Identifying for others... My two cents.

"ID please?"

One of the big selling points of iNaturalist is the help from the community in identifying organisms that you may not know. I like to tell people that their single act of "learning the name of something" actually adds to the global understanding of that organisms' existence in space and time... So, it's a pretty cool thing.

I must admit, I really enjoy ID'ing organisms for others, but I have been wrong many, many, MANY times. Anytime I've ID'ed one of your observations, I highly suggest that you double check me -- google images can be wrong sometimes, but a simple google search of the species name (not necessarily the common name) can lead to some quite reliable sites.

I also try to use the comment section on observations, although, not nearly as much as I should. In my opinion, it's good to put in an "ID based on _____" and backing up the ID with some website or source that the observer to look at.

I think it's ok that people ID organisms that have already been ID'ed several times before. I have done this and continue to do it -- it helps me learn some of the variations in the organisms. It may clog up the dashboard of the power-users, but this is something we need to get over. :)

Now, a challenge: as soon as you learn a new organism, I dare you to look through iNat at the other observations of that organism! That repetition is great for learning. :)

What do you think of ID'ing?!?

Posted by sambiology sambiology, December 13, 2015 18:42

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Well said Sam. I agree.

Also, even when you know an organism really well, and are very reliably able to ID it, I would also ask those people to please take the time to look through the other observations which have been ID'ed as that species. You may find some errors and be able to correct them.

Posted by susanhewitt about 4 years ago (Flag)
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Like your thoughts Sam. A few other thoughts on IDs -- I sorta wish that IDs were not dissapear-able. I like the record of what people thought it might be, and I dislike when incorrect IDs on my observations vanish and it makes the remaining comment discussion less intelligible. Barring that change, I hope we foster a culture where it's okay to be wrong as long as you're making a good faith effort to be correct and are engaged enough to learn and listen when corrected. Like Sam, I've been wrong many times and, when I'm at my best, try to use the comment box to express a level of confidence or source at the time of my ID.

I don't mind the multiple IDs and don't understand why it would bother folks.

I love the community ID feature and had a hand in some of the concepts behind it. One thing I don't particularly love is that if I contribute an ID that is a higher level (e.g., to genus) than its current ID (e.g., to a species within that genus), it counts as a disagreement with the current ID. I sorta wish that everyone would be able to contribute whatever level of taxon ID they're comfortable with, without that particular implication for the community ID. Somewhat related, I think there's great potential for tracking IDs over time to show how we're learning on iNat.

Agreed on clicking through to see other observations of a new organism -- wonderful practice!

-Matt

Posted by muir about 4 years ago (Flag)
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Net ideas! I think if you post an ID to an observation it's important to keep an eye out for later IDs and comments on that observation and react to them appropriately. If you learn your ID was wrong from later traffic on that observation, fix it. And if you're sure your ID is correct but there's some disagreement, post support for your ID.

Matt, doesn't your ID history on an observation stick around? I remember seeing my original ID with a line drawn through it when I change my ID to something else.

Posted by mikaelb about 4 years ago (Flag)
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I love ID'ing stuff too (though I don't do nearly as much as @sambiology!) and I am also trying to get more people into making ids. I agree with @muir that I wish id's couldn't be deleted (@mikaelb you're right it strikes through if you add a later id, but if you aren't comfortable agreeing with the current id and your earlier id is holding up the community id then you can remove it--at least that's the circumstance under which I do). I think that there are plans in the works to make ids permanent and to start offering people things that they can id based on observations they've made or ids they've made for others. Really exciting stuff.

@muir I think the only way that redundant ids are annoying is that most of the time I don't care if people agree with me and only want a notification if they don't (or at least want all of the agreeing notifications condensed).

When I started managing the Great Nature Project, I made a concerted effort to start identifying more things on iNat to build my community credibility. I thought to myself, "What can I confidently identify from photos?" and then I started subscribing to those taxa to get alerts. I'm kind of overwhelmed by iNat alerts now (in the daily digest) so I don't pay close attention to those anymore but occasionally I go through and confirm a bunch of box turtle ids or something. I think if you look you'd be surprised how many observations of common species still need id confirmation (except maybe birds).

Posted by carrieseltzer about 4 years ago (Flag)
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Thank you for the reminders Sam! I need to be better at all of this, and will try to make the habit of adding links to my IDs. (Even for myself. It'll be nice to have the information when I dig up observations later.)

@Muir Yes! I completely agree about our culture and the need to be right all the time! I just read this PBS article about teaching kids its ok to fail. I have 3 kids, so I want to be the model of a person who can handle it. haha. It absolutely applies to all of us, and it's something I'm trying to be better at. Thought I'd pass along if you're interested. :) The open source aspect of iNat makes me less afraid of being wrong because I know there are plenty of people to help correct me. And so far, every one I've asked for help has been great about explaining something further. I learn so much when I'm wrong.
http://www.pbs.org/parents/expert-tips-advice/2015/11/teaching-children-its-ok-to-fail/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=pbsofficial&utm_campaign=parents_expert

@carrieseltzer how do you subscribe to a taxa!?!

Posted by rebecca_nh about 4 years ago (Flag)
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So @kueda just told me that you CAN turn off notifications for confirming IDs in your account settings under "Activity settings". :-)

@rebecca_atx to subscribe to any taxon, just scroll down towards the bottom of the page and look for "Subscribe to observations from this taxon" on the lower left. You can subscribe at any level, so I have some entire plant families (uncommon tropical stuff), interesting animal genera (e.g. Ursus), and iconic species that are easy to ID (e.g. monarchs).

Posted by carrieseltzer about 4 years ago (Flag)
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Another thoughtful post, Sam! You have done so much to help make iNat what it is for so many. Thank you.
I also appreciated @muir 's comment: "I hope we foster a culture where it's okay to be wrong as long as you're making a good faith effort to be correct and are engaged enough to learn and listen when corrected."

Posted by connlindajo about 4 years ago (Flag)
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FWIW, we allow people to delete IDs mostly so they can correct trivial mistakes, like when you ID something as the spider genus Collinsia when you meant to ID it as the plant genus Collinsia. Ways to prevent deletion of IDs because you were genuinely wrong and not just tripped up by synonymy always seem hacky or arbitrarily mean-spirited or hard to communicate, like preventing deletion after a certain amount of time.

I actually *usually* find myself trying to ID other observations of a species I just learned to ID myself, mostly because I'm curious about where else it's been spotted.

Posted by kueda about 4 years ago (Flag)
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@kueda Agreed. It would be pretty clumsy (and lead to lots of requests for exceptions) to not allow ppl to delete IDs. And despite my words above, I also sometimes delete IDs. But if I delete because of pure shame and being wrong (but for example, I don't know enough to contribute an alternative ID), I try to follow good practice by leaving a comment. Aspirational, anyway. I would welcome a "delete" option that crossed the ID out (retaining the visual record) that did not require an alternative ID submitted.

@rebecca_atx Ha! Appreciate the link. I'm a parent too -- which I think pretty effectively erodes one's ability to feel right all the time! In general, in talking to people IRL, I find that people really vary widely in their willingness to suggest an ID they might be wrong about. Perhaps particularly conservative if they're a known specialist for that taxon.

re: for species that I just learned and browsing other observations. I often leave comments on other people's observations -- "You might consider..." or "Check out this as an option...." rather than submit an ID. I'm totally with Ken-ichi on the curiosity of where else the critter is found, but am usually not confident enough to start IDing observations other than my own. I get the sense that some iNat users would prefer I also add an ID, but whatever.

Finally, YES on this @mikaelb "if you're sure your ID is correct but there's some disagreement, post support for your ID." I love it (and learn a lot) when someone is brave enough to buck a consensus ID and (politely) show everybody the error of their ways.

Posted by muir about 4 years ago (Flag)
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once I find a new species I am excited about (or sometimes with a known species) I like to click around on other nearby 'casual grade' observations of the same species on the map to try to ID those too. Though sadly many of them are usually my observations :)

I make it a point not to delete IDs unless they are as @kueda described - typo type things.

And yeah if I am uncertain about something, like @muir i leave a comment rather than ID. Sometimes upon discussion with that person I'll later agree with the ID i suggested if it seems solid but often I don't and let them use it or not, and let someone else who knows the species better give it research grade.

As for the coarser level IDs causing disagreement... I have mixed feelings because I want a way to be able to show disagreement with a finer scale ID... but it does cause confusion. I've already had one case where someone did that to me and I got annoyed and then after talking to them realized it wasn't an intentional disagreement. I tried to look through the help documentation for a description of how this all works, but wasn't able to find it quickly.

Posted by charlie about 4 years ago (Flag)
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Thanks everyone for the great comments and insight.

I am so lucky to have worked in the herbarium for a bit, and I enjoyed looking at the specimens' ID history in the annotations... In some cases, people would annotate the specimen with a simply synonym or 'new name.' In other cases, I saw real arguments on the specimen -- annotation battles! I vividly remember seeing Aster specimens when it was broken up into several other genera -- some botanists took out their frustration on an annotation label. :)

That is such a valid part of our understanding of the species. What we call it changes with our understanding. Some things that we think we understand get thrown a curve-ball by some odd observation. It's wonderful!*

*it's wonderful when it remains cordial, of course... I've read of lots of battles over 'what do we call this?' that are quite unfortunate and don't really matter in the big scale of things... An organism doesn't care what we call it. Few plants come when I holler out their name in the field anyways. :)

Posted by sambiology about 4 years ago (Flag)

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