Change wording used by the system when downgrading an observation to an higher level taxa

This blog entry
indicates the iNaturalist team are progressing in re-wording the options users get when proposing a higher level taxa.

Copying here a proposal I made in the comments there:

Proposed question and 3 options:

Why are you identifying this as Family Lady Beetles (Family Coccinellidae) rather than Seven-spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella septempunctata)?

A) I am quite sure this is NOT a Seven-spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella septempunctata). I think it is another species in Family Lady Beetles (Family Coccinellidae).

B) I do not think it is possible to say, based on the evidence here, that this is Seven-spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella septempunctata). I am quite sure it belongs to Family Lady Beetles (Family Coccinellidae).

C) The best ID I can currently make for this record is Family Lady Beetles (Family Coccinellidae). I can’t tell if it is a Seven-spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella septempunctata) or not.

Proposed “decoration” of the IDs

A) user_b thinks this is not Seven-spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella septempunctata)

B) user_b doesn’t think we can be certain beyond Family Lady Beetles

C) user_b is not certain beyond Family Lady Beetles


Ok, so I missed this comment when it was first posted, and to me it answers what I consider to be the biggest cause of the arguments over explicit disagreements.

This is my interpretation of the above (and assuming @loarie means Identifier rather than Observer, which is often the same person):

We should not be explicitly disagreeing just because we personally feel there is insufficient evidence to support a species level ID. However, if the Identifier that ID’d at species is unresponsive to a challenge over that ID, and a conversation takes place that supports bumping it back to genus, then it becomes appropriate to do so. Or perhaps just if we believe (from past conversations on similar observations) that the community would support the decision to do so, THEN it would also be appropriate to explicitly disagree.

please correct me if I am wrong

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@loarie @tiwane @carrieseltzer
Are we any closer to a rewording on the “Potential Disagreement” modal, particularly in regards to explicit disagreements such as in this case:


^ A similar recent conversation here.

I’ve had some difficulties lately that are directly pertinent to this topic: I’ve been IDing observations of periodical cicadas (Magicicada) as part of a research effort to map this year’s emergences, and the wording of the “explicit disagreement” is frequently unsuitable. In Magicicada, the orange markings on the sides and abdomen are key to species ID; a photo of the dorsal side is relatively unhelpful for species-level ID (though the genus is immediately obvious).

M. cassinii and M. septendecula look exactly the same from above; only the abdominal markings differentiate them. So, when observers have only a photo showing the insect from above, the farthest ID can go is the genus level. This becomes a problem when new, inexperienced users supply species-level IDs that make the observation Research Grade. If I use the “explicit disagreement” option, the statement that accompanies my ID suggestion will say “weecorbie disagrees this is Magicicada cassinii” when this is not true - weecorbie thinks it’s entirely possible and even probable that it is Magicicada cassinii, but there’s a chance it could be Magicicada septendecula.

This is also the case when the evidence presented is a shed nymphal skin or a wing - I cannot say that I “disagree this is Magicicada cassinii,” because it may well be, but the observation should never make Research Grade.

It seems that a (relatively) simple solution would be to change the wording of the statement that accompanies the ID suggestion: instead of the current wording, how about “weecorbie disagrees that there is sufficient evidence to confirm that this is Magicicada cassinii.”

I’m not sure how much this situation arises with other taxa, but with many insects, it’s common that genus-level ID is easy, but if a certain antennomere or sternite isn’t visible in the photos, species-level ID is impossible. Right now, I’m stuck without any recourse to “undo” the Research Grade status of these observations, other than writing messages and hoping (often in vain) that the IDer will respond.


But it’s not nondisagreeing only by virtue of being in the same genus as what’s identified previously. It depends on which option you select when you enter it, and my point in this discussion is that it’s unclear which is disagreeing and which is nondisagreeing. And if I find it confusing as a native English speaker, I expect it’s even more so for someone using it as a nonnative speaker or in translation.


I don’t know but I am sure this is [genus]
No, but it is a member of [genus]

I personally think these answer choices are pretty good, but the question could be worded better.

I would add one (which is perhaps a nuance of the first one here): This is the correct genus but species level is not discernible by photo.

I get this on my spiders. I and other people have gone to species level on a spider only to be informed by someone whose opinion I respect that there is more than one species that can present similarly and it takes closer in hand (or dissection) examination to determine which.

I appreciate knowing that.


So if it’s a variation on the first one, that would be a third option for someone who wants to bring in the possibility for a different species, but doesn’t want to explicitly disagree and move the community ID off that species?

Sorry, my brain is chanting ‘who’s on first’ right now.

I do think, in the cases I’m thinking of, they do want to move it off the species ID. Here’s an example:

In this case, I believe the disagreeing ID-er is saying ‘This is one of two similar species and one can’t tell from this photo which of the two it is. Therefore, the previous id at species level is not valid. It could be the species that that previous ID suggested but there is no way to validate it and it could be a different species.’

The reason I chose to mention it as a possible variation of the first example is …
— a person might say (about an obs with a species level ID), I agree it’s a flycatcher but I’m personally not capable of ID-ing to species level.Someone else might be, though.
—a person might say (about an obs with a species level ID), I know it’s a Long Legged Sac Spider (genus designation) but I don’t know which of two possible species this observation is and I don’t think it can be determined by photo which it is and therefore, it should not be given a species level id by anyone. (I don’t meant to speak for the individual in my example but that’s how I interpret it)

On the receiving end of the suggestion, I appreciate knowing which of these it is. Does someone think it’s possible that the right person might know, or does that someone think no one will know and this is as good an ID as we can get? Alternately, does someone think getting better field photos might help or does it take specialized equipment, testing, or dissection to tell?

Sorry to get wordy. Hope I didn’t muddle things too much. I’ve just found this ‘genus is as good as we can get’ feedback’ on my spider ids useful. For plants, I know if I get better photos, I have a better chance of getting a finer id. I know for my Longlegged Sac Spiders, the best photo in the world isn’t going to help. I continue to photograph them just because I like spiders.


Yeah, I think we’re saying the same thing. :)

  1. "I don’t know but I am sure this is [genus]" either means
    a. “I’m only confident to genus” OR
    b. “it could be another species but I don’t want to move the community ID off this species”
  2. No, but it is a member of [genus]” either means
    a. “I’m confident it’s definitely not [species]” OR
    b. “it could be another species and I do want to move the community ID off species to reflect that”
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People should not be allowed to ‘move an ID’ off a species. They should be allowed to add an ID which contributes to the algorithm. If it happens that their vote tips the balance of the identification, so be it. It defeats the purpose of having a ‘1 person, 1 vote’ system.

Can you illustrate the difference between these two with some (hypothetical) examples?

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What I mean is no id should be made with the intention of changing the community ID. An ID should be added because that is what you believe the evidence supports. If more people agree with your view, it prevails, if more people agree with something else, that view prevails.

We dont give unilateral authority to one user to make something research grade, so we should not give unilateral authority to undo it.

I add a lot of IDs with the intention to change an incorrect community taxon, like endemic NZ grasses showing up in Chicago due to computer vision suggestions/agreement without checking the taxon. For example,
user1: endemic NZ grass species
user2: endemic NZ grass species
bouteloua: Poaceae (disagreeing) (…or the actual genus/species when I know it)

As my ID was added, the community ID shifts from the incorrect species to family, as well as out of Research Grade back to Needs ID, as desired. So as not to get bogged down in specifics, let’s assume anyone looking at the observation is 100% confident that this is not that species of grass, and that the previous IDs were made only blindly following CV suggestions.

I don’t understand your perspective, so maybe some examples would help?


The perspective I have is that you are using the explicit disagreement option the way it is meant to be used, in situations where you are certain the existing ID is wrong. However, that explicit disagreement process is being used far too often in cases where that certainty does not exist.

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couldn’t have said it better. seriously. :-) succinctness is never an attribute that comes naturally for me. My online name in most places is Magpie and earn that nick in more ways than one.

To make sure I understand: You’re saying it would be correct to use explicit disagreement to move community ID when one is certain the observation can’t be that species, but incorrect to use explicit disagreement to move community ID just because it could be another species?

e.g. (using Cassi’s example format):

user1: species A
user2: species A
user3: explicitly disagreeing because they are believe it is NOT species A

Case 2
user1: species A
user2: species A
user3: explicitly disagreeing because they believe it could be EITHER species A or species B

Are you saying Case 1 is correct usage and Case 2 is incorrect usage?

Personally, I don’t explicitly disagree unless I am certain (Case 1).

I want to make sure I understand you, though, because I’d imagine some people use Case 2 for things where species determination needs more info (eg microscopic pics for fly genitalia, or DNA for some fungi) that is not provided in the existing photos, description or comments on the observation when they add their explicit disagreement.


i think the problem of your Case 2 could be solved by moving the “as good as it can be” quality metric to the ID level, resulting in an implicit disagreement.

Case 1 then would still require an explicit disagreement or veto. really, i think an explicit disagreement should be separate from an ID. input-wise, i think it could look like an ID, except that:

  1. it would require a comment about how you know it’s not a particular taxon
  2. you would be able to have multiple disagreements
  3. you would have to separately input an ID on the observation first – maybe at a particular rank like at least class (or maybe order). (that would add a little bit more work for the disagreer than simply inputting an ID and then clicking a button.)

separating the explicit disagreement from the identification would simplify this whole thing that’s being discussed in this thread, i think.