Advice about "bold" initial IDs, as an observer and project admin

Well, I’m always thrilled when one of mine that has sat at Needs ID for a long time suddenly makes RG. How can we make the task feel less thankless?


I’ve always felt a bit guilty for doing that, but I often make a guess I know could very well be wrong because if I leave it at family/genus level it often stays there. I still would never deliberately misidentify anything but sometimes I’ll go with the CV if the suggestion seems to strongly resemble what I’m posting. I definitely have wondered if it’s disrespectful to people’s time for me to not put in more effort to make sure I have the right species ID, or if it doesn’t get corrected and stays at the wrong ID if it could impact the usefulness of data generated from the site, but I don’t really know if it bothers people

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Do people actually get angry about being corrected? I’m curious how often that happens for people who do a lot of identification/especially specialized IDers.

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You might want to discuss this over-enthusiastic IDer with the help desk. Sounds like someone who should be discouraged by someone other than you.


I’ve IDed almost 64k observations and so far haven’t come across someone angry for having their ID corrected, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens from time to time.

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No no, that was recieved wrongly… I actually admire this ID-warrior (that is who you mean, right?) … he is going on correcting at the moment many of the newly uploaded observation and I will gladly back him up when I see it and also pull the “good as it can be” card.

But I just had to give up doing corrections myself for that taxon (I will usually only put a genus ID, but stopped disagreeing). I could not stand these endless discussions anymore… by different people btw… it is just an emotionally loaded taxon for some reason and generally it is really unsatisfying for some observers if their IDs get pushed back to a coarser level and sparks the will for discussion.

I want to mention again that even in that taxon I also encountered some observers that were glad to learn and still tag me to get a confirming genus ID for their new observations so we can put them to RG on genus… but those were fewer then the arguing types unfortunately.


It is happening from time to time but not too often normally… Except for this mentioned hornets nest I now try to avoid poking. It is not always aggressive arguing, but often enough a discussion that fails being able to convince despite the facts, which feels like fighting against windmills. It just anoys me more then it should, so I avoid it for now most of the times.

I always wanted to write a journal article on that topic, so I can just link to it I ever run into this discussion again, but never managed to find the time yet


from time to time I get a comment thanking me, and that brightens my whole week ;)


As one goes back in time, the percentage of “needs ID” observations that are easy decreases (because they have already been ID’d) and the percentage of difficult observations (e.g. those with inadequate photos or other problems) increases, as does the percentage of observers who are no longer active on iNat to respond to questions or issues that need attention.

This is inevitable.

Obviously there are people who also look at older observations and find it satisfying to sift through the blurry photos to find those observations that are worthwhile, and there are ways to mix it up so that one is less likely to find oneself looking at page after page of observations one can’t help with (looking at observations in random order, or from a particular day, or by a particular user, etc.), but sometimes perfectly good observations just get missed.

How would you propose to address this?

I’m one of those masochists and it’s amazing what can be found hidden among even the oldest of observations. But I do sometimes wonder if my time couldn’t be better spent. It sort of makes me think of the topic “How to surface interesting observations”. Perhaps one of the problems that make it potentially so unsatisfying is that all would-be identifiers have to sift through all the same blurry photos to find those hidden gems that make it seem worthwhile (“worthwhile” in this case meaning with a good/high potential of moving forward in the ID process). This is where an “interesting” flag could help separate the wheat from the chaff… although I well appreciate the potential pitfalls.
Of course an IDer can then mark as reviewed the ones they don’t want to see again, but the next IDer still has to wade through the same sea of blurry photos, and so on ad infinitum.
I admit I do sometimes add a “bold” ID or even an outright guess to try and bring the observation to the attention of those more able than I to move it forward, but in that case I always add a note explaining my motivation and my willingness to withdraw immediately if my tentative ID gets in the way.


So long as you follow your notifications and respond promptly.
If my tentative ID gets agreement

  • from a known and trusted identifier - tick
  • if the identifier is new to me - I check their profile - on a good day it is a ‘specialist working on the taxonomy of Tentative taxon’ - and I have a new name for my list.
  • if I am uneasy about my tentative marching straight to RG, @mention a relevant identifier, or withdraw mine - depending on field marks in pictures, or not.
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I find many that are already at species, but have never received a second, corroborating ID. These are frequently clear and very much identifiable, but they got lost in the avalanche of newer observations.


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