But does EVERY observation have to count? If the ID is lost, does it make the observation useless? It will appear back in ID reqd, so will hopefully attract specialist attention from someone else. If they are no longer present to defend or explain their ID, can you even trust that it is right? Can you trust that they will CONTINUE to be right. iNat is growing, and for every specialist lost from deleting, we gain (how many?)… heaps more. Sure they might not be specialists in the same field or taxon, but it is just a matter of time before that gap in expertise is filled again.
If that identifier had NEVER put that ID, would that negatively impact what you are doing? If so, then what other IDs are NOT being applied because some other person NEVER joined iNat and applied their ID? How will you even know? And does NOT HAVING THOSE IDs have the same critical impact on what you are doing?
This issue over the loss of an ID is the “loss aversion” (bad terminology) that has been referred to previously. Think of it as running up a slippery slope, where for every 10 steps you take forward, you slide back 1 step. It is the NETT progress made that is useful. You can be upset about that loss of 1 step distance, and ideally if you can find a way to go 10 steps with no slide backwards, then terrific…
A child at the beach is likely to be happy, and if he is given an ice cream he will be happier. If he drops that ice cream in the sand, he will be unhappy! That arises out of being focused solely on the loss. If you can help the child to see that they have had a wonderful day at the beach, played with their friends, saw some awesome fish caught by the fisherman on the rocks, and that it was unfortunate that they dropped the icecream, but they can have some cake when they get home, then they see the nett position and will be back to being happy again. If we change the experience of the child to being followed around with a big tray under his icecream trying to catch it when it falls, then we are kind of destroying the whole beach going experience for him! If we can look at the bigger picture, and accept SOME SMALL LOSS while making GREAT GAINS, then we have a good outcome.
I think we are better off focusing on the nett gain that iNat as a whole represents, rather than the (very few) IDs lost in the sand when someone deletes. If we can come up with a way to minimise the impact, then that is good. A single data point being reduced in quality (due to a species level Id becoming a genus level ID, for instance) is far less impactful than a conversation that might be happening on that observation about the ID, which can potentially contribute to the education and up-skilling of countless persons who might then go on to be able to make those IDs elsewhere. The whole give a man a fish (ID) and he’ll eat for a day, but give him a rod and teach how to fish (link to literature and explain differences) and he’ll eat for a lifetime… This is where I think iNat rocks… not only have I had a large number of observations ID’d by experts, but they have been sharing with me their knowledge and giving tips on how to differentiate the whole time. I look back at what I knew when I first joined, and what I can ID now, and the difference is astounding. And I am passing on that knowledge to others, and the discussions around the taxa are going viral. One person saw sea swalllows up in Northland, and people all over the world get to see it. Many of us that have seen that observation can now identify sea swallows, should we ever encounter one in real life. That still stands even if the original identifier deletes their ID! That conversation is a growing thing, and we now know there are two very similar looking sea swallows, and how to tell the difference.
There are always going to be knowledgeable people that make IDs, but are just too busy in real life to follow them and change them if new information comes to hand. That is where we, as active participants in iNaturalist, can “add weight” to the IDs of knowledgeable people. If someone I have great confidence in the IDs of, makes an ID, I can agree with them to give their ID more weight. I can “drill down” from time to time to validate my confidence in them. Others can do so with my IDs as well. I used to get annoyed by observers agreeing to an ID as soon as it was made (I mean, surely if you thought it was that you would have put it in the first place!), but now I tend to look at that as just something that is going to happen. Unless you explicitly asked new users NOT to do that, it is going to happen. The concept behind community ID kind of takes that anomaly into consideration. So I suggest to you, if someone IDs your obs, and you have confidence in their IDs (to the point you would consider the loss of the ID as being an impactful loss) then add your agreement. It has a twofold benefit… it adds weight (in a system which doesn’t differentiate quality of identifiers) and protects an ID from the effects of deletion.