In defense of "lazy" observers (like me)

Um, there is a big difference between this:

and this:

I see nothing wrong with the original poster doing exactly what iNat users are encouraged to do – IDing observations to the best of their knowledge, at whatever level they are comfortable with.


Yes, she definitely didn’t understand my post at all :slightly_smiling_face:


And just to be clear, far less than half of those 5000 images will ever see the light of day :rofl:

I wouldn’t consider this to be being a lazy observer, unless you’re uploading hundreds of pictures of honeybees and just labelling them as “unknown” or “insect”. The real problem of lazy observers IMO is the opposite: people who upload just a few observations with specific but wrong IDs, then never come back to adjust them when they’re corrected.


So when I was taught which plants, insects, animals, etc were what and went on to teach my children the same… do you count that as science and fact-based or faith/dogma/belief?
After all, these were learned by my children before formal schooling. Then when in school learning science we had to have faith and believe what we were taught was correct….


And what on Earth about the original post brought faith or dogma to mind anyway?! I get the feeling someone might have been having a bad day…


In context, it seems to be related to the idea that people tend to have faith in their own motives and actions; faith that what they are doing is okay, no matter how many others say that it isn’t.

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After grubbing in the garden and slogging through mud, I hereby gently correct you. From a respectful distance. :laughing:


Don’t worry I do the same. If I’m uploading while I am hiking, I put something generic as well, as but try to go through my uploads every two weeks or so. The internet connection where I am at (Timor Leste) is pretty slow, so slow that I do not get to enjoy the suggestions, and or if I write the genus name, and mispell it I do not see suggestions and boom, I get a bug :beetle: identified as a plant :seedling:


@KrisAtkinsonf @axarus please remember to assume others mean well, and please don’t speculate about others’ motivations. If you have a question about someone’s motivations, ask them directly.

Disagreement and evidence-based discussion and ID corrections are at the heart of iNaturalist, as is knowing what your limits are when it comes to what you can identify. Adding an observation with a coarse ID is perfectly fine on iNaturalist.


A “deep dive into taxonomy” isn’t what is being dicussed here. I can’t say that I know much about bee taxonomy, for instance; but I decided to take a crack at this bee observation myself instead of just waiting for a bee specialist to come along. I didn’t do “a deep dive into taxonomy”; I went to the iNaturalist checklist of bees of a nearby state, visually narrowed it down to the pictures it looked most like, then looked more closely at those to “reduce it to genus level.” Then and only then did I @ someone, asking if I was on the right track.

Will I know that same species of bee if I see it again? Maybe, maybe not. Do I know where that bee fits in the phylogenetic tree of bees? Nope. But iNaturalist has visual checklists for a reason – they are a tool that non-specialists can use. Bees will never be my area of expertise, but I can still match pictures and get some idea.

So it takes longer for me to do this than for a bee expert to take one glance? Well, considering how busy that bee expert probably is, no guarantees on how soon they will take that glance.


As I’ve said elsewhere: having a key with a list of distinguishing characteristics or a set of reference photos does not automatically translate into being able to see what the relevant distinctions are or interpret them correctly.

Sometimes it may, yes.

But it is also a skill that is developed over time, whether formally or informally. The eye must be trained. And familiarity with one taxon doesn’t necessarily apply to another.

I’ve learned both as an observer and and IDer that “looks plausible” is a pretty squishy concept that can depend a lot on who is making the assessment.

If you can compare images and immediately deduce what you are supposed to be seeing – great. Don’t judge others for whom this may not come easily.

There are some taxa where, at present, I simply do not recognize what I need to see in order to even choose the correct family, much less genus. If the computer suggestions are not convincing or span a wide range of possibilities, then yes, I often will label it as “flies” or “grasshoppers” or “ants” because – for me – taking the ID further in such cases would indeed require sitting down and learning in detail about the morphology of the group in question. And then often as not staring at hundreds of images until something “clicks” and can translate the theory into practice.

That’s hours of time I could be spending with taxa that I care more about knowing how to ID. Or correcting other people’s IDs for taxa they find difficult.

Again: this does not mean I am not interested in learning about what I saw. But being able to correctly identify the genus is not a prerequisite for appreciating the organism once one knows what it is. One can learn about other things (its behaviors, habitat, food, etc.) which one might even find more meaningful than knowing the morphological distinctions that set it apart from some other genus.

Also please re-read the original post: the thread starter did not say that they simply put a general label on all their observations without making any effort to ID them. They said that they do so with those observations where arriving at a more precise ID is not currently something that they can easily do.

People use iNat in different ways for different reasons. As long as the OP is not simultaneously complaining about how nobody IDs their observations, I don’t see the problem.

(Edit: I want to note that I learn best when I can organize and contextualize information in a framework or system, and my approach reflects that. Other people will have different approaches. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. I am not arguing in favor of some idea that only “experts” with a degree and formal training can or should ID observations. Quite the contrary. What I’m trying to point out is that knowing isn’t a straightforward process and people shouldn’t be ashamed to say, “this is as far as I can/want to go with this right now”.)


The great thing about iNat though (and crowd-sourcing in general), is that over time that plausibility will get narrowed down to something that is very close to accurate as more and more people look at it. I think that genus-level IDs on iNat are remarkably accurate, and I actually think that setting the RG criterion to genus rather than species would make more sense because it would lessen the urge to propose species-level IDs that are probably not possible. Many, many species cannot be identified beyond genus from photographs, even good photographs. It’s different for different taxa of course, but it would be interesting to see what the accuracy rate for genus was compared to the same rate for species. I’d bet the former would be much higher, at least in insects. I was just corrected this morning on numerous observations where I had taken them to species, but congeners cannot be separated from photos.


The problem is that most people do not set their searches to ID Research Grade observations. If the RG requirement were set to Genus, and an ID gets to Genus and becomes RG, you will mostly never find out whether they could go further, because no-one will be looking to ID it unless it’s in ‘NeedsID’. That’s the point.

Of course, things ID’d better than Family can already be made RG by clicking ‘No, the Community taxon is as good as it can be’ in the DQA section.


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.


PLEASE move unknowns to fungi dear god. There’s nothing worse than trying to comb through piles of vague plant unknowns for the few fungi obs


Are you saying that bee experts are usually busy as bees??? :)


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 :joy: