I'm a newbie needing expert advice: how should I deal with "proactive incompetence"?

Point of information, please. I’ve appreciated @edanko’s generosity in mentoring newbies like me. The link shown, however, gives me a 404 error.

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Disappointing - that obs has been deleted

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Agreed. IMHO, there’s something here that is being missed entirely. I think one can be a legitimate expert on a taxon and not necessarily be very good at identification (and vice versa). “Seeing” is a talent all its own. Knowledge can inform the identification process, but not everyone is good at balancing the relevant field marks with what the organism looks like as a whole (all the subtle nuances that our language was never designed to describe). I frequently get into disputes over an ID where someone - possibly even a putative expert - who will focus on a single field mark, and overlook the other 10 cues that point to a different ID. And of course, we all make idiotic mistakes sometimes (even experts).
I spend a lot of time correcting IDs for my taxon of interest. If I were designated an expert, it might speed up IDs if it allowed me to simply push through an ID correction without having to convince someone else, or plead for help from other knowledgeable people. But I don’t think it’s worth it. It can be a pain sometimes, but I manage to steer the IDs to the correct ones (and I’m using the resulting data directly, so I have a vested interest in this).
I don’t have any need for whatever “prestige” might be attached to such a badge (“Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”). I don’t explain/justify all the identifications I submit, but I try to do so when I feel it’s needed. It seems to me that doing this helps lift the general level of identification skill in my area. As a result, I think the quality of identifications has gone up over the years. I think regular contributors are absorbing the knowledge bit by bit, and this results in them making fewer ID errors on their own observations, and in turn they start to make ID corrections to observations submitted by others. If I could push my IDs through with less need of justification, or if less experienced users were hesitant to challenge me because of a perception that I was an anointed expert, I think we’d see less of this virtuous cycle effect.
I’ve seen variations on “designated experts” used on other platforms and overall, I don’t think it helps much at all. The model where one person has the final say on the ID is probably the worst of all. Having looked at aggregated data from multiple sources, I think that in terms of ID quality, iNat is head and shoulders above all other sources I use. I only wish I could trust the dates and ESPECIALLY the locations that folks submit to the same extent. We can correct IDs, but it’s hard to prove that someone has entered the wrong date or location (though not impossible).


I do this a LOT. I use the “reviewed” button because it’s faster than clicking “agree”, and it results in fewer notifications. That split second difference on each observation is very important when you are trying to drink from the proverbial firehose.


This is a fascinating discussion, and though I admit to TLDR, I will go back and read more of it sometime. I just wanted to address a sentiment partway through, that comments are often not read by those to whom they are directed, and that this negates the value of commenting. All I can say is, if you’ve ever taught, at any level, you are quite accustomed to having the majority of your comments not registering. It’s the few who take it in, and respond, and grow, who make it all worthwhile. It’s not a waste, ever. It keeps us going.


7 posts were split to a new topic: Location and date accuracy of iNaturalist observations

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