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

You’re right; they’ve said we can type in observations in the box and click submit, which means any wrong RG IDs can still be reversed. But the main comment thread under the update is full of people who are displeased with the change and say they’ll probably leave iNat or start using it less because typing in words again and again consumes their time.:man_shrugging:

For me, it’s okay on an experimental basis. We can always see what effect this has over a few weeks and tweak things or go back if necessary. If I really care about IDing, I can spare the time to type in a letter or two. And yes, it works as well on a phone as on a computer.

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It more than doubles the time to do IDs. When you do a lot of identifying, having your productivity reduced to 30-50% of your previous ability/pace hurts.

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It´s a pitty, however, if during this experimental phase good IDers are lost because this task gets more annoying n this way. I already see that if IDers put an annotation to an observation, they usually only put the ones that might be in question (e.g. the dead or alive annotation is often left unanswered while the others are done). I totally get that, as doing the annotations is painfully slow already, especially after I corrected or IDed as well… it takes the page a while to recognize that an thus also me to move on. Having to type stuff adds to this time. Even if it is only some seconds, but seconds feel like ages staring on a page waiting for it to refresh. I would totally get it if people therefore don´t feel they want to go into already IDed observations if they cannot just click the agree button on the overview page, even if their expert opinion would add a lot to it.

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As I write this, the changes described in the original post have been up for a little less than 18 hours, if my math is correct (and it often isn’t). Please give it a day or two and see how you feel. If you like, don’t like it, or are neutral, your feedback will likely be better because it’s more informed. But feedback is definitely appreciated.

To be clear, this is not preventing anyone from adding agreeing IDs, it just makes it a little more difficult/time consuming to do so in certain situations. Like Ken-ichi said in the blog post, it’s a trade-off to reduce some unwanted behavior. Whether it’s worth it, I suppose we’ll see. If you don’t think it is, please live it with for a day or two and provide specific examples that you think make it not a net gain, like @tysmith did.

No, that shouldn’t be affected.

Since iNat always displays stats, you should always be able to see who the top identifier of a certain taxon, or region, or whatever, is via Explore. However, that number includes supporting IDs, among some other issues, which may or may not indicate that person’s expertise. It could be changed to only show leading IDs, for instance, which might be more indicative of expertise, but a change like that will involve taking the site down for a little while.

If you find issues with the markdown functionality, please file a bug report and provide specific examples (screenshots, URLs, text).

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I agree that we are being harsh on it within a short time period. However, multiple iNatters have reached out to tell me that they are either leaving or seriously considering leaving - because of the change, or what they think the change will turn into. That’s not good! :-(

So Staff are actually taking suggestions here? That is a breath of fresh air :-) Thank you!

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Yes, 4 IDs is another benchmark then just 2 (one suggesting and one just going along with it).
I also wonder, if this change is considered to be not that hurtful, how should it on the other hand prevent these ID-leadership-hunters from just doing the same that is now expected from expert identifiers, who might have considerably less valuable time to spare for the community. I am not convinced at all. Either it has a considerbale effect on comfortable IDing (and thus will limit expert IDing maybe to a point of experts leaving) or it has no big effect (and is thus useless anyways).

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I feel that the recent changes implemented to the Agree button (removing it from RG observations) are quite negative and a bad direction for the site/community. I’ve heard lots of arguments against this change from a diversity of users. I’ve also seen in comments many people saying that this change won’t have that much of a negative impact or that it isn’t a big deal. I’ve also spent a decent portion of today running through this in my mind, and thought I would share the ways in which I see this change being negative for me personally (apologies for the long post, it’s therapy for me if nothing else). I’ll give three examples of how not having the Agree button has a serious negative impact on how I use iNat:

  1. The case many people are reporting: They have certain regions or taxa that they curate by going through observations and identifying, including agreeing even if there are already at least two confirming identifications already. As several people have pointed out, a user can still add an agreeing ID, but needs to do this manually. This probably adds 5-10 seconds per ID depending on how many characters one needs to type (and how good of a typist one is). I’ve seen several folks say: this is hardly any time, don’t complain! However…it adds up!

I actually can speak to the effect here because, for a long time, I didn’t understand how the agree button worked, so I did all my IDs manually (as is now necessary)…I know I was stupid, but whatever. Anyways, I compared my productivity (how many observations I could get through in 10 min) after figuring out the agree button, and I was 2.5-3 times faster than before on several different trials, which is a massive increase in efficiency.

I’ve also seen people argue that identifiers should just designate observations as “reviewed” (keyboard shortcut for R, same speed as agreeing) in place of agreeing. There are several good arguments against this, but the most persuasive to me is that this argument/workflow essentially says that reviewing an observation that has reached Research Grade is not worth an observer’s time. If I go through an observation, view it, and use my expertise to make a decision about its accuracy, I’ve done all the work. If I hit “review” that work all disappears and is never recorded anywhere and it affects nothing. It doesn’t help anyone else and no one is aware of it (except a server somewhere). Given that anywhere from 70-95% of RG observations are IDed accurately (depending on taxa as I understand based on previous posts, but I may be incorrect on this), that means that most time spent on RG observations would involve pressing “R for reviewed.” This is pretty demoralizing and demotivating. Why would I want to look at any RG observations to check them?

  1. I run a yearly outreach project (Lizards on the Loose) which has 6-12 grade students in the Miami area posting observations on anoles in urban environments. In better times, we get to personally meet teachers and some students and tell them we’re looking forward to seeing their observations on iNat. When their observations post, we check them, agree (even if they are already RG), and comment on cool ones, provide suggestions, feedback, and encouragement as we can. The projects have generated 2,000+ observations per year, though most of these are made in about a month.

Agreeing to these observations is an important way for us to communicate to students and teachers that a) we have seen their observations, b) we value their work, and c) we are excited for them to be in the project. By removing the agree button, this will take a lot more time (2.5-3 times as long, as per my experience above). We wouldn’t be able to provide timely feedback to students, if we can keep up at all (it’s not my day job, just service). I would feel really bad if I couldn’t give students that feedback that we’re valuing their work, and I’d start looking for different ways to do the project in some kind of reduced fashion (heck, I already emailed my collaborators about this today).

  1. I work with undergraduate students who use iNaturalist data for research or class projects. In general these experiences have been really positive for them. Being able to use iNat is going to be even more important/useful for my classes/students in a COVID world where they can’t get out to collect data as they would before. I don’t need to preach to the choir on why this is a great use of iNat data (and can lead to more iNat users, etc.). I will note that several students’ work based on this has been presented at conferences, and one is currently preparing her work for submission to a journal.

Part of the way that we standardize these observations and increase their rigor is that we have one identifier (that’s me), confirm the ID on all observations that students use. This gives a straightforward way to describe methods. It also makes using observations really easy for my students: if they see that I’ve IDed the observation, they know that they’re good to go. This also lets us use some observations that aren’t RG (because of disagreements, but for which I’m confident in the identification). Without the agree button, I won’t be able to keep up with the observations (mostly of anoles, but that’s just me…:wink: that are posted to iNat. My students will have fewer options in terms of the data that they can use, and our research workflow will be a bit more difficult/less efficient. I realize that this last reason is a pretty niche case, and so I don’t personally place a lot of weight on it singularly. I do mention it because I imagine that there are a lot of other users for whom this change also results in a “niche case” being disrupted, and I feel it’s worth acknowledging that over many users the smaller negative effects of this change can add up.

To sum up, I feel that there are lots of negative impacts to this change, and, at least in my personal experience, the arguments for the change do not seem compelling enough to justify the negative consequences for many users.

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I would spend all my likes on this if I could :wink: Thank you for this great summary.

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Before I repeat what I’ve said, is there evidence that “unwanted” IDs are that numerous to pose a greater problem to the quality of the site? I’ve seen it happen, and others have too, but I feel like the solution here is treating this topic as if it’s something far more serious and apparent than it is.

Sure, it doesn’t take much more time to switch to the keyboard to type out a name. But that convenience formerly in a single mouse click was exceptionally useful. And that sense of adding a burden, even if it’s a few more seconds at best, is enough to discourage the fickleness that is the human race.

The largest oversight for me is for observations that are not even research grade, or have 2-3 IDs of different taxa. Why is the agree button removed in these cases? If this was an observation with a large number of community-agreed IDs, I’d understand. But to remove the agree button for a taxon ID that isn’t even the community ID is really redundant in itself.

For instance, why would the agree button have been removed for me in these cases? In no sense do the change here combat the problem of redundant IDs:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/760137
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/37823792

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To be clear, this is not preventing anyone from adding agreeing IDs, it just makes it a little more difficult/time consuming to do so in certain situations.

And this is quite enough to lose some of the high-level experts who actually do the i-naturalist a favor by wasting their time on verification of observations. And now this mission is being artificially made difficult for them. I fully understand those who say “goodbye”, having discovered this fact.

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No ID should be unwanted unless it is spam/troll activity. And there is so little of that - nearly every case is quickly fixed by this community - that this huge change can’t be just because of that. Forget Citizen Science if IDs are unwanted…

The power and quality of citizen science projects are in numbers. Offending our top IDers and telling them their agreements are absolutely worthless with this is … crazy. I never thought iNat would get to this place.

We did this to discourage people from adding redundant identifications to observations that don’t need them, i.e. observations that no longer “need IDs” because there’s already a community consensus at the species level. I suspect most people add IDs like this because they’re fixated on increasing their identifications count.

Here is Ken-ichi saying bluntly that our top IDers are only fixated on ‘increasing their identifications count’.
Is kueda seriously wanting identifications to go away for good? Or is it top identifiers he is after? What is the point of this change? Why is kueda so rushed to make a change when no change was implemented for over 10 years? I’m sorry - I just don’t get it. :-(

I understand that agreeing IDs can still be added - yeah, awesome. But kueda has said now quite clearly that they don’t like agreeing IDs. If they liked agreeing IDs and just wanted trolls to go away, they’d add a verification system instead of this radical change.

I wonder what would happen if I opened a PR on github that reverts this change. :smile:

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As I understand it, at the basis this is to prevent:

  1. large numbers of “agreement” IDs, to the point that they may be considered redundant.
  2. mass-IDing for competitive interest, resulting in what was described above.

Aiming to resolve this is honestly a worthy venture, if it is indeed a genuine problem. However, this posed solution has fallen completely flat of that.

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It is much better and simpler to turn off the counters of the identifications made so that an extra number of them does not bring any honors. Those who make identification for work and for the public benefit will not be hurt by it. It is better than remove convenient working tools.

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Quite simply:

  1. Leadership hunters most often agree with RG observations.
  2. True IDers do not need to add their agree if they see that the ID is correct. Actually, I practically never did. The ID is correct, it is RG, so why do I need to add one more agree on top?
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I am afraid that some are… Not many though. I’ve just learned this recently. To my surprise. And I was thinking to tag him about certain species. The surprise came as a very unpleasant fact.

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As someone who honestly very much finds purpose in the “community agreement” of iNat, I can never see there being an issue with more than a few viewpoints expressed. Some people make mistakes, or are uncertain, and additional IDs help support and encourage the identification.

One of my favourite benefits is when an ID is corrected, and then the previous users involved are able to learn from that experience. Adding an ID also tags you on that observation for when comments or questions arise in future.

A fringe case where multi-IDs are useful are when one user leaves iNat, and chooses to remove their IDs, meaning previously IDed obs are no longer RG and lose a vote of support. This happened with the expert on conifers, leaving hundreds of obs back at “needs ID”.

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Hmm yeah I too think this is an unfortunate change (speaking as a user not a forum moderator). I often review some research grade observations, for instance a person I’m collaborating with to do wetland surveys. If I don’t agree with their ID they won’t know I reviewed it. This will also make it harder for teachers to review their students’ observations. And as others have said many tricky species benefit from 3 ids or more. If people are adding wrong Ids to research grade observations that’s too bad but otherwise who cares if someone wants a million agree ids? Doesn’t harm me any.
Not a big deal and I haven’t tried it much yet (was confused recently trying to agree with something) but my take is this will mildly irritate people and won’t solve the “problem” with leaderboards.

Alternative idea: default the button to gone but let people turn it on? Maybe wouldn’t solve the problem. Just a thought. :man_shrugging:

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I simply don’t get why we need more than two or three IDs per observation, and how does this discourage experts are my main two questions. Arguably, the more important observations are those that haven’t been IDed yet, and shouldn’t those be the ones IDers spend more time on? IDing RG observations is useless in most cases. Manually adding an ID doesn’t take that long, and if cumulatively, it takes much longer than before, then, in my opinion, it would seem you are IDing too many RG observations. Also, there have been sooo many problems where people ID hundreds of RG observations of species they don’t have any familiarity with only to go up in the leaderboard, resulting in lots of obs the iNat community has to then fix, and with the limited amount of IDers we have, we can’t catch every single one of them, and even the ones we do, it takes weeks to fix because there are already 5-6 incorrect IDs on that obs.

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What if instead of removing the agree button we just don’t count the agree button in the leaderboards? You could even condense it like “three people agreed” and make it less obvious who did it if that seems helpful.

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That would be a whole lot better than what is done right now. :+1:

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