I want to bring this up as a new topic because the issue comes up again and again, regarding different issues, and it bugs me. (Sorry, bugs – it bothers me.) Concerns are expressed that people are using iNaturalist for the wrong reasons or with the wrong effects. They’re just running up the leaderboards by agreeing with correct identifications! They’re using the computer ID’s without learning anything! They’re posting the same thing over and over, uselessly!
I have two problems with this. First, we don’t know people’s motivations. We see two people suddenly run up leaderboards and get to number one, well above the others. Can we tell the one “gamifying” iNaturalist from the one who is really checking ID’s for a taxon of interest? Not really. We have very little evidence about why people are doing what they do on iNaturalist.
Second, other people’s lives are their responsibility, not ours. Sure, I have opinions about other people’s goals and learning and appreciation of nature, but I don’t see much point in worrying about them. I myself am very interested to learn about to identify some organisms, but not motivated at all to learn others, though I post them if I find them in the course of taking other photos. I think providing data for future scientific work is a great goal of iNaturalist, but for some people iNaturalist is just a way to get a name for a new potted plant. And that’s OK. I try to help people learn and I appreciate others helping me, but as long as they don’t do actual harm, I’m OK with how they use the site.
Let’s worry about how iNaturalist works and how we can improve the data and interactions with the site. Let’s respect the right of other people have to have different goals and interests.