Search users' profiles to find experts?

This is just a speculative post brought on by seeing this forum post about finding experts in given taxa. @haemocyanin11 was looking for an expert in a particular species, and @thebeachcomber chimed in to suggest that, in addition to looking at the leaderboard for the focal species, it might be good to look at top IDers for higher taxa as well (good advice!).

That first recommendation to look through the leaderboards for a taxa to try to find “experts” (or credentialed folks or however you want to class that) is pretty standard for iNat. However, I also know that lots of users specifically mention the groups that they are most interested/expert in in their profile text. I thought I’d help find a solution to the above post by trying to search for profiles with “Geometridae” (or “Geometrid*”) in them, but realized that there doesn’t seem to be a way to search profile text (though maybe I’m just missing it?). It looks like the profile search only looks at names and emails.

Would the capability to search profile text be a useful thing for some users? It might not be to hard to implement if so. On a side note, with some of the discussions about the pros/cons of the leaderboards (and the primary pro being finding experts for taxa to help with IDs), having alternate ways to find experts might be useful in general. Anyways, maybe that’s a stupid idea, but thought I’d throw it out there to hear folks’ thoughts!

*Edit: Now a feature request for interested folks.

6 Likes

You bring up a great idea with the ability to search for texts in a user profile. Maybe you should put a suggestion in the Features section about this? Also, thanks for the advice. I will look into it.

2 Likes

I thought about putting it in as a Feature request, but then I realized that a) maybe you can do this and I just don’t know how or b) maybe there’s a good reason (like privacy or something?) that the capability doesn’t exist, so I figured I’d get some general feedback first. If folks want it as a feature request, I’ll be happy to make it one.

3 Likes

One workaround is to use an outside search engine, but I’m not sure how robust search engine results are for iNat profiles. Some profiles are currently hidden from view if they don’t yet have 3 research grade observations, for example.

6 Likes

this kind of brings up the related topic—the hidden profiles are good for reducing spam, but many of the experts I’m aware of on the site don’t upload their own observations and only offer ID’s (sometimes in low enough numbers that they don’t show up on the leaderboard). I wonder if a feature request to give profiles ‘expert status’ is warranted? or if there’s an interest in that, a feature where a list of experts could eventually be seen with the taxa they are experts in tagged to that username/expert status flair? I know the whole ‘experts having more weight over identifications’ thing has come up (which is not how the site operates), but having the expert status would be a nice way to inform users that the identification of that user may be more definitive (based on the associated taxon they’re an expert of). Just spitballing, so sorry if too off topic.

2 Likes

I proposed a similar automated “no, I’m not a spammer!” cut-off here for IDs: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/false-positive-spam-flag-resolution/1343/14?u=bouteloua

2 Likes

I think there are a few approaches iNat could take, if we want to move on from the workarounds.

Perhaps there could be an optional, self-reported ‘expertise’ box on the profile’s where users could self-elect taxa they would consider themselves experts on. This could be taken further with an optional verification tick if the user can provide some evidence (What? A degree? Authorship on a paper?) to iNat staff in a verification process. We could have to come to some consensus on what constitutes a verified expert.

That way, rather than it being randomly in profile text it could make use of the official taxa system, and just like we can search for obs. of a given taxa, we ideally would be able to search for experts. So for example, if someone was looking for an expert on ‘hemicordulia’ in ‘Australia’, they would put those in the box as normal, and all the profiles in Australia who elected to be hemicordulia experts would show up.

1 Like

I’m pretty sure staff have made a statement that they’re not considering any form of reputation system which relies on external credentials.
the self-election idea might be interesting, though. There’s already a “favourite taxa” area, why not make a similar “taxa I identify” section?

6 Likes

Hah, I was just thinking of this! I don’t think it would be too hard to implement?

One interesting other option could be to do this in the same way that you can subscribe to searches. Like, I have subscribed to “anoles in US” which is also my area of expertise. So if users have a subscribed search, they could also have a tick box or something that they could self-designate as an expert.

I don’t think there’s a rep system in the future (and I hope not, I like the egalitarian nature of the site), but I don’t see any issue with self-election.

If someone (new to me) weighs in with a casting vote, and a kind helpful explanatory comment. I check their profile. Working on pelargoniums, or Asteraceae, or Silene. Then I remember to value their ID when I meet them again.

It would be good if iNat had a dedicated field on the profile. Searchable. With that info - currently researching whatever

Less about expert than informed expertise.

3 Likes

I do the same thing.

1 Like

I like the idea, but there’s another piece that hasn’t been mentioned so far. I can ID Rubus spp in Texas very well, but go beyond that range and I have to resort to the key. Same with several of the taxa I would (very loosely) consider myself knowledgeable enough to ID for others. I wouldn’t venture to ID anything outside of the US, and I wouldn’t consider my expertise to go beyond the state of Texas. So what about those of us “experts” limited to geographical areas?

4 Likes

Personally I would really love the ability to search users

Do you mean, to search for the users themselves, something in their profile…?

1 Like

If profile text were searchable, I think you could put “interested in Rubus in TX” in your profile or whatever, and then searchers could make up their own decisions about expertise.

Being able to have the function that the lets folks ID themselves as having an expertise in a certain taxon+location combo (like the subscribed search idea I pitched above) would address this in a different way.

But I think this is also an existing issue with the way that most people use the leaderboards to find experts. From what I see, users usually search the leaderboard for the taxon (not taxon in location) and ask for help that way. I get requests frequently for help with anoles in Central and South America presumably because I’m the overall lead anole-IDer. But I literally have no clue what anoles are in those places (and have hardly IDed any), and just have to say sorry. So I don’t think searching profiles would be a negative or step back in this sense (maybe just complementary).

2 Likes

Prompted by that ^^ to edit my profile so the info is there to be searched for.
What?
Where?

Just a quick note that given this discussion and suggestions to make a feature request for these search capabilities, I did so, and it is posted here. Feel free to vote for it if so inclined.

2 Likes

Great Idea! I also wonder if it is permissible to tag people that have responded and IDed your observations. Sometimes, I think it is hit or miss when posting…I wonder if anyone will respond. I didn’t know if there was some kind of etiquette involved.

1 Like

Yes, I think it’s fine to tag people as long as you don’t do it to the same person a lot. For some of the groups where there’s only one or two experts and lots of observations, they might get frustrated/overwhelmed if there’s a ton of tagging. But otherwise, go for it!

1 Like