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

To me, the wording can be interpreted both ways, which is where it is causing the confusions. But the OUTCOME of the choices and the iNat policy of community ID definitely support that position.

i do think a lot of this comes down to differences in taxa too. For spiders for instance, there are truly cases where literally no one knows (or at least can describe) how to tell them apart without dissecting them, etc. But for plants, there are multiple keys and also characteristics that are not in keys, such that it’s nearly impossible to say that someone else who knows their stuff can’t distinguish one from another. I have my characteristics I use to tell X from Y, and many times i’ve asked how someone distinguished two plant options and learned a new feature identifying a given species i didn’t know about before! For those reasons, except in the case of duress user type blurred nonsense and way out of range impossibilities (saguaros in Maine, etc) I don’t really think people should be using iNat to explicitly disagree on plants if you don’t know if the ID is correct or not. For sure with users who have left the site and a questionable ID it gets tricky, same with cryptic species and such. So there are rare cases where it seems appropriate. But in most cases, it’s better to ask first. Often a person didn’t even know about the second option (for instance Toxicodendron rydbergii) and willwithdraw the ID to genus or give oyu enough info to explicitly disagree after that.

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Your summary seems accurate to me. I think it’s all about the “orange/green”?? on the right sight of @andy71’s chart.
There are a couple times I have used the orange button for that scenario to roll back the majority of observations of a particular species to genus. I imagine that would be concerning for some here. :)

One was Eupeodes americanus and the other was Graphocephala coccinea. Both of them are pretty difficult to separate from similar species in their genera. But in both cases they are the most common of the options, so that a field guide to the most common insects of the area or a quick Google search would only show that species. As a result, there were over 100 Research Grade observations of each going into the computer vision and GBIF etc.

One expert on BugGuide has a way to separate E. americanus but a field guide he reviewed says there’s no way to separate it from other species. Since I made the identifications I’ve learned that G. coccinea can sometimes be separated from similar species depending on the quality of photos, so I’m less confident pushing many of them back to genus. I did receive a bit of pushback which I’m thankful for because I learned from it. But I don’t regret changing the IDs because most of them are still unidentifiable, now people are (hopefully) more cautious identifying these species, I’m still around to withdraw my ID if I’m corrected on individual observations, and they’re (hopefully) not messing up the computer vision as much any more. Many were probably correct but there’s no way to know, and based on the users, quality of photos, and reactions to my identifications I think most of the identifications were based almost solely on the computer vision suggestion.

So anyway with all that said, given the comments on this observation suggesting that only very obvious G. coccinea should be identified to species at this point in time, and the number of Research Grade observations that don’t look super bright, what would be the best way to approach these again?

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I’m one of some :)

but really, as long as you have considered all viewpoints and then formed your own position with those considered, and then apply that position fairly and considerately, what more can anyone expect!

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I think as you have done in some of these cases, asking observers if they have excluded confusion species is a good way to start. If they haven’t even heard of the confusion species because it’s not shown in field guides (or don’t respond after a reasonable period), then rolling it back to genus makes sense. Then someone who really knows the species - if they turn out to be at all possible to distinguish from photos - can comment and move the ball forward again in the future. If observers feel strongly their ID is right, they should be ready to explain why (or, less ideal, they can always opt out of community ID for that observation).

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Thanks to everyone who contributed thoughts here. We’ve discussed this at length internally this week. There’s no question our past communication about this has been poor and inconsistent as was our understanding of how people ‘disagree’. We just fixed a few bugs and posted a blog post that tries to clarify how things are working now and lays out a plan for how to improve things https://www.inaturalist.org/blog/25514-clarifying-ancestor-disagreements

There’s a lot of other threads relevant to this topic. Should I chime in on those with a link to the post, or do you think people will find it via this thread?

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i think the proposed solution in the blog post could be just as potentially confusing as the current implementation. in your blog example, suppose B’s ID comes after everyone else’s IDs. so A says it’s 7-spotted while C,D, and E say it’s Asian. when B makes his class-level Insecta ID, suppose all he knows is that’s not 7-spotted, though it might be Asian, Lady Beetle, or some other insect. What disagreement choices will the system prompt him with after the proposed change has been implemented?

In the example you describe, the Community Taxon would be Asian Lady Beetle before B’s ID


So if B thought its not Seven-spotted but maybe Asian, he should not disagree with the Community Taxon.

But if B were to add an ID of Insects, the disagreement choices would be in regards to Asian Lady Beetle (not Seven-spotted Lady Beetle). In this example, neither would immediately impact the Community Taxon, but a ‘branch disagreement’ would add some additional disagreements to taxa like ‘Lady Beetles Family’ and ‘Seven spotted Lady Beetles’


while a ‘leading disagreement’ would not

so B would ‘branch disagree’ if they though the observation couldn’t be identified finer than Class Insects and would ‘leading disagree’ if they thought it was not Asian Lady Beetle but could be some other insect

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Extreme disappointment from me on this… I read it as saying “experts” should be bumping CID back if THEY can’t id, which to me goes against the whole concept of community ID. You may as well implement a reputation system…

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Thats why were planning the changes @kiwifergus - its now clear to us that ‘leading disagreements’ are more commonly used and less controversial than ‘branch disagreements’.

All we’re saying is that since we originally built ancestor disagreements (both when it was implicit and then explicit) the system has been interpreting them as ‘branch disagreements’ based on how the Community Taxon is tallying ancestor disagreements. (and obviously we did a very poor job of communicating this as all the ongoing confusion has demonstrated)

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in your blog example, are the titles of the Leading Disagreements and Branch Disagreements diagrams correct? (if they’re wrong, i think that explains some of my confusion.)

They are as far as I can tell. Can you point out whats confusing you?

here’s what i’m looking at:

three things that confuse me:

  1. the highlighted text talks about branch disagreement, but the diagram is labeled leading disagreement
  2. what’s the difference between community taxon and observation taxon?
  3. if the leading disagreement diagram is correct, if at the time B makes the Insecta ID, the only other ID is A’s 7-spotted, how does the system determine that the observation taxon is Lady Beetle (family) as opposed to Coccinella (genus) or Beetles (order)?

ah - good catch. I had the Figure 15 where Figure 16 should have been and vice-versa. I just fixed them. Thanks for catching that and apologies for the confusion

ok. that addresses confusing thing #1, but what about #2 and #3?

re: #2, I added this to the first section of the blog post to clarify:

In contrast, the Observation Taxon is the finest ranked taxon with at least one agreement that has no disagreements. The Observation Taxon will match the Community Taxon if: (a) there are no taxa with agreements and no disagreements finer than the Community Taxon, or (b) the taxa with agreements an no disagreements finer than the Community Taxon is of rank subspecies. If the observer opts out of the Community Taxon, the Observation Taxon will always be the Observer's identification.

re: #3, in the cartoon taxonomy there is no genus or order, just family. But the observation taxon is the finest taxon with at least one agreement and no disagreements, so if there were other nodes like genus in the taxonomy finer than Lady Beetle Family with no disagreements the observation taxon would be set to that

sorry for the confusion

i don’t like the proposed behavior re: #2 and #3. suppose our example taxonomy does include genus and order. in your Leading Disagreements example then, i would assume the Observation Taxon would be Coccinella after B’s ID. what if B knows it’s not Coccinella? how does B disagree with that genus? does he have to disagree twice? (once to get it to genus, and then again to disagree with the genus?)

i think it would make more sense for the observation taxon after B’s ID with Leading DIsagreement to be Insecta.

If I am reading it correctly, just disagreeing to family with the new option would achieve what you are asking.

no, in my interpretation / modification of the example, B was sure it was not 7-spotted, but thought it could be another lady beetle or another insect. if he IDs family and disagrees at that level, that doesn’t take into account the other insects he thinks it could be.

here’s a more real-world example that i deal with frequently. i monitor the genus Pisum (peas) worldwide. a lot of people around the world will classify any member of family Fabaceae (legumes) as Pisum or even any plant that vaguely resembles a legume as Pisum sativum. Fabaceae has subfamilies, tribes, and genera defined in iNaturalist’s taxonomy. there are only two species within Pisum, and they are fairly distinctive. a lot of the time, i’ll be able to tell the plant is not genus Pisum, but i won’t be able to tell you if it’s even Fabaceae or not because i don’t know every plant in the world. in the current system, most of the time in such a case, i’ll just leave a comment saying it’s not Pisum. i might make a suggestion based on similar looking plants in the area, but i won’t make an ID because i don’t want to do a “branch disagreement” up to Dicots (class Magnoliopsida). (if i do a branch disagreement up to Dicot, i’ll just have to come back and remove it after someone makes a better ID.)

the proposed “leading disagreement” option offers a potential solution, but according to @loarie’s explanation of how they plan to implement it, if the existing ID is species Pisum sativum and i ID as Magnoliopsida with Leading Disagreement, the effect of that will be that the Observation Taxon goes to genus Pisum, even though i know very well it’s not Pisum. so effectively, the solution is ineffective at best and makes things even more confusing at worst.

if they implement “leading disagreement” in the way that i say makes more sense to me, if i ID as Magnoliopsida with Leading Disagreement, then after my ID, the Observation Taxon will go to Magnoliopsida. in either case, if you come later and ID as genus Vicia, then i believe the Observation Taxon will go to tribe Fabeae, which is fine. but in the period between my ID and yours, i would rather the Observation taxon show as Magnoliopsida rather than Pisum.

or consider that Observation Taxon is Pisum after my ID, and you disagree with it, too. You ID as Magnoliopsida because you’re not sure what it is either. what does the system present to you to disagree with? does it ask you if you disagree with species Pisum sativum? does it ask you to disagree with a non-existent genus Pisum ID, or does it not offer a chance to disagree because your ID is the same as mine (even though the Observation Taxon is at genus)?

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Unless I am reading something wrong, I don’t think this is correct. In this case, your leading disagreement would bump the community ID to Magnoliopsida (provided there are not more than 2 agreements at species level, of course.)

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