I've created a monster - We need to be careful - I need your help
As the weeks of development on this web site mounted I realized I had two main fears.
1) I had gone to a great deal of trouble to develop a contributory site that only I would end up using.
2) That I would get more of a response than I could manage.
I think I've wound up in the second situation, and I didn't realize just how much work it would be.
As the "publisher" of the site, I feel responsible for the content. I try to look over all submissions and do "fact checking". Because of various things going on in my life this is turning out to be quite a burden.
Maybe I'm misleading myself, but I feel like this site has an air of authority. I don't want to spread misinformation. This stuff is hard. I constantly find myself revising my own determinations. I'm nonconfrontational by nature. Even though I might feel confident that someone has made a mistake, I find it hard to express that. I like words of encouragement. I don't want to discourage anybody but at the same time I don't want visitors to be misled by what they find here.
I am having conflicts with myself about the site and I'm looking for some feedback. Certainly I recognize that many of you are spending significant time and effort contributing and I certainly do appreciate it.
We must be careful. We should have a high level of confidence before stating a determination. I recognize that most of us, including myself, are not trained as taxonomists. It is easy and tempting to find an image of something very similar to our own and to convince ourself that must be it. That's usually not good enough. Strictly speaking, we should be working from keys published in the appropriate literature. Of course that's generally not feasible with just an image to go on. Let me describe some of my own techniques.
I'm generally not satisfied until I have confirmation from several sources, and I've accumulated dozens of technical references. While something like the Audubon guide may be useful for getting you in the ballpark, I wouldn't rely on that. For butterflies and dragonflies, there are good easily available sources (the "Through Binoculars" series, for example). Things are tougher for difficult orders like the beetles and flies. In those cases you'll want to study wing venation, antennae shape, and other small details. Those characters might get you to a family and in most cases that generally makes me happy. Sometimes a common species will be mentioned. If that seems like a good match, I'll try to verify the range and season. If that checks out I'll see how many other species might occur in the genus and then use a process of elimination to narrow it down. Often, I'm still unsure but I might feel confident enough to at least suggest that it might be what I've found, particularly if I can find good images online. You'll also want to pay attention to behavior you noticed. What was the foodplant? Habitat? Make sure those are all consistent with your research.
I want to keep the site open. I know that many people are in a position to make great and potentially significant contributions. If we're careful, this site could become a valuable virtual collection. We could also ruin any chance of that by making obvious mistakes that ruin its credibility.
On a personal note, I've become overly obsessed with this whole project. I need to restore some balance in my life and so I need to find some way to minimize my daily involvement. My wife would not ask me to give up my hobby, but she's definitely (and reasonably) asking me to change my priorities with respect to the whole enterprise. I've also found myself so busy checking others people's bugs that I can't find time for my own and I'm missing that.
Am I going off the deep end here? Am I taking things too seriously? Does anyone have any suggestions for me?
Feel free to post here or email me privately. Don't be upset If I don't reply right away though. It'll be because of that whole balance thing mentioned above.