My reasoning is simple: There are numerous checklists with rare birds that have not been verified--but the report very well may be correct. This means that when exploring data on eBird maps there are species that don't necessarily show up on the maps in areas they have been reported. And some of those reports are valid reports, but for any number of reasons the eBird reviewer has decided not to verify it.
Now wait a second Tim, that reviewer is the one making sure the data pool isn't a mess? Yes, I do agree, but I also agree that if done correctly the information would be beneficial to everyone looking at it, and still be able to show what sightings are perhaps legitimate, versus ones that aren't. Talking specifically about maps, I will give you an example
Let's say you want to look at HERMIT WARBLER sightings in Utah. This species is rare but annual fall migrant. It cuts across the southwest corner of the state in mixed Ponderosa woodlands--the Kolob area and Oak Grove Campground are two areas where this bird is reported. Although the species is annual, there are very few verified reports in eBird. This may just be because very few people report them--but let's pretend they are reported more frequently, but with questionable or no documentation, and the reviewer doesn't feel comfortable approving them.
At a top level when you come in with the maps if there were locations with verified and unverified sightings they would still show up how they currently do--as purple blocks. If there were locations that had only unverified sightings, they would show up as red blocks.
When you zoomed in to the actual location points and clicked on one, not much would change. It would still display everything as is, with the verified reports showing up as they currently do. The major change would be that at the end of the list is a link that reads, "view unverified reports".
If you were to click on the link, the list of unverified reports would show up below the verified reports in the same fashion--however nothing would be bold so that it doesn't have as much prominence as the verified reports.
This would accomplish two things. First, it would give a complete visual of the ACTUAL reports of a species in a given area, or specific location. In doing so it would make the data more valuable so that users could view the whole picture. Separating the unverified reports out leaves the interpretation of the data to the user. The majority of birders could look at that and be able to determine the obvious reasons reports weren't verified--versus reports that seem to actually make sense that weren't verified for a random reason here or there. Secondly, and this will sound bad to some people, but for certain species that are over reported, and seemingly misidentified time and time again, it will make the observer more aware in a public space of their continued mistakes. A lot of people put species into the database over an over that are misidentified. A lot of these are probably common species, and it goes unnoticed, because in the grand scheme of things it falls into an acceptable margin of error. However for other species, that maybe are continually reported, it will be an eye opener. If you are the only birder who ever reports LEAST TERN from Lee Kay Ponds, and you seemingly report them 2 to 3 times each year, but the other 99% of birders only see one there every 5 years--that will be obvious in the data.
Not everyone self-polices, myself included. I have numerous reports that have not been verified by the reviewer for some reason or another--however, many of those reports come with valuable information, some with undeniable photo proof of a species, and SHOULD be accessible with the rest of the data in the public records--not through some awful report you can generate from another website that is wildly impossible for your average person to look at and make sense of. I would rather have my unverified sightings visible to the public, and let the users make their minds up about the sightings based off the notes and photos I provide.
In some instances this is important for birds that have never been reported otherwise in the state, or there have been a handful of reports but no verified sightings in eBird. A prime example is GILDED FLICKER. This species has now been reported a handful of times from the Mojave Desert in southwest Utah, but none of the reports have been verified in eBird--despite written descriptions and photos of the birds. Now I don't know the reason for these reports not being accepted--but it is a disservice to other observers and in this case hides important information about the possible extreme northern limit of this species.
Not everyone is going to agree with this approach--specifically folks who have lots of unverified reports and might feel uncomfortable with that being out there. Others, perhaps those in the strictly scientific side of things, might also not like this approach because they feel the person doing the verifying job is weeding out BAD data. And I see both points. However, this database is open to the public, and the data should all be easy to read an interpret for all reports. The reviewer will weed out the majority of bad sightings, and the user will be able to look at that data and make their own assumptions based off of it.
Just my two cents, on something I would like to see to make the data pool even more useful. What do others think about this kind of idea? Or do others have ideas that would improve the user experience or data provided in some way or another?