Wildlife Society conference... Id'ing for others and the dreaded 'expert fatigue...'

I had the pleasure of going to the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society conference last week in San Antonio -- I listened to some great research and got to meet some really incredible people! I was extremely lucky to meet several iNatters in person -- I was able to thank them first hand for sharing their expertise on iNaturalist. Especially enjoyed meeting/seeing again @connor22 @jonahevans @russellm08 @andygluesenkamp @cullen @mdwarriner @griff @rdenkhaus @ryan3 @marshamay @markklym and probably several others that I can't recall off hand... It was great to talk iNat with these folks too!

I did hear one thing over and over from folks that I was trying to introduce iNat to and from folks that have tried using it before: "Oh, it sounds like that takes up a lot of time..." With a smile and a wink, I said, "Yep, time well spent!" :)

It makes me think of something I remember reading about bugguide -- that experts were getting worn out from the repeated "what is this?" question... especially one accompanied with a cruddy image and/or not great location data... I wonder how much expert fatigue has already been going on in this network too.

I must admit, I spend many many hours each day on iNaturalist. Usually, as I lay in bed in the evening, I'm looking through observations and training myself to learn some names of critters. I've given up TV. I'm no longer following any sports. I've ditched facebook for the most part (although, I do use it to promote iNat). I think these are wonderful substitutions, and I genuinely enjoy spending time on iNat (help others and learn at the same time). It really makes me super happy! But it does make me wonder, "how many folks get into this sort of situation and then get worn out?"

I hope it's not occurring too frequently -- an expert logs in, helps out some folks, and then gets off because of the time devotion. I so appreciate all of the people that log in often to help out others and distribute their knowledge in ID'ing stuff (as well as posting some incredible observations!).

What do you think? Do you think iNat has the power to wear people out too? How is this remedied?

Think with me out loud, won't you?!? :)

Posted by sambiology sambiology, February 24, 2016 21:49

Observations

Photos / Sounds

What

Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis

Observer

sambiology

Date

February 17, 2016

Description

Did some road bird watching on the way down to the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society conference. Noticed several birds along the power lines! :)

Photos / Sounds

What

Fox Squirrel Sciurus niger

Observer

sambiology

Date

February 18, 2016

Description

During the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society conference, I went to walk around San Antonio. :)

Photos / Sounds

What

Florida Hammock Sandmat Euphorbia ophthalmica

Observer

sambiology

Date

February 18, 2016

Description

During the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society conference, I went to walk around San Antonio. :)

Photos / Sounds

What

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis

Observer

sambiology

Date

February 20, 2016

Description

After the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society conference, I went to walk around Brackenridge Park during lunch -- cool place!

Photos / Sounds

What

Green Anole Anolis carolinensis

Observer

sambiology

Date

February 20, 2016

Description

After the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society conference, I went to walk around Brackenridge Park during lunch -- cool place!

Photos / Sounds

What

Tahitian Bridalveil Gibasis pellucida

Observer

sambiology

Date

February 20, 2016

Description

After the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society conference, I went to walk around Brackenridge Park during lunch -- cool place!

This was the plant of the day! I'd never seen this one before -- not totally sure this is the right species though. :)

Photos / Sounds

What

Common Buckeye Junonia coenia

Observer

sambiology

Date

February 21, 2016

Description

Gorgeous butterfly! :)

Photos / Sounds

What

Bordered Patch Chlosyne lacinia

Observer

sambiology

Date

February 21, 2016

Description

I've traveled these grounds several times but I still spot some neat new things! :)

Comments

I think the difference is the passiveness of watching sports, Facebook, etc. Contributing observations to iNat means that you've actively been outside, which is a great joy for me, you, and I would guess a lot of people on here. And it's a joy that iNat helps grow and support, not something that depends on iNat's existence (i.e., I liked being outside pre-iNat). If one was only contributing IDs, I could see losing interest after a while -- for some taxa, there are already niche websites, apps, listservs. messageboards, etc that scratch a specialist's itch with tighter communities (meetings, publications, etc).

I feel you on substitution! I follow baseball way way less compared to my pre-iNat days. Still watch shows on Netflix/Amazon etc because importantly (I think) that's a leisure activity I can share with my wife. For some reason, she is not thrilled watching me sit in front of a computer entering observations or favoriting more of BJ Staceys' latest sightings.

Anyway, I think as long as happiness is primarily derived from being outside and sharing that experience with others, and less about the website itself, fatigue seems unlikely.

Posted by muir over 5 years ago (Flag)

I am much like you, Sam. I contribute a fair number of records but I make a great many IDs and certainly spend several hours per day on iNat. It is sometimes frustrating that the same sort of incorrect IDs come up regularly, but then I understand the submitter may never have personally encountered that species before. I have a file with brief explanatory sentences about certain species or species groups that I seem to comment on all the time, so I can just cut and paste several sentences without having to re-write it from scratch each time. I sometimes find it curious that someone who is obviously very much a beginner will post an incorrect ID and even after a number of long-time, experienced folks will offer a correct ID, the original submitter just stays with the original ID. But that is all part of the community system and each person can choose his or her own IDs. But to answer your question, yes I do get a little burned out on occasion making ID after ID, but I've been doing it for three years+ so I guess I'm not all that burned out. I am aware of several very knowledgeable folks who have been on iNat for several years, but then they drop off. Sometimes they come back, but not always. iNat is a wonderful tool for people to learn.

Posted by greglasley over 5 years ago (Flag)

As for expert fatigue, in my case I don't normally post observations, I mostly just make IDs for other people. I admit that I do tend to ID rather too many mollusk observations every day! The volume of material I get through is a bit ludicrous.

Of course I really enjoy it a great deal. It is actually my favorite thing to do, especially during the winter here in NYC when going outside is often not an attractive option. And I am keeping my knowledge current, and also really learning a lot of new stuff in the process of making all these IDs.

But as iNaturalist grows (and it is growing rapidly) I do need to accept the fact that I can't even try to say something about every mollusk observation that I manage to see on here even though I might feel like I want to! ;)

And yes, I agree it is difficult, and a bit discouraging when images are not good enough -- I should consider more often referring people to my profile page, where I have some instructions about how to photograph mollusks in such a way that there is a good chance they can be identified to species. (I think a lot of inexperienced people imagine that there are perhaps only a very few snail species to chose from, whereas in fact the gastropods are second only to the insects in numbers of species within one class.)

I reckon that "expert fatigue" can be avoided by making sure that we only doing as much as we want to, not as much as we feel we "ought to" in some weird undefined way, or as much as we might be able to, if we cram it all in, every day of the week.

I am at the age where I really want to share my knowledge, to help others and hopefully to turn other people on to malacology. I enjoy teaching, and this is a great place to do all those things.

Thanks to everyone who post observations on here, and to those who maintain the code, and of course to CalAcademy for underwriting it. All of you for make this wonderful site possible. :)

Posted by susanhewitt over 5 years ago (Flag)

People will come and go from iNat, as they will from anything. Some will find new interests (or obsessions) and check in less frequently, or stop altogether. Others will, as mentioned, burn out due to the time commitment. I ran into a friend today who is a local county park ranger (leading a wildflower hike as I was busily making observations). I mentioned iNat to him; he said he used to post observations to eBird, but the time commitment made it difficult. Nonetheless, I'll work on him!

In my time I've come and gone from several interests/obsessions: woodworking, ham radio (still have my license, but haven't been "radioactive" in 15 years), genealogy and Flight Simulator among others. Still and always a baseball fan, though.

I'm quite new to iNat, just 5 or 6 weeks in, and am loving it, evangelizing for it, and don't foresee losing interest. But it could happen. Something new and shiny could come along, or some life-changing experience could distract me. I doubt there's a remedy for the fact that people burn out or lose interest or just move on. Each of us has to find the right balance in our lives. But iNat is (in my humble o) as fascinating a social network for bio geeks as I can imagine. Some may drop out, but others will come along to replace them. It's gonna be around for a while!

I add my thanks to those Susan expressed, thank you, Sam, for the encouragement you gave me in my early days, and thanks to you, Greg, for the bird IDs.

Posted by stevejones over 5 years ago (Flag)

Really nice comments from both Steve and Susan. Steve mentioned the social network for biogeeks that iNat has become and that is quite true! I am privileged to have met personally more than 50 new friends through iNat which has been just truly amazing! I've attended iNat gatherings in north Texas and here in Austin and poked around the deserts of AZ and CA with iNatters as well as all over Texas. Just a great community which adds immeasurably to my life.

Posted by greglasley over 5 years ago (Flag)

I appreciate your post, Sam, and the additional thoughtful comments by others.

In fact, I have recently spent some time contemplating and worrying about what would happen if the wonderful iNat folks that faithfully ID my observations and tactfully suggest and correct and patiently instruct me, did "burn out" and abandon their participation in iNat.

(I confess, I am one that continues to fumble with incorrect identifications and awful-out-of-focus photographs.)
In mid November of 2013, my sister sent me the link to iNat with the comment that it may be something I might be interested in. I looked at it but did not pursue. The following week, I attended the new class training on Herpetology for our Texas Master Naturalist chapter taught by Dr. Toby Hibbitts (TAMU). He made several references to the use and value of iNat. That night, I went home, joined iNaturalist.org, and was totally addicted.

It is impossible to thank every person who has helped me via iNat. Sam, you are certainly one. And to those that have responded to his post: Greg - you are my premier mentor, invertzoo - you instructed me on photo views of snails necessary for ID and have been a faithful aid in ID's , and Matt Muir, the quote in your profile:
“When an elder dies a whole library is buried with him.” (African Proverb)
is the reason I hope all iNat volunteers serving as expert taxonomists, identifiers and teachers allow those of us addicts on the learning curve to continue to spend countless hours contributing to and learning from iNat.org.

Posted by connlindajo over 5 years ago (Flag)

This is sort of related to "expert fatigue". I know birds best, and during my first couple years of using iNaturalist, I felt some responsibility to keep my eye on new bird observations and help make them Research Grade. But as more birders have joined, this feeling went away. Now by the time I see most new bird observations on my dashboard they're already Research Grade with two or three identifications. Occasionally I search for bird observations in North America that need identification and try to add a few IDs.

Birds of course, have the largest community of experts and enthusiasts. Hopefully iNaturalist will help grow communities around more taxons!

Posted by mikaelb over 5 years ago (Flag)

I'm fairly new to identifying species. Looking around and observing the myriads of flora and fauna (including humans) and how they all interact is my greatest fascination and interest. I have learned a lot from these observations as well as from research on the internet, but I also have learned much from others here at iNat and find it is a great network for learning as well as sharing and helping others to learn. I have enjoyed photography since childhood, so photographing what I see is fun for me.

I have a wide variety of competing interests and I find that like any interest, there are times when I am enthusiastic and times when something else attracts my attention. Overdoing anything will cause fatigue. That just means it's time to take a break try something else, recuperate, and come back rejuvenated and enthusiastic.

Posted by oz4caster over 5 years ago (Flag)

Comment from a non-expert, hope that's OK...
Experts who do hundreds or thousands of IDs are surely not doing it out of self-enslavement; i would expect in most cases their motivations are the same as yours, Sam. They find pleasure in solving the puzzle, in mentoring other observers, and in promoting the effort. Those of us who are just getting going may use identification as a learning tool. It can even be a social tool, a way of becoming a part of the community. I am excited about the acquaintances i've made here. Fellow biogeeks!
There are probably other IDers whose motivation is to stay at the top of the leaderboards; i would like to believe those would be the ones who would burn out. Perhaps wishful thinking on my part.
If YOU start feeling burned out, take a break for goodness sake! Grab your camera or even just a sack lunch and get out there! Sit under a tree and integrate your knowledge!

Posted by ellen5 over 5 years ago (Flag)

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