For plants of the bioregion i live in (my area of expertise, i get paid to identify them) i often use it as a lazy workaround when I already know what the plant is, rather than typing in the plant, or to see if I think it gets it right. If I don’t know a plant, i will try the iNat algorithm. If it’s something obscure the suggestions will usually be obviously wrong based on the knowledge base i already have and i won’t use them, and it’s on to the dichotomous keys and such. However, an odd plant i find is often something that is much more common elsewhere in which case the algorithm saves me all that trouble.
If i have less expertise - say, plants but in a different area i am not familiar with, fungi, moths… i will use the algorithm, look at it to see if it seems right, maybe do some basic research. If it looks right but i really don’t know i will usually add the algorithm ID but note ‘not certain’ in the notes. If it seems sketchy i don’t use it and just ID to higher taxonomic level.
So yeah, i am user number 2179, meaning there aren’t very many more experienced iNat users than me other than Ken-Ichi, Scott, etc… and I use the algorithm.
People use iNat a lot of different ways. Some people focus on really ncie looking photos. Some people try to just get one of each species they see. Some people try to map as much as they can. You’re a mapper, I am too, some people find it annoying, but that’s how it goes on a big website like this. When i started here iNat was so small i basically personally reviewedall plant observations in New England and most of California in the US. Nowadays i am nowhere even close to there. Back then I felt like i could rely on most data points because if i thought they were wrong i would have downvoted them. Now I know most data hasn’t been reviewed at all, because the site is so big and growing so fast. Back then the data was more ‘reliable’ but it was pretty lonely on here… I like it better now. When i first started out I took a lot of blurry photos no one else could identify (many of which i just deleted or removed the photo for). Now i try to get diagnostic photos or just don’t bother with a photo if I can’t.
Anyhow i would say you are not doing anything wrong by using the algorithm as long as people aren’t then adding verifying IDs also using only the algorithm, that is pointless. I do think it is pretty sketchy for things like distinguishing spruce species from a blurry photo. Though perhaps all my old blurry spruce photos have helped train it. And, often it is surprisingly good, for plants. I know for some taxa it is pretty much useless.
The big thing is if you are gonna put a bunch of observations on iNat and rely on the algorithm you should stick around as they get identified to make sure to manage for ones that are wrong or need tweaking.
Also (edit to add this): I almost never use it for IDing someone else’s observations. Pretty much never if they used the algorithm to identify it too. What’s the point? I click reviewed and move on to the next thing.