I’ve submitted plant records that literally took several years before a knowledgeable person came along and added an ID. In some cases I already had a species ID, or at least a genus, which might have been correct or not. In other cases, I revisited my record years after I submitted it and, with more knowledge than I had earlier, added a good ID which then speeded up getting a confirming ID from a reviewer.
None of this is concerning to me; the process can take time and I don’t expect anyone to necessarily review my records right away. Except birds … if I don’t get a confirming ID within an hour or two, I get concerned that something may be lacking in my record.
I think I’d be more concerned that anyone perceives that “lazy” observers are even a type of observer and that what they do is in any way problematic. iNaturalist welcomes all “levels” of observer, skill, and interest ranges. Is it true that specific ways of observation are more productive than others, in terms of valuable datasets, interesting species, and the included work in identification? Honestly, no. iNaturalist is an extensive dataset. For me, the value of iNaturalist is in point data, that is, occurrence of a species at a time and place. But that isn’t the only use of iNaturalist, and some might say the value of bringing a community together is even the most important part of all. All of those ways are quite valid and valuable in specific ways.
In terms of identification, no one should be afraid of posting things at broad levels or using the suggested vision ID (though checking it briefly to see that it seems correct doesn’t hurt). That’s what the community of identifiers is to help with.
That’s what I do enjoy about iNat, it takes off those kinds of pressures.
I always think it’s better to shoot low than shoot high when you’re uncertain. It’s ok to not spend all your time on individual starting IDs, especially when you have a lot of observations to post. It doesn’t hurt too much that you’re a so-called “lazy” observer, what matters is that you’re able to make the observations in the first place.
Birds are the one taxon where I never ID more specifically than just ‘bird’; I’m pretty sure birders can get an observation to RG in the time it would have take me to type the 3 extra letters from ‘aves’ to ‘mallard’, and if I happened to be wrong the time it would take me to refresh my notifications and click ‘withdraw’ would just needlessly delay the process
While I do occasionally see lightning-fast confirming identifications on bird photos here (South Korea), it’s also not uncommon to see them go several days - or even months - without getting any attention. Makes me think this might be an experience that varies based on geography.
It seems to be pretty much binary with birds; they either get IDed practically immediately or they probably never will. Whereas plant IDs do get revisited, especially if they are ~family or better (and not asteraceae). I suspect this is mainly because plant IDs are much more expert-availabity-limited than birds, and secondarily because the actual plant taxonomy itself is incomplete, whereas bird taxonomy is at a much higher completion percentage.
First of all, there is no way that axarus could be classified as a “lazy” observer. I get what he means, but I’ve taken a look at his iNat observations and the quality is way above average. It’s clear he’s invested a lot of effort in finding, processing and posting his observations so that they’ll have an excellent chance of being identified and, who knows, of being useful to someone in the future. So yes, he’s probably right in investing his time in continuing to do this, rather than spending hours or maybe days on trying to ID, for example, a difficult bee.
But that being said, I do think that KrisAtkinsonf makes some very good points. Like her, I firmly believe that “If you start looking at the worth of the contribution instead of the numbers, we may all be better off” and also that “its inclusivity aspect errs in not pointing out when folk are wrong…”.
I’ve just found the courage to get seriously into IDing, although my lack of self confidence still blocks me from going beyond some pretty general sorting of plants and arthropods (my special interests). This means I’m spending a great deal of my time sifting through a huge number of very poor quality observations, difficult or impossible to fine ID and with a pretty low chance of being useful to anyone in the future. Now I know it’s not politically correct to question an observer’s motives and there are all sorts of very valid reasons why someone might sometimes post a poor quality observation. I quite understand that and far from me to criticise anyone with a genuine interest and doing their best. But my sensation is that a very high proportion of those observations are the result of a genuinely lazy “see it, snap it, forget it” approach that really doesn’t help anyone, least of all the observer him or herself.
Now that in itself wouldn’t be a problem, were it not for the fact that observers far outnumber identifiers here, with the result that observations from people with a genuine interest, who really do invest time and effort in posting well-documented observations able to make a genuine contribution are all too often submerged and lost in a boundless and unmanageable sea of poorly documented observations that do little else but use up identifiers’ precious time… and yes, I know you can just click the “reviewed” button, but that just serves to shift the problem elsewhere. This may well result in potentially valuable and committed observers losing interest in the platform and going somewhere else. Which would be a pity.
I’m not sure what the solution might be, but I do get the feeling that the vast majority, if not all, of these “lazy” observations come from the app, with someone just snapping away regardless, trying for an instant ID, then if it doesn’t come immediately, forgetting the whole thing and moving on. Which would be fine in itself if it didn’t end up clogging the system. Perhaps it would be possible to sift out these “instant snappers” and encourage more committed observers by “fast-tracking” observations which meet certain criteria.
Now I know that suggesting such an “elitist” approach is going to earn me enemies. Inclusivity is without doubt a good thing… but I’m convinced that being nice to everyone is not necessarily in the best interests of the platform, in either the short of long term.
And as such I am learning. I now can ID Cosmos myself! That’s a great improvement on knowing basically nothing. I still ID it to genus Cosmos, because I don’t know the species. Sure looks like Cosmos bipinnatus, but is it really? I have no clue and will leave that up to others.
From unknown to genus using CVS is often the best I can do, it is an improvement on Unknown, and as such it has to be a contribution to the whole of iNaturalist. I hope, well, I know this is valued.
I just had colleagues at my primary school teach about a hundred 6-9 year old’s the differences between the different kingdoms/classes/phylum over the past two months. What if we would create a project where children would learn to ID from Unknown to the right kingdom, where teachers verify their IDs? This would be so worthwhile!
And the same could be said of a similar plant project.
Yes, something described above is unlikely to happen @dianastuder, so perhaps in that sense it is best to leave it at Unknown. But who knows? A huge backlog on Plantae combined with some creativity can lead to beautiful things.
I read a lot of it, and it is an interesting discussion, but there are so many variables to consider that I won’t comment. That would require more thinking and an almost paper-like post to do justice to the complexities addressed.
@dianastuder Would you think it reasonable to expect that one day there are so many (generalist) ID’ers who take on all the Unknowns that we could add things like Plantae and such?
I would like iNat to encourage observers to identify. But the focus is heavily on many observations, and many (passing thru) observers. That balance is not going to improve without deliberate intention.
Without supporting and encouraging informed IDs, iNat will lose its appeal. Just another site to share pretty or blurry photos. Social media users are fickle, if people don’t get an ID … they will move on.
I take issue with “politically correct” here - this has nothing to do with political correctness, it’s about making assumptions and castigating a large group of people without knowing all of the details. Just like we ask that ID should be made based on available evidence, one shouldn’t assume motivations unless they’re clear.
I do agree that ideally people should invest some time learning about what they saw, but not everyone’s going to do that, unfortunately, but I think it’s better that they spent a moment thinking about a plant or an insect than not doing so at all. And the people who do want to learn will start doing so if they’re given some encouragement.
This basically already happens - the Identify page only shows “Needs ID” observations by default, and those meet certain criteria. You can also filter out observations made by accounts that were created in the past week, which removes a large number of lower-quality observations.
I’m not sure what you mean by “nice” - that’s a nebulous term. But people should be treated civilly and with respect. You don’t necessarily have to be warm to them, but they should not be condescended to, insulted, or called names.
Ideally, everyone who is starting out on iNat would have an experienced user standing with them when they are photo’ing their first records and could advise on how best to take the picture, what features are important to capture, what Notes might be added, and what level of ID they can confidently assign. But that isn’t feasible. And if they’re like me, they don’t read instructions carefully or at all. So we get folks who are basically just experimenting with the site and providing records that are essentially unIDable or at best difficult to ID. That slows down the process of clearing the backlog. I suspect there will always be a sizeable percentage of forgotten records that remain in limbo, never moving out of Unknown or some high taxonomic rank. Some of those users will give up in frustration, others might never have been all that interested to start with and will disappear. Unfortunate, but just the reality.