XID Authoring System

The XID Authoring System allows authors to create their own “smart key” or random access expert system for the identification of any group of species, individuals, or objects, i.e., plants, animals, cars, criminals, etc. The system consists of multi-layered menus in which any attribute can be prioritized and described. The elegant simplicity of the XID System makes it extremely user friendly. It is as useful for the junior high school teacher as for the professional scientist.

As well as creating state-of-the-art identification systems for professional scientists, the XID System provides an excellent vehicle by which to teach classification, taxonomy, logic, and problem solving skills. The authoring system allows students to be involved in the entire process, including selection of subject matter, determination of characters and character states (i.e., color {red, blue, green}), gathering and compiling the data, data entry, error checking, and data correction. Their efforts are strongly reinforced by the final use of the program for the identification of the selected subject matter.

Unlike many of the larger and more cumbersome systems such as DELTA and MEKA, the XID System utilizes state-of-the-art technology. This allows for extreme user friendliness for both the author and end user of the database, as well as maximizing the speed and efficiency of data storage and manipulation. This is why the XID System was chosen by Flora ID Northwest to create the largest comprehensive interactive plant identification database in the world, currently encompassing the entire flora of eighteen states and four Canadian provinces.
Characteristic terminology and database items may be graphically represented using line drawings or color photos. In addition, unlike a dichotomous key, which requires a rigid set of steps, the XID System allows the user to randomly select characteristics that are consistent with their specimen and skill level. If the user cannot decide upon a characteristic, they may query the program, which will provide a list of suggestions in order of ease of use and effectiveness, interactively customized to the items remaining.

Applications in which the XID System is being used include the identification of weeds, insects, poisonous plant symptomatology, fishes, rocks and minerals, diseases, gastrotrichs, etc. The XID System can also be used in applications as diverse as assigning health care benefits, personnel selection, research plot evaluation, or any other application where a relational database is required.
As well as the Authoring System, XID Services also markets the weed identification databases created by co-founder Dr. Richard Old, weed identification specialist for Cooperative Extension Service at Washington State University since 1976.

Following are three examples of attempting to identify a dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) from a database of 1,069 species, using sets of three characteristics chosen by different students. Following the examples generated by the three students is an example of using the “analysis” function alone to accomplish the identification. The most efficient method of identification is to first select a few obvious characteristics (as the students have done) and then use the “analysis” function to complete the process. As soon as the database is reduced to a relatively small number of remaining species, the images of these species can be scrolled or displayed simultaneously for comparison.

Student #1
Characteristic Chosen

Flower Color: Yellow

# of Petals: >10*

Flower Width: 1.4 inches*

# of Species Remaining

433

135

38

Student #2
Characteristic Chosen

Stem Cross Section: Hollow

Juice: Milky

Flowering Stem: Leafless

# of Species Remaining

109

16

5

Student #3
Characteristic Chosen

Leaf Length: 4 - 8 inches

Leaf Arrangement: All Basal

Leaf Margin: Lobed

# of Species Remaining

533

57

12

Analysis
Characteristic Chosen

Flower Color: Yellow

Leaf Width: 0.8 – 1.6 inches

# of Petals: >10*

Root: Taproot

Flower Width: 1.4 inches*

Seed Windblown: Yes

Juice: Milky

Flowering Stem: Leafless

Flowering Stem: Unbranched

# of Species Remaining

433

241

75

**50

24

13

7

2

Identified: Dandelion

* Not technically correct but often interpreted in this manner so the data reflects both possible interpretations.

** The message “Family Identified: Asteraceae” appears on the screen at this point.

Note: Although many very technical characteristics are available in the program, those chosen by the analysis function are very similar to those chosen by the students. This is due to two factors: (1) the characteristics chosen by the analysis function are weighted for ease of use, and (2) this function does not mandate a selection, but instead, presents a list of the remaining characteristics in order of effectiveness.