David Trevan's picture

Plant experts!

Is it my imagination or are we seeing less plant experts on iSpot?Up until now you could more or less guarantee an agreement( if you got it right that is!) from the erudite and excellent Cicuta, with occasional appearances from Tim Rich, and perhaps very occasional contributions from Alan S.

I have noticed a few quite incorrectly named observations which no one seems to have picked up on, where the weight of an expert would be very helpful.

I hope we are not going to get into a "you don't know what you've got till it's gone"scenario with our plant experts(with apologies to Joni Mitchell!!)

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Comments

ophrys's picture

Expertise

To be fair to them, those three have been dipping in and out recently, haven't they? Alan S has been commenting on Euphrasia and Epilobium, and Cicuta on various plants. I'm not sure it is any different, but there are vastly more pictures of plants (and other groups) being posted these days. That being the case, I don't think we can expect those experts to pick up every plant posted. I suppose there is also the problem that experts are out in the field at this time of year, making their free time more precious.

At least there are plant experts...try finding a bird expert. No chance.

Ian
_________________

My Flickr photos...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/52163027@N02/

Fenwickfield's picture

same thought

I do think they are probably doing field trips ect but Cicuta is back and they probably have holidays too. I have noticed wrong identifications but the pictures are usually so poor that it is hard to give an alternative id and if you put something in the comments section there is normally no response.I also think there are enough non experts (knowledgable badge) like yourself David that know what there talking about so there will always be the odd mistake.
As for bird experts I would class yourself ophrys as one and I did notice an expert got a bird wrong a while ago so just because you have a badge does not mean they know everything.I am not the best on birds but even I knew it was wrong.

Fenwickfield

AlanS's picture

LOL

I'm being talked about!

Answering for myself, I have a look at the plant observations when I have not much else to do, and when time is short I stick to lichens, and when time is VERY short (as has been the case over the last couple of months), then I cannot make much contribution to iSpot at all. I am only on iSpot now as I am kinda winding down after just finishing a major job for work and waiting for my brain to think about sleep.

The other factor is I confess to being easily discouraged by large batches of foreign observations, and as we don't have the long-promised filter, I lose interest and go and do something else.

Of course, I do assume that Cicuta and Tim will have everything covered anyway.

Alan

Fenwickfield's picture

Not at all

Your were not being talked about no disrespect but I classed you as a fungi and lichen expert.I am not blowing my own trumpet here or maybe I am but I am very knowledgeable with plants and have a qualifications in plant biology and have worked in this sector for 35 years so personally don't need a plant expert but I do need a fungi and lichen one :)

Sheila

Fenwickfield

AlanS's picture

Yes I was!

You will note, Sheila, that I am specifically mentioned in the first two posts in the thread. My post was not a reply specifically to yours.

Actually I did join iSpot on a lichen matter - I was casually browsing, as I did from time to time, and saw an identification I could not leave alone. As Martin knows me he was good enough to give me the 'expert' badges for both lichens/fungi and also plants - and as I have long been a vice-county recorder for the BSBI, refereee for Euphrasia, have served on BSBI committees and have run various workshops and "difficult plants" courses, I do think I merit my plant expert badge too.

But yes, there is plenty of plant expertise, including yourself, and I feel my contributions are more valuable when I look at lichens and the occasional other fungi.

btw, thanks for the Microglossum. When students stop tapping on my office door for a moment, I shall reply!

Alan

Fenwickfield's picture

pleased

I am pleased you got it,I now always keep my finds for a few day just in case there needed,so if there are any other's you would like if I find them I will send them

Sheila

Fenwickfield

Rachy Ramone's picture

Filters?

Filter? Filter? *ears prick up* I'm very new to iSpot, and already I'm getting frustrated at not being able to select UK only plants.

I really have no interest in, or experience with, exotic plants from abroad. (It's hard enough getting to grips with just the UK ones!)

Also, is it me or is the site still rather clunky to use? I find if I apply the "plant" filter to the new observations, run along the line, pick one and look at it, then click "back" it takes me back, not to the line, but to the original unfiltered page.

This is annoying, and (I have to admit it) it does discourage me from looking at other people's observations....

Anyone know how we apply pressure to get enhancements to the site?

Rachy

Rachy Ramone

How to take close-ups with cheap phone and hand-lens:
http://tree-and-shrub-id.blogspot.co.uk/p/how-to-close-ups.html
Field Guides for Budding Botanists:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01A8YB0WY

bobthebirder's picture

enhancements

Thanks for these comments Rachy, I'll pass them on to Martin Harvey and Jon Rosewell that are developing the site.

Bob Ford

Rachy Ramone's picture

Further enhancements to site

Thanks Bob, good to know that there is room for development. Perhaps you should have a tab/button for "site feedback" or "how can we improve?" or something similar?

Talking of which, is it possible to ask/encourage contributors to give a little more detail when they post an observation?

I'm talking about the Botany side, but I assume this will apply throughout.

Example; a bunch of Observations appeared recently, just pics of the leaves, with no (as it were) supporting evidence, just the "I am very sure".

It would be more helpful to aspiring botanists if the poster were to confirm the main ID features: whether leaves were opposite or alternate, features of the bark or fruits, distinctive arrangement of the branches, that sort of thing. Even a note to the effect that they have observed it through the seasons and are "very sure" of the ID would be more reassuring.

This is not a criticism of an individual, I must hasten to say - *cringes at the thought of inadvertently annoying an established member* - but is given in the spirit of helping beginners and improvers.

Rachy

Rachy Ramone

How to take close-ups with cheap phone and hand-lens:
http://tree-and-shrub-id.blogspot.co.uk/p/how-to-close-ups.html
Field Guides for Budding Botanists:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01A8YB0WY

Martin Harvey's picture

feedback

Rachy, feedback is welcome via our site feedback forums at:
http://www.ispot.org.uk/forum/1483

or by using the Contact form at:
http://www.ispot.org.uk/contact_us

----
Entomologist and biological recorder

Rachy Ramone's picture

*blushes*

Ho hum, ten minutes after making my comment I found that the Forums tab has rather more subjects that I thought, as I hadn't scrolled down.

Sorry! Still a beginner at iSpot!

I was very interested to read the thread about a "Disagree" button, as I had been wondering the same thing myself.

Rachy Ramone

How to take close-ups with cheap phone and hand-lens:
http://tree-and-shrub-id.blogspot.co.uk/p/how-to-close-ups.html
Field Guides for Budding Botanists:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01A8YB0WY

AlanS's picture

Yes!

"Talking of which, is it possible to ask/encourage contributors to give a little more detail when they post an observation?

I'm talking about the Botany side, but I assume this will apply throughout."

Rachy, just to say I wholeheartedly agree with you.

Occasionally I have a moan about this and I forget to have the diplomacy filter switched on and then people take it personally, which is never my intention.

But I do think that when people are posting to get an identification, then sometimes they need to think about how much information they are providing themselves.

A bit like when someone sent me a single part of a flowering stem of a Euphrasia for identification, not much use anyway, but the sum total of location and ecological information provided was "found on holiday".

Alan

Rachy Ramone's picture

It's all in the detail..

Hi Alan, glad to hear your comments ("found on holiday" lovely! Hope you reponded "it's a flower.").

I would say that it's not just when asking for an ID, but also when putting an observation of which they are as sure as they can be, for two reasons - and here, I speak on behalf of all beginners and improvers:

Firstly, for all we know, they are wrong!

Secondly, as per my earlier comment, by running briefly through the identifying characteristics, the poster is helping to inform and educate everyone who reads it.

I'm a very new iSpotter, but when I offer up something for ID, I try to tactfully say why it's not A B or C, not just to help others give me the correct ID, but also to help them avoid jumping to a quick conclusion which I would then have to negate, which might make them feel a bit daft, or which makes me look picky!

Rachy Ramone

How to take close-ups with cheap phone and hand-lens:
http://tree-and-shrub-id.blogspot.co.uk/p/how-to-close-ups.html
Field Guides for Budding Botanists:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01A8YB0WY

Rachy Ramone's picture

Unhelpful location...

PS, I'm just trawling through new Observations, and have noticed someone asking for an ID, giving the location as "8, Riverside Close".

Yup, that really narrows it down! A county would be much, much more helpful....

Rachy Ramone

How to take close-ups with cheap phone and hand-lens:
http://tree-and-shrub-id.blogspot.co.uk/p/how-to-close-ups.html
Field Guides for Budding Botanists:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01A8YB0WY

lavateraguy's picture

That's iSpot's fault

If you use the map feature to specify the location, either by clicking on the map, or by giving it a GR, the format "8, Riverside Close" is what you get.

But if you click on the location in the observation iSpot pops up a map showing where it is. (But you have to zoom out a couple of stops before you can tell where in the country it is.)

Martin Harvey's picture

Location names

It's true that when you click on the map to add your location, a name for the place is offered. This comes from the Google map, and Google often defaults to the nearest road name. However, once you've clicked on the map you can choose to over-type the name that Google suggests, and give it whichever name you would prefer (e,g, for a nature reserve or your local park etc.). And having set up a location once, you can use it again next time round by simply typing in part of the name, rather than having to click on the map again.

Once the observation is saved, anyone can click on the location link and see the location and a UK grid reference, but we aren't able to assign counties automatically. This may become possible with the planned changes to iSpot that I mentioned earlier in this discussion.

----
Entomologist and biological recorder

Rachy Ramone's picture

Really?

Oh, thanks for that - see, I'm learning all the while.

Personally I think it would be more appropriate to overtype the "Riverside Close" with the name of the county, or a more general description, but leave the "hide precise location" box unticked. If you want others to be able to see the exact location, you can always add text to the Location Notes, box, can't you?

Rachy Ramone

How to take close-ups with cheap phone and hand-lens:
http://tree-and-shrub-id.blogspot.co.uk/p/how-to-close-ups.html
Field Guides for Budding Botanists:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01A8YB0WY

Fenwickfield's picture

Comments

I have seen all the comments Rachy
There are lots of things that could be improved on ispot but it involves the user.I always put exact location,very good detailed photo's in depth information on subject habitat ect but we will never be able to get everyone to do this as it depends on the persons level of interest in the subject.I have see some not wishing to put blame on the OU students.this is a regular theme when the person put's a job lot of very poor photos on with no added information and you even have to guess what they want identified this happens with plants and lichen's a lot I now don't even bother to look.I am willing to spend time helping new folks if they genuinely want to learn but not when no effort is made on there part.
Then you get people who are just a bit curious about something they have found which I have no problem helping them with the identification.

Fenwickfield

Martin Harvey's picture

extra information

On the whole I entirely agree with the comments above about how useful it is to add details and use reasonable photos. However, I would just stress that iSpot has always aimed to be accessible to people from all backgrounds, including children and others who may be completely new to wildlife observation. Not everyone realises what level of detail is needed, and part of the process of using iSpot is to allow people to learn those skills.

So it's great if we can gently encourage people to add all relevant information, but just bear in mind that if you encounter a new iSpot user they may not be familiar with what level of information is useful. One of the really good things about the community on iSpot is that in the vast majority of cases it remains friendly and encouraging while helping people learn what is needed to take wildlife identification further.

----
Entomologist and biological recorder

Rachy Ramone's picture

But I AM a new iSpot user!

Thanks Martin, well said, and nicely written.

I've done my bit, I asked an iSpotter, who was asking for an ID of a tree, with a pic taken from about 100 yards away, to get a close-up of a leaf, and he did!

It's quite a thrill when people respond so directly, isn't it?

Rachy Ramone

How to take close-ups with cheap phone and hand-lens:
http://tree-and-shrub-id.blogspot.co.uk/p/how-to-close-ups.html
Field Guides for Budding Botanists:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01A8YB0WY

Martin Harvey's picture

good result

Great, well done Rachy, that's exactly the sort of interaction we hope iSpot encourages :-)

----
Entomologist and biological recorder

Tony Rebelo's picture

wheels go around

Interesting that after this, for the "upgrade" we now again have a help with ID carousel which is GLOBAL, and also our myspot > changes is GLOBAL.
I thought it was just me being anal: I hate having to wade though UK observations trying to ID the southern African observations.

Interesting to see that this appears (from the conversations below) to have been fixed in 2013, and then Broken again in the September upgrade.

Martin Harvey's picture

Experts and filters

Thanks for the discussion above. Filters for geographical areas are on their way (and yes, they have been promised for quite a long time now!), as part of some broader developments and upgrades to iSpot, but there is still quite a lot of technical development to do before these will be visible on the site and I can't give a definite timescale yet. We'll let you know as soon as we can. Many of the issues we are trying to address are those that have been reported to us by iSpot users, and all such feedback is valuable and gets logged.

Regarding expert availability, iSpot is dependent on, and very grateful to, those experts who volunteer their time to help out on iSpot. And clearly the amount of time people have to spend on iSpot will vary. We are always on the lookout for further expert contributors who could be invited to take part in iSpot, so do let us know if you're aware of anyone who might be able to help. But the people who are badged as experts on iSpot are just part of the story, and there are many knowledgeable iSpot users who are not specifically badged but have built up high reputation scores and made many valuable contributions to identifying observations for others. We believe the iSpot community as a whole continues to do a good job of providing correct identifications and helpful feedback in the vast majority of cases, although no doubt there will always be the occasional misidentification or unanswered question.

Regarding Rachy's point about clicking on an observation and then clicking on "back", can you let me know exactly where this happens? Are you starting from the "My Unread" list, or the "Browse Observations" list? On my computer when I click back it does retain the plants filter, but if you can give me some more information on exactly where this happens for you we can look into it.

----
Entomologist and biological recorder

Rachy Ramone's picture

"back" failure

Hi Martin, this is how it goes:

-Home:
-First gallery, "Latest Observations", click on "plant" icon filter below it.
-Click on "more" to move it along.
-Ooh, that one looks interesting, click on it, read it.
-Click on "back" arrow on browser.
Wups, back to original first gallery, eeuw, that's a jolly hairy caterpillar.

I am running Firefox 15.0.1, I have Adblock Plus in action, along with AVG Do Not Track.

Hope you can track down the problem, and thank you for taking an interest.

Rachy Ramone

How to take close-ups with cheap phone and hand-lens:
http://tree-and-shrub-id.blogspot.co.uk/p/how-to-close-ups.html
Field Guides for Budding Botanists:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01A8YB0WY

Martin Harvey's picture

going back

Ah, thanks, I see what you mean. I will report that to our technical developers, but I suspect that it won't be possible to change that particular behaviour in the short term - I'm fairly sure the home page refreshes itself each time you go back to it.

Some possible alternatives:
1. Having set the filter to plants and clicked on more, instead of clicking on an image to open up the observation, try right-clicking and choosing "Open in new tab" or similar wording. This should open up the observation in a new browser tab, while leaving the home page in the place where it was, and with the plants filter applied.

2. Instead of starting from the photos on the home page, try going to the Observations menu at the top of the page and using either "Browse observations" or "Thumbnail gallery". You can apply a plant filter here as well, and as far as I can see the Back button takes you back to the filtered page in this case.

----
Entomologist and biological recorder

Rachy Ramone's picture

Brilliant!

Oh, well done Martin, both of those suggestions work beautifully.

Rachy Ramone

How to take close-ups with cheap phone and hand-lens:
http://tree-and-shrub-id.blogspot.co.uk/p/how-to-close-ups.html
Field Guides for Budding Botanists:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01A8YB0WY

JonathanWallace's picture

The issue of observations

The issue of observations from overseas has been discussed before on iSpot. I accept that some iSpot users are only interested in British observations and that is fine but many British naturalists do travel abroad and are interested to identify the species that they encounter when they do and iSpot can be helpful in this regard. I have more of a gripe with people who upload very large batches of observations in one go - whether from the UK or overseas - as this pushes other people's observations out of view before anyone has a chance to view them. Perhaps it would be posible to put in place some limit on the number of consecutive observations one user can upload?
When one or two observations from overseas are uploaded by a person I think it is a shame if experts ignore them simply because they are not British. As a case in point, a few days ago I uploaded an observation of a Dianthus seen in Germany earlier this summer (http://www.ispot.org.uk/node/302594?nav=users_observations) but am disapointed that no-one has responded to my request for assistance in pinning down the species.

Jonathan Wallace

ophrys's picture

Dianthus

I'll happily help with flowers from abroad, if it is somewhere I have regularly
'planted', like Crete. In the case of your Dianthus, I did see them, but I don't have experience of German species, so I did not comment. I could research what they are, I suppose, but then so could you! I think your problem may simply be that not many people on iSpot have botanised in that area. I don't think it is necessarily a question of the pictures being ignored.

Ian
_________________

My Flickr photos...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/52163027@N02/

Fenwickfield's picture

same problem

I too saw the Dianthus but I only have UK knowledge of plants garden and wild.I have never been abroad and I have never studied plants from other countries so I would have been unable to help.As for lot's of observations being posted at one time I personally go through the thumbnail images each day so would see the observation

Fenwickfield

martinjohnbishop's picture

Dianthus identification

I have now had a look through the Dianthus pictures and come to a conclusion. It would be nice if this could be confirmed by an expert.