I've noticed that the museum experts (other than Florin) have been unusually quiet this year, and even Florin is only occasionally contributing. Is this a casualty of austerity cuts in UK public funds?
Hi Alan, and all contributors to our Identification Forums.
I am pleased to reassure you that there have been no 'austerity cuts' within my Identification and Advisory Service Team. Luanne has left us for pastures new (at the end of March) and 'Tipula' is currently on protracted leave; however two new members have joined us to replace them in the last two weeks. These new staff are currently finding their feet and catching up with a backlog of physical specimens but will be making an appearance on a Forum near you soon - this Forum of course!
I continue to identify and comment regularly but increasingly find that as the number of forum users and contributors grows there becomes a greater chance that postings are answered and/or commented on within the board membership itself. This is certainly true for the more routine identifications but also for several difficult groups that are now frequently answered by those more expert in these groups than myself and my colleagues, and therein lies the value of such forums.
If there are particular posts that have not been answered or you have suggestions for improvements/modifications please contact me by email to discuss - email@example.com
All the best,
Stuart (aka bombuslucorum)
As you say, many are answered correctly by contributors; but why then are so many of these, where there's obviously no other answer possible, left "this question is unanswered"? Eg these 4 cases, many already answered correctly by others, but as they were "unanswered" i've added details.
Lion's mane jellyfish Anglesey 23rd June 2010, http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/message/25699
For a large red uk jellyfish only 1 answer possible!
Spirula spirula, canaries, 21st sep 2012 (my ID). http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/message/24099
This is a question & I've answered it (&maybe should have added the shell to ID was to right of the ammonite given for scale). Again no spiral 'shell' like it.
So why has this got the 'null' flag?
Glaucus atlanticus 7th Nov 2012 Zanzibar. http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/message/25263
Again very distinctive though here I found there were 2 related species & determined which one.
I think when questions that have been answered are still marked as unanswered it is because the original questioner has been too lazy to mark the question as answered.
Nevertheless, I think the museum staff should be looking at the mass of unanswered questions. If they were monitoring these 'unanswered' questions they would be able to supply authoritive answers to them, or mark them as answered if they had in fact already been answered by other contributors.
We have been assured that this drop in activity by museum experts is not down to austerity cuts so we must assume that the staff are very busy with research projects at present. Best, therefore, we don't disturb them.
Good to get a reply; & how the questions get to be 'answered' is a mystery to me but it doesnt depend on the original questioner as the following 2 show
1) 30th May 2011 Female broad-bodied chaser Libellula depressa http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/message/25733
Correctly ID'd by Tipula, & the originator thanked her for ID'g it; but still rated unanswered. Arguably her answer was correct but insufficient, as immature males show same colour so I pointed this out (14 Dec 2012) with the relevant 'netsite to show it's 'tailend' clearly female.(still 'unanswered')
2)Masked crab (Nov2012) http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/message/25698
For 1ce I got my ID 'answered'; but no comment from the questioner
It does depend on the original questioner. If you are that person there are additional buttons by each message when you view the thread. Anyone can "like", "reply", or "report abuse" but the originator of the question also has buttons they can press to show if the answer was "helpful" or if it "answers" the question. Only when they click on an "answered" button does the question get marked as answered.
Apologies for the slow reply on this. A brief-ish explanation of what's happening:
There are only two people who can mark posts as answered (or helpful). The person who originally started the thread and a moderator of the forum (e.g. an ID team member). And there are three main reasons for posts not being marked as answered:
1. The person who starts the thread has to mark their post as a 'question' and if they don't do it within 15 minutes of posting, then it can't be changed to be a 'question' retrospectively. Any posts that aren't marked as questions can't be flagged as having a Correct or helpful answer (because the system has no way of knowing that they are a 'question' thread). This is what happened here:
2. The Answered/Not answered feature as it exists today was only added to the forums in the first half of last year, when we performed an upgrade to the software that runs NaturePlus. The vast majority of the threads that are not marked correctly are historical ones that existed prior to the updated feature being added, but have been bumped due to a more recent response. E.g. this is what happened here:
http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/message/25699#25699 (first posted in 2010)
Therefore, there are many posts that are marked as not answered simply because of their age.
3. The final issue is that sometimes we just forget to do the marking as answered (we're human!). This probably explains many, if not most, of the 2012 posts listed in this thread.
(There is also a 4th reason, which is that sometimes the post simply can't be answered due to e.g. lack of clear images to make a good ID).
Hope that helps to clarify things.
Jonathan - NaturePlus host
P.S. Just so you know, I'm not going to change the status of any of the posts listed in this thread as I'm not a member of the ID team and am therefore not qualified to make the call that the IDs are in fact correct.
Thanks for all the info. Could you please give us more details?
I tried to mark as "answered" this post:
I don't know how to do this. Is there a button I should see next to the question?
Also, is there a way of sending this kind of questions to members of the forum, such as yourself, rather than posting them on a thread like this? Other forums have ways of contacting members directly, ours does not. Other forums also have a help section. I don't see any help pages on our forum.
I did produce a pdf guide to help new members to register and to start using the forum, but I think we should have something for everyone, not for those people I email personally.
Thanks a lot,
Hi Florin, you should definitely be seeing the buttons on your own post. It might be a permissions issue if you aren't (I'll send you an email about this after I've checked the settings).
Help files are being worked on, but I don't have a timeframe for when they will be ready, I'm afraid.
Many thanks for your reply which has made things a lot clearer; particularly; particularly the 'null' or non-question problem. But it left the position of 'historical posts' uncertain. But from Florin's question & your reply + she's got it answered!,so it seems historical questions can be resolved, which is great news as it looks bad (i.m.o.) for nhm to have so many obvious questions unresolved.
In which case surely these 3 obvious cases already mentioned can be put to bed.(particularly as I have 'dug them up' & clarified them
2 Broad bodied chasers http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/message/25733
(eg www.dragonfly-images.co.uk/#/quick-id-bbc/4532671577 )
Lion's mane http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/message/25699
(& see my note, & http://www.ispot.org.uk/search/node/cyanea%20capillata if you don't believe me)
Another obvious case,posed 15/4/12, answered 15 dec cuttlebone of sepia officinalis=common cuttlefish (no other uk cuttlebone like it)
that still leaves Zanzibar pelagic seaslug Glaucus atlanticus http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/message/25263
& Beautiful sea anemones june 2012 http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/message/21008
I'm sure the ID team would like to (and will) mark as many questions as possible as Correctly answered etc but be aware that there are still a very large number of them as the forum has been running for 2 years+ when it was updated.
P.S. Hopefully I'm not shattering any illusions here but Florin is a he ;-)
I am one of those guilty of forgetting to mark a question as a question. However, some blame attaches to the website for this problem. Having posted a question which I forgot to mark as a question I was warned that I had 15 minutes in which to mark it as a question. However, at that time, the website was faulty and there was no way to do this. I was told that this was a known problem.
Can you confirm that this has now been fixed? Also, is there any way for people (like me) who suffered as a result of this fault to now mark posts as questions?
I'd like to be able to make it the default that posts are automatically questions, but I'm afraid we can't do it for the ID forums alone - it's either the whole of NaturePlus or none of it and we've decided that, on balance, it is better for it to remain the current way around in terms of our ability to manage the forums.
As far as I am aware, being able to mark your posts as questions within the 15 minutes is working (forum acting flaky or going offline notwithstanding). Unfortunately, there is no way for even our tech support, nevermind the admins, to change the status once the 15 minutes has passed. If you feel it is impacting on the visibility of any of your posts, I would advise deleting the original (assuming there are no answers) and reposting it, this time as a question.
Edit: sorry, I was answering two different questions at once there - one of which arrived via email. Friday...
The recent revival of this thread has raised two questions.
1) Rhossilian wanted to know how answered questions can be marked as such if the original questioner fails to do so?
2) Florin, I think, asked if there is a way to directly address questions to experts rather than to post to threads (though it was not worded as such and maybe I misinterpreted this). I am particularly interested in this latter question.
Many of the unanswered questions show up as such because they are genuinely unanswered. What can we do about that? I've tried appealing for an expert to get involved in my own questions, but I can only do that by posting another message to the thread and if that thread is being ignored by the experts then so too is my appeal ignored.
Is there something that the forum members can do to get the attention of the museum experts when other members have been unable to answer their question?
1) That is something the Museum ID team have to perform but bear in mind that they won't always have the time free to do it straight away.
2) Private messaging is something I'm looking at but it isn't currently possible.
3) We're looking at how the ID team can be notified more clearly of any unanswered questions (particularly ones that have fallen through the 'Mark as question' net) so, hopefully, this will be a problem that is minimised in the future.
Have a good weekend,