Topic: A tool to exploit the NBN Taxomony Web service

(Message cross-posted to tne NBN Services Smartgroup)

I have written a desktop application that allows you to retrieve taxonomic information from the NBN taxonomy web service and paste the results into your working document. The format of the pasted results can be tailored to suit your own needs by using user-modifiable templates. I hope that the tool will:

* be a useful productivity tool for people working for biodiversity;
* heighten awareness of the National Biodiversity Network's web services;
* stimulate ideas around using the NBN web services;
* provide a useful means of testing the beta taxonomy web service and
* generate useful feedback to the NBN on the taxonomy service.

You can download the tool here:

http://www.spacefornature.co.uk/biorec/taxoncheck.htm

Richard Burkmar.

Richard Burkmar
Merseyside BioBank LRC

Re: A tool to exploit the NBN Taxomony Web service

Richard,

Many thanks for posting your tool here - it's an absolutely inspired little utility. I for one know it will boost my productivity when marking up HTML. I tend to use this standard form as our web house-style:

Otter (Lutra lutra)

Your utility allows me to type Otter, hit Ctrl-Shift-T and with a couple more strokes have the full form pasted into my document along with relevant HTML. The productivity boost comes, of course, when I don't know the scientific name. Very nice.

Couple of suggestions: it would be nice if, after hitting ctrl-shift-t, I could then hit enter to search, or even have search fired automatically on the hotkey combo. Also, it would be great if, when a taxon has been selected, hitting return (or similar) fired the copy & paste. These two changes would allow the whole process to be executed via keyboard alone.

Re: A tool to exploit the NBN Taxomony Web service

Another little suggestion: it would be great if, when the hotkey is hit, the word under (or next to) the cursor were selected automatically. I know it's dead-easy to select a word, but auto-selection saves a few keystrokes. smile

Charles

Re: A tool to exploit the NBN Taxomony Web service

Its really good to have your feedback Charles - your example is exactly the kind of use I designed it for and its good to know that you find it useful. I will look into your suggestions for making it a bit snappier. (Actually I originally had it working so that the search was automatically sent to the gateway, but if the user invoked the tool without selecting some text, then whatever is in the Windows clipboard was sent to the gateway - and that could be any old rubbish!) I'm away for a long weekend at Preston Montford looking at 'difficult invertebrates' under the watchful eye of Paul Lee, so I wont be able to look at it till next week.

I also wanted to spark a wider discussion about the NBN taxonomy web service itself. It seems to me that if it becomes really well established, respected and functional, then many applications like Recorder and MapMate might themselves make use of it without the overhead of having to design and maintain their own taxon dictionaries. We could get to the point where up-to-the-minute changes made to the NBN taxonomy web service would be of immediate benefit to users of all biological recording software. What do you think?

Richard Burkmar
Merseyside BioBank LRC

Re: A tool to exploit the NBN Taxomony Web service

I think you're right on the mark. It makes a lot of sense to centralise species dictionaries, especially now internet connections are nearly ubiquitous and slow old dial-up almost a thing of the past. It would also have the benefit of making the various recording apps more compatible, and would help focus effort in maintaining the dictionaries. At the moment there's a lot of effort going into several 'competing' dictionaries, diluting the overall effort. If everyone were focused on a central set of lists, good things would happen much faster.

Having said this, an obvious problem would be where there is a lack of connectivity. Would a backup database have to be stored locally still? Perhaps a system of regular incremental updates (like anti-virus software) to a local db would be a good compromise?

Charles

Re: A tool to exploit the NBN Taxomony Web service

Been following thread out of corner of eye. Bit of a hectic week really. However I like the direction you two are thinking about.

Are either of you familiar with the oddly named, but really effective 'Catalogue of Life' ? I use it frequently when either NBN of NHM are stumped. The layout is a wee bit simplistic, but I like to cross-referenceing to other lists & sites.

http://annual.sp2000.org/2005/search.php

Cheers now & have a good weekend, Rob

Rob Bradley
Edinburgh

Re: A tool to exploit the NBN Taxomony Web service

>Perhaps a system of regular incremental updates (like anti-virus software) to a local db would be a good compromise?

That seems like a great idea to me. For this to work best, the taxonomy web service could be amended to allow applications to search for taxa that have been added to or updated since a certain date. That would appear to be a really useful feature to add in.

Richard Burkmar
Merseyside BioBank LRC

Re: A tool to exploit the NBN Taxomony Web service

burkmarr wrote:

Taxon Checker

That looks really useful. thank you.

There is one small niggle - when I have typed or pasted a search term in the relevant box, I can't hit "return" on my keyboard - I have to use a mouse to hit the non-obvious, unergonomically-located search button.

Perhaps you might consider a "check for updates" menu option, or a yahoo-type mailing list to which you could issue news of new versions?

Once the proposed "species" microformat is finalised, I plan to write a template which will allow a user to search for a species, and output ready-to paste microformat mark-up. If I do, would you be interested in bundling them with the application, or lacing them on your website?

That task would be easier, of the taxon were available in two components, genus and specific name. Might that be possible?