Topic: Gateway useless again

Doing a large R6 import, I need the Gateway to advise on synonyms and preferred names. It takes ages to load the Browse species page, and then trying to get a species nothing happens.

Refresh the page, and eventually I am told 'An issue has occurred on the NBN Gateway which means we are unable to satisfy your request. If you continually see this message, please notify us using the NBN Forums.

You are being notified.

Maybe our new shiny ALS will help?  That loads, at least, but as for trying to get the information that I want, not a hope - at least not without a magical mystery tour through a site that would get a gold medal for unhelpful design.  That looks like yet another useful function we had in G4, which somehow escaped elimination in the development of G5, but which now seems to have been junked in ALS.

Fortunately, WoRMS will save me from wasting any more time before I get the task done.



Re: Gateway useless again


You are able to access name information on species on the ‘name’ tab on the species pages of the NBN Atlas Scotland (e.g. http://species.als.scot/species/NBNSYS0 … 34#names).

This gives you the accepted name, synonyms, common names in various languages, amongst other things. All of this information has been supplied by the UK Species Inventory.



Re: Gateway useless again

Thanks, Ella.  If you read my post you will see that I don't claim that page does not exist.  I am well aware of that page, and it is so easy to get there from the link you provide.

It is, however, a very different matter when you try to get there by typing a string into the species search page http://species.als.scot/, and get a mass of returns which include strings that bear only a vague resemblance to what was entered, and things that are not species at all.  An example was given by Christine Johnson a while back - try searching for Golden Eagle, and ask yourself why there are 795 returns, including 'Golders Green Bus Station', which contains neither 'golden' nor 'eagle', is not a species, and is not in Scotland. Yes, Golden Eagle is first in the list, but that is unusual in ALS string-matching algorithms.

Those of us who use the Gateway for taxonomy queries often have to deal with things that are far less clear-cut than 'Golden Eagle', so 'unhelpful design' is a generously benign description for the ALS site.

The reason I was doing the import yesterday was to process records from an army of volunteer recorders who want to see their records in the public domain and *easily accessible* through the NBN interface. NBN has no records except what these recorders agree to provide to you. Without the goodwill of recorders and data managers, and an interface that meets *their* needs, any interface is doomed to failure. That is something that *everyone* involved in the development of a replacement for G5 would do well to contemplate at length.



Re: Gateway useless again

A relevant sequel appears in the ALS forum at http://forums.nbn.org.uk/viewtopic.php?pid=25657#p25657



Re: Gateway useless again

The Gateway has the Friday afternoon blues again - maps not working!



Re: Gateway useless again


The search function on the NBN Atlas is powerful, and will return a wide range of results which may not always be exact matches. The NBN Atlas includes more than just species names in its databases and when a search term is entered in the general search box, it returns results from the whole site, not just the species database, which could explain why results such as Golders Green Bus Station appears.  We intend to restrict the location information to just Scotland when searching through the NBN Atlas Scotland, but we have not done this yet.

The search function deliberately provides a wide range of results, so that users who are not experts will still receive results if they do not spell the names correctly, or accidentally type a wrong letter, when entering their search term. After the initial search of the whole site, there is the option of using the filters on the left of the page to refine your search so that you only see the results you are interested in, e.g. ‘Species’ or ‘Location’, or you could filter further to return just the Taxon group you are looking for.

The species shown on the NBN Atlas Scotland are already restricted to just those species occurring in Scotland . As the UKSI does not include which country within the UK the species occurs, the list for Scotland was created by cutting the species records from the NBN Gateway against the boundary of Scotland, with a buffer to account for the records lying on the border.  It would appear that no records on the NBN Gateway referred to the name Bombus distincus at the time, or was not picked up by this intersect which is why your search of “Bombus distinctus” (http://forums.nbn.org.uk/viewtopic.php?id=6602) did not return any details as it does not appear in the list of species that occur in Scotland supplied to us by JNCC.  We will raise this issue with JNCC.

Bombus distinctus does come up as a synonym for bohemicus on the names page, it should also appear in the search results, but in this instance there appears to be a bug in the system. We will investigate and rectify this when we can.

With regards to your second point, the search uses autocomplete to make it simpler for users to type the first few letter of the first word which will come up with a list for users to choose from. For example, typing ‘neom’ will will bring up the autocomplete list which  includes ‘Neomyia cornicina’. We hope this will be more intuitive for users who may not know the full name.

Have a great weekend, hope you get chance to get out recording.

All the best


Re: Gateway useless again

Thanks, Rachel.

However, there is not just a 'bug' in the search algorithm - the algorithm is totally unfit for purpose, as several posts have demonstrated. The page is about browsing *taxa*, so it is quite clear that the user wants to search taxa and not locations. Wanting to accommodate users 'who are not experts' is all very laudable (it is one of my greatest concerns about this seriously flawed project that folk not confident in IT will *not* use it, just as they deserted G5 in droves because of its unhelpful interface), but pretending that returning ‘Golders Green’ when they type ‘Golden Eagle’ is not the way to reassure them. That has nothing to do with the odd spelling error. ‘Golden Eagle’ is not the best example for this particular point, but you have been given many others that return nothing at all like the target.

You have also missed the point about the failure to return B. distinctus, and the crucial point about the N. cornicina example, but I don’t feel I can make the case any clearer.

More important than all that, though, is this astounding statement in your post: ‘species shown on the NBN Atlas Scotland are already restricted to just those species occurring in Scotland’.

How on earth can anyone do that? Who searched the entire literature to determine what did not occur in Scotland? And how did they do what is widely considered impossible, and prove a negative?

Species are discovered for the first time in Scotland at a frequency that would require an FTE or few to search the current literature for all taxa, and update your restricted species list at least weekly if the list was to be kept up to date. In the past year or so I personally have added several to the Scottish list.  When I do, one of the first things I want is an indication of where else in UK it has been recorded, and at the moment the first place I go is the Gateway.

Your statement leaves me utterly incredulous, and if you are correct it represents another step in the well-established trend of removing valuable functionality from the data interface we have seen from G4 to G5 and now to ALS.

Please add to the lengthening list of points for attention:

1 – Sort out the search algorithm throughout the site. You have an excellent one in G5, so pinch the algorithm from there and translate the code, if you can’t just drop the code in directly.

2 – Implement the whole of UKSI in ALS. Whatever you may have read, Scotland is a long way from independence, and if that nightmare ever materialises wildlife will not change its behaviour.



Re: Gateway useless again

And again.  The Taxon search page offers no taxa at all.


9 (edited by dejay 13-11-2016 09:58:43)

Re: Gateway useless again

"no data at all.."
I am not certain I SHOULD comment here (I am going to..), largely because I am fairly new to the Forum, but more importantly I have not read all that might lead to the frustration expressed here - sorry, but
...I am very supportive of the HBRG Data Manager who so obviously feels the strain of the Gateway's inadequacy. Like many others I shrug and move to my next project. But the Gateway is so inefficient that I am at the point of abandoning my small-scale researches, recording for my region and, even, submitting. I potter in a County which does not submit towards the Gateway, so I can still be useful.
Now, here's a thing, in my angry frustration I have taken to opening iSpot (I dare not put in a direct link here) and there I can search for my taget species and there I can click on a Direct Link to the Gateway (in the ID Panel).
The link almost never fails whereas, in the Gateway itself, after say the 11 o'clock cuppa (for example), searching is, well, HOPELESS.
It would be nice to see a note to say the Gateway is DOWN so we can all move on instead of assuming it's an Internet/Download speed/PC/Win10 issue - please?


Re: Gateway useless again


Thank you for your comments.  When the NBN Gateway is offline for maintenance or technical issues, the NBN Gateway technical team do direct users to a landing page explaining that the NBN Gateway is down and post updates to keep users updated on the issues.  We also use social media to communicate this too. However, this is not possible if the site is "timing out" on requests due to internet speeds and/or an overload of users on the database as this will be unique to each user.

I am aware from your post that you are new to the forum and so haven't read back over previous posts.  A quick update with regards to the state of the NBN Gateway and why we are developing the NBN Atlas Scotland... Over the past few years, the NBN Gateway has been becoming increasingly unstable as a result of an ageing underlying technology.  This has understandably caused considerable frustration for many users and so we undertook a review of the NBN Gateway (*1).  The outcome of this review was that the NBN Gateway, while having served our community well during its lifetime now requires serious investment to keep it on the road.  In light of this we explored solutions, the result being to implement the Atlas of Living Australia's open source infrastructure here in the UK which will offer a much more stable platform for our users and data providers. Unfortunately, a replacement infrastructure system does take time to develop and implement, but we are progressing on a replacement system as quickly as we can.

We are still developing this platform, a pilot in Scotland being the NBN Atlas Scotland (*2).  This will ultimately replace the NBN Gateway and will offer a more stable platform for use in the future which we hope you will find more amenable

*1 - NBN Gateway User Review: https://nbn.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2 … -Final.pdf
*2 - NBN Atlas Scotland: http://www.als.scot/


Re: Gateway useless again

Oh thanks Rachel. I understand ageing and some of the problems facing Gateways in general.
I have been trying to make headway with Atlas Scotland too but it does not suit my purpose very well (though it has a nice display).
I have yet to successfully interrogate individual records in ALS - it is a tortuous (and unsuccessful?) route via the near-invisible panel in the Interactive Map.
And I have found some records (Scots) in NBN but not in ALS - is that normal or to be expected at this stage?
As (very small fry!) examples -
a search for Pegomya betae returned results but none of my (personal) records are shown via ALS. all my records are shown via the NBN Gateway.
And Hayhurstia atriplicis
I am not allowed H'links here but ALS shows all BUT mine
NBN shows my eleven precious ones.
So, are you (I mean is ALS) using the NBN data?
Significantly both Gateways are working briskly this morning.


Re: Gateway useless again

Hi again,

During the pilot of the NBN Atlas Scotland we requested permission from data providers to transfer their records from the NBN Gateway over to the NBN Atlas Scotland.  This would have included datasets which were updated on the NBN Gateway as of the beginning of 2016, and for those datasets for which we were given the appropriate permissions, we transferred them over to the NBN Atlas Scotland.

This may explain the absence of your records as we are due an update from the NBN Gateway over to the NBN Atlas Scotland very soon. 

If you can let us know the datasets within which your records reside I will happily investigate further for you to see where your records are at.

Great news that both sites are working for you!



Re: Gateway useless again

It is unnecessary to get my records into the ALS before the due date, thanks Rachel. And you appear to be right, my older records appear to be there.
I am interested, however, in interrogating records generally but in a little detail, say the date, recorder and, if available, the precise location. Is there an easy route please?
Thanks for taking time to respond.


Re: Gateway useless again

I have found that route - thanks.


Re: Gateway useless again

Brilliant, do ask if you have any further questions.

All the best


Re: Gateway useless again

For those of us like Dejay unfamiliar with the recent history of NBN and ALS (and the road ahead) where is the best place to catch up on that debate? The NBN Working Group forums don't seem to be particularly active.


Re: Gateway useless again

Hi there dgreves.

There are a series of documents summarising the technical review of the NBN Gateway which lead to the decision to change infrastructure, and subsequently implement the Atlas of Living Australia infrastructure here in the UK on our website.  These can be found:

https://nbn.org.uk/tools-and-resources/ … documents/

An article that followed this review, and the subsequent visit of the Atlas of Living Scotland head, Peter Doherty can be found here:
https://nbn.org.uk/news/atlas-of-living … nk-by-nbn/

Additionally, a series of news articles can be found on our website, under a search for 'NBN Atlas'.  I would link them all here for you but there is quite a few so probably quicker for you to have a search yourself if this is ok.


Do let me know if you have any problems access any of this