Crazy prolific but incorrect identifier

Flowering Plants does help to narrow it down a little better and might get it in front of a botanist quicker, but maybe not. I’m not a botanist and Flowering Plants is my default ID for my own records when I don’t know what it is I photographed … but it had flowers!


I’m constantly posting IDs on things for the first time. Tonight, it’s bumblebees. Within 5 minutes, I was the first to ID about 6 of them to species (they were sitting at genus).

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Are you saying that you know you identified it correctly, but someone who could not downgraded it?


If they didn’t add comments explaining why they challenged it, you can @tag them and ask. I’ve learned a lot about plants in my area by IDing things wrong and having my ID challenged. Sometimes people explain at the time; other times they need to be asked.

Are you sure they didn’t suggest a different species in the same genus? That would result in the community ID going to genus, which is how it appears in your “Me” list. If you say Lupinus texana and I say Lupinus latifolia, the community ID will be Lupinus. I would probably say why in the comments, like “Lupinus texana has shorter flower stalks” or “Species is not in that area.” But sometimes, I get lazy. Or I’m just tired of explaining after going through a lot of “Needs ID” observations in a genus. Or it’s very complicated to explain. If people are interested, they ask and I answer. If they don’t, another person IDing in that genus will confirm or challenge my ID.

Welcome to iNaturalist!


I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again here. Sometimes I will identify a moth, and learn its’ taxonomic features, then go off and identify a page of them. This may put me at the top of the leaderboard, but it does not mean I remember features six months later. @dianastuder makes a really good point - with time people learn who they can trust to both respond in a timely fashion, or to do some work if they do not know. It just takes some time to learn who to ask.


I agree with the comments above about asking the identifier for an explanation. Another common issue to watch out for is placeholder IDs. If you use those, they may look like IDs on your observation list but show up as “unknown” in the Needs ID pool. Once someone comes along and puts a rough ID on it, the placeholder is not retained unfortunately unless manually copied into a comment.


This happens sometimes: Observer identified the species as A. I look at the observation and think, “I know species A and this isn’t it, but I don’t know what species it is, but I agree with the genus.” So I change the identification to the genus. I should explain at least briefly why, but sometimes I get lazy and don’t. Please ask. I’m happy to explain, and occasionally I even realize I was wrong.


Oh, yes! If I remembered how to identify all the plants I’ve ever known how to identify, I’d be an absolutely marvelous plant identifier!!


And Ginkos and Cycads and Algae and more!


I agree ignoring the observer’s ID is a problem, but it is separate issue.

It’s being ignored just because they are the observer, not because they are the first ID at that level.

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First of all thank you everyone for your replies.
I had no idea I could @tag someone for more information, thought it was needed just didn’t know how to do it.
In response to the question. In 1993, local government commissioned a botanist to do a plant survey in my local reserve. I am using that survey as the basis of my observations. If I find a plant of a particular genus, I am assuming that it is the plant previously identified by the Botanist. It is unlikely, in my mind, that the original genus would disappear and be replaced by another. Further, many of the original observations I have photos of making it easier for me to identify.


Be aware that there may be more than one species of that genus in the area. The earlier survey may have found only one, but it’s possible that they missed others or they have moved in in the time since. Given the size and location of your reserve, the latter seems more likely. You also can’t rule out that it wasn’t correctly identified in the survey; a lot has changed in taxonomy since then.

Alternately, it may be that they downgraded it because the species can’t be determined based on what’s visible in the photos, even though it could be that species and is likely to be based on the survey. The fact that iNat treats “it could be this species but the photos are insufficient to tell” and “it is this genus but definitely not this species” the same is in part the subject of this long-running thread.

That said, I went through your observations and only saw one that was bumped down to genus.


Perhaps adding options providing a set of choices on alternative, optional parameters (checkboxes) would be useful.
A proposal for the top identifiers leaderboard in another topic :

(I will provide several relevant quotes in a separate post below)

If someone disagrees on the species, but okay on the genus, or suggests another species in the same genus, you get bumped back a taxon. Okay to open a dialogue with the other identifier on factors you think are for or against either one. Often they cave/agree, or will answer back. This is a good way to weed out the iNat Goal Scorers.
For each species not a slam-dunk, you may need to shepherd it through. And I think for you, it is worth it, if you’re classifying/documenting a reserve. Hang in. I have several slam-dunks nobody has cared to bring to RG.

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In this post I would like to summarize the 2 different “groups of opinions on this issue” that I found in this topic and 3 groups of solutions proposed, and will end with two questions.

Opinions on this issue :

  1. About 12 users in this topic have explicitly described various aspects of how the Agree button that adds supporting IDs is sometimes associated with inappropriate behaviour such as adding “crazy prolific incorrect IDs”.
  2. A single post suggested how in some cases multiple supporting IDs for single observations can reflect some kind of experts (perhaps obsessive, perhaps very cautious).

Of note, similar concerns are addressed by other topics or occasionally in other threads : just one example :

Solutions proposed in this thread:

  1. "The official” recommended solution is perhaps best described in 3 posts : tagging the incorrect IDers or systematically commenting the wrong IDs.
  2. Some posts suggested radical solutions : suppressing leaderboards altogether from iNat, or deleting and reposting the observations when they are “contaminated” by “crazy prolific incorrect IDs”.
  3. And 3 posts mentioned specific proposals that either have been discussed in the past or are newer and under discussion in other threads now.

I would like to provide what I found as possibly relevant quotes, as listed next.

(NB I did not follow chrolonogical order in the quotes. All my apologies)

  1. Quotes of reported inappropriate behaviours and comments highlighting the importance of their unwanted consequences

2. The single post in favor of having multiple supporting IDs

3. The “official” response to flawed IDs : tag, comment, ask for help

4. Radical proposals : new but quite extreme or time consuming for the users

5. Novel or past proposals mentioned in this topic

Briefly the proposal from the 7337 thread is of 6 or more checkboxes for the identifiers leaderboard : improving, leading, supporting, “own observations”, “lower ranks only”, “incomplete IDs included”

As for the two previous proposals I do not know them : where can we find @kueda’s proposal ? And the “Agree button” debate ?

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You can see the referenced discussions on agreeing here and here.

Before anyone else replies on that subject, I’d please ask that they read through all of the comments on those two posts and ensure that your comment adds something new to the table, is constructive, and improves the discussion. Thanks!


The same happened for Italy during the last days. I suggested, through PM, a user similar to the one you reported to get more insight into the taxonomy of common dandelions. He replied seeming to have understood the point. I do not know if he is the same person.

For me the issue is rather serious for some reasons. In many cases skilled identifiers are lacking and it is difficult to revert a wrong ID. Moreover I think that we claim that we are spreading knowledge. Provided that the right for everyone to try to ID something should be defended, on the other hand we should take into account that a prolific but incorrect identifier can spread false thruth and that many user do not have a critical thinking for this subject.


This is why I almost always try to find a reliable source of information to cite in my identifications, if applicable. If something looks like a plant or fungus, but I am unable to discern the organism further, then I just put the broad Kingdom identification. For those cases, I do not need to add a source of information since it is common sense/knowledge. The problem with adding sources and more detailed explanations is that it makes one appear to be an expert. In actuality, this is not the case.

As many people on the forum by this point know, I used to identify Peppered Moths. I thought that since the American subspecies was not be properly labeled, I should try to correct as many observations as possible to make the iNaturalist data more accurate. Obviously, to many people, this was a non-issue. One main issue by adding so many Biston betularia cognataria identifications was that my position in the leader board suddenly went up. This was not at all what I wanted. I just wanted to make people aware of the importance of subspecies (if applicable). To this end, I have been somewhat successful. Several people now label the subspecies without needing any intervention.

But to get back the main point, I also stopped identifying Peppered Moths because I was getting more identifications than some experts. @amzamz is not only the most prolific Peppered Moth identifier on iNaturalist, he also has over thirty years of practical experience in the field. He is, by all definitions, a true expert. How would @amzamz feel that a neophyte, like myself, got more identifications on a subject he has been studying for more than three decades? I stopped because I respected the experts. I stopped because I also respected the community.

P.S.: I felt that my story is applicable to the thread. Perhaps by friending experts, by making people feel as though they are a part of an actual community, it may persuade identifiers like those aforementioned by previous posters to correct their wrongs.


Someone mentioned this topic to the identifier in question before I got up my nerve to talk to him (I’m fairly shy). He messaged me and we had a short chat. He is a practicing botanist who travels to many locations. That said, we talked about moderation in identifying things. I consider the matter closed. Can we please turn off comments on this thread, to put it to bed?