Return of the Plantdata

Hey, folks! It’s been a while. It’s been so long that everyone who remembers anything about what this was supposed to be, has probably forgotten all about it. In fact, it’s been so long that people being born when I abandoned (paused!) this project the first time are by now capable of surprising things, like telling other people how they feel about the world in basic but complete sentences.

It is probably best if I start over.

Are you aware just how much free and open data is out there about our friends, the plants?

It’s a lot. This week, I’ve personally downloaded a 900+ megabyte tsv that only contains a comprehensive list of plant names. Nearly a gig… of names.

Unfortunately, the effort that goes into making all that free and open plant-related data useful or in any way usable for regular people appears, from the distance at which I sit, to approach zero. While this is not necessarily a surprise, it is a pity, because there is really so very much great data out there. Also, my guess is that the people taking all the time and effort to assemble these genuinely massive piles of plant data probably had higher aspirations for their work, than to have it all sit around in a flat file that is unopenably large unless you are the kind of person who has special tools for that kind of thing.

All this data would ideally be handily accessible, structured, and linked in reasonable ways to other free and open data sets.

This data should also be deeply, profoundly queryable.

If I can get anywhere near that goal, the fun can really get going. There could be a whole load of people thinking of fresh new ways to use all that data, and making cool interfaces and tools to help anyone with a web browser figure out how to do all kinds of things with plants in the real world. The way I see it, the more people who can use this data to grow things, the better off we’ll all be.

Critically, for this to be worthwhile, it all needs to be 100% free. For everyone. Forever.

Welcome to my side… wait. What do you call a side-hustle if the core concept is fundamentally dismissive of capitalism?

Anyway, this is Hi!

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