Searchable perfection take 2 (apologies for take 1)

Paige Woodward
Wed, 05 Aug 2015 00:04:02 PDT
Just now I accidentally sent PBS a draft of my message, not the final version. 

Most of you have already skipped my first message (no harm done), but for those who have not, here is what I meant to say. 


Like many on this list, I long for searchable, accurate, sound data. But I think we may have to settle for searchable. Indeed I thought we had already settled for that. I say this with affection. 

PBS message archives are searchable but they seem not to be edited to bring them up to current scholarly consensus. I hope they are not. Sometimes there is no scholarly consensus; sometimes 9 out of 10 scholars are wrong.  There's value in leaving a record of original text unchanged. 

We also have the wiki, a glorious monument to inconsistency, anecdotal evidence, unfounded assertions, unchallenged nomenclature, eccentric perspectives, unique testimony, rare photographs and the love of plants. We have no standard armature for presentation of taxa. We often find out who contributed an image, but it’s rarely plain who contributed text. From time to time, when looking up some plant I think I know intimately in the wiki, I have been tempted to bang my head on my desk (just my useless style). It’s socially difficult to challenge what someone else contributes to the wiki. We have no higher tribunal.

Expertise versus energy: When it began, PBS might have had the expertise in certain genera to build up a primary reference website, but it never had the energy, the money or the time. 

I’m not sure what we have made by now. I am very fond of it. It’s not worthless and it’s not a primary reference. 

In passing, I note that in my searches on species nowadays, PBS images are more likely to pop up than PBS text; I assume some adjustment by Google. 

Paige Woodward

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