"Cunningham's Law"; deliberately misidentifying things to get expert attention

Just a guess, but perhaps this is a natural outcome of how iNaturalist uses gamification. Gamification often leads to these kinds of behaviours where in a quest to optimize game performance, players create new strategies.

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I think it goes to human nature too, where we instinctively look for better ways to accomplish what we are doing.

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I am completely new and have no formal background. So of course, I use iNaturalist to further my knowledge. So, there’s been a few times where I have uploaded an image and applied a very generic description ('plant") because I simply did not know. Definitely not the same scenario, but the same result.

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I only tend to tag someone when it has sat neglected a long time already. Like maybe it fell through the cracks. I never use Cunnigham’s Law, though.

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Welcome to the forum @lamarcheb! It sounds like you are using iNaturalist exactly as intended. Choosing the most specific ID that you are confident about, even up to level “plant”, is perfect. I will sometimes make an ID that I am not completely confident about, in the hope that someone will confirm or contradict (and then I often ask how they made the distinction). But I don’t think either of these scenarios is akin to deliberately entering a known-incorrect ID just to get attention. That seems bad to me, because it is guaranteed to (at least temporarily) weaken the accuracy of iNaturalist’s data.

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As @sullivanribbit says, there is no problem doing that. I advise people who have ‘Unknown’ ID’s to do exactly that - put in a rough ID so those who know more about it will be more likely to notice it. If I know what it is, of course I will identify it. And yes, ask questions. I have found folks are very good at responding and helping. I have posted a number of observations under headings like “Flowering Plants” because I have no clue about plant ID!

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I’ve never intentionally entered an incorrect id, but as an amateur who has really enjoyed using iNat to learn about nature around me I have definitely gotten it wrong a few times. I do my best and then post it. I don’t ask anyone to check it.
Is this program only for experts? If so, I’m sad, but understand. Also if so, you should state that up front.
Thanks

100% not, it is open for use by anyone interested in nature. You dont have to be an expert in anything to participate.

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This post is about people who on purpose add wrong id, if you just make a mistake — we all do that, don’t worry.

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I think the best way to handle this is to give information. I’ve found that if I need help on an ID, if I look at the list of who is good at identifying that kind of thing and add @that person, very often they will take a look and help me out.
I think well meaning beginners will do the best they can on an ID, figuring that someone more knowledgeable will see it and check their ID.
Generally kind explanations are the way to go, especially with beginners.

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I’ve heard of college students posting an observation with an intentional wrong ID in order to get a faster response. Most wrong ID’s are just errors, of course, but this does happen. Because it works.

What @marina_gorbunova said. We all encounter life forms we don’t know, so add as much as we do know. It is better to roughly ID an observation than leave it as Unknown. And yes, we make mistakes - here’s one of my recent ones: (https://inaturalist.ca/observations/71010311).

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@willc-t What if you use the potencial disagreement to keep the observation at genus level?

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Or the DQA

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Nothing much more to add, just Welcome to the Forum!

Definitely, I think it serves far better to make a somewhat informed guess and get it wrong (though stick to genus rather than individual species if doubtful) with correction and education following from the experts than just go really generic and end up with a huge pool of ID’s that need sifting through by more eyes, take longer to get to the experts and might not end up informing the user (they’ll just get a ‘more correct’ ID instead of an explanation of why X is not right, but Y is).

Being deliberately incorrect - even though the overall impact may not be much different - is just selfish and burdens the experts unfairly. To be honest that behaviour appears to come more from someone who wants a higher ‘Research Grade’ count, rather than actually learning.

I’m going to close this thread. As others have said, intentionally adding an incorrect ID is not appropriate and the user should be warned. If anyone finds widespread use of this, feel free to contact help@inaturalist.org so we can take a look.

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