Reputation on iSpot

We want to recognise and develop people's expertise in identification on iSpot. One way that might help with this is the iSpot reputation system.

If you go to your profile, you'll see an area headed 'Reputation'. You have nine areas of reputation - Social points, and then scores for each of the eight iSpot Species Groups (Fungi & Lichens, Plants, etc).

You get social points for using the site - much like many other social networking sites. So you gain points for things like making observations and posting comments in the forums. The more points you get, the more stars you have. The stars take increasing amount of effort to earn - it's a lot easier to get your first star than your fifth.

The score for each of the iSpot Species Groups is different, and is designed to show your experience in identification. As with the social points, you have a score which goes up, and you earn 'stars' as it does - only instead of stars you get little icons to match the Group.

To increase your score, you need to contribute identifications, either to your own observations or to other people's. You gain points for the iSpot Groups when other people say 'I agree!' to one of your identifications. An identification is successful if it is as accurate as possible based on the information available. It could be successful if it can only be identified as a Genus, or Family - it's much better to give an accurate identification to family than an inaccurate one to species (for instance, some species can't be safely identified from a photo alone, they might need microscopic examination).

How much your score goes up by when someone says 'I agree!' to one of your observations depends on how big their score for that Group is. If they have a small score, your score will go up a little bit; if they have a big score, your score will go up much more. The score from different people saying 'I agree!' on an identification adds up until you reach the limit, which is the score you'd get if an iSpot Expert said 'I agree!'.

An iSpot Expert is someone that the iSpot team has verified is an expert in a particular area of nature. (We're very keen to work closely with experts - we have several working with us already, but we'd love more. If you have verifiable expertise - e.g. through a recording scheme or natural history society, please get in touch via the contact form!)

That's a lot to take in. Here's an example to make it a bit clearer.

Let's say you identified a brown-lipped banded snail, Cepaea nemoralis, from a good photo showing the important identification features. Alice sees the identification, and agrees with it, so clicks 'I agree!'. Alice has already had a couple of agreements for some of her observations of Invertebrates, so she has a small score, and her agreement for your snail identification raises your score by a little bit. Then Bob, who has been on the site for a long time and has built up a moderately high score, also clicks 'I agree!'. That raises your score by a bit more. Then Carol, who is an iSpot Expert for Invertebrates, comes along, and agrees too. She clicks 'I agree!', and your score for Invertebrates goes up to the maximum you can get from a single identification. Anyone else giving you an agreement won't increase your score.

This system is a little bit complex, but the main principles are:
- your score goes up when people say 'I agree!' for one of your identifications
- how much it goes up depends on their score
- more than one person can say 'I agree!' for each identification

We don't know of anyone else trying to keep account of people's expertise quite like this, so it's a bit experimental, and we will almost certainly want to tweak the system to make sure it stays fair once we've seen how people are working with it in practice.

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