Pseudo-Taxonomy on the WWW

Marine Biology Laboratory mblcsdla at
Wed Oct 23 17:37:40 EST 1996

On Mon, 21 Oct 1996, Sam James wrote:

> I would like to weigh in on Paul Schroeder's side with a further cautionary
> note.
> Think of all the data carefully archived on punch cards or big tape reels a
> decade or two ago.  Suppose you wanted that stuff usable NOW. Could you get
> it?  Probably not without a fishing expedition.

Try fishing in university libraries for what you want.  Unless you are 
personally located at the university you have to traipse over to the 
campus, pay to park your vehicle, find out what building the holdings you 
want are in, hope it's in its place, pay to Xerox it--oops copyright 
violation.  Sometimes universities need to reconfigure thier holdings to 
save space or redistribute the works to likely users on campus.  If the 
science works you want are switched to engineering or medical 
section--you will need to hope these departments are on the main 
campus.  And you're just plain dead in the water if the subscription has 
been cancelled.

> How about ten years from
> now?  Go to the city dump, find the equipment, etc.  Suppose you archive the
> web publications on CD-ROM, or some other apparently long-lived medium?
> There are people who seriously doubt the longevity of the physical medium
> (in decades), and whether or not the data format will be easily retrievable
> in 20 years. Technology under development now could put a trillion bytes per
> cubic centimeter of plastic.  When that happens, who is going to keep those
> clunky old 10X CD-ROM drives, or bulky old backup tape cartridges?  Who is
> going to take the time to reformat and re-store those old e-publications
> each time technology takes a great leap in storage/retrieval systems? 

Librarians will, I suspect.

> every museum of natural history also have to maintain a museum of computer
> technology? 

In 10-20 years many natural history museums will establish collections 
and public displays of computer technology, much has they often house 
automobile and pioneer/farm equipment.  Only these newer tech collections 
will need to actually operate.

 While paper may not have the aura of permanence about it
> (fires, acids, floods, etc.), it sure looks better for taxonomic work than
> electronic publication.

Use each media for what it does best. And if necessary-place it in dual 


Rapid/wide distribution=electronic
Non-electric, low tech availability=paper
Personal surface mail=paper
Peer review=both media
Ongoing discussion, comment, linking additional data=electronic
Multiple copy availability=electronic
Current archive standards=paper
Language translation=will probably be electronic
Fills up your shelf space=paper
Fills up your disk space=electronic
Subscribed paying reader=paper, may electronic?

Thanks for your comments,

Bye for now,

Tom Parker
mblcsdla at

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