Create a way to see that people want explanations on IDs

Platform(s), website

Description of need: it would be nice to have a symbol by or maybe colored circle around avatar or different color to a users name that would occur when someone sets their account to “yes i want to learn, please explain your ID”

Feature request details:
I find it frustrating when people disagree or bump back IDs without saying anything. Time and time again when this topic comes up, identifyers are overwhelmed and dont have the time to comment as it can be felt no one cares to the “why”. However a lot of us do. I am sadly finding more and more even asking, I dont get replies explaining so the “just ask them!” is working maybe half the time. There are a lot of reasons someone wont see a notification even if they are a “good” identifier.

Therefore, To streamline this process for IDers, it would be nice to have a spot in your account settings that would do something to your name or profile photo (so its visible on Identify and the observation page both) to point out “yes, this person is active and wants explanations”. This way, identifiers know where to spend the extra time to write things out while they are looking at it and not having to backtrack and remember later. [If a user goes inactive for say, 3 months, this toggle would automatically be unchecked to prevents lasped or dead accounts from still requesting further detail.]

Edit: discussion revealed the inactive auto untoggle is a bad idea. Scratch the last bit in

I love this idea. From an identifier’s perspective, I frequently go through and bump back to genus hundreds of unidentifiable observations at a time, and I don’t have the time to comment a unique explanation on every single one of them. I always reply to direct messages from people asking for a further explanation, but it’s not unusual for me to have 400+ notifications when I log on, so there’s no way I’m going to see a comment saying “please explain” buried in among them. If I knew who wanted a detailed description of why I’m disagreeing with their ID, I could easily provide that in the few cases where someone wants it.


As an identifier, I agree that it is frustrating when information is not documented/shared when making IDs more/less specific, but I am not sure how this system would change identifier behaviour. The proposed system suggests deprioritising inactive accounts although they are not less deserving of detailed discussions on their observations. Identification discussion on observations are often used as a reference by users other than the observer.

It is the identifier’s choice to offer explanation. It does take time to explain ID actions. I explain whenever making the ID more or less specific or disagreeing with the observer’s held ID. I also explain if others have done so without explanation and the observer has yet to review their ID. The exception is sometimes I will not explain ssp agreements if others have already made the ssp ID, but will address questions if asked. I encourage other identifiers to explain disagreements that disrupt the existing Community ID (I frequently encounter a situation where identifiers choose to disagree with more specific Community ID with no explanation, removing specificity that was indeed accurate). These are my personal approaches and every identifier has their own. Personally, observer activity has no factor in my approach because I want the observation and ID history to exist as a record for everyone, not just the observer.

To me, this feels less like a need for an altogether new, complicated system of symbols and more like a need for better notification management. I would prefer that notification management be prioritised over creating a sort of “bandage” system over the issue of hard-to-find notifications.


Hmmm, the response rate I get is higher than that, but I don’t ask very often and usually I ask specific questions, maybe that’s why my experience differs. But that aside, do you think you’d get a higher rate of people explaining with your method?

I agree with iisips that a better notification system (which has been discussed or even announced for a while now if I recall correctly) might be the better solution.


I disagree that it deprioritisies. I am not suggesting an ability to filter by inactive account or by desire for explanation. It is all mixed in together.

The only difference is it would tell IDers who is still interested in the whys.

The reason i suggest it gets auto removed after three inactive months (flexible on that) is so that way accounts that go inactive do not waste IDer time in explaining - NOT that they would not be IDd, but the extra time to explain would not be highlighted as desired (as the person is currently not around to have a convo or see it). As current; if they became active again they could do the tag and ask.

I used to get higher than that. And i now know specific people for specific things I ask questions. Its the folk i dont know who come through - usually with a low observed organism - that I have trouble getting reply from. Likely specialists(?), but probably inundated with notices and ignoring what they have done because they know - not worrying about or caring if we know, or even can find or have access to keys they may have. The goal would be for these type of IDers to in real time know who is genuinely trying / wanting to learn so explanation time efforts can be focused without hassle.

This would also focus IDer efforts to educate those interested who can help, taking pressure off.

Its basically a way to streamline flag “hey i do want to learn, and I can help” - so the extra effort and time that takes for IDers to do goes to those who would help in turn.

I do not think improved notification does the same: that still requires a person to go back to an observation that is no longer fresh in their mind. Some these things take key time. Much easier and less time and hassle to do in real time, rather than having to go back and re-do it later.

Looping back - to the deprioritizing those not interested concern - if someone personallh used it that way, would it actually be wrong? As an IDer myself for some tricky taxa, someone active who wants to learn and can then help me clear backlogs i actually do want to focus on in the near term, as then long term, we can clear more backlog together, which impo is better for longterm health of iNat.

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On the one hand, it can be a useful feature. On the other hand, I don’t think it can significantly change the behavior of identifiers. So, I will abstain from voting. I’ll explain the logic of my actions regarding explaining my ID’s.

Firstly, it seems to me that the issue is not the abstract amount of “necessary time”. But in the limited amount of this resource at the identifier. Perhaps, having spent time on a complicated explanation, they simply do not have time to think more carefully about other observations. And somewhere they will stop at a more approximate identification. I think this is also worth thinking about: every time an identifier writes an explanation, somewhere, some other observation might be left out.

In practice, if an observer asks me a question about the reasons for my identification - of course I try to give a detailed answer. And I am deeply sorry if I have missed any questions in the dashboard. But I can always be reminded (in private messages, too). If I don’t see the question addressed to me personally - I follow roughly the following logic:

  1. Do I agree with the previous ID? If my ID is confirming or supportive - I almost never add a comment.

  2. (If I don’t agree) Is the previous identification based on CV or personal opinion? If the former - I most often do not add a comment, even if I do not agree. I understand that sometimes it’s just a “lazy” way to add ID (I do that sometimes too). But I can’t confidently separate such cases from here. But commenting on CV suggestions, I have the strange and uncomfortable feeling of talking to a robot.

  3. (if I disagree, and the identification seems realized rather than based on CV suggestion) How closely related is the identified taxon to the one I would refer it to? In “subtle” cases I always comment on my identification, in cases of severe errors (as it seems to me) I often don’t. “Often” are those cases where it seems to me that the previous identifier (observer) probably used some guides, but rather inattentively. Or I have some other (not always easily explainable - maybe even just emotional) reason for refraining from commenting. Maybe I just see a more interesting and difficult to identify observation that I want to take the time to make. Sorry.

Does the “you have N requests to explain identifications” notice affect this logic? I doubt it. It seems to me that in this case I will often be getting away with a formal reference to some guide if the request does not contain a detailed question. Would that be useful to observers? I’m not sure about that either.

A more useful feature to me would be the option to filter messages in the dashboard in some way. For example - "identification of your observations”, “confirmation of your identifications”, “disagreement with your identifications”, “comments”. But I’m not sure it’s possible in the existing site logic.

I apologize if my comment disappointed anyone.


No, it is not. Many identifiers already do this by only offering explanation when explicitly asked. This issue with that is difficulty finding those questions in notification management. Your proposal also automatically classifies the inactive as not interested, which cannot be assumed. The observer may return and may have appreciated the information. The observer is not the only entity that benefits from ID discussion.

I think any integrated system that separates the “interested” and “uninterested,” especially if you can unwillingly be marked “uninterested” by inactivity, sends subtle messaging that some observations are not worth discussion because the observer will not appreciate it. It emphasises the observer as the only one that can gain from extra information and also conflates inactive observers as uninterested ones. I disagree that this system would improve the community identification or observation record quality of the site. Identifiers are free to make their own decisions, but I do not see how the issues at hand could not be addressed by improving existing notification systems.


Do you turn off notifications of confirming IDs (The IDs that just agrees with yours), from the account setting page?
It is highly recommended that you turn it off if you haven’t.
As an active identifier, I had the same problem, but now I have much less notificatios to go through thanks to it ,while I am notified for everything that I should have a look at.

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Also, it would be nice if we could see which users are using ios app only, since they barely see our comments because of the system. It frustrates me when I notice “ios app” on observations after writing long comments explaining my IDs.


Ah i understand. Yes that is a good point. I would amend to not have that part of the feature then.

I do think clicking-in (it doesnt have to be hidden, but on your main profile page which active folk do set up) is still good. The 30 second initiative to say you want explanation i dont feel is limiting.

Oof i didnt know that. I think iNat is making a new iOS ap though that has same features as android.


Are you suggesting a feature that would request an explanation on every observation a user would post? Or just some of them when a user activated the request system? Very few would want an explanation on every one of their records and no IDer should be expected to provide that.


iNat needs a way to bring together skilled identifiers and willing helpers. On the other thread Gesneriaceae person is battling with ‘all these potted African violets’


Someone who wants to learn so if you are disagreeing or moving something back, explain why. I dont think anyone wants an explanation on everything.

I did not think about activating it on a per observation basis, i like that variant as well but it was not my original thought.

Some working scientists do IDs on iNat to relax. Their crossword puzzle, solitaire or sudoku. Even if you would like an explanation, they, may prefer to clear a chunk of obs instead.


I think if it is implemented it should be on a per observation basis. ‘What are the particular observations where you really want to know more.’

But ultimately I agree with those who say that a separate notification stream for comments and tags would make the biggest difference. ID notifications are far more abundant and comment notifications are easily buried. A couple of times I’ve seen a request for a comment and thought ‘I’ll reply to that when I get home’ or whatever, but by then it’s buried and I can’t find it any more. Yesterday I came across an observation where someone had tagged me a year ago, so I apologised.

Part of the problem is that it’s already far less laborious to request an explanation than to provide one. I can imagine making it so easy to automatically request comments on whole sets of observations would result in a large proportion of users casually demanding a huge amount of input from identifiers that they not really particularly bothered by.


Thats fine. I am not suggesting anyone be forced, merely it be obvious who sincerely wants the info to streamline thing better. :)

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As has been said, if this was going in I would want it to be on a by observation basis, I highly doubt anyone truly wants to know more about every single taxon they upload. If I upload a fungus, it’s because I thought it looked cool, but I don’t have time to learn about an entirely new Kingdom, so I’m not going to waste the Fungi identifiers time by insisting on an explanation. But if I upload a Bee, then I do want to know more and am actively reading about those off of the site.

I do agree that there should be a time frame though, if the observer hasn’t logged on in 3 months, who’s to say they’ll ever log back in.

Also, I don’t think opted out users should get this option.

Having said all that, I agree with @iisips that an improved notification system would be a better thing to have. And I think that if the person really wants to know, they’ll @ and if that doesn’t work, send a DM. I get DM requests all the time, and I send them all the time.

Finally, there kind of already is an option for this: include a comment saying something like: “I think this species based on this,this,&this mentioned in this book, if I’m wrong thoughts appreciated.” That shows that the person wants to learn more then just checking a mark does.


Something that factors into my decisions about whether to proactively explain or not that I don’t think has been mentioned elsewhere is how widely applicable the explanation/new ID knowledge is likely to be. So I am much more likely to put unprompted explanations of how to tell something is a sawfly larva instead of a caterpillar (different order) or that geometrids only have 2 pairs of abdominal legs (different family) than a detailed explanation of why it’s this particular species instead of the other.

That’s been “in the works” now for years with no indication that it’s anywhere near ready. I’ve pretty much given up on the IOs app ever being properly upgraded.

I don’t think you can make an assumption about a users interaction with comments based on how they upload. I do all of my uploads via the iOS app, but review the website for comments and feedback.