipate that many taxonomists will want to go through their existing
>natural language descriptions and insert <ELEMENT></ELEMENT> tags manually.

This has to be a given doesn't it?  No-one is going to want hand score this
data long-hand and will be expecting to use point and click tools like the
delta and lucid editors that save typing, maintain consistency, etc.  What
we are talking about here is the type of data that is scored and stored,
and how it is transferred between applications, not what the various
application might decide to do with it.  Right?


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