Create Forum category for ID requests

To encourage more identification… I know others have dismissed this idea but I would love to see a forum section for ID requests. It would need a few rules to stop it from getting overwhelmed, for example:

  1. observations must be older than a month (by upload date) before ID help is requested
  2. the user has to explain their thinking about the ID and not just say “ID please” - even if it’s just “I think it’s one of these three plants but I don’t know how to separate them”. Hopefully this would encourage users to do a little research and learn about the taxa to eventually get better at identification in the future.

To me, this would be a fun way to contribute identifications because there’d be more of a sense of social interaction and helping other users. It would also be an interesting place to browse and discover unusual observations, even if you aren’t capable of IDing them yourself.

Welcome to forum @grace_sibley! Since your post has to do with a proposed Forum feature, instead of recruiting more identifiers to join iNaturalist.org itself, I moved it to a new topic in the Forum Feedback category. Feel free to improve on the title I gave it.

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This reminds me of the “brick wall” concept in genealogy - people asking for help finding information about an ancestor when they hit a brick wall despite all their attempts. I agree it would be fun for the kind of observations that gnaw at you and that you REALLY want to resolve, but there should be something special about them, a story. I picture it being a category called “Stumped!” (with suitable logo), where you can link to the observation with your story about why you just gotta know about this one. (But I understand if we want to keep IDs out of the Forum.)

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I like the “brick wall” concept, and I would be interested to read about especially difficult IDs! But even for fairly “ordinary” ID questions (what kind of dandelion is this?) I feel like lurking and reading discussions on a forum like that would help me get better at learning what to look for and how to do it on my own :)

There is just not much back-and-forth discussion that happens in the comments of observations - mostly people seem to leave an ID and move on. It’s nice to see IDs come in on some of my observations, but I was hoping I could go to the forum to read some more in-depth discussion about identification. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a place for that discussion here.

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There’s often more than you think! Sometimes it’s just a matter of asking identifiers why they made a particular ID, what characters are important for that species, etc. Most identifiers are more than happy to explain their decisions. This one is a good example https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/28423346 :)

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I agree with @thebeachcomber. Often my comments/questions/musings on mine or other people’s observations don’t get a response, but over time…and lots of observations…I have had a lot of discussion, learned amazing things, occsionally helped amaze someone else, learned to ID more things, and along the way got some invaluable identifications.

When I started on iNat I had some pressing issues that needed ID to resolvebefore further action - eg uprooting weeds or fiercely protecting natives… so I created a Traditional Project called something like “Indentification needed for Restoration purposes”, and added my most urgent ID needs to the Project. Then I would go back from time to time to remind myself what I still needed to get identified.

I don’t think i got any IDs or discussion by doing that, and eventually felt it was as though I was putting my own obs ahead of others in the ID queue, and deleted the Project…but it could be a way of achieving what you describe, anyone could start it, and publicise it in the Forum perhaps…unless publicising a Project is discouraged.

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Aside from the fact that it goes against the iNaturalist flow, the sheer number of ID requests in that forum would chase away people who know how to ID things. Doing it from a forum would be WAY more work for the IDer than going through the normal iNaturalist flow.

If the observer knows something about its classification, they can put that info in the ID field. They can explain their logic in the comments when they create the observation, so all identifiers can see it, no matter how they come to be looking at the observation.

Once the observation is in a nearby taxon, people generally look through Needs ID for things they know how to ID. Even if the observer doesn’t put anything in the taxon field, people regularly go through Unknown and give them a high level ID to move things on.

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I have doubts whether a forum “channel” for ID would work. But I do like the idea of a place to bring up “cold case” situations. Perhaps if there was a limit to how recent the obs is, like it has to be 6 months old or longer, before it can be raised in the forum? However, it would be good to be able to prioritise certain observations that might have time sensitivity on their IDs. For instance, I might be writing a report on katipo and need the ID of another spider that I suspect might be a predator, and it would be excellent if I could somehow “feature” that one observation as being my highest priority ID need at present. Currently I tag other iNatters that I have had dialogue with in the past, which works for taxa that I am most active with.

I think if there was the ability in iNat to set one of your observations as being your “feature observation”… and have a page that includes everyones featured obs all together.

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It’s interesting to see the range of reasons why people want priority ID help, but I think the existing system is reasonably designed to take care of most of these. Asking for help by tagging particular identifiers and explaining your case is a great way to learn. You don’t want to be the person who’s always raising their hand and monopolizing the help, but you don’t want to be the one who stays silent and learns nothing either. Gaining expertise means you can become an identifier for that taxon yourself and pass on the knowledge.

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There is already a Discord that may be what you want for this. Besides general chat areas in it, there are channels for ID. More info: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/unofficial-inat-discord-server/904

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Similar in concept to this feature request, which was ultimately rejected as too complicated to implement. Maybe your suggestion would be a simple enough alternative?

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I actually like your idea better. The way I envisage it working would be that you could set ONE observation as your “feature” or “priority” observation, and while it is in the needs ID pool it would be brought to the front no matter how old it was. Once marked reviewed, it would drop out of the needs ID pool for that identifier, so would not continue to show and be “in the way”. In other words, all that would need to be done would be to have the Identify page put all featured observations ahead of all others, regardless of the sort order, ie sort on the featured flag first, then the other sort criteria. Perhaps in the filter box you could turn off the “featured first” setting, but it would need to be default to be effective.

The majority of specialist identifiers of course would be using custom queries anyway, so they are likely to not have their workflow affected, but for those just using the standard Identify page, it would mean they are always looking at “priority” observations before any others, and as soon as they attain RG status they would naturally drop out of the needs ID pool and so the “featured” status becomes irrelevant and it would be on the observer to then select a new featured observation. At no stage would they become unnecessarily “in the way” as far as the Identify page is concerned!

I could imagine that it wouldn’t have to be limited to ones own observations, either. You could set someone elses observation as your featured observation, just because you want to know the ID of that observation more than any other in iNat, including your own. if you found yourself in the situation where you had a (legitimate) need to find the ID on 3 observations with a degree of urgency, then you could ask other iNatters if they had their feature slot free,and could they feature one of your 3 to help you out. A slight possibility of encouraging sock puppet behaviour, but it would be comparable to the existing potential of sockpuppeting to confirm or weight ones own IDs at present.

By having it limited to one observation per iNatter, the potential for abuse or over-use would be somewhat mitigated.

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I’m just concerned that a section for ID requests here would actually have very little impact on getting things validated. Only a very small percentage of overall iNaturalist users are active on the forum, and many of the folks who are active here are already high volume observers and/or identifiers.

The enjoyment level on the forum could be impacted if it just became a proxy for asking for ID’s.

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Yes, I’d like to keep ID requests to the current system on iNaturalist, or to improve it on that site, rather than use the forum for this purpose.

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My experience has been much that of Grace. I have had some great conversations over an observation, but that is an exception, not the rule. I post comments and no one responds. I send messages to top identifiers and get maybe a 10% response rate. I think generally people on iNaturalist want to click and not have to type… but those that frequent forums are doing so to seek out discussion and so that may help.

It doesn’t even have to be something that rare… In Pennsylvania right now we are inundated with Kousa dogwood fruit pictures, that I feel comfortable identifying as Kousa. However, something called Bentham’s Cornel comes up just as frequently and I’m not sure I am basing my identifications on legitimate characteristics. I’m trying to start an open conversation about it, but no one responds. No one. I am suspecting they pick Bentham’s because it comes up first on iNat… but if they don’t answer, I can’t know for sure.

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I would love to see difficult observations, requests for most urgent ID or interesting stuff, but I think the best platform for that would be an app in Tinderstyle. Users could add observations to this app (somehow, don’t ask me how), and you could swipe left n right until you find an observation you are interested in that you want to identify.
One user in the forum ask for test users for his app. It is kind of funny. The app shows observations without ID and you can swipe in different directions for low level classification into plants, animalia, fungi etc. We could ask the programmer if he would be willing to make an app that addresses the ID request topic.

App Topic
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/am-looking-for-some-test-users-of-an-identification-app/430/21

That app was developed (I believe) to streamline the process of getting unknown observations into low level taxa, a sort of ID triage, so to speak. The goal being to reduce the amount of IDers that need to view it in the Needs ID pool. The reasoning is that plant people want to identify plants, and herp people want to identify herps. There has been extra functionality added on when suggested by those testing it. It is very much the opposite of what this forum topic is suggesting though.

Here, we are wanting to increase the amount of identifiers who look at observations where the observer has an urgency or strong desire to advance the ID. In effect we want the Plant people to take a look at this one herp observation in case they might know what it is, and vice versa. Of course, not just for plants and herps. But we don’t want the observation to remain “in the way” once we have looked at it, so for me the Identify page with it’s filtering out reviewed observations is the perfect place for this.

The default behaviour for the identify page is “show all ‘needs ID’ obs that you haven’t reviewed yet, newest first”. During very active times, observations quickly get buried by a large number of newer ones, and then it follows that only the most active identifiers will see the observation. Many of us use custom filters to narrow the pool down to an area of expertise, which might be either taxa or place. I’m not an expert, but if it makes it to Aranae in NZ I will generally review it. If I set my filters to Aranae and NZ, I might have a pool of say, 500 to ID. If 3 of those observations had been set as “featured” or priority by other iNatters, then those 3 would be put to the top of that list, and they would be the first ones I review. This would not change my “workload”, as I still would review them anyway, it just means that I get to them before all the others. Once I ID it or mark it as reviewed if I can’t, then it drops out of my Identify Query just like every other observation does.

I’m going to write this up as a formal feature request!

But is it all that different than the existing one @jdmore linked to earlier? https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/re-implement-limited-id-please-flags-for-observations/2548

true. Can’t understand how it is all that difficult to implement, though! The idea of tying in a reward system to it, sure… way too complicated, but the idea at it’s core is huge!

I think the idea of starting a new feature request would be to pull it back to it’s basic concept, and perhaps show in more detail how it could be achieved simply. Can’t carry on the conversation on the old one, because it was closed!

Any chance of getting the feature request re-opened?
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/create-forum-category-for-id-requests/6223/18
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/re-implement-limited-id-please-flags-for-observations/2548