Amount of "Unknown" records is decreasing

I thought this thread might be interested in this table that @pisum generated and I sorted.


I’d noticed recently the Seychelles have been getting lots of new unknowns

The Beautiful Example includes only Needs ID and Research Grade observations. It might be much less pretty if it included all observations made by the students.


I didn’t take that into account. Thank you for the clarification, and I’ll definitely make sure to include that for my teachers.

There really should be some best practices for uploading Unknowns. When I see three or more pages of Unknowns, all by the same user, and then I find that most of them are just a few repeated taxa – to me, that says you’re not here to learn, you’re here to be spoon fed. If you were here to learn, I would expect you to upload one example of each unknown taxon, wait until it gets at least a preliminary ID, and then, if you want to document all of your observations, upload the rest of them with that preliminary ID.

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I would not jump to that conclusion.

One, iNaturalist is about connection with nature, and a person doesn’t necessarily need to know a name to feel connection do they?

Two, It also depends on how one is introduced to the app. Very briefly, I was shown the iPhone app and told it’s for recording any wildlife you see. I was not aware that things particularly got identified or how important that aspect is to some users. The iPhone app video tutorial* does not mention much about IDs other than how to use the computer vision.

LOL… When I first started, I was, I recall, annoyed when perfect strangers kept insisting my lady beetle was something else (that it looked nothing like to me) and kept changing my ID. …DA NOIVE!

Remember, this is the only training offered for iPhone users. The video flashes a quick URL for more help, but it is not clickable and it goes by too fast to write down. There is no link from the app to the Help or FAQs page, although I opened a Feature Request. Feel free to vote for it if you think some new users benefit by better Help resources. :blush:


I don’t agree. My interest in iNaturalist is to produce a very large database of what is where when. To me, it’s unimportant who puts the identification on a photo. If it gets uploaded with accurate location and date, that’s enough. And I figure that if somebody is interested enough to upload 10 unidentified photos of a given species, odds are they’ll come back to see what it was, though that’s a bonus.

By the way, sometimes people who are very good at identification upload a bunch of photos without identifications and come back later to add the names. That has occasionally led to small kerfluffles if the observer resents other people adding identifications before he comes back, but I figure that’s the observer’s problem, not the identifier’s.


Agree with @teellbee and @sedgequeen I primarily us the browser interface on my laptop but sometimes I use my phone app. I have added a bunch of unknown more so when I first started using the phone app as I was not that familiar with it and things would get away from me. I now have it set so I have to manually upload. Other times were when I was just trying to pin where I was for following family members and I was use to the browser based flexibility for identifying observations. Where does one start sometimes when it is slime mild vs fungi, the different seaweeds, tunicate vs sponge vs bryozoan when I know that maybe in a couple of days I will have a more reliable connection and a more comfortable chance to identify my findings? Some people do not know where to start with identification because maybe they only know a common name that has a hyphen instead of a space or maybe their interface is in English and this is fourth in one of the many languages they use.


If I saw “Placeholder: Banded Hickory Borer Beetle” I would make sure it actually looked like one, then go ahead and ID it as “Banded Hickory Borer Beetle”. It seems to me that if a user goes to the trouble to type in a full name they probably are familiar with the species but in too much of a hurry to click the suggestion. If a placeholder doesn’t ID to genus or species, I ignore it and just ID to kingdom, class, or whatever I’m comfortable with.

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or else they haven’t picked up on how to actually add an ID. It may not be that difficult to figure out but there also aren’t clear and explicit directions on how to do so.


or it is a really tiny typo. iNat does NOT accept typos of any sort.

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I used to do this until I realized that if the observer agrees with the ID I add, then we now have a research grade observation that only one person truly identified.


That happened to one of mine. The moth genus Perasia, but I misspelled it as Parasia. But the ones I am referring to have placeholders like 1A2bS. That obviously means something to the observer, but not to anyone providing IDs.


Yeah, I’ve seen placeholders that are way off, so I only identify it to a level I’m comfortable at. But I usually copy the placeholder text and put it as a comment in my identification (unless the placeholder is the same or similar to my own identification), as to not lose any info.


It’s also possible they were not connected to the internet when typing in the placeholder text, and thus wouldn’t see any suggestions.


Maybe so - but in that case the original observer was the identifier, not me. If I put in an ID that is the same as their placeholder, and they agree with my ID, the result is the same as if they had added the ID and I had agreed with it. That happens all the time.

Oh, in that case you could have helped “bump” the messed up record into someone’s feed so they could notice and fix. :) If you wanted to leave it at the Need ID stage because you are not an expert on something, you can delete off your own identification and then the obs is back to “baseline.”


I too have a lot of fun IDing “unknown” observations during the depth of winter, and love the feeling of being part of that nerdy subcommunity of iNatters ;). Shoutout to everyone here!

I thought I would share the little routine I have found to make iIDing “unknown” obs more exciting.

Basically, I filter observations in the ID tool geographically, drawing a circle around where I live, and slowly increasing the radius as I make progress. I am currently going through 10-miles-radius increments daily, which correspond to around 500 obs.
For example:

I like doing so for several reasons: first, this gets me to ID obs that are initially fairly similar to what I am very familiar with, maximizing my utility as an IDer (I can get most plants directly at the genus level).

Second, it progressively expands the geographic area I am covering, so that I slowly “travel” towards more exotic states, with ecosystems I am less familiar with. It is a good way learning my US geography (I am not originally from here), and discover little gems of places.

Finally, it is fun to visualize my progress on the map with a link like this (probably only works visually for me)

There is nothing more satisfying, to me, than seeing the geographic area I have “cleared out” this way!

Anyway, I am curious to see how far I will be able to go this year… last year, I remember getting “stuck” as my circle started swallowing Chicago and Dallas, where a LOT of (mostly) boring (and mostly not wild) observations where concentrated. There is often some relief making it through large metropolis and cruising through rural observations (higher quality on average) again.


How exactly do you do that? I would like to do the same for my area but can’t figure it out.

You may find that you can have a similar experience in an easier way by IDing in your county, then moving on to a neighbouring one, and so on.