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Re: Idea for an "Open Dinosaur Project"-like Wikimedia Project

The idea sounds interesting, but I think there are problems, as Mike said, about splitting effort.

However, I think the main problem I have with such a project is its structure as a wiki. What science needs is structured data, and wiki's are, by their very nature, very loosely structured. There is no easy way to automate the extraction of information from them, which makes them dead-ends in terms of tools.

Character matrices, say, should be easily accessible and manipulated. If someone has uploaded a matrix with /T. rex/ in it, when we look up /T. rex/, we should be able to see it's character states in that matrix. It is hopelessly cumbersome, time-consuming, and repetitive for people to do this manually, for every matrix and every taxon.

This sort of stuff needs specialised software, wiki's are not an ideal starting point.


On 03/12/2009 17:23, Saint Abyssal wrote:
I'm sure you've all heard of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that
anyone can edit. This openness to contributions has allowed it to
become one of the greatest online information sources that currently
exists. You probably also have some passing familiarity with the
Wikimedia Foundation's other projects, Wiktionary, Wikiquote, etc
that apply the wiki architecture to traditional reference works.

I have an idea for a new Wikimedia Foundation project that would
serve as a free reference work *for researchers*. This concept would
apply the wiki architecture to the task of organizing data,
references, images, and other data useful for the professional
researcher. Similar to Wikispecies, but with all of science (and
maybe other academic disciplines) in mind instead of just biological
taxonomy. Paleontology-related articles would be on things like taxa,
specimens, researchers, studies and papers, institutions, etc.

I picture a page on say, T. rex as having a brief intro to the
subject (like a Wikipedia lead section) and info box , but diverging
from Wikipedia by giving technical information like diagnoses,
cladograms, character matrices, specimen measurements, and a
comprehensive bibliography of the relevant technical literature. I've
made a sketchy rough draft available at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Abyssal/Tyrannosaurus_rex to
illustrate the concept.

The project could work along the lines of, or inspire endeavors
similar to, the Open Dinosaur project. Unlike the ODP, however, this
project would serve as a centralized location for open contributions
to all of science rather than just an individual project or field of
study. I've run this idea by some of the more prominent members of
Wikiproject Dinosaurs and they've all expressed support for the
concept. If you guys think that this type of reference would be
beneficial to researchers (professional or armchair), then I will
seek support among the Wikipedia community and see if the Wikimedia
Foundation would be interesting in hosting and supporting it.

Does it sound worthwhile?

~ Abyssal


Palaeontography: http://palaeo.jconway.co.uk