How to deal with messy automatic identification of offline app observations?

#1

I don’t have data on my phone, so I use the app offline in the field. I add an identification in the field, and then when I get home I manually upload the observations, and in the process identifications are automatically added.

Usually this works out great because I know to write “plants” as the placeholder and it automatically chooses Plants for the ID. However, sometimes it doesn’t work out perfectly; here I put “salmon” (which works as both singular and plural, and I incorrectly assumed it would refer to a valid taxonomical group) and it chose Eastern Australian Salmon because “Salmon” is one of the common names that’s been added to that species.

When identifying Unknown observations, I sometimes see observations with placeholders such as “plant”, “tree” or “mushroom”. This makes sense because the person is looking at a single plant/fungus, so adding “Plants” or “Fungi” isn’t intuitive, and they’re not going to know that “tree” (or even “trees”) isn’t a valid taxonomic identification. However, these aren’t given identifications because those taxa don’t have matching common names (for good reason; there are lots of plants that aren’t trees…).

I don’t know if this is a big enough deal to worry about; these situations might only be a small proportion of the overall Unknown observations problem. But it is kind of annoying from the user’s perspective, and if there are enough observations like these to make it significant, what would the solution be?
Using the current system it would require adding common names to “Plants” and “Fungi” that aren’t actually synonyms, and removing “Salmon” from a species that might live where there aren’t any other salmon for that name to refer to (I don’t know if that’s actually the case here). But I don’t think that’s ideal…

(also people add the ID in the description rather than the identification text box, but I doubt there’s anything that can be done about that)

2 Likes

#2

I tried to replicate the salmon issue on both iOS and Android and couldn’t do it - the observation is just uploaded with the placeholder “salmon”: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/20822539

Would you mind posting a screenshot of what your observation looks like before you save it?

1 Like

#3

i often use the app ‘online’ simply because lots of Vermont has no cell service. This ties into the ‘draft observation’ idea which i think we made a feature request for but would have to check. The bottom line is even if you carefully enter species names offline sometimes they don’t ‘take’. Sometimes there are several with the same name, etc. You can be more careful about your spelling and such, but in reality, you will probably always get some of this, then people jump in to give broad IDs which is usually good but in this case not helpful. I think the only real answer is let people review observations online (optional setting) before posting them. Or wait until you have cell service then tediously go and re tag each one before upload. Or upload them one by one and review after they upload but that isn’t feasible for most power users

1 Like

#4

I wonder if it’s possible to cache the name lookup for offline use? The two problems I could imagine are that it’s really huge (though it would be text only, so maybe within the realm of possibility) and that names get changed/added with some frequency so there would have to be a double-check that the particular taxon hasn’t changed.

1 Like

#5

the iphone app does cache them at least to some extent. Not sure about android

1 Like

#6

That specific example happened over a year ago, and I didn’t test it again before writing this. Sorry.
I did test “plant” vs “plants” though.

1 Like