Place to Practice IDs


In all the discussion about IDing, and the challenges therein, and the various levels of expertise identifiers have, it occurred to me that it might be cool to have a place where people could practice identifying, and finding out some of the tricks, etc. There could be many ways to do this, but I’d see it as a sandbox area, with a (small!) subset of carefully chosen observations and a limited species catalogue, and with explanations around why one ID is correct and another is not. It would need to be fairly constrained - it could easily become a monster! - but it might be one way to help coach people more efficiently than one on one, could be a fun game, and could even eventually be a place for those “here’s how to tell these species apart” guides.

Just a stray thought :-)

Making identifying more fun/interesting - wiki
Recruiting more identifiers

While I agree this would be totally awesome, It is a lot of work and although adjacent to the ultimate goal of iNat, not quite on the same spoke of the wheel. It could end up more feature creep than anything else. I’d love to see it done, but I’d want the dev team to think carefully about if it could be implemented with enough quality without drawing too much time/resources from the main functions of iNat.


When I started IDing things on inaturalist, it was (and still is) with the express purpose of learning. So I started out doing higher taxa, got some things hilariously wrong, got called out, got better, and gradually over time became more confident in some lower taxa as well. If I had been sandboxed off into a practice area, I would have lost interest immediately. (Of course, given my rudimentary skills that may have been the better outcome.)

Let people work with the real data, with real people. Let them make mistakes and let them learn to deal with other peoples’ differing views – all using the actual data. For me, that’s the whole point of iNaturalist.

So count me as strongly against this idea.


i think there are some ways that you could create something that indirectly benefits the underlying machinery of iNaturalist. in other threads, we’ve occasionally brought up the idea of implementing a CAPTCHA-like module that would be based on something like iNat’s Identify page. one direction you could go with this is to bring in Research Grade observations that differ from iNaturalist’s computer vision suggestion. a user of this module would get the observation and would be suggested the RG taxon and the CV-suggested taxon, and he could pick one or the other or his own suggestion. so you get to practice on something that looks like a Identify page, and you can use the module as an actual CAPTCHA and/or accelerate the collection of stats on computer vision discrepancies.

that said, i generally agree with what schoenitz said:


Not having a sandbox is actually a really nice feature of iNaturalist. Sure, my reliability level drops for a given taxon (if that’s a thing? I’ve heard reference to it but don’t know if that’s just people going through and checking a user’s past IDs or an actual metric tracked by iNaturalist), but in doing so I’m adding data used by the “Misidentifications” category in the Identotron. Which in turn helps others.


I like the idea in theory, but I don’t know if it would actually be beneficial in practice. Adding an ID with the risk of getting it wrong is a more powerful learning experience than IDing without that risk. One way that I’ve learned organisms of an area or a species is by looking at the research grade observations and adding IDs to them. When I see something funny or see that not all of them look the same, this prompts me to look at the actual characteristics to distinguish, which sometimes leads me to revise my previous IDs. It’s extremely good practice and makes you really familiar with the organisms.

The one thing I do wish could be done is the implementation of a system that capitalizes on this learned knowledge if only by the ability of people to add text to the species pages, which people have been asking about for a long time now (though I’m starting to wondering about a more interactive system now).

FYI, SEINet has a “plant of the day” that it posts on the home page for people to try. This only covers plants of the SW US, but it can be fun to try.


Some sort of app that uses iNat observations to help people hone their ID skills has been proposed in the Google Group before. It’s a cool idea but not something iNat will build.

However, someone could definitely use the API to create something for this purpose.

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