The Veracity of Google

Jim McKenney
Mon, 11 Dec 2006 17:30:39 PST
Although there is good reason to be circumspect in using Google Images, I
think some of you are being too hard on Google. This is still a very new
medium, and it obviously needs work. A simple user feedback program might be
one sensible way to go with this. 


I have to chuckle when I read about the supposed superiority of the print
media. Would that it were so. Certain taxa dear to the hearts of many
members of this group - the Amaryllidaceae comes to mind immediately - have
suffered grievously in the print media, in particular in the vanity press
diverticulum of the print media. 


Nor is this a new problem. Two of the works most revered in the English
speaking world, Gerard's Herball and Parkinson's Paradisus, might have
raised some of the same concerns from late sixteenth and early seventeenth
century cognoscenti: These iconic works contain numerous erroneous images.
And how do we know that they are erroneous? Because the publisher of the
Herball and the publisher of the Paradisus used crude (and presumably
plagiarized - although that concept was evidently not well developed at the
time)  copies (often mirror image copies) of the prints used in the major
contemporaneous  continental botanical works. 


Back in those days only the very few would have access to libraries with the
best contemporary works for comparison, and fewer still would have had the
language skills needed to use them.  



Someone suggested that the images should be vetted. In a world where
professional taxonomists don't agree among themselves, who will do the


Give Google a break! If you get thirty results, and of those thirty,
twenty-five are similar, doesn't that tell you something? What difference
does it make if of the remainder one is someone's dog, another is a work of
art of no immediately perceptible relevance and so on. 


I have a fairly extensive personal horticultural/botanical library. The
books are falling off the shelves. But it represents only a drop in the
bucket of potential knowledge. Ron Ratko's seed list arrived the other day
(the email version). Just guessing, but my personal library might have told
me what five percent of his offerings are. I spent several happy hours
Google-ing the names on that list. There are images out there for just about
everything I checked. And it's all "shelved" in the two square feet of table
space where I place my computer and monitor. 


I think that's amazing. I don't' think a day goes by that I don't use Google
Images for something: I don't want to contemplate life without it. This is
the future: don't try to strangle it in the crib. 



Jim McKenney

Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7

My Virtual Maryland Garden


Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 

Editor PVC Bulletin 


Webmaster Potomac Lily Society







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