Tuesday, September 25, 2007

iSpecies Clone

For kicks, I created an iSpecies clone that uses nothing but JSON. Consequently, there is no server-side scripting and the entire "engine" if you will is within one 12KB external JavaScript file. The actual page is flat HTML. What this means is that you can embed the engine on any web page, including <<ahem>> Blogger. You can try it out yourself here: iSpecies Clone. Or live:


Rod Page was the first to create a semi taxonomically-based search engine called iSpecies (see iSpecies blog)that uses web services. He recently gave it a facelift using JSON data sources. This has significantly improved the response time for iSpecies because it is now simple and asynchronous. Rod could continue to pile on web services to his heart's content.

Dave Martin is producing JSON web services for GBIF and recently added a common name and scientific name search. It occurred to me that iSpecies could initially connect to GBIF to produce arrays of scientific and GBIF-matched common names prior to sending off a search to Yahoo or Flickr. Most tags in these image repositories would have common names. Likewise, if the Yahoo News API is of interest, then of course it would be useful to obtain common names prior to making a call to that web service. That's how the iSpecies clone above works. Oh, and scientific names are also searched when a common name is found and recognized by GBIF.

This clone is naturally missing material compared to the results obtained when conducting a real iSpecies search (e.g. genomics, Google Scholar - though is simply disabled here - and what looks to be some scripting for name-recognition above the level of species). If big player data providers like NCBI, uBio, CBOL, etc. produced JSON instead of or in addition to XML, then it would be incredibly easy to make custom search engines like this that can be embedded in a gadget.

After having tinkered a lot with JSON lately, it is now abundantly clear to me that The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) species pages absolutely must have DOIs and plenty of web services to repurpose the data it will index. If we really want EOL to succeed in the mass media, then these species page DOIs should also be integrated into Adobe's XMP metadata along with some quick and easy ways to individually- and batch-embed them.

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