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Earth Science

Encyclopedia of Life Launches First 30,000 Pages 87

Posted by kdawson
from the sure-is-loud-in-here dept.
An anonymous reader writes to let us know that the Encyclopedia of Life opened up to the public today with its first 30,000 pages in place — and, according to the AP, promptly crumbled even before being Slashdotted. (The site seems fine now.) We discussed this project last year when it was announced. The Telegraph has an overview of the launch, and reports that only 25 "exemplar" pages on the site are fully fleshed out to the extent scientists hope eventually to attain for all species; the other few tens of thousands are expanded placeholders. The project hopes to begin taking input from citizen-scientists late this year.
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Encyclopedia of Life Launches First 30,000 Pages

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  • 30000 pages... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by joaommp (685612) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @06:22AM (#22571278) Homepage Journal
    now that's going to take a long time to fill...

    I can see it now, like in wikipedia... about 1/10 of the articles are stubs... they mark it as stubs and no one ever remembers to fill them. I would fill them, problem is, I only found the stubs because I was actually searching for that information... not because I had it.
    • There are convenient automatically generated pages of lists of stubs.
      Find a stub and look at the categories its in.
      • I love how they cite wikipedia as a source, even though it's an encyclopedia. Didn't they go to elementary school? Also the oblig. eye-roll at the term "electronic article" ~~~~
    • by Quixadhal (45024)
      Yeah, I predict it will start filling faster when Spore is released in September.
  • Dupe? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wolfbone (668810) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @06:26AM (#22571296)
    Not the story - the project. What I mean is: how is this new project related to this one: http://tolweb.org/ [tolweb.org] if at all?
    • Re:Dupe? (Score:5, Informative)

      by banana fiend (611664) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @06:42AM (#22571358)
      They are separate projects, with TOL being less well funded basically, and smaller in scope. I believe that TOL have shared their data with EOL.
    • by QuantumG (50515)
      tolweb seems to have lots of high level categories but no actual species.
    • by ajcham (1179959)
      And what about Wikispecies [wikimedia.org]?
    • by esocid (946821)
      From this page here at ToL, you can see that there is a collaboration between efforts as to not overlap in data. It also states that the goals of each are slightly different in that EOL focuses more on specific species, whereas the ToL is more about phylogenetic classifications and evolutionary branches.
      I've been looking into the National Science Foundation's AToL program recently because of an offer for grad school which is due to a grant from that specific program and I'm curious what, if any, connection
      • Re:Dupe? (Score:5, Informative)

        by esocid (946821) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @10:28AM (#22572902) Journal
        Let's try that again with the link this time.
        From this page here [tolweb.org] at ToL, you can see that there is a collaboration between efforts as to not overlap in data. It also states that the goals of each are slightly different in that EOL focuses more on specific species, whereas the ToL is more about phylogenetic classifications and evolutionary branches. I've been looking into the National Science Foundation's AToL program recently because of an offer for grad school which is due to a grant from that specific program and I'm curious what, if any, connection there is between the two.
    • The goals and much of the structure of the Tree of Life Web Project (http://tolweb.org) were exactly the same as the EOL. It isn't intended to be smaller in scope, and it also contains a large number of species pages. The core content of both projects is contributed by the community of experts on each group of organism; it is thus hierarchically-coordinated (to match the shape of the Tree). There are many other similarities. In fact, as the EOL was first being proposed, the community of systematic biolo
      • by Wolfbone (668810)
        Thank you :)
      • by rozz (766975)
        pretty lame that one of the most informative posts didnt get any modpoints.

        and an opinion from an IT guy with no special biology skills - at this stage, tol is A LOT better than eol... polished layout, beautiful media materials and *very* well structured... in fact, i would have a hard time finding any flaws.
        on the other hand, in spite of the great funding that u mentioned eol is just an ugly pile of stuff, thrown together in the worst possible way ... not so much stuff either ... and on top of that, the te
        • Thanks very much, rozz, for your kind words about the ToL.

          My hope is that EOL will get their act together, and I am helping out as I can. Whether their bureaucracy will allow them to do great things is not yet clear. I worry sometimes that they would be more successful with $1M than $25M+. Sometimes lots of money has a tendency to create more infrastructure than structure. (The ToL's total budget for the entire first 5 years was $16,000. During that time my brother and I were the programmers, and we
          • by rozz (766975)

            I worry sometimes that they would be more successful with $1M than $25M+. Sometimes lots of money has a tendency to create more infrastructure than structure.

            at lest from my experience, starting with that kind of money is *always* bad.
            in the end, most of those projects manage to get their act together but an awful lot of money gets wasted in bureaucracy... all the luck for you and them, you really need it.

            (The ToL's total budget for the entire first 5 years was $16,000. During that time my brother and I were the programmers, and we had a single graduate student assistant, and that was it. At most we have had two full-time employees, which is what we have now. Most of the work, after all, is done by the biologists out there.)

            wow! ... my very quick estimation for your budget was 50-100K/year .. you ppl did a truly amazing work for that kind of money .. at the very least, i gotta double my congrats and thanks ;)

  • Am I the only one not seeing anything else except for the demo-stuff there from way back? Where are these fabled articles? Link, anyone?
  • ONLY 30000? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by polar red (215081) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @06:30AM (#22571314)
    Only 30000?
    There are Tens of millions of different species on earth - Flowering plants ALONE are numbering 250000!
    there is another similar project called tree of life [tolweb.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rucs_hack (784150)
      Well, I can cover several tens of millions of those species in one sentence:

      GGCAGGGGTCTATGGTGGCAGGAAGCTTGGCGTGCTAGAGGGTTGTGGTTGGGC

      Specifically, a Core Promoter as shared by almost all Eukaryotes.

      Where each species differs by one or two characters. I guess you could work it out in terms of Hamming Distance..
  • by wereHamster (696088) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @06:52AM (#22571404)
    eol.org, all I can see in it is 'end of life'
  • Download and license (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oever (233119) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @07:03AM (#22571460) Homepage
    So where can we download this data and what is the license?

    The data from tolweb.org are downloadable [tolweb.org] under a Creative Commons license.
  • The "Encyclopedia of Life" went off-line even before it was slashdotted, this must be one of the signs for the end of the world!
  • Great effort (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Psychotria (953670) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @07:34AM (#22571588)
    My love of the "natural" sciences is not something I hide. My respect for E.O.Wilson is also something I do not hide. Wilson frequently mentions his wish for this project to become true, and I can understand his reasons for doing so. Wilson, I admit, is not without critics (but who of us are?). I only mention Wilson because this is a project he has often spoken of. Despite varying opinions on him, he DOES believe in biological information (and, yes, probably data) for the masses. Not to mention that he has a writing style to die for...

    Anyway, back on topic. This project is grand in its scope and bold in its objectives. Whether it fails or succeeds is beside the point really... the project is a challenge to all of science and is quite like open-source software. The more shoulders (of giants) we can sit on, the better the end result will be.

    Great project. Worthwhile project. I take my hat off to all involved. Thank-you.
  • Badly designed... (Score:5, Informative)

    by red star hardkore (1242136) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @07:43AM (#22571638)

    It's slow, only has demonstration pages and is extremely badly designed.

    As somebody has already mentioned, images don't have alt tags, but also there are tables used for layout (with many empty rows/cols for no apparent reason) and there are image maps. The site uses an XHTML doctype, but isn't valid XHTML. There are missing slashes for closing single tags. The divs for the popups are contained outside the body tags, that's NOT ALLOWED!

    That's all I see, what about anybody else?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by sjaguar (763407)
      Yeah, since everything is an image, it is a PITA to copy (quote) text. And, with a 30 second+ load time, it is unusable.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      what do you expect from academia? biologists?

      I mean, there are computer scientists who can't program....
    • by Psychotria (953670) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @08:42AM (#22571914)
      You're correct of course. But look beyond the HTML/XHTML... This project isn't about that, it's about sharing of biological information and data.

      That's all I see, what about anybody else?

      Well, actually, I see much more. I see a project that seeks to gather every single scrap of data or information about every single taxon on Earth; a database of LIFE, of everything that we know about organisms that share this planet with us. At this point I can gloss over the malformed pages etc etc... that will sort itself out in time. The important thing is that the information and data is available.
      • by juhaz (110830) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @09:02AM (#22572016) Homepage

        You're correct of course. But look beyond the HTML/XHTML... This project isn't about that, it's about sharing of biological information and data.
        If someone criticized building a skyscraper on mud would you dismiss them as irrelevant and tell it isn't about that, it's about building the tallest building in the world?

        You can't "look beyond" the foundations of something. The data is useless if it's so bad it can't be easily worked on, and the information might as well not exist if it's hidden in the bad data.
        • The data is useless if it's so bad it can't be easily worked on, and the information might as well not exist if it's hidden in the bad data.

          The data is there. You can interpret and present that data (as information) any way you like. The fact that the data is being presented (as information) with silly HTML/XHTML or whatever is irrelevant. The data is not bad. The information might be... (I personally don't think it is, but I'm just going along with what you said). The data is solid, how that data is pre
      • You wouldn't say that if you were blind and needed a screen reader to use the web.
      • by ThreeGigs (239452)
        I see a whole bunch of potentially useful, detailed and potentially accurate information that won't show up in a Google or Yahoo! search because it's images. I also eventually see that when it is somehow indexed, and if it's #1 on the list and Wikipedia is #2, I see people choosing Wikipedia because it's *more useable*.

        I'm guessing that because of university connect speeds, the time it takes to load a 1 meg page isn't significant. Meanwhile, none of the kids with OLPCs will be using the site.

        Poor execution
      • Why do that when you can print in big bold letters, 42.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Stooshie (993666)
      If you look at the site they are currently looking for programmers to work with them.
    • Also, it would be nice if the page width adjusted to the browser width instead of forcing you to use full screen on a 1280x1024 monitor. Since I don't normally browse in full-screen mode, for me it's endless horizontal scrolling. I can't imagine using this on a regular basis. Maybe they should just copy Wikipedia's template - which has been fine-tuned over time for user experience - instead of trying to re-invent the wheel.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I see...
      NERD RAAAAAGE!
    • It's slow, only has demonstration pages and is extremely badly designed.

      As somebody has already mentioned, images don't have alt tags, but also there are tables used for layout (with many empty rows/cols for no apparent reason) and there are image maps. The site uses an XHTML doctype, but isn't valid XHTML. There are missing slashes for closing single tags. The divs for the popups are contained outside the body tags, that's NOT ALLOWED!

      That's all I see, what about anybody else?

      I see a poster that needs to go into quirks mode?

    • by skyshard (1067094)
      http://www.eol.org/ [eol.org] points to their old demo site, it seems (which is why everything is just images, with popups explaining features)

      http://eol.org/ [eol.org] is the correct site, which seems much better. still not valid though
    • Roderic Page, who is involved in the Encyclopedia of Life "in an advisory capacity," has posted some fairly damning criticisms [blogspot.com] of the project in its current form. I have not spent much time poking around the site myself, but if what he says is true then it sounds like he's pretty right on. (Example: Some pages actually devote more on-screen space to contributor/sponsor logos than to content.) Here's hoping they're already taking steps to improve it.
  • by dwater (72834)
    eol == end of life

    It seems they have the end of their project in sight :)
  • oh, flash-tastic! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dwater (72834) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @08:48AM (#22571942)
    More flash crap.

    "Oh good, the page has finished loading. Bollocks, there's still some flash left to load."

    Will we ever be free of this crap?
    It's made a sort of 'two-stage' internet - load the html, then load the flash baggage.
  • citizen-scientists? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sm62704 (957197) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @09:44AM (#22572352) Journal
    WTF is a "citizen-scientist"? Isn't this encyclopedia on the internet? Then what country are these citizen-scientists citizens of? Aren't all scientists citizens of some country or another?

    Do you mean amateur scientists? Some people refuse to call a spade a spade, referring to it as a "pointy shovel", but you're calling it a "bonk-digger".
    • by Schiphol (1168667)
      I think she means scientists acting as good citizens -embodying the moral duties of a good citizen of the world, that is, in a admittedly metaphorical, but pretty clear sense of the word. Moral duties including, it is to be supposed, contributing to the spread of knowledge and the enlightment of your fellow citizens.
      • by sm62704 (957197)
        Moral duties including, it is to be supposed, contributing to the spread of knowledge and the enlightment of your fellow citizens.

        Seems to me that any scientist who wasn't like that would be a very poor scientist.
  • From the AP "The most popular of the species for Web searches is the poisonous death cap mushroom, which may say something about people's homicidal intentions, joked Ausubel."

    I think Mr. Ausubel underestimates the popularity of shroomz.
  • The encyclopedia of life acronym EOL is also a term used by a retailers to refer to their products that have been sitting on the shelf to long as end of life :P. Just thought it was an odd coincidence.
  • There's your problem right there. An EOL (End Of Line) [wikipedia.org] control character in the middle of the data stream interrupted the listing of the species after they had only gotten through the first 30,000 animals. Good thing their website wasn't named EOT.org or they would have been logged out of the Internet completely...

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