Identifying taxa just to remove them from "unknown"

So, often when I have some time I’ll go through the identify screens with the “unknown” filter on and just lump things into the highest taxon I’m comfortable with. I often feel silly doing this, because yeah, that’s obviously a flowering plant or a spider or a basidiomycete, but my goal is to move things into smaller bins so that identifiers who just want to look at say birds will see these “unknowns”. Another benefit may be to get users to think more about what they’re seeing and use the “unknown” tag less often, because honestly it’s probably pretty rare that someone sees something and truly has no taxonomic level they can assign it to right? Does this make sense or am I just being a silly-level identifier??


This activity is encouraged.


super helpful. to keep it manageable I have a filter setup around my area, and try to keep the unknowns restricted to just very difficult taxa (e.g. algae, slime mold vs fungi, unidentified objects, or mistaken observations pending deletion)


I think it might even be encouraged in the FAQ? I’m a little embarassed when I end up identifying something as Plant (Plantae), but:

  • It shows up for people who only filter for plants
  • It follows the observation, so you get notified as ID is narrowed and can learn the taxon for next time

The narrower you can make it, the better since some identifiers subscribe to specific families, genuses, etc. At worse, someone will let you know your ID is wrong and you’ll know for next time, especially helpful with: Look - alikes that are often confused.

Hopefully, corrective comments come off as informative rather than abrasive, but it’s easy to read into them rather than assuming the person just worded feedback strangely.


Yeah I do the same when I have some spare time, I’ll just go to an area that I’ve been to or currently at and just sort some of the observations that did not get an ID


It’s just great to get things out of “unknown” and into a lot more searches. Anything narrower is a bonus at that point.

Most of the time, kingdom is at least clear, but fungi and slime molds can be confusing. Infections from fungi, viruses, bacteria, protozoans, and insect activity can be tricky. Sometimes a wrong ID with these can be helpful by getting things moving, especially with good detail, but I’m hesitant to advocate guessing.


Edit: sorry joedziewa I meant to reply to the topic and not to you specifically

There’s an extremely loose “club,” if you will, of people who ID unknowns, although we’ve not been very chatty on our threads lately:

And also at least two projects about unknowns created by people in the threads above. I have also cohosted a few virtual events dedicated to IDing unknowns.


This is a question frequently asked on the forum, so not to say the same thing another time, answer is you’re not silly, it makes sense, though you personally should never stop learning, adding lower taxa is preferred than higher if you know what you id, it saves human-hour spent on ids.


Yes! This is very much encouraged! Some reading material…

Be aware of this though…
It’s sometimes a good idea not to identify unknowns if they’ve only just been posted

There are also ‘boilerplate’ paragraphs you can adapt to explain things to any users who might question what you are doing. They can be found here


Great Southern Bioblitz is 100 days away. And I am still chewing away at the Rest of Africa backlog. Fighting down the last 1.5K … but they trickle in steadily.

I have tried moving the planty stuff to broad categories, but from my notifications, I see almost NO response. If I can get it to family then there is hope. Regretfully about three quarters of what I have reviewed is still Unknown and planty. But I can help to get the other quarter moving.


That explains a lot (especially the last link). I’ve been baffled when I see observations from a person who I am aware is well-versed in the taxon they’re uploading having them as unknowns. I didn’t consider the network logistics, thanks.


I noticed that Why do some serious “power users” add so many unknown observations? is arguably 2 year old topic.

On the phone app, there’s currently an option in settings to prevent auto upload / auto sync which takes care of uploading unknowns without an ID. Is this still a problem when using the website interface?


There is great wisdom in this approach!


Little or nothing has changed about the uploading interface on either the app or the website in the last two years (personally I’ve been here 3 years.) I think perhaps there’s been change to the pop up text in the web uploader but not major functionality change.

I am not sure if I understand your question. In the web uploader observations don’t publish until you hit go, but unlike the app they don’t save as drafts, so you will lose them all if you close the window without publishing.


As said, nothing really changed, there was no concrete reason to do it back then and neither is now.

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Thanks you!

I think you answered the question about how the website differs from the phone app. In the app, unlike the website, it saves changes to each observation until observation(s) are uploaded, allowing a workflow like:

  1. Make 1-50+ observations without uploading
  2. Crop, rotate, and order photos for each observation
  3. Add ID (but no comment)
  4. Upload everything

Seems a bit easier than website interface, but obviously limits the observer to whichever camera comes with the phone.


If a mod could reopen the coordination thread, then it could potentially go back to its “help wanted” purpose- although the Identifriday thread has been doing a similar thing for Fridays!


There’s a whole community of us who do this in the Discord server. I appreciate your help.


Glad to hear it! I almost never log into the server because that level of chaos is too much for my brain, but I may stop by.

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I’d suggest just muting the chaotic chats and sticking to the ones you prefer. Would be cool to have you there more often. :)

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