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

A coarse ID at least should be included, especially in my case because so many of my “observations” are of taxons yet unknown to science. (I put observations in quotes because I don’t as a rule do repeat observations of the same species. That would consume way too much of my time. There are just too many new species flooding in over the transom that I want to add for the record.) One of my frustrations, however, is in having to add a coarse ID when a finer ID is known but is unrecognized by iNat, often because the taxon is newly described. I have used the bulk upload function to bring images over from my Flickr account but iNat does a poor job of mining and applying the data, which can result in faulty or void ID transfer. Often when iNat does mine the data it mines the WRONG data, especially if I mention microhabitat or host plant/fungus associations (99+% of my “observations” are of beetles) so I get something with six very evident legs lumped into the plant kingdom. Another vexing problem with the bulk Flickr upload function is that it fails to keep adjacent Flickr images together when they are brought over to iNat, resulting in widely scattered shots of the same organism as if they were separate observations, each requiring an ID and with no evident way of bringing them back together. This could be fixed but I have seen no interest in fixing it from iNat. Another thing that would reduced the ID workload is to add a Combine feature in the observations edit mode for images already posted as Flickr uploads. One thing that does not help, for me at least, is iNat’s auto-ID function because its “We’re pretty sure this is a” suggestions are so far off base as to be ludicrous.

I’ve stopped IDing most unknowns as a result of this

Hmmm, when I use the Flickr import, it seems to initially display thumbnails to select in photostream order. So if that is what you mean by “adjacent Flickr images,” my images seem to stay adjacent.

Once brought over to iNat, the only way I know to combine photos into a single observation during the Flickr import process (prior to final save) is to add more Flickr photos on the photos tab of each draft observation. (So I only select the primary photo of each group for the initial import, then add to those.)

If the related photos aren’t displaying together, you can try the Search box to narrow down the thumbnails being displayed for selection.

Hope some of this helps…

would it be possible to reverse the sort order (oldest first) on the ID page? If that is the goal, making it easy to know the oldest will help. Beyond that, Archiving everything over - say, 6 mos. Into a selectable archive may serve to ease the load on the servers.


Yes, you can use the filters on Identify to change the sort order:

I would love draft upload! I often need to see which of my created iNat Places an obs appears in before I can finish the description and other details. Sometimes I need to view it alongside other exisitng obs of mine before deciding whether to publish it or delete it. I often race to do this for a single or few obs before other people see them, ID them, and my chance is gone, as I don’t like to delete someone else’s ID and possibly comment.

Consider voting for the feature request.

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I’m a little late here, but I just want to put in a plug for how valuable the people are who help categorize the Unknowns! I can’t tell you how often I’ve been ID’ing a slew of arachnids and have thought to myself, “I am SO glad there are people putting ‘Spiders’ and ‘Arachnids’ on these observations, because I would NEVER see a HUGE percentage of them if they weren’t!” Seriously, I think this a lot. And getting them while they’re still fresh allows an invaluable interaction with the user that might not otherwise be possible.

I think the most reasonable solution to the problem as it has been described by both sides is to separate the intentions. If you are intentionally uploading observations in an unfinished state and have plans to work through them, I think this could have a different treatment than regular Unknowns.

Thank you, thank you, to the Unknowns Identifiers!! It’s a thankless job, but you are doing a huge service! :blush::heartpulse::spider_web::spider::sunglasses:


Thank you for this feedback @tigerbb! I feel like I should get back to IDing now. I had taken a bit of a break after feeling somewhat discouraged by the community’s mixed feelings around this so your comments are particularly well-timed, for me at least.

Thanks again to everyone for making this such a productive and informative conversation. I’m grateful for the education.


On the occasion that I deal with unknowns, I start either at the end and work backwards, somewhere in the middle, or several pages in. That seems to get past the stuff that will immediately get IDed. I’ve also found that the very first observation occasionally hasn’t had time to load an ID (maybe not so much anymore, but it has happened). I have been tempted to add as unknown, but know that I get annoyed at the unknowns sometimes and try to avoid it. No criticism of those who do, though.


I just want to agree emphatically with the sentiments here. It makes going through the Euphorbias so much more painless! So, THANK YOU!!!


@tigerbb Thank you!!! Slogging through Unknowns can be draining (potted plants, rargh) but it’s gratifying to watch some observation that had been lost in the Unknown abyss for ages reach RG. Even better when they instigate interesting taxonomic conversation in the comments.

Now, back to forgetting that long-jawed orbweavers are equal to and not below orbweavers for me! ;) (Thank you for your patience!)


The tingle of serendipity, even if it’s just 1 in 300, is what keeps me digging through the unknowns- like being in a used bookstore but different.

Then there’s finding the really weird stuff that stays unknown but I have to favorite it just in case the mystery is solved. Like, what the heck? eg, https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/4926167 or https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/17380053


For me it is because typing species name manually for each observation takes a while, and breaks my field workflow even more than it does already. It takes 1-2 seconds to snap a photo with the app. It takes 6/7 seconds or more to type a name in per observation. I usually have downtime on the way home after a field day so it works out fine to add the IDs later.


I wonder if there could be an option to click in the field that says something like “I’ll add it later”. It would still be time-saving and these observations would go through the same flow on the identifying side (i.e. into the Unknowns), but they could have some kind of flag with the “I’ll add it later” that would let identifiers know to either not touch them or only identify them if they have specific knowledge.

I love the idea of the Draft Mode, but I wonder about something like this for @tonyrebelo’s situation, where he really wants his observations posted but would like the Unknowns identifiers to exclude them from their activities. Maybe his situation is unique enough that it doesn’t require a separate feature? I don’t know.

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Did you know you only have to type the first 3 letters of each word, eg ver inc for Verbena incompta? Almost always brings up the species.


Yes, I’m always teaching people this – however it doesn’t work on the app versions, which is when I really need it.

The app. That’s one big reason, at least.

The iNat app on android is really, really slow. I sometimes (rarely) use it to upload stuff from the field, which usually happens only when I’m not carrying my camera, or when I see something without intending to have a bunch of things to batch upload at the end of the trip. The identify feature on the app sometimes does something, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes I just happen to push an upload through without noticing I haven’t entered an ID (my bad, but yes, this happens to me only on the app).

I’ve seen many newcomers missing the ID field when they upload from the app (for whatever reason) and not from the website, so it’s definitely not just me.

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I struggle with slowness on the app, but I thought it was just my phone. I probably have 100 observations, most with multiple images from a long hike on Monday and its taken me hours to upload half or them. A more streamlined option for the app would helpful, and I’m only a moderate user.

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Using the Android app stateside for the first time I can see how so many observations upload as unknown. In the field I did not have Internet nor the time to ID. Once I returned to WiFi the observations automatically began uploading. Although I paused the upload, with the uploads partially begun and paused I could not edit the observations. So the observations are going up as unknowns. And uploading only slowly, and one appears to have lost its image, another one appears to have an incorrect time stamp. Please pardon me for not citing links, the uploads are still occurring as I write this. The app works better connected, working one observation at a time - the way I have used the app in the past. Might be another set of reasons for so many unknowns going up, even for a non-power user such as myself.

Post-script: the observations uploaded, the photo which was not visible in the app appeared when checked from a desktop. I am working on the unknowns.

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