Minimalism AND functionalism

Jim Croft jrc at ANBG.GOV.AU
Sat Sep 9 09:27:48 CEST 2000

Joe wrote;
>     <DESCRIPTION Taxon_Name = "Viola hederacea">
>         <CHARACTER Character_Name = "Leaves">
>             <STATE State_Name = "present">
>         </CHARACTER>
>     <DESCRIPTION Taxon_Name = "Viola banksii">
>         <CHARACTER Character_Name = "Foliage">
>             <STATE State_Name = "present">
>         </CHARACTER>
>Are the characters "leaves" and "foliage" comparable in this document?
>Probably they are, but the only way to be 100% certain is to examine
>specimens of Viola hederacea and Viola banksii.  This will put me back
>into the same situation that I have been struggling with all of my
>professional career: attempting to match the variable, and sometimes wild
>terminology, occurring in descriptions.

I am not sure how you could come up with a standard that would prevent this
sort of headache...  Both delta and lucid editors allow you to build and
encode the above with no problem at all, not even a warning message...  It
is the knowledge, skill and intellect of the compiler that keeps it out...

Where a standard could have an impact is in the area of trying to combine
data from different compilers with different knowledge, skill and
intellect... If we have a standard description/character/state
specification it might be possible to map the
leaves/foliage/flat_green_things of different compilers to each other...

This is the end of the spectrum I am coming from.  A standard or
specification that allows, encourages, or even enforces, internal
consistency within a document is only slightly interesting, and delta or
lucid can do that already.  But something that can bring together and give
useful access to descriptive data from different sources and different
times - that is exciting...

>The second point is that humans, as a species, have a strong tendency to
>"take the easiest path".

Show me the way, brother, show me the way...

>Unless a significant reward is provided or they
>are forced to use a certain technique, they will invariably do the
>easiest, simplest thing.  If they can just throw in hunks of description,
>as the default, that is what they will do.  I support Eric's idea that
>character and taxon lists should be the default standard, and something
>extra has to be done to throw in hunks of description.  Perhaps this will
>encourage them in the right direction.

This is the direction I would like the specs go as well...  accommodate and
encourage structure, but tolerate the free spirit...


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