Why do some serious "power users" add so many unknown observations?

I’m wondering if I’m not in the know about some trick but it’s been nagging at me for a while since I spend most time IDing unknown obs and trying to welcome newer users. I usually get frustrated and call it a session when I stumble upon 3 + pages in a row of unknown observations from users who consistently make lots of IDs and submit lots of observations (at least according to leader boards). I guess I incorrectly assumed folks such as those using the site for a while will do their best to add a coarse ID (at least) to their observations so as not to clog up the already backlogged pool of unknown obs but it’s clear that is not the case so…am I missing something and should stop assuming?


Sometimes inat can be really slow on bad network connections, and the species dropdown menu takes a couple minutes to load. Perhaps they intend to come back later and ID their stuff when a better connection is available?


i sometimes make a ton of observations on the app and while i try to tag everything the tags sometimes don’t go through… then when you upload them you have 50+ observations to go through and since there’s no way to review them as a draft before posting them, sometimes a few of mine go through that way. you can ignore them and see if that user adds IDs later. Perhaps they just haven’t had time yet


Thanks @charlie and @graysquirrel. Those were some of my initial thoughts (because I’ve experienced both frustrating scenarios personally) but I’ve noticed the same obs sitting there for a while. I’ll keep waiting and see if they revisit. Not a big deal, just adds to the pile. Thanks again for weighing in.


If you get sick of them, and are using the Identify page, you can sort them so that older observations come up first, or so that they are in random order, so you don’t first see whatever is uploaded first. Or you can filter for more specific taxa, i usually filter for ‘vascular plants’ so i don’t even see the unknowns. Or you can search for unknowns and give them coarse IDs but if you do that keep an eye out for ‘placeholder’ text and don’t add a coarse ID without copying that over because it gets deleted otherwise


Cool. I do the unknown as my personal community service and I enjoy it mostly. I also have “Aves” in my search to keep it interesting. I didn’t know about the deletion of a placeholder text but instinctively I usually skip any obs with a placeholder that’s more specific than, “weird bug” or “cool flower!”


I copy and paste the “weird bug” or “cool flower,” too because if there are both a bug and a flower in the photo it indicates the one the observer wanted to identify. Sometimes the placeholder is a species name that isn’t on iNaturalist and the person wants the placeholder left just as it is, as a placeholder, so I skip lots of those by zipping through “Identify” and marking those “reviewed” en masse. If I don’t do that, I worry about missing the placeholder altogether since it’s not easy for me to notice sometimes.


If there’s really a lot from a single person, I sometimes filter on that person, then mark all as reviewed. If you do actually want to review them later, just make a note somewhere and do the reverse later.
Example: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/identify?iconic_taxa=unknown&user_id=username&per_page=100


As someone who generates a lot of unknown observations:

  • I had a bad data connection in the field
  • I don’t feel like typing out sci names with my thumbs
  • It was cold and I was wearing gloves
  • I’m uploading a ton of observations and plan to use /Identify to add IDs because it’s so much easier to do it there than on the uploads page
  • I know it’s between a couple species and will key it out at some point
  • I collected a specimen and plan to key it out at some point
  • I don’t even know what kingdom it belongs to and adding a “Life” ID seems silly
  • It’s an easy taxon that I don’t personally know but do know the community will prob ID in like 2 minutes
  • I’m feeling lazy
  • I forgot
  • sorry : )

I didn’t even think of using identify on my own observations. That’s a good idea.


That all makes sense…see, I knew I was missing something others would know here!!! Now I won’t feel like I have to use my tiny phone screen to key out plants with tiny pictures. I like the idea of using identify as an easier way to deal with IDs for my own obs. No apologies necessary…it just didn’t jive with my (mis)understanding of expectations. Thank you @bouteloua


It’s fine to leave it as unknown for any and all the reasons that Cassi and others listed. The only comment I would add is if you do this and someone adds a coarse ID (comes in and adds Plants or Insects or whatever), don’t send them back a snarky message saying ‘I know it is a plant, why dont you do something helpful’ or similar, when that happens to me it takes willpower not to reply back in kind.


@cmcheatle when folks do that I cry…I don’t think I’ve been nasty to anyone to date and have only had one terrible interaction (receiving end) out of thousands…I’m lucky I guess. Thanks for the comment

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How do you copy over a placeholder ID? I admit I have not seen a lot of them, but I don’t want to mess things up.


I use a laptop only, so when I use Identify I just use the curser to highlight it and then copy and paste it in the comment under my ID.


I’m not sure what that means. I only use a laptop/pc as well. Do you copy the whole observation and add it back to the same observation with an ID? I use Identify a lot for moths, but open each one and confirm the ID. Does your system allow you to add observations to projects?


The behavior you describe is the major reason I don’t do as much with the “Unknowns” any more.


Here’s an example. I would just highlight and copy all the info next to “Unknown” and then I would enter an ID of “Fungi” and paste the info into the box under it. That way both “Fungi” and the placeholder’s ID are there for others to see. I don’t usually add things to projects, though.


I see now. Thank you very much.


You’re welcome. I think someone raised the idea somewhere of adding to the Identify tool a way to add the observation to a project at the same time.