Bulk identification tool

It’d be nice to bulk annotate those as well.


How is it possible for the observer to know that they’re not submitting multiple observations of the SAME individual?

Presumably, if they are the observer, because they were there. :slightly_smiling_face:

They know the relative movements of what they observed at the time to know it’s a different individual.


I’d certainly use this tool! I can see it has the potential for increased errors, but surely that would be more than balanced out by the increase in overall identifications.

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Honestly, I am not sure I see a use for this beyond beyond edge cases like the one Cassi showed. Presumably it could be used for bulk coarse id’s such as moving things from unknown to plants, but I’m not sure that the time needed to find and select them for such a tool is any less than just doing them individually with existing processes.


Seeing this screenshot with all the little Agree buttons on the thumbnails reminds me of several recent discussions on how problematic those agree buttons can be. While I realize this proposed tool would be more involved than just an “Agree to All” function, I can still imagine it multiplying some of the issues discussed here:


Maybe it could be enabled only for batches meeting certain common critieria, like all with same current community ID, none with descriptions, comments, or multiple photos, etc. But then, would there be enough remaining use cases to make it worthwhile?

In general, if it needs to come with its own undo tool, I think we should be pretty cautious about this kind of functionality.

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What if it could only be used down to a certain level, say family? Or only on ‘unknown’ observations?


I’d be pretty against this, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that one should look at each observation when IDing them.


i think a better approach would be to allow a user to create sets of actions that can be applied to observations. for example, you could assign set 1 = id as Rudbeckia sect. Rudbeckia + comment “hairy green parts suggest R. hirta” + annotate as flowering. then every time you came across a Rudbeckia (hirta) incorrectly identified as R. amplexicaulis, you could apply set 1 to id, comment, and annotate all at the same time. maybe you could even assign set 1 a keyboard shortcut for those people who are into that sort of thing.


I like the suggestion, but I will say maybe it should only be possible on observations with a single photo?

Tangentially related to @tiwane’s point, I’ve clicked an observation on the Identify page with a specific ID in mind, and in the popup discovered that there were multiple photos, none of which have a single species in common.

Bulk identifying or annotating observations like those could lead to incorrect IDs.


I’ve seen many of those too, but they are much easier to spot with the new layout. I was thinking it would be a great tool for if you were going through say ‘Insects’, looking at nothing IDed below the class, you were quickly able to ID all the Coleoptera in one go, so the wonderful beetle experts can do their thing. There is such a growing back-log of things needing IDs that I’d welcome a way to speed it up somehow.


Fair enough, but in support of @tiwane’s point about considered and carefully observation, I’ve noticed one user, who I will not link or name here, doing sweeping bulk IDs of so many species (usually via agreement), in such volume that I’d swear they are just trying to get to the top of as many leaderboards as possible (and that’s with the current setup, not a bulk ID tool).

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Is there a faster way to do this than clicking on the obs, hitting ‘Add ID’ in the little pop-up window, typing the taxa name, and then hitting ‘Save’?
I just tried identifying for the first time, putting coarse IDs on Unknowns, so it is probable there are short cuts I am missing. But it is amazing how many of the Unknowns are flowers and butterflies. Being able to bulk select and label them to angiospermae, tracheophyta, lepidoptera, fungi, odonata, or other categories that show up heavily in the unknowns (and are easy to see from a thumbnail) would make things a lot more efficient.
If implemented, it should definitely be limited to only very coarse taxa, and shouldn’t count towards leaderboard.

I see what you are saying, but I do wonder how assigning a coarse taxa based on just the thumbnail is worse than hitting ‘Agree’ on thumbnail. Especially since you can agree all the way down to species level!
Not sure whether I am arguing for this feature or against the ‘Agree’ button, but it does seem like a double standard.


Yes! Have you discovered the keyboard shortcuts that operate from that pop-up window? Look for the little keyboard icon at lower left of the pop-up, and click on it (or press “?”) to see what the available shortcuts are.

My typical identify workflow looks like this:

  • Use Filters at https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/identify to collect the set of observations I want to identify. (Bookmark the resulting filter URL in your browser if you plan to use the same criteria frequently.)
  • Click on the first thumbnail image (or press right-arrow) to open the Identify Modal (where the keyboard shortcuts operate). Mouse-less from this point onward!
  • Press letter i to start adding an ID.
  • Type the first few letters of the name I want to add. Examples: art tri will bring up a list with Artemisia tridentata at the top; bri pin will bring up a list with bristlecone pines at the top. (This works in any name box on the site.)
  • arrow down to the desired name and press Enter to select
  • Press Enter again to Save the ID. Or, Tab to move to the Comments box. After typing a comment, Tab re-activates the Save button, and Enter saves the ID plus Comment.
  • arrow right/left to move directly to the next observation in your filter. No need to close the pop-up each time.

Other common actions (instead of i to add an ID):

  • type letter a to agree with current ID, arrow right/left to the next observation.
  • type letter c to open a stand-alone comment box. When done, Tab, Enter to save.
  • type letter r to mark observation as reviewed (without leaving an ID or comment), arrow right/left to the next observation. This will stop this observation from appearing in your ID filters again, unless you specifically include Reviewed observations in your filter.

After you use the keyboard shortcuts a few times, they become more familiar and efficient. Still not a bulk process as envisioned by the original post, but can get pretty efficient.

Also note the other tabs (Suggestions, Annotations, Data Quality) across the top right of the modal window.

There is also a video tutorial (https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/video+tutorials#identify) covering some of this, although it is based on a now-outdated layout of the Identify Modal.


Thank you so much!! I will give it a go tomorrow and see how I do :)

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This is a great point.

Let’s think about the impact of a freshly minted new user who lands on the ‘Identifier’ page. However, unfortunately this particular new user has no genuine interest in naturalism and only wants to entertain themselves with vandalism. (This is an extreme example but I think it helps illustrate the point)

If the vandal was able to assign “course” taxa to multiple observations at once (let’s say, they ID a large group of frogs and plants as “Avian”), their vandalism won’t affect the level of scrutiny that observation gets on the site. The observation will remain as “Needs ID” until it meets the criteria for “research grade”, and eventually the vandal’s ID will be labelled as “Maverick”.

However, the vandalism possible if an individual inappropriately uses the “Agree” button to confirm large numbers of observations they have no idea about, has far more potential for harm on the site. Because anyone can “Agree” with species level IDs even if they have no idea, there is a significant risk that large amounts of observations on the site will change from “Needs ID” to “Research grade”. As a consequence, this would lead to these observations being filtered out of the workflow of legitimate Identifiers, and thereby actually allowing rampant “Agree” vandalism to prevail in the database and bypass scrutiny.

In summary, I’m arguing that a bulk ID (+ reversal) tool, for course taxa only, is less risk than the existing “Agree” button, which can be used to provide a false species-level ID


Thanks so much @jdmore I never knew that though I’ve been on iNat for almost a year and have done over 1500 identifications lol.

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@tripleaxle Right? It took me even longer! Seems like it could be made more discoverable than it currently is. Or maybe it’s intended that one be here for a while before gaining “the power”? :wink:

Has any progress been possible for this feature?