Crazy prolific but incorrect identifier

I’m not sure what to do about a situation. I was identifying plants in my area and encountered one with an ID that made me check the map. The plant was woefully out of place in our area, except for this and another observation. I checked the other one, which was Research Grade, and it wasn’t even visually similar. It had two IDs: the observer and a user from Russia with over 50K identifications. The identifier’s profile says simply “Botanist”.

I looked at the identifier’s other identifications. I was stunned that the person had 2+ pages of IDs in a single day, and not all in the same taxa group. Things like Common Dandelion around the globe. (I don’t think that some of those observations could be IDed to a specific dandelion species from the photos provided, but I’m not sure.) The set of species covered was broad and the locations were all over. And several that I picked at random from North America were obviously incorrect. I didn’t see any in which the identifier provided any comments, although I don’t know if one can check whether they IDed it manually or just Agreed.

For the observations that were clearly misidentified, I suggested another taxon, as is the process. That took them out of Research Grade at least. But there are plants all over North America that I consider questionable. I’m not sure what to do. I won’t post the user’s name but I want to alert someone. If they had misidentified things in a few taxa, that would be easy: message the curators. But there are so many observations in so many taxa.

I will probably send the user a message suggesting politely that they might be more cautious about IDing plants in other locations, but there are still the 50K identification that exist now.

Am I taking this too seriously? I hate to have all those IDs fed into the machine learning program. CV has enough challenges without that.


This is a serious matter and something that goes with iNaturalist having to deal with 50 million observations. There are also too few careful identifiers.

Is this CV Identifications?

Please comment on the observation and say why it could not possibly be that species. If he/she do not respond then send a letter to Help@inaturalist … with the the links to the observations. They can approach him. Please do not do it yourself. Only comment on the indirect ID or correct it with reasons. The comment is very important.


I think I know the user @jbecky is talking about, and if so they are just confirming a lot of often misidentified observations.


Yeah, there are several such prolific ones here. I think that @alexis_orion is right - they are just mass-clicking agrees not putting at least some effort to check. That was the reason why I supported the controversial restrictions on the Agree button. I have stopped one of these prolifics from IDing/Agreeing at least in Europe (he is outside the area) by tagging him in several species or offering other inatters to tagg him. But in the case you describe, the best would be to comment on several of his ID’s, best by asking why they think this is x species and not y species. If after several such comments there is no reaction, then report the helpdesk.


Oof. I always worry someone will think I’m one of these people… I add lots of IDs and all around the globe. Which is why I avoid going past Family/Tribe or occasionally Genus any place I haven’t done my research yet.
A little off topic but if anyone spots me mis-identifying something, please tag me! I get way too many notifications a day to check all of them individually.


A family or genus ID is excellent. This allow an expert to find the observations. I would rather have that than a meaningless “plantae”. If not correct it would be easy for the specialist to say no.


… I also do a LOT of those when working with Unknowns just for the sake of speed… :sweat_smile::sweat_smile:


Learn your few selection of families or perhaps the order. I am sure it can be of more satisfaction to you.


Hardly. If you add coarse IDs to Unknowns to get them out of the unindentified swamp faster, this is a good and very commendable job. Though adding agreeing coarse ID (family or higher) to the one already present is mostly wasted time (my personal opinion).


It is still an unidentified swamp…

I think there has to be a personal effort to learn one family, or a small order. Find out what is what distinguishing it. This will be of a much more personal satisfaction if you get it right.

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I do that in addition to the coarse IDs :)
I specialize in Anisophyllum and am very slowly learning more Euphorbia. As a Genus with 2000+ species it’s a lot to learn.

Also, plenty of people (including myself) do follow up on Kingdom level IDs.


Well, it depends… If one adds Plant or even a Dicot, or Arthropod in an Unknown, it is still a swamp, I agree. But,for example, if one adds Myxomycete or even Mycetozoa, it is quite different. Everything is relative :-)


One way to stop prolific identifications is to stop publishing leaderboards. I have Blue Jay observations with 9 IDs. People are obviously trolling for specific species to quickly add to their totals. When they run out of known species they get desparate and start IDing everything in sight. The people you want to attract to this site would ID without the incentive of the gaming competition of leaderboards.


I am fairly new to iNat and read this topic with interest.
I agree with the comment that leaderboards encourage competitive behaviors. Which has positive and negative aspects. Prolific IDs just to be the leader is not in the spirit of iNat. But I have used the leaderboard to ask for “expert” help in ID. Of course I look at their user profile to for qualifications before bothering them with my request.
The suggestions on how to slow this prolific identifier are reasonable. I would definitely want others to let me know that I am incorrect in ID. After all, this community is about learning.


I do a lot of IDs, but only around greater Cape Town.

Then feel an obligation to meticulously check my notifications …
I learn as I go, and will clear my mistakes. Not fair to the observer, or any others who are also IDing on my IDs.


We have discussed leaderboards and there are benefits and disadvantages. I personally favour them, because it will often allow me to call on a person who knows a certain species. I have said often that I am primarily an identifier - I try to be thorough and explain my rationale, especially if I disagree with an ID. I don’t know how to deal with one or two rogue people - supressing them may also supress people like me who try to do a good job. I’ll leave this up to the admin folks to try and sort out.


I know this is a little beside your point, but 2+ pages in a day is not in itself an indication of mischief. I did 5.5 pages of IDs yesterday. It all depends on how much free time you have and whether you have the patience to look at a screen that long.


“Plantae” or “Angiospermae” are some of my favorite taxa to pull up on Identify!


Agreed that it is a tough situation. I’ve encountered this situation once and had a good response to tagging the user in comments on the observations, asking them to justify their ids, and writing my own reasoning for why their agrees to original erroneous ids were incorrect. I do think that iders who do this aren’t always cynical per se. They may just be new users who are a bit excited and want to help/participate. Whatever their motivation, hopefully some targeted feedback on how their behaviors are harmful will allow them to change. If not, contacting help is a good way to go.

Also, agree with previous comments that the good and bad of leaderboards have been discussed a lot. I personally wouldn’t mind making the leaderboards less prominent, but they are really valuable for finding folks to ask for advice, so eliminating them entirely seems like throwing out the baby with the bathwater.


I can see the value of listing the top ten identifiers of a species, but do it without numbers. If a person wants to be the top identifier of Blue Jays and they are in ninth place, are they going to sit there identifying Blue Jays if they do not know if they are 10 IDs away or 10000?