I think perhaps I better explain what I was getting at when I suggested
numbers were better than names for databases. I don't want people to think
that I want to change the names of all our birds to numbers!
My point was in relation to the difficulties that people have when they are
trying to fit different databases (like National Parks databases and Museum
databases etc) together into one more complete database that can be used to
analyse distributions etc. When I was putting together a database of fauna
distribution in Lake Macquarie I had a cow of a job trying to fit National
Parks database records and Australian Museum database records together with
Hunter Bird Observers Club records and so on.
First of all, if names are used in a database as the sole reference to a
certain species in a record then there is the problem of changing
nomenclature as Alex Appleman found. Even worse though is if the records
have been entered manually into the database as species names (ie the whole
name typed in each time a record is entered). When this happens you have the
added problem of spelling mistakes as well as people using different
scientific names. If you search for a set of records for a particular
species, you only get those records that have been spelled and named exactly
as you asked for it. If however, the database uses numbers instead
(preferably a standard set of numbers like the Atlas numbers) then when you
want to look up the records for a certain species, you use the number and
have more chance of getting the complete set. When you try to combine
databases, if a standard set of numbers has been used, it can be relatively
easy. For example, 261 is a hell of a lot harder to mispell than
Psittaculirostris diophthalma! This doesn't mean that names have to be
thrown away. I know with the databases that I use, the underlying records
always use numbers but the visual forms that I use to enter records use
names (using combo boxes in Microsoft Access) so that I don't have to look
at or remember boring numbers!
I hope all that made some sort of sense!
Dept.of Environment and Heritage,
Pormpuraaw, Qld, Australia, 4871
From: Tony Russell <>
Date: Friday, 5 March 1999 12:04
Subject: birding-aus Names vs numbers
>Following Rob Leask's ideas, we could all then discuss which birds, by
>numbers,we actually had last night at the Chinese Restaurant! And no-one
>would be any the wiser when we say we have enjoyed a 420 hotpot (Kookaburra
>Casserole). Ho yes, that 379 open sandwich didn't have a single feather in
>it! (of course not, it hadn't fledged yet).
>I think we've gone off track a bit. T.
>Ph: 08 82078470W
> 08 83375959H
>Adelaide South Australia.
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