Disappearing IDs?

I considered posting this in Bug Reports, but I’m nnot 100% sure there is a problem. Still:

I’ve recently IDed many unknowns. In the last 2 days I had at least 5 instances with at least 3 different observers (sorry for the ‘at least’, I didn’t make a proper count, working from memory) where the users claimed they had added an ID before and it had disappeared. Many (possibly all, not sure) of these observations had a placeholder.

I can come up with 3 possible explanations:

a) they mis-remember, there never was an ID against that observation (possibly they think the did ID but actually only left a placeholder)
b) there was an ID, but by someone else and that someone else later deleted the ID
c) there is a bug

I think a) in the placeholder misunderstanding variant may be the most likely cause. If I’m right about that we should probably think about making the difference between an ID and a placeholder more obvious. (Personally I can’t suggest anything, because I’m not even sure how to add a placeholder.)

When you add a name into the ID field, but don’t select from the dropdown menu, it puts a placeholder name in there. Some people may not realize that this has occurred and think that they put in an ID. It happens a lot, so I usually copy and paste the placeholder ID in the comment (placeholder: example) in my ID, especially if I am including an ID that is less precise than their placeholder because that is the best of my knowledge.


In addition to the above possiblities, I think some observers are unable to see anything that other people are doing. All they seem to see is the community ID, which they apparently think is their own ID. The situation where I think this is happening results in the observer adding their original ID over and over, and sometimes also commenting that someone keeps changing their ID.


I think that any “placeholder” should automatically be added to the Notes when posted.
It is then there as a permanent record.
The user can delete it if they dont want it in Notes.

It happens easily enough - one types in a name (or abbreviated name) and (mis)clicks the selection and it becomes a placeholder, but one has already moved on and does not notice.
Not usually a problem, but if you spent 10-20 minutes making an ID, and them someone comes along and IDs it as “Plant” and the placeholder vanishes, it can be rather infuriating.


Is this perhaps not a fault with the app (more so with the Android app)? Your explanation would explain a few rather puzzling “sets” of IDs that I have encountered. I dont use the app - so I dont know how agreements work - but it is quite a common issue.


I had forgotten about this other thread, but yes, it seems so: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/can-people-see-comments-and-mentions-on-apps/10087/6 At least it explains why the observer doesn’t seem to see explanations that their IDs haven’t disappeared.


Another thing to look out for (although maybe not involved) is waiting for IDs to save before going to a new screen. If identifiers move to a new page still-processing IDs can be lost. If I were the observers claiming to have made IDs, I’d look back into it or ask if there’s a bug. They could take screenshots of their IDs if they think it might happen again. But mostly only they’ll know what they did, unless misremembering.


For me iNat is slow … so I always wait … however long it takes, to make sure that iNat is keeping up with me.


This can happen: an ID that was issued and then deleted. The ID is still in the database and all that’s needed to re-create it is a reality check; if the observation still exists, create a new ID for it; if not, there was no ID and the observation should be ignored.

IMO they had placeholders, likely from the app or completely new to the website as there difference is great between one and another, maybe a note telling it’s not a true id would help too.

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@tonyrebelo I suggest you make this a Feature Request. As an identifier, I often miss the Placeholder note at the top of the identification page window, and thus often accidentally delete it when adding an initial ID.


Adding a placeholder to “Notes” is a great idea. I try to always copy placeholders into comments, but there have been times when I haven’t noticed the placeholder until just as I was clicking on “Done”, and it was too late.


I’ve done that, too. I found that you can sometimes make the placeholder reappear by deleting (not withdrawing) your ID. You have to click to “edit” on your ID to get the delete option. Once restored, you can copy/paste the placeholder as a comment while re-entering your ID.


I was one of the ones who had several of these observations that had suddenly gone to no id, but with a placeholder. And so did Robby (@hydaticus). We were alerted to the missing IDs when @richyfourtytwo added his high-level identifications. It seems to us that someone who was a fairly prolific ID-er in the British Columbia, Canada, region had their entire account deleted, including all of their identifications. For my affected observations, if that person (who seems to have been somewhat expert at IDing the plants in the area) put an ID that disagreed with my prior ID, I then withdrew my ID. But then when their account was deleted, there was suddenly no active ID on the observation. It seems the iNat program tried to save the former ID information by automatically entering it as a placeholder. That is what I believe happened. I do not think it is a bug.


I have noticed this in the last week or two; I’ll finish all the pages in some filter and then refresh the page and perhaps 10% of my IDs didn’t take. There is some kind of pattern to it but I haven’t documented it, perhaps ones where I switched to the suggestions tab and then back quickly? Possibly related but sometimes if I add an ID and arrow key to the next observation, the suggestions tab will show me only suggestions for the previous observation and I have to close and open the window (not the whole modal) to fix it.

I hadn’t thought of that. It’s not true in the identify interface; you can hit next any time after you hit the Save button (as a mass identifier and when adding annotations, I really appreciate this). But in the Explore interface, I "remember"experiencing it myself, most recently with comments.


At least for me, some of my Identify IDs weren’t saving after hitting Save, if they were still loading (circle icon before the ID posts) when I skipped to the next observation. I was using an older laptop before though, and also only have the most basic Internet speed.

They have to save if you’re in good loading situation, the only thing is not go refresh page too fast after id.

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