Etiquette question: is it okay to respond to old observations?

I’m not sure whether I should consider observations as like a forum, where they should be ignored after they’re a few weeks old? If I filter by ‘birds’ and ‘UK’ for observations that need ID, they quickly get very old. I don’t know whether it’s acceptable/rude/recommended to keep IDing old observations even if they’ve never had any response before. What’s the etiquette?


If you can id it, by all means do. There is no time limit.


Please do! I’m always very happy to finally find out what something I photographed two or three years ago is.


Don’t understand the point - if you find something wrong, you have to! ;)


Definitely! Unlike forum posts that close 2 months after the last reply, observations are always open for IDs. If you can help identify an old observation, then please do. Especially if they have never had any responses.

I personally really appreciate when a user takes the time to look through old observations and helps me identify an organism I never was able to identify months or even years ago.


Ditto with what everyone else has said. And it’s a little unexpected but pleasant surprise in your notifications…


Thanks everyone, that’s good to know! Now I feel better about making my way through alllll the old observations when I want something to do. :nerd_face:


I would LOVE to have someone identify my older observations! They seem to be languishing unregarded, but are as potentially useful as the newer ones.


Always great to have folks working through the older observations. I’m sure the observers will appreciate your efforts!

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as other said if anything it’s extra helpful to look at old observations. I sometimes specifically review older ones, because they get ‘stuck’ without ID and maybe I can help. Of course, with the older ones, ID is often much harder since no one has gotten the ID figured out yet :)


iNat is a giant growing data set where the date of submission (as opposed to the date of the actual observation) of any individual observation is virtually irrelevant. They are all equal. The oldest observations are as important as the newest.

True, there’s probably not much value in agreeing with the ID that 10 people have all unanimously IDed, but old un-IDed observations (or those with contradictory IDs) are absolutely recommended to respond to.

Many of the most valued experts on iNaturalist are those with a narrow professional specialism. Often such people will come and examine every observation since the dawn of time of, for instance, the particular genus of dragonfly that they are the authority on. And that is very very welcome input.

It’s not a social media platform where posts have a time-specific relevance. It’s all about citizen science. Even if my oldest observation already has 10 IDs, 11 would be better, so please go ahead and add yours!

In the field/locality where I primarily work, new species are constantly being described. There are many animals I photographed 10 years ago that are only now being described. So it is always important to look at old and new observations and ensure everything is IDed wherever possible!


I certainly have a number of old observations where I would either like an ID, or I would like my ID confirmed. Even when I am reasonably sure, I am an amateur without the specialist expertise to distinguish between similar species (or even to know about the similars) so it is certainly a learning experience for me. I have a number of old observations which would presumably be more useful to someone if they could be elevated to research grade status.