Changes to the Agree button/functionality and addition of Markdown in comments and ID Remarks

Thanks; I’d somehow overlooked that!

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But it will not show up for anyone who has marked it as reviewed. If you are dealing with a taxon that has few expert identifiers on iNat, it’s possible that the experts will all miss this because they have marked it as reviewed and do not receive a notification of the change.

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Probably not helpful because there are a couple of more steps but, on the identify modal one can select to view the observation page and then select agree with the community taxon.

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Again, maybe not helpful but one can follow an individual observation to get notification of change.

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The problem is that following will give a notification for any identifications, even concurring “agrees”, regardless of your notification settings. So that is not a workable solution.

EDIT: to clarify, it’s not workable because I would receive hundreds of notifications for concurring agrees on RG observations, which would make it infeasible for me to use the notification feature.

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As someone who does not care for gamification or leaderboards, I want to express my concern that this change will have major negative impacts for that minority of iNat users who actively work to ID observations.

iNat staff have already acknowledged that engaging users to assist with IDs is an ongoing challenge. While I understand the motivation behind the change, I fear that an attempt to address the relatively minor issue of people piling on IDs will cause many productive identifiers to scale back their contributions to iNat.

iNat identifiers have a range of interests and focuses. In general, though, most people choose to identify organisms within a particular taxon and geographic area. As people build specialist knowledge (or bring it from their prior study), a significant factor for continued engagement is the ability to “curate” a particular taxonomic area. Users can apply their knowledge to improving the quality of identifications across a species group, genus or family and see those results in the form of more precise distribution data, more accurate computer vision training, better educated fellow iNat users and so on.

One technique that identifiers use to build this quality is to review existing observations and provide confirming or diverging IDs using their own experience, field guides, dichotomous keys, etc. In iNat this might be accomplished in the Identify tool by selecting a parent taxon (and maybe a geography) and including all observations (Needs ID, RG and Casual). Until now, the identifier could then navigate through these observations, choosing to Agree or add a new Identification as appropriate. The end result of this is that the identifier has made an identification for every observation of that taxon that they can confidently ID.

As an identifier, the new agree functionality prevents me from using this workflow. I can no longer agree to the ID for any observation that is already at RG status. All I can do is ignore it, mark it Reviewed, or manually add a confirming identification. It might appear that checking Reviewed achieves much the same result as clicking Agree, but that falls short in several ways:

  • When I look at some observation later, I no longer get an active confirmation that I concurred with the ID. I can’t tell whether my Reviewed checkbox means “I agree with this ID” or “I really don’t know but I want to stop seeing this” or “I pressed the ‘R’ key by mistake”.

  • Other iNat users don’t know whether a particular identifier has reviewed an RG observation or not. Consider insects or spiders, taxons that are notoriously difficult to accurately ID to species level. I wouldn’t put much credence in the identity of an RG observation whose ID is based on the observer’s initial computer vision ID plus a confirming ID from a new iNat user who was part of the same bioblitz. If those two IDs are supported by an ID from a knowledgeable expert in the taxon, my confidence would be much higher. The new functionality means I cannot tell whether the ID has been reviewed and explicitly confirmed by an experienced identifier or not reviewed at all.

  • I can rely less on any searches or reporting I might do looking for my own username or someone else’s as the identifier. In the past, I could assume that a search for observations identified by a particular user would tell me which ones that person had reviewed. Now, the search will exclude an unknown number of additional observations that they reviewed but didn’t ID because they were already at RG status.

I’m aware that I can still manually add an identification that confirms the current ID. Realistically, I can’t see myself doing that very often. I’ve reviewed 20,000 plant observations in California and western states over the past year because the Identify tool gave me a really efficient way to apply and build my knowledge and see the results. I can tell that I have concurred with or dissented from the ID for every observation of a particular taxon. For the next 20,000 observations the only way I can continue to do that is to type in a species name 18,000+ times. That’s quite a disincentive.

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isn’t this actually a good behavioral change? fixing other people’s bad IDs is definitely a helpful thing, but maybe that could be shifted to be more like a monthly activity, and then the primary daily activity would be to add new IDs.

(i would add, just as @trh_blue noted above, and I’ve also said before, that it might be even more helpful if really knowledgeable experts hold off on their IDs of really easy-to-ID taxa for some period to let others get first dibs on those. if i’m a beginning identifier, it helps to have a nice supply of observations that match my skill level. it’s discouraging if all the ones that are left are the ones even the experts have trouble with.)

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Thanks for your comments everyone, especially if you tried it out for a while and provided feedback, or called out specific use cases which this change negatively affected. We plan on rolling in back later today (California time), as Ken-ichi noted here.

I’ll leave this discussion open for a bit longer, but if it becomes a rehash of ideas and thoughts that have already been expressed, I’ll close it.

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Thank you so much for listening to us and I am very pleased with Ken-ichi’s decision to revert the change. :heart:

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I’ll add my thanks for listening.

I was one of those attempting to curate a fairly high-level taxon at national level because it is my area of research. Agreeing with a previous determination provided the benefit that if somebody disagreed with my determination of X I would be notified. Then I would go back to those records and add more detail about why I agreed with the determination of X but don’t agree with the newly added determination Y. I can’t do that for every identification. Not being aware of these ‘Y’ records can result in correct records being lost as RG, or worse, incorrectly identified records becoming RG. The latter usually because of some systematic misunderstanding. It is those systematic misidentifications that lead people to suggest Y rather than X, and then other people agree with them, for the same reason. So, overall quality will decrease, at least from my perspective. Like others I’m not saying the change is a bad thing. Blind agreement by some users is a big problem. But it would have changed the way I interact with iNat, and my use of the data for research.

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Tony,

Let me just say that I appreciate both:

  1. iNat’s willingness to experiment with potentially controversial changes and
  2. openness to feedback and reversion on said changes.

This is always hard in places with big, established user communities, and I’ve seen it handled much worse.

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Super appreciate the willingness of staff to hear users’ concerns on this.

While I’m one of those that feel removing the agree button was a negative change, I also definitely respect users who feel that there are problems with gamification, and RG observations with incorrect ID’s supported by a bunch of incorrect agrees are also an obvious problem. There’s obviously community support for addressing this, and, based on all the comments and forum activity, many people have been thinking a LOT about this over the weekend. I am wondering what the best way is to take all of the ideas and thoughts and maybe coalesce them around some changes supported by the community that could address these issues? To sound hippyish (in a good way), is there a way to take all this energy (some negative), and spin it into positive engagement?

As an example, I was wondering if it might be appropriate to make a wiki post of potential changes that could address some of these issues, like a community brainstorm sesh? I have seen so many ideas floated in comments that I can’t keep track, and a bunch of feature requests seems like it would be confusing. Maybe a post like that could be seen by staff who have a much better idea of how feasible/implementable changes might be. Are there any low-hanging fruit we are missing?

A few examples rattling around in my brain:
I’ve heard folks complain about getting too many agreeing notifications (I confess I don’t understand why turning these off which is already possible isn’t a good solution, but…).
Potential solution: Offering more fine-grained control over notifications (like a setting that says, only notify me of identifications that change an observation’s RG status in either direction).

@bouteloua also mentioned that new users sometimes feel overwhelmed with agree notifications (and unlike “power-users” may not know where to find notification controls).
Potential solution: Change the account defaults so users don’t get agree notifications (or combine with defaulting to the option above, so they only get notified on agrees that affect their observations’ statuses).

Or to address one of the biggest agree problems (the reflexive Agree of the original observer to another user’s ID suggestion): remove the Agree button for the original observer only! (not sure how much god-like power staff has over the Agree button).

Maybe some or all of these have already been put forward, considered, and/or rejected, but I’m sure other users have lots of creative, targeted ideas on this topic that might be useful to have “out there”.

Anyways, thanks again for listening!

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This is coming, see Tony’s post here

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I think this is really problematic, and it concerns me when people mention it.
For me for example, at times I have actively posted at genus, with an idea of species… but wanted to wait for an expert to chip in before taking it that far. If I went straight to species, my concern would be that one of the non-experts would confirm and it would be taken out of the Needs ID pool without real review.

As an observer, I think this just straitjackets the OP in a weird way…
Its also fine maybe for birds, but terrible for less attended taxa and locations.

Why is nobody considering simply making the withdraw button more visible instead?
(I suggested a connected feature request before I read this… )
Isn’t this issue all partly a question of OPs simply not knowing what to do?

But I agree, an assimilated wiki and connected conversation shifting this towards positive change would be lovely to see.

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Agreed! This has been encouraging to see.

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I’m sure that when the iNat crew saw this thread getting so many lengthy response so quickly that their stomachs sank a bit! I think it’s actually a positive though. To have so many users so invested in the platform. The users know that the developers actually care about their opinions and will hear them out. I was tempted to post earlier, but then had trouble just keeping up with reading all the responses. Many others have already expressed my thoughts for the most part.

I’ve gone back and forth on the idea of adding confirming ids to observations that were already research grade. At first I didn’t even look at research grade obs, until I stumbled across quite a few that were misidentified. Then I figured that if I was going to look at them anyways I might as well add an id even if it was just confirming. It would provide some protection for future id changes and notify me if it happens. But, then I realized that sends out those annoying notifications unless people have changed their settings. It also makes me climb the identifier leaderboard of a given taxa, and people might think that was my goal. I agree that just marking as reviewed instead of agreeing is not ideal for reasons already stated, but I started to do it most of the time anyways.

I still use the agree button a lot though because my process is to filter for needs id, and a single species in a range. Then I either agree or correct, annotate, and then switch to a different species… then filter to the genus, family, etc. I find it much quicker that way and I am much less likely to make a mistake when I can look at the majority of the observations while only thinking of one species at a time. I’m sure that’s not how the experts do it though. If I didn’t do it some of those observations would sit around for weeks or months. I know as a newbie I was excited to get the input of others quickly. The non-experts among us can handle the easier ids to clear them so that the hard core experts can key out the more difficult ones. The agree button helps a lot with those quick but easy ids.

If people are using the agree button just to climb the leaderboards, then I agree that those types of agreements just shouldn’t go towards your id count. If more than say three people already made that id, the subsequent identifiers can still add an id, but it won’t add to their count on leaderboards or prominently display their name and icon. It could just say “x more people agreed.”

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Just to be clear, I’m not proposing taking away the ability to change an ID to agree, just not having the Agree button appear in this sitation (as was done for all RG observations over the weekend).

The OP would still have the ability to change their ID to match other reviewers (I would definitely not want to take that away). They would just need to do it “manually” by entering the species name, again taking an extra 5-10 seconds. I think this could be desirable as observers would need to think briefly about the ID rather than just reflexively clicking agree.

This isn’t super high on my personal wishlist, was just throwing it out as a potential option to address some of the concerns around usage of the Agree button. Maybe it’s a bad idea!

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Ahh i see, misunderstood. :)
Yes, I could also imagine this could be beneficial… especially in addition to a visible withdraw button :wink:

Without a withdraw button, it would worry me that the original ID would be simply left to languish, taking longer / involving more IDs to resolve a single observation.

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Yeah, I think that sounds interesting. I know I’ve been guilty of doing that on occasion, and maybe a tiny bit more friction would encourage me to leave the observation stand until a second party confirms it.

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Wow, so I’m guessing this will get lost in the general “agree” comments, but is there someway that the ability to use < !-- – > to provide invisible text can be restored? It’s a minor thing, but I had some basic formats and notes hidden in some of my guides when those segments weren’t ready yet. I’ve went back, found several, and deleted them, but it’s a bit of a pain to do so and it’s useful to be able to hide the new stuff while I’m reformatting an old guide.

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