Hi-jacking observations?

Hello, recently I came across a series of a half dozen or so observations of trees where another user decided to make an ID for lichen so they could use it for a project despite it seeming like the original observation was intended to be for the tree. Surely this is against the rules? I tried to find guidelines to that effect, but had no luck. At the very least this behavior is very rude I’d say.

I didn’t post the links because I’m not trying to call anyone out for their behavior, but I would like to know if it is indeed against the rules who do I contact to have them fix this situation?
It is also entirely possible that the two accounts were working in tandem or something, but it does not seem that way.

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I think I have an idea what you’re talking about. There were a bunch of observations where the uploaders were supposed to be observing lichen but took photos of all the lichen on a tree but then IDed the tree. It was very confusing for all involved.
Part of a class, I think. I may have been one of the identifiers involved. I’m always happy to change any ID if there is a reasonable argument to do so.


If the original ID was done by the observer, and their selection is indeed in the photos, that request should always be honoured.

This of course does not mean you can not refine or even correct it. If they entered Scots Pine as the ID, but you believe it is actually a Jack Pine etc, that is fine, but don’t enter American Robin because there happens tp be a bird on the branch when the intent of the observer to document the tree is clear.

Adding an ID for a different taxon from the observer’s intention is not permitted. I’m not sure if it is formally documented anywhere, but will look.

If required, the users who want the lichen can always send a note to the observer, which they are under no obligation to respond to asking them to duplicate the record so the lichen may be identified.


In any case, what you usually want to do in these cases is first ask the identifier why they’re making the odd ID. If they don’t respond or are dismissive, you can flag an ID to bring in the attention of Curators.

And, welcome to the forum!


Yes, the original uploader had tagged all the observations as various species of trees, and a second user came through tagging them as lichen observations for a project.
It is very likely a class project gone wrong like @trh_blue suggested (it wasn’t anything to do w/ you blue btw)


It’s OK. While generally we try to limit these discussions to flags, or have conversations on the observations themselves, you’ve done nothing wrong here. Thanks for the discretion. I’d be a little annoyed that you assume that everyone with lots of IDs is doing so just for the stats, but such people definitely exist and they annoy me too.
ps I also do it a little bit for the stats as I’m fairly competitive, but I make sure my IDs are a) helpful and b) almost surely accurate!


I’m not sure if it’s formally documented, but it’s definitely rude to identify against their wishes. This hasn’t happened to me I don’t think but I ask users what the focus of their identification is unless it seems obvious what the focus is and they put it up as an unknown.


If I may hi-jack your post, that makes me wonder if it is possible to duplicate an observation that is not yours?
Say there’s a hermit crab observation and a mollusk expert would like to create a record and id for the snail shell that the crab is wearing. Any way to do that?


this functionality does not exist. You can comment on the observation asking the user to duplicate it


To add to what @trh_blue said, there was a project this year looking at bees, and some new users uploaded pictures of bees on flowers and had taken the suggestion id of the flower, even though they wanted it in this project for bees. It caused some warm discussion among the ID’ers when someone would ID the bee. Unfortunately because new users don’t always pay attention to their notifications, in most cases they didn’t come in to say whether they made a mistake on the suggestion or attaching to the project.


It is an iNat rule that the observer decides what we are looking at
We can ask, bird, tree, lichen?
Or choose one of the above, but be prepared to withdraw or change if our bird is their lichen.

We may not trawl iNat for a random photo of … and decide to allocate this for my lichen


I see, thanks!

I think i have seen some of these observations and probably confirmed the lichen id on some, my understanding was that:

  • the users were willingly participating in a collection project about lichens, so their observations were surely meant for the lichens
  • their original tree ids were just blind computer vision suggestion agreements, since it was a citizen science project and they where mostly newbie users, not being very practical with the functioning of the app seems reasonable
  • the user who changed the id to lichens was the organizer of the project, correcting the ids because they knew they were intended for that

most of the observers probably even stopped using the app right after participating in that specific event/project, so i don’t think any hijacking happened in this situation


2 suggestions - some already hinted at - duplicate the record, make one of them the tree and the other the lichen.
also one can go into custom field library and pick one of those which says associated species with name look-up; there are other fields which are more explicit about being epiphytes on the principally named species.

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Do not copy someone else’s observation. First of all, it would probably be a copyright violation. Second, it’s against the ethos of the site – an observation is about your personal interaction with nature.

But yeah you can add whatever Observation Field you want, even as a way to add your own “ID” that doesn’t mess with the observation ID.


This has happened to me two or three times, where the ID just slid off the rails. This is a problem with the "Identify " tool; they’ll never see your descriptive text.
The simplest solution for me was to delete the observation and start a fresh one.
Definitely steer the IDer’s attention in the ways suggested. And there’s no reason not to annotate the photo with a big fat arrow pointing to its subject. Inelegant, but it works. I usually post the photo with and without the markup.


There should be a way for the original observer to reject another person’s ID suggestion so that the system reverts back to the original. Could keep the ID suggestion visible for folks viewing that record, but that record would no longer impact the ID.

Rejecting id’s can theoretically be done by opting out of community ID, but it is not a tool the site really wants to implement broadly as it will be abused and used to reject ID’s users simply feel is wrong etc.


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