This thread bothers me more than most. I guess because I feel that I make ID’s mostly because I hope I’m helping improve the data (and partly because it’s a more interesting time-waster to me than playing solitaire on-line) – but how would you know? I’ve gotten to the top of the leaderboard for some plants (at least once tied for first with 1 ID!) and that’s pleasant, but not a goal. Are the people you detect doing this actually just trying to dominate without learning how to ID? How could you actually know?
If I put in the genus or family name for something that has been ID’d to species, there are two possibilities. First, I’m sure the ID is wrong and I click the orange button that shows up. I should provide an explanation and often do, but not if I’m tired. Second, I don’t know but want to mark that I’ve seen the record, and I use the green button. If I didn’t explain and you want an explanation, please ask!
Sometimes I pick a plant of some interest to me and I go through and identify as many records as possible. Sometimes, especially if it’s prone to misidentification, I check “Research Grade” observations as well as “needs ID.” For some recent Phleum pratense from Russia (from a class, I think), mine was the fifth or sixth confirming ID. Given how often this species is misidentified, I don’t think that’s bad.
I don’t worry that yet another identification “takes up valuable space.” If iNaturalist is running out of computer space I hope someone will announce that and there are several things we can do to deal with it, including make monetary donations to California Academy of Science, marked to go to iNaturalist.
Do some people provide confirming identifications from ignorance? Certainly! Even I do it occasionally, though I try to learn. The worst examples I’ve seen involve students confirming each others’ badly identified observations. Do people try to race up the leaderboard? Some do. Does this reflect ego unsupported by skill? In some cases. It’s sad to see this, but I’ve learned I can’t make other humans better so I try to ignore it, or mutter a few choice comments and move on. If they do it with easily identified or mostly correct observations, it’s not even particularly harmful.
Are leader boards valuable? They help us consult people who know the plants well. So they’re often valuable but not always. Which is about as good as it gets with citizen science, volunteer projects, in my opinion. I just can’t see value in worrying that they may promote competition in some people and sometimes that competition may be unhealthy.
Grouchy person here who should get back to identifying – maybe even running up leaderboards! Woo-hoo!