General consensus on etiquette regarding recruiting IDs from specific identifiers?

When I am tagged, I ask myself: Is there going to be someone else who will ID that? Yes, maybe, sooner or later; but why not now; so I do it. (I am too soft, I know; I feel sorry for all the great observations not getting an ID…) But, really, someone goes 10K kilometers to the jungle, suffers the heat, mosquitoes and rain, and I here on my laptop am not ready to ID when I could… ;)


I started a thread related to this topic here since I didn’t see this one.

In general, I don’t mind being called on for identifications. Especially if it’s a taxon I’m familiar with in a region I’m familiar with. But there’s an increasing trend of users from all over the world tagging the top five identifiers of certain taxa with no context or other information.

There’s a certain etiquette that should be followed if you’d like to call on experts to review your observation. Let’s say I submit an observation of a beetle from the coast of Lake Erie. I’m not going to just tag the top five Coleoptera identifiers on the taxon page - I’m going to look for the ones who are top identifiers or observers of Coleoptera in my region. @borisb is the worldwide top identifier of Coleoptera, but a quick look at his profile reveals he is based in Germany and mainly identifies European observations. Maybe it would be better to tag one of the top identifiers of eastern North American Coleoptera. And if I do tag Boris, I might consider prefacing it with “I realize you may not be an expert on North American beetles…” or something.

I didn’t used to mind being called on for IDs but the frequency of users tagging me with no context on observations is becoming annoying. At the very least, a polite request would demonstrate that they are engaging the community and not just calling on faceless identification bots.

\end rant


Part of the problem with “etiquette” (apart from spelling it!) Is that it also depends on cultural norms. What is “rude” to one group of people might be perfectly fine to another group, so I think reliance on etiquette is kinda similar to using acronyms etc.

I start with “can/would I change how I view or react to this”, and if not, then I start a dialogue with them. I also think it is important to own the problem, and seek their participation in solving it. Of course, that is on a good day, and not all days are good!

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I like the suggestion made on the other thread, to automatically filter the “leaderboard” shown with an observation to identifiers of the taxon for the same continent (or maybe country or even state/province) where the observation is from. If one really wants to know what the worldwide leaderboard looks like, get it through the taxon page instead.

Short of this, however, I would recommend to observers who want to keep the goodwill of potential identifiers to:

  • Use @ tags sparingly, and only when there is a real urgent need. Otherwise let the community ID process take its course for a while. (To speed things along, be sure to add your “best guess” ID, even if it is just “Insects” or “Plants”.)
  • Use an Explore Filter first to see who the top identifiers are in your specific locality. For example, if I have a Phlox Family plant from Australia, use (click to see how this looks in the filter, and change taxon and location as appropriate). Then click on the Identifiers tab to see this.
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i was getting tons of @'s from FLorida/Georgia lately, which i know nothing about and can’t help ID anything, and then come to find out another teacher is using research grade as a surrogate for their own grading and causing students to pester others for IDs. I want to be a part of the community here but as someone who’s also had to grade huge piles of papers… those teachers need to realize i am not their unpaid TA and I am here on my own time helping people who want to be a part of the community, and to improve the data which i care about and use for conservation, not to do a teacher’s job for them and spend mass amounts of time helping a duress user who probably doesn’t care and will almost certainly leave the site soon.

Maybe i was too cranky but i was just getting tons of these @'s.


The only time I’ve done it is when someone identified one spider observation from a remote location. I looked at his profile and saw he was an expert on spiders a nearby island, so I messaged him with links to some other observations from the same trip. He disagreed with another identifier and he thinks it is the first time the species has been recorded in the country! Definitely worth tagging people sparingly.

Is it my imagination or are submitted records “going under the radar” longer than they were just a few years ago? I mean for easily identifiable taxa which often made Research Grade rather quickly. I wonder if the sheer volume of submissions every day makes it harder for reviewers to keep up with the new records, so some just disappear into the pile. Recruiting IDs – albeit sparingly – might become more desirable if you want/need confirmation in a reasonable amount of time.

Yeah that’s probably true for me. The main taxon I identify is the Toxomerus genus. Looking at the history graph, for the past few years there have been twice as many observations each summer as the previous summer (there were 3000 in total in 2018). 80% of the observations are 2-3 common and easy to separate species, but if I only identify occasionally and only get through a page or two a day then they build up.

If someone tags me on an observation I will get to it right away because I’m checking my notifications whether I’m identifying or not. If it happened too much I’d be thinking “okay patience I’ll get to your observations eventually” but it’s not at that point now.