In defense of "lazy" observers (like me)

I’ve sometimes felt guilty when I upload an observation and the CV has no suggestions (or it has suggestions that seem extremely unlikely), so I just dump it under “bees” or “flies” or whatever it happens to be. The reason I feel guilty is that I’ve either had the same thing identified before (sometimes with the identifier kindly commenting links to keys or other resources for whatever group we’re talking about), or I feel like I should know the taxonomy to a finer level, but don’t want to inturrupt my workflow in order to figure it out.

I quash those feelings of guilt, and move on, and here’s why: everyone who’s involved with iNat contributes in different ways. Some are prolific identifiers and experts in the groups they identify, some are young scientists learning like sponges and folding all of the new knowledge into the batter that fills the toasty ovens of their crania, but some, like me, are cantankerous old codgers who love to hunt but don’t love to kill things to do it. For me, iNat is the trophy room where I put the still happily living denizens of the world that I’ve managed to hunt.

I would argue that observers like me are just as valuable to the future of the iNat database as anyone else, because we are adding new content all of the time. I just returned from a trip, and I’m processing over 5000 RAW image files that I spent days trudging around in triple-digit heat to acquire, so yes, while I may be lazy by calling something a “bee” when I could think a bit harder and maybe give it a finer ID, I feel justified in not doing that sometimes. If I have to suffer the wrath or indignation of an expert or two because of that, I think I’ll be ok :slightly_smiling_face:


Of course! I would dearly love to spend the time identifying everything I’ve seen to the best possible level, but I have a job, and other people in my life rightly expecting my attention.

I try to get my oberservations in my ‘own’ taxa identified well. I might choose to put the time into identifying a few other things that take my fancy that I’m not familiar with. Everything else just has to go up as the best ID I can do off the top of my head. I may be intellectually capable of keying that beetle down to Genus, but I am temporally incapable! (The top of my head is gradually getting better though :-) )

I’ll tell someone the species of their hoverfly, they can tell me the species of my beetle. They can do in seconds what would take me half an hour!

So don’t feel bad. But do perhaps try to pay it on with a few IDs for others in your own area of knowledge, if you don’t already :-)


I’ll try to get my obs to genus level at least where I can, but I’m a rank amateur, and have little knowledge outside of my familiar species/genus. I figure, that identifiers would rather I play it safe and go with Order as my first guess then try for species, get it widely wrong, and risk muddying the data.

This is especially the case with unknowns - an area of IDing where I feel I can be most useful as an amateur. Even taking something from unknown to “Flowering Plants” gets it out of the abyss and under the nose of someone who can ID it properly.


I think one of the reasons I sometimes feel guilty is because what identifiers will do is give good mentorship in addition to their IDs, and I’ve long ago left the market for mentorship. I finished my PhD almost 20 years ago, published a few papers, and then did other things. Good mentorship is a rare and valuable thing though, and so it feels wrong when I see it offered but don’t take it.


if it helps, if i leave info, which I try to as I feel it is important to share knowledge, i expect that the observer will pay zero attention to it. Which, is usually the case. Maybe 5% say a ‘thanks’. Maybe 2% ask something, or actually seem to have learned something. Guessing at the figures - but they seem about right.

Good mentorship is rare; but honestly…so are good learners. I enjoy getting a ‘thanks’ (there’s another thread on thanking IDers), I genuinely appreciate it. I genuinely do not mind questions. And also, i’m not full of myself so I don’t GAF if someone doesn’t care about what I wrote. Maybe someone else seeing it will learn, maybe something will stick, maybe nothing but that isn’t my business. And that’s okay! :) It’s like if you offer someone a gift, you can’t be upset if they didn’t use it how you intended, it’s for them and how they use it is up to them.


I wish more people did this actually. I do it pretty often for much the same reason; it’s where I can best help.


Something to maybe reduce that guilt a bit: the comments left are also available for anyone else who ever views the observation, too.


I know the formal iNat advice is to - just dump it in plants.
Add to the Unknowns
these … Plantae down to not yet Family
16K for Africa (without the Eastern side of South Africa since this is my URL)

and 138K for the World

Better to leave them in honest Unknowns - since there they may eventually get seen. And IDed. Instead of dying a slow lingering death in limbo.


Is this something people actually complain about? Your description sounds exactly like me!

I don’t think there should be much of a problem. After all, most of these newer users to Inat fail to put an ID at all. Don’t blame them when majority probably don’t know all that much about taxonomy and usually giving them a heads up will help them in the future. Think of that but it is yourself, I guess. Not everyone is going to have to be expected to know every single nitty gritty of taxonomy in every field.

Plus, as you’ve stated, even if you know resources you could use to help get a finer identification, it may be time consuming and may take you hours to go through tons of sources for all of your new uploads. Personally speaking, I upload maybe 30 - 40 observations after a fine day’s walk and I know that would take me a while to even get down one branch of taxonomic level, especially on my incredibly slow, embarrassing and debilitating wifi.

All in all, I don’t see this as something rare at all. I think it’s A-Okay to leave a “high ranking identification”, so to speak. After all, identifiers are the ones taking the time out of their day to identify organisms. It would be worse if you marked something down wrong which is more likely when you descend down the branches of taxonomy. Better be safe than sorry in that situation!


Once you click upload, why not open the observation and use the Compare tool if you think you have seen it before? Of course, then you need to watch your notifications in case it’s something different this time and another user disagrees.

I understand what it’s like to have hundreds of photos to crop and upload from a single day of hiking and it’s hardly the behavior of a lazy observer :slightly_smiling_face:


I am trying to learn more about different taxa, BUT I can’t remember everything that someone kindly tells me when they tell me. So when I get particularly helpful information, I will say thanks and favorite it. Some of it sticks; I will revisit some of it, but some will never integrate.

There was another thread recently about how annoying the copy and paste taxon characteristics comments can be; this is the problem those are solving. Not everyone can/will use the information. By littering the IDs with helpful information, it is there to pick up for the minority of people that will use it when they are ready to use it (it may not even be the observer). Folks focused just on observing may still pick up information through repetition.


Wow! I’m sure you found some cool stuff.


Of course you’re making a great contribution with those 5000 images gathered in heat that would send me fleeing for the air conditioning. You have a lot of processing to do. Slap the best name you can on the observation (which could be “Plants” or “Beetles”) and let it go. You’ll probably be curious about some and will dig into them, but it’s not required. It’s kind to pay it forward with ID’s for others when you have time, but that’s not required, either.

I know how frustrating it is when I post observations of species that others have identified for me before but I still can’t ID! Part of the process. Maybe some day I’ll learn. Or maybe its of the species I post to provide the data but will never learn. There are different ways to contribute.


As an aging iNatter… my skill level changes daily, on some days hourly. I do what I can, usually with great enjoyment.
I usually do my ok to id it when I post. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes the CV does close, hit share.
When I can get back to it I’ll try again,usually by looking through books. But honestly, several times someone will id, or agree before I have the chance to do it.


I just see this as effective resource allocation. Identifiers and observers are both valuable resources, and it’s probably best to save some IDs for experts who can do them in a minute than for the observer to potentially spend all day on it.


I’m with you. Age is taking it’s toll on my memory. Also, I have gone down the species rabbit hole too many times when I have kindly been told that it is not possible to ID a specimen to the species level without dissection under a microscope. I am also especially bad about plants, so I do greatly appreciate those who come along and ID my observations, or at least direct me down the correct taxon branch.

But the other thing that frustrates me about iNat is that, when I am initially posting the specimen, iNat presents me with several good ranked choices. However, if I go ahead and post it at a higher level, then after it is posted and I come back to try and do a better job at ID’ing it, the choices offered by Suggestions or Compare are not ranked and sometimes I have to scroll many, many specimens to come to something which may look similar to my specimen.


It’s the scrolling that makes me motion sick, and with my phone as my only internet, I use books, until it get the creep factor from too many bugs!
Somedays it seems like two things fall out of memory for every one thing gets in. I do what I can because, truthfully, it’s keeping me going.
I like checking out the iders, too. Some of the smartest ones are amazingly young. I love that. It gives me hope.


I focus on certain groups that I’m trying to learn to ID on my own. Even if I get some tips on how to ID flies, I will probably leave it alone and hope someone else comes along to give me an ID because my head can only hold so much terminology. It’s really hard to key something out when you don’t know what any of the words mean. My focus has mostly been on flowering plants and I still have to refresh my memory with the glossary frequently. But now I’m trying to tackle learning how to ID lichens in my area because there is no one around here really interested.

PS when people ID my insects I thank them by IDing some of their plants


Try this tool - which I have used since it was built for us :heart_eyes: I forget it isn’t an integrated part of iNat!
iNat enhancement suite

I often toggle the Compare tool to Visually similar (especially for Not Wild or invasive) - but then much more wary of distribution. Sometimes the Checklist gives fewer choices.


Oh man, I’m definitely guilty of dumping stuff in high-level plant categories… does anyone look at angiosperms or should I just leave well enough alone? And is it worth to go back and withdraw them?

I felt bad just picking out animals from unknowns (gave up on fungi long ago) but now that I think about it I’m not sure anyone’s ever followed up on one of those broad plant IDs.


I’ve been on iNat for 10 years as of this month. I only recently passed 3,000 submitted observations so that’s less than an observation per day. I try to ID at a rate of 4-5 IDs per each observation I submit, but I’m a little behind on that. I don’t think it’s laziness on my part, just other obligations and my tendency to spend a lot of time on each record I submit.