Dissenting ID Comments Would be Useful

As a relatively new–definitely non-expert–observer who lives in an area with incredibly diverse ecosystems, I’m usually dependent on ID suggestions made by the iNat app.

This usually works well enough, but sometimes another ID is recommended, presumably by an expert. I then check the recommendation and most of the time agree with it, striking out my previous guess.

However, all too often the deciding difference is not at all clear, and I simply leave the question of the correct ID unresolved. In such cases, it sure would be helpful if an explanation would come with the new suggestion, helping me avoid making the same mistake in the future and giving me reason to confirm the new ID.

This is obviously a minor concern in the scheme of things, but I suspect that I am not the only one who has similar feelings. In any event, this sort of info would be helpful.

I am still grateful to the observer who showed how my comment on a Southern Dewberry observation was incorrect. I considered it an important learning opportunity. Thanks, @pisum!

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Hi, of course comments are helpful for the learning experience. However, as a IDer I do not always provide them anymore, UNLESS I get asked for it.

It just can take a lot of time to explain everything to users that often do not seem interested in these kinds of comments too much. If I go through a batch where there is the same mistake over an over, I might have a prewritten comment I just copy and paste. But if I just ID randomly anything, I wont start writing a comment to each ID I give… that would cut the amount of IDs I can give in a day much shorter.

However, as state above: I am always happy to give feedback if someone tagges and asks me about it… and as far as my experience goes - most IDers feel the same. In this way I know my feedback is going to be seen by someone interested to learn. So if you are not sure why someone put a disagreeing ID, it most often will work out if you just ask the person.

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I would definitely suggest asking the IDer if they can explain how to tell the two apart, since usually they’ll be happy to explain if they know you’re interested, but don’t want to waste energy explaining it over and over again if no one cares.

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I agree with you @das43 I much prefer people leave a comment with a dissenting opinion.

I don’t always provide one myself, to be honest. But we get a lot of students uploading a ton of unknowns or just really badly ID’d in my area (like…how can you be that bad at IDing type of ID’s - ex labeling a plant as a rabbit or something); and that would take too long. I try to leave comments if the user has over 100 uploads because they seem a little more invested in the site; especially if they are more recent uploads than when I sort through things from years ago with users who may not even be active anymore. I’m also more likley to leave a note if I’m dissenting, and less likely to leave a note if I am just moving it further along to an ID.

I also tend to have copy/paste notes for the common stuff, and am more likely to leave explanation there. I have a running notepad note with all my ID info to copy/paste in; I recommend to other ID’ers who find themselves typing the same sort of thing write up a one size fit all for that thing, and that makes it way faster and easier!

But definitely, just use the at-symbol to tag the user and ask! There are a couple of users who still don’t reply in my experience (and that annoys me so much too!) but in general it will work :)

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I would recommend reading these related topics

I swear there’s another one I couldn’t find. Maybe someone else will remember.

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A bold assumption, not always the case. Plus experts are quite capable of cocking up IDs :upside_down_face:

I rarely explicitly disagree with IDs unless they are egregiously outlandish, and when that happens I usually try to provide commentary on a dissenting ID when there is no other compelling evidence already easily available on hand in iNat that the original IDer should have been able to easily find - such as eleventy million other examples of the same critter looking identical to the misidentified one.

Also, commenting takes time which I sometimes don’t have.

Plus sometimes it’s not easy to put into words why you think the ID is incorrect - the gestalt of the critter just feels more X than Y.

Then there’s the times when I am just too bone idle to make comments, don’t want a conversation, don’t feel like being your teacher, and just want to mindlessly click through IDs. Yes, I know, I am the antichrist, but there you go.

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This is, as has been mentioned by other people already, a topic that has been brought up quite a bit before.

My experience from the other side of the exchange and my advice matches what the others have said.
I make quite a lot of IDs and without extra cues it can be difficult or time consuming to tell whether a given observer is genuinely interested in learning or just satisfying their curiosity by throwing whatever strikes their fancy at the machine and the internet people and seeing what sticks. The CV indicator helps a little here but not a lot as knowledgable people sometimes use it as a filling aid, and some people prefer to type in its suggestions. At some point it becomes remarkably tiring and slowing to explain for the 117th time why that is Ramalina farinacea and not Evernia prunastri (or the reverse) to people who aren’t always listening and don’t always care.

As such my advice for getting more feedback is to make it clear that you are listening and do care. A comment with the original observation/ID such as “I think it is A because X and Y” or “Keyed using book F”, or especially a comment responding to my ID asking why or what the difference is makes me much more likely to explain the thought process, and in such cases I am usually happy to do so.

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For some taxa perhaps. For others, such as NZ spiders, it’s next-to-useless therefore dangerous (if I may use that overloaded term) in the wrong hands.

I suggest tagging the identifier and asking them! Most will be more than happy to explain, but don’t necessarily want to spend the time writing comments for every ID unless a user explicitly expresses interest.

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Stepping back a bit:

  • Your problem: you want to be able to ID something in the future

  • Identifiers problem: there are too many IDs to make to take the time to add details for each ID

IMO, this is a structural issue with iNat. By that I mean there isn’t really a place where identification identification information lives, so it can’t be found and transmitted to observers/new identifiers (besides Wikipedia/other sites). Not saying we need to discuss this point further here – it’s been discussed a lot (e.g., 1, 2 & 3), and iNat staff have responded to it, although I don’t know what their current thinking is. Just providing some context for you @das43 as to why this issue pops up, in my opinion, and in the short term what everyone has said already is good advice. Happy iNatting!

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The more you use iNat, the more names you recognise. You learn who to ask to help ID this … and in turn when it is worth saying why it is or isn’t as you work thru gazillion IDs. iNat is social media for naturalists.

Somewhere in between is the sweet spot where the observer knows what detail to capture in the photo to get the ID.

My Lampranthus must stay forever at genus. Thanks to a helpful explanation from botaneek.

And I can return the favour for his sambar wallow.

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I was talking to a coworker about this earlier today. I get why frequent identifiers don’t want to waste time with drawn out explanations. It would be nice though, if it is a disagreement rather than a refinement or a crazy misidentification, to give at least a brief comment if possible. It also depends on the taxa. Birds or mammals for instance may be easily explained while insects may have very specific differences that may require longer explanations. All that being said, people either will or won’t leave comments so in any case just ask.

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As I’ve said elsewhere on the forum, I appreciate when someone with expertise provides an ID when I feel my ID is a little shaky (or a shot in the dark). If they explain, great, but I understand why they might not. Then it’s my job to do a little research on my own to see why they gave that ID. If I still don’t understand it, I’ll reach out to the IDer for some help.

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Fellow relatively new observer here. I have had my fair share of dissenting ID most without an explanation. But I have also found that simply asking the decenter why is most adventitious. Most IDers are more than willing to explain why. Which is awesome I have learned so much from them. Sometimes more than the attached wiki.

Asking questions like what is the key indicator that making you suggest this ID goes along way.
What makes you think its this species?
Interesting how did you determine this?

I rolled throw the comments an see the common theme why spend time typing out why if the person isn’t even really paying attention. Which makes sense being that they are volunteering their time.

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Agreed. Just because iNat is technically a large database doesn’t mean there aren’t also real people behind every observation etc trying to learn; it helps to try to be helpful.

When I dissent I leave a short comment explaining why-- for example, “petiolate leaves” or something ultra brief like that. Sometimes it might just be “leaf margins” if I can’t (or don’t feel like bothering to) find the exact words I’m looking for easily to compare what I’ve suggested vs. what they chose initially.

In other words: it doesn’t have to be anything crazy descriptive; no need to write a novel. Just give them enough information that they can figure it out themselves.

It’s something where I feel that it’s painfully obvious to even a total amateur, I might not leave a comment at all, though.

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Possibly this topic is the one you’re thinking of:

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Yes @jnstuart I agree. I often get IDs wrong (sometimes just because I wasn’t thinking at the time and slipped up) and if (hopefully, when) the ID is corrected by someone, I research it to see if I can understand the whys and wherefores. If I totally can’t figure it out, then it’s a good suggestion others made and that is to reach out to the ID person and ask what particular feature resulted in the identification.

I really, really want to learn and so far, iNaturalist has been the best resource for me. It’s been over 40 years since I had a class in identifying plants (although I still have my Newcomb Wildflower Guide from the class) and even longer for any bio classes so I’m doing my best to get the little gray cells working again.

Thanks to everyone, by the way, since everyone has been very, very helpful.

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I’d go to the Identify tab, type in my country to filter, and start clicking agree to those thumbnail size pictures. I’m familiar with some creatures even if it is just small images. So I did not enter another screen where the pictures are larger and where users can comment on the picture or make an alternative ID. Some pictures will definitely need to be observed in detail. I do not know every creature even in my own backyard. Some regular local users you will have a lot of confidence they got their pictures correctly identified 99% of the time.
At the Explore tab, the thumbnail pictures are larger. Can go through several pages. Can put an ID to the unknowns or refine an ID. Once in a while, can have some actions disputing the IDs eventhough it has obtained research grade. Always in good faith of trying to identify correctly the organism ofcourse.
Some organisms may never be identifiable. Many fungus, minute insects without the macro pictures. The identification of some organisms remain a work in progress by the scientists, so they remain as .sp or .cf and cannot go down to the species level easily.
The website is designed for communication. Although sometimes, I’ve some doubts who I’m communicating with. Like for example disputing an ID made by biologists. I’ve a feeling there are some scientists around here. I’m of the opinion that pictures cannot 100% tells what an organism is, when in doubt, there is a tendency to say nothing. Being able to communicate info to others requires some experience over years of observations sometimes.

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I really feel that iNaturalist should automatically aggregate the comments used in the “reasoning” part of making an ID (when it is used), or at least make it so that observations can be filtered to show observations that have comments. These observations sometimes contain a lot of detail about differentiating species, and it can be time consuming having to continually address this information in an individual manner to people who have no way of accessing this information easily. it would be cool to even have this information posted in the “similar species” section of the taxon page.

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You have to open observation: it can be a stolen photo, can be multiple species on other photos, can be wrong location, etc.

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