Minimalism AND functionalism

Joseph H. Kirkbride, Jr. jkirkbri at ASRR.ARSUSDA.GOV
Fri Sep 8 11:43:03 CEST 2000

I would like to make two points.  Kevin referred to having 'leaves' used
in one document and 'foliage' in a separate, distinct document.  What I
dread is seeing the following in a single document:

    <DESCRIPTION Taxon_Name = "Viola hederacea">
        <CHARACTER Character_Name = "Leaves">
            <STATE State_Name = "present">
    <DESCRIPTION Taxon_Name = "Viola banksii">
        <CHARACTER Character_Name = "Foliage">
            <STATE State_Name = "present">

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.

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

Joseph H. Kirkbride, Jr.
USDA, Agricultural Research Service
Systematic Botany and Mycology Laboratory
Room 304, Building 011A, BARC-West
Beltsville, Maryland 20705-2350 USA
Voice telephone: 301-504-9447
FAX: 301-504-5810
Internet: jkirkbri at

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