In defense of "lazy" observers (like me)

You can’t help it, it’s the New Mexican way :wink:

For comparison, the Albuquerque CNC brought in ~15,000 observations in 4 days (and we’re a small city).


Love this!


A “rank” amateur is just an amateur that needs a shower! We don’t have any of those here on iNat! LOL!


Are you saying that it’s better to leave a plant in the Unknown category, than to ID it as Plant or Flowering Plant?


Me, too.

Honestly having no scientific background whatsoever, a lot of the information people kindly provide to help me understand is just above my head. Most of what I know is experiential, watching for long periods of time how things move and what plants they visit and where on those plants (underside of leaves? up high? down low?) or how hot it was when I saw them.

If I see a species often enough, I can recognize that an insect is one of that species when I see it in my own garden but usually not in other people’s photos. So I avoid identifying the observations of others. When I see something new-to me, I will identify broadly like “bee” or “beetle” and leave it to the experts to identify to species. I do this each time I see that thing, many times over and over, until something in my brain just… clicks and then one day I feel confident and upload to species. But I couldn’t say why it is that thing, I just know that it is.

Maybe I sound silly. Sorry.

In short: There is no such thing as a lazy observer and we would all do very well to do as you do and


I would prefer people ID as Plant or Flowering Plant (if it is one) so I don’t have to go through Unknowns. I usually don’t ID plants outside of the iNat place American Southeast (except when I search by species) so if you are/aren’t IDing Unknowns outside this area it won’t effect me.


Some people prefer such observations be left as Unknowns. I prefer to ID them as Plant or Flowering Plant (or whatever I can do) when I’m IDing a bunch of Unknowns, just to clear them out of the way. Your preferences may vary.


I prefer to ID to the lowest level I quickly can (often “Plants” or “Dicots”). I search on those levels at times, too, e.g. “Plants of Oregon.” Some identifiers working hard on African plants prefer observations left at “Unknown” unless they can be ID’d at the family level or lower. I try to respect that preference, though I don’t agree with it.


It’s good to be conscious of the larger issue of a somewhat small pool of dedicated identifiers, I recall seeing some stats on the site which showed that the backlog unidentified organisms is considerable and growing faster over time.

As a relatively active identifier, I’ve started thinking for people with a lower ratio of observations to identifications, they may be able to contribute by ‘adopting a species’ that they’re pretty familiar with in their local area, and providing IDs for those in a consistent manner.

It’s always a pleasure to run across specialist identifiers, since they always have some tricks to teach others about identifying particularly challenging observations of a given organism.

You make a good point about everyone contributing in their own way which I agree with generally, but as I said, it’s always nice to see some effort to pay it forward on the other side as well! :slightly_smiling_face:


Please don’t withdraw Angiosperm - it is NOT wrong!
Broad plant IDs are not wrong by iNat rules.

But follow your notifications, and you will see, this taxon gets a finer ID. That taxon … does not. Actually moving Unknowns to Fungi, does get a response - they need us to feed their Fungi filter.


That is my experience for ‘darkest’ Africa. But other locations may have enough active botanists for the iNat theory to work? If I can get a plant to family - I can find a taxon specialist to @mention and voila a finer ID bounces back.

PS leaves me curious about the mix between plant and animal etc. in other places. I prefer to work from Unknowns to ID, because there is the odd bug, or mushroom, in between 9 out of 10 are green leafies Difficult dicots


Well… you say that, but when I came back from a wet and muddy walk in the New Forest that’s exactly what I DO need! :joy:


Yes, but conveniently, I can’t smell you from here! LOL!


I agree that each observer has their way of using iNaturalist. As for me, I’m not a biologist. I’ve learned pretty lot throughout my primary and high school, but never at the University level - and never about particular plant species. Actually I downloaded the app to learn to identify common plants that grow around me, because I knew only some of them. And yes, I I’ve learned a lot, together with the fact that it takes huge knowledge to identify them. Some are obvious, but some aren’t, and surprises happen all the time. I’ve made a lot of mistakes when I typed in a species, and then it turned out that there’s another one, about which I’ve never heard before.
My visual memory is not perfect, so even having some keys I feel lost. I’m not young, either. I feel safe about ID-ing common species, I use tools to ID others, and sometimes I just leave “plants”, “insects” and others. But I’m happy to take tons of photos. When I returned from a seven day hike last Autumn, I had to deal with several thousand photos, which took me some weeks to edit and upload.
I feel that I’ll never be a good identifier, I can help people who are still less experienced than me, but my task (or rather hobby) is to collect observations for other people’s use. They know all the details, they can tell what they see in the photos, and maybe it will be helpful in their analyzes.
Do I feel bad about it? No :)


Interesting, I’ve wanted to thank IDers before, but haven’t - I think mostly because I don’t see it being done generally, and I feel like it would just be adding to the workload of the IDer (adding an extra “thing” that they have to look at).


Here’s a discussion about thanking identifiers:


I have! A few 1st Country records for Belize (on iNat anyway), and I’m only about 1/4 of the way through. Wildflower season is rapidly ending here in California so I need to go get some of those before they go :)


I completely agree that your observations are incredibly valuable and I wouldn’t feel guilty at all! And “dumping” observations under “bees” or “flies” is exactly what I prefer folks to do, FWIW. It’s the opposite problem, when folks ID something to species without knowing anything about the group, that is most frustrating for IDers like me. Any decent photo that is accurately geolocated and dated is valuable.


On my own observations, I often tend to feel a bit guilty about putting a very general ID (kingdom or order) on observations in certain groups and leaving it up to the experts to sort out. This is mostly my own perfectionism and I in no way advocate for other users to adopt this attitude.

In principle, though, I agree with others who have commented that a certain amount of division of ID labor makes sense. For taxa outside my particular areas of interest, it just doesn’t seem like a good allocation of my mental resources to sort out the distinguishing characteristics of several similar-looking species in this or that genus when there are others who can do so in a second or two.

When IDing other people’s observations, I have no problem whatsoever with people adding a general ID – in fact, I greatly prefer this to observers uncritically accepting the CV suggestions for taxa where it is frequently wildly inaccurate (e.g. bees). A broad ID can be refined easily, whereas an incorrect ID often requires the efforts of multiple IDers to correct, particularly if the observer isn’t diligent about withdrawing their incorrect CV-suggested IDs.

I appreciate it when observers show evidence of learning from IDs given to previous observations; it signals to me that they care about and are interested in what they observe and aren’t just posting observations for the sake of posting.

However, this does not mean I have any expectation that people should learn to ID everything they observe.

We all have limited time and energy, and a deep dive into taxonomy isn’t going to be something that makes sense in every case. But it is rewarding to see that a user has engaged enough with their observations that some details start to stick (i.e., they can now distinguish a beetle from a bug, or they remember to take photos of Asteraceae flowers from the side, or they have learned that e.g. honeybees can be ID’d as Apis mellifera instead of just Apis because there is only one species in their area).

I frequently do leave comments if the observer seems interested, but that doesn’t mean I think they should immediately be able to apply this information correctly in all future observations. If they find it helpful or interesting – great. If not, perhaps some other user will.


My question is, why are you doing this? Is adding new content, 5000 unidentified images of a specific place, worth anything? We have satellites and drones that can easily do far more than that. Isn’t this just a variant on the teenagers who confirm-ID as many as they can, with no expertise, trying to achieve the highest scores? My husband makes a game of high scoring, as he’s driving our hybrid, no matter the effect on traffic around us, our trip efficiency time, or the frustration of the other person in the front seat. If you start looking at the worth of the contribution instead of the numbers, we may all be better off.
Though iNAT wants to embolden all (i.e., volunteers everywhere) to contribute to organized taxonomic observations, its inclusivity aspect errs in not pointing out when folk are wrong or don’t (won’t) go far enough. You don’t have to be an expert: but golly, if you can’t say it’s a plant or a rock, maybe this isn’t the activity for you. “I feel justified in not doing that”: classic cop-out. Justification is often a refuge for not doing the right thing. Science means knowing, fact-based. Not faith or dogma or belief. All are welcome on the learning curve: but, if you’ve decided learning isn’t important, you’ve cut yourself off from the great enjoyment of progression along the path of understanding.
I hope you’ll take one of those 5000 images and challenge yourself to reduce it to genus level. A lot more than simple cropping: the devil is in the details. Happy hunting.