Dichotomy game to learn taxonomy?

I have a hard time improving my identification skills :) And I’m thinking, a simple app that gives you a range of images from Research Grade observations of two taxa that I want to learn to distinguish, and quizzes me on these, might really help to get an actual feeling for the differences. Or it might show two pictures each time, letting you decide which is which, and giving simple feedback.

It seems to me that this would not be very hard to implement, so I’m wondering if there’s anyone around who also thinks using iNat to facilitate learning like this would be a great idea, and is better at coding than I am ;)

It could start as a very simple proof-of-concept, and may be expanded to include things like spaced repetition, a kind of memory for already learned taxa, a “tree forest” that some apps have, showing the size of your gained knowledge, and much more.

Here’s an extremely simple mock-up, where the user could drag the correct taxon on the correct picture, for example (there’s probably a better way to do this).

Tangentially related: is there by now a system on iNat to have actually good pictures bubble up, while crap pictures (which I’ll still upload, to feed the ML identifier mainly) appear last? Years ago, I was present when a lot of changes and improvements happened on iNat, and from what I’ve seen, no functionality has been added since then. Was there funding back then that dried up maybe?




thank you Kevin :)

@jtklein @jonnyk20 what do you think? my feeling is that opposing two pictures, and limiting it to the dichotomy between two similar groups for one round is the trick to effective learning here, at least for me. I do (did) have some (bad) programming skills, so I’d be happy to contribute if anybody is interested in propping up a simple version.

why wouldn’t you just identify actual observations to learn? you could go through those two taxa and verify the existing identifications or offer different identifications, as needed,


I think it would help me if I could learn in this dichotomic way from already existing IDs. If only observations with RG (or 2 IDs at genus etc. level) were used, one could be reasonably sure that they are already correct. I’m having a hard time getting a feeling for the difference between some groups, which is exactly why I’m often struggling with providing IDs that I’m at least fairly confident of :)

Or, if I understand you right, and you mean I should go through observations by hand: yeah, one could also learn a language from a dictionary, or one could use a flashcard app :) I’m certain I’d learn better from a flashcard app that helps me focus on these two similar groups, and feeds me the material to do so. Also, I’m not even sure how to do that, because you’d already see the ID on iNat, which makes it impossible to guess it yourself, and THEN only verify it. Or am I misunderstanding you?

so then identify observations that are already RG.

i don’t really see why it matters if you can see the existing IDs, but here’s a way to hide that, if you really want to do that: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/easy-instructions-to-turn-inaturalist-in-to-a-quiz-mode-version/29780/7.


I think this could be an interesting app idea to explore.

We each have different ways of learning. Ploughing thru IDs, following notifications

Asking for help when I need it

I have learnt swathes of taxonomy, one little bit at a time. Including who to ask for help for This taxon in this place.

I think that’s only effective if you’re already pretty familiar with the species in question.

For many species, and especially with fish, there are quite a few near look-alikes, so just having two up isn’t really going to assist all that much, at least in my opinion.

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i was thinking about potential games using iNat data today while running errands… multiple-choice quiz games are fine, but if folks are going to go to the effort to make games, i would love to see folks make games that have more dynamic gameplay, even if they retain the same fundamental pick-the-photo-that-shows-this-taxon objective.

for example, i think your original concept could be tweaked any number of ways to make a more engaging game. just a few ideas for gameplay variations:

  • have 2-4 collection containers on one side of the screen, each labeled with a particular taxon. then, move, say, 30 photos of various taxa over the course of 1 minute through a space that takes up the rest of the screen. the player’s task would be drag and drop the appropriate photos from the space to the appropriate containers before the photos move off screen. collect x number of the correct photos, and advance to the next stage, which speeds up the movement of the photos through the screen.
  • have photos of various taxa drop down the screen. you move a container left and right at the bottom of the screen. the player’s job is to catch the photos that match a particular taxon that is shown at the top of the screen. as the game goes on, the taxon at the top changes or the speed of the dropping photos increases. +1 for a good catch, -1 for a missed catch, -1 for a wrong catch.
  • you start with a set of, say, 30 photos that are sort of randomly arranged and stacked on top of each other so that you can’t see all of them. you have 10 cards with taxon names that you have to match to the photos, but you can only match the cards to photos that are not completely obscured by other photos. 4 of the cards have species names, and 6 of the cards are higher-level taxa. you have to play your cards in a way that you eventually get match the 4 species cards.

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