I suspect the core of this issue is the fact that it’s so much easier to add an ID (even without the ‘Agree’ button) than it is to post an observation. Anyone can sit at a keyboard in the comfort of their home and rack up thousands of uninformed IDs in no time with little physical effort; some may just enjoy the game, others may feel as though they’re actually making a useful contribution. Adding an observation on the other hand involves going outside, taking a photo or sound recording, and then loading it. It’s much more work. Just think about the difference in time and effort involved in collecting and posting 100 observations compared to making 100 rapid-fire, uninformed IDs.
One of the ideas on an earlier thread that I think would help (not fix completely I admit, but help) is to have a probationary period for new users before they can add IDs. Let’s say you have to post 50 verifiable observations before you can add IDs for other people. There were arguments earlier that this would discourage new users. I’m not convinced it would discourage most who were serious about the site, but I think it would discourage many of the agree-bot users.
I don’t think this is quite as radical as it sounds. After all, we have a probationary period for adding projects and places—why not for IDs? It would just have to be made clear to new users that there were a few things they couldn’t do until they had submitted 50 verifiable obs, and that this was to try and improve data quality on the site (stressing perhaps that this includes protecting the quality of their own obs, as well as those of others). I don’t think many who were genuinely interested in iNat would turn away.
But, as so often here, we’re speculating when we need an evidence base. Again, we could adopt an experimental approach—put the ID-probation in place for a while and see if there actually was a drop-off in uptake. I’d be very much in favour of trying it. And I’m convinced there’d be far fewer fish-hooks this way than with a reputation system, and it would probably be much simpler to implement…