Special states: What term to use instead?

Steve at Steve at
Mon Sep 1 16:42:54 CEST 2003

It's good to see you back Gregor, most welcome.

For "Special States", another way to look at it is that this doesn't
really relate to a character but to the coding of a given character for
a given taxon.  It is really the status of the coding of that character
for a taxon.  Instead of storing it as a part of the character (by
creating a new state for the character) why not create a new element for
this information and attach it to the taxon by character intersection
(or "cell", or "taxon description").  Call it "Coding Status" with an
enumerated list of "Coded" (meaning the taxon has been coded for this
character), "Not yet coded" (meaning it will be coded when I get around
to it), "Not to be coded" (meaning it can be coded but I not going to)
and "Can't be coded".  Then add a text attribute to this element to
allow an explanation of what's going on for the coding of this character
for this taxon ("I haven't yet coded this character because suitable
material of this taxon is currently unavailable").  This would seem to
meet the needs of computer processing (through a defined,
machine-readable enumerated list), extensibility (by supporting
additions to this list such as "Coded but unreliable") and a full,
human-readable explanation of what's going on (in the text comment).

I think this "problem" is directly related to a number of issues I
raised in early March and Kevin expanded on in his email of 21 March.
Until those issues are addressed I don't think we'll make any real
progress and we will continue to be distracted by the detail while the
bigger picture and ultimate goals of this project are overlooked.

We need to take a step back before we can move forward.

Thanks, Steve

Steve Shattuck
CSIRO Entomology
Steve.shattuck at csiro.au

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