Identifications in comment or other fields

I rather often find observations without any id given in the id field, but some “placeholder” - often at species level with additional comments.
Strange - why do people do that? I tought it could be due to some odd features of the apps they use when uploading observations, and so I add an id at my knowledge level, and usually put their placeholder into the comment field (the placeholder would be lost completely when I give my id).
Sometimes, there may be a spelling error in the placeholder, so I can guess that that was the reason for a comment instead of id.
Sometimes, the species is missing in our database, and I can find it by “Search external name providers” or flag it for curation - these features are not known to all users.
Sometimes the id is in the “Notes” field, fortunately that does not get lost when adding an id.

But … there are more weird examples. After I did as described above, the user added another comment with a closer id, but with a minor spelling error. I provided the correct spelling and asked if he meant that. He answered with a comment only, not by adding that id…
I feel a little confused. Perhaps the user interface of iNat is a bit too complicated for some people? But it’s so easy - how could it be made even easier?

Yeah, it is strange. Most of the time, when I see this, it’s from an observer who is still relatively new - fewer than 50 observations, say - and I figure they just don’t know.

Or they’re making an observation on their phone while juggling binoculars and a camera at the same time, and walking fast to catch up with their comrades. (Not that I’ve ever done that.)

But in general, I think many people come into iNat without reading the Help info and just start dumping all the photos on their phone into iNat without making IDs. I’ve been thinking of writing a short sentence or two about how and why to make an ID when an observation is uploaded, and pasting that as a comment into Unknown observations when I ID them, if the observer is still relatively new. (And linking to the appropriate iNat Help topic, too.) Just so twenty or so people a week learn about making initial IDs.

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Not sure about that one. They are obviously very interested in observing those insects.

But - only a single ID - perhaps not understanding that We Are ALL allowed to add IDs?
Or not knowing how to add an ID?

I think this happens when people use the phone app and don’t have a good enough connection for iNat to pull up the species suggestions, so what they put in ends up being used as a placeholder instead. Not entirely sure as I don’t use the phone app, but that seems to be a common issues based on talking to folks who do.


Oh, good point! I don’t use my phone to make observations all that often, but when I do, I’ve usually put it in airplane mode to conserve battery life. So people might easily be making observations with their phone and, if they DO have a good connection, iNat is just merrily uploading them before people even realize they need to add an ID.

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If I read a commented species ID I assume it’s a question, except in cases where the name was mispelled or wasn’t added to iNat.


I do get the impression some people think they’re not allowed to ID their own observations. Perhaps they think identifiers are staff members or that only “real scientists” count.


I frequently add my ID in comment when I’m not convinced enough I’m right (and I add “?” which I hope makes it clear that I’m not sure). I simply don’t want that someone clicks “agree” with mine ID and make Research Grade in such situation.


And……the observations that just say something with no picture or other information! How is that allowed?

It is allowed - if people want their own record (I saw that) but it will be and remain ‘Casual’

I leave a comment - no photo? - and later notification might tell me the photo is now visible.


I see this a lot and never really understand. Many times I see somebody say exactly what it is and also more details, like sex and age, but they don’t add any ID. Sometimes I see experienced people do it too. Sometimes I will put it in as an ID after reading the comment if it looks right because I really don’t understand why they wouldn’t add it. Maybe it’s a forgetfulness thing?

I think sometimes people are suggesting it as a tentative and unsure suggestion so they don’t want to add an ID, but I’ve seen quite a lot of people doing what I described above, so they’re quite certain. They just don’t actually add the ID.

I think there might be something just like this somewhere on iNaturalist in the curator tools area of things. I can’t say exactly where because I don’t remember but there’s a page somewhere that has a bunch of pre-typed responses for certain events and I think that was one of them. Obviously, knock yourself out and make your own if you want but I thought I’d say something in case that’s more appealing to you.

Very hard to find as there are no site links to it, but I finally remembered to bookmark it.


Thanks so much! The “Add an ID” one was what I was thinking of.

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Another reason that there is a name in the placeholder that is not an actual ID is that if you type something in the ID bar but don’t select a species that is in the iNat database it defaults to a placeholder ID. Some are new users, but even it can happen to someone just making an ID too fast to notice they just typed in a name but didn’t select a real ID from the list.


In similar situations, I usually enter a genus or higher level ID which I am sure of, and then write the species ID with a ? in the comments. You need to put in some ID or your ob is left as unknown.

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Thanks for your input. So, the phenomenon is not at all unusual, but we do not know what causes it and how to solve it.
“pull up the species suggestions” and then select an item from that list instead of copy-pasting the id into the field and submitting it may be a hint for some users.

I sometimes do this when suggesting a possibility that is beyond my real knowledge. Usually I add a ?

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This is not unusual. This is usually a wrong spelling or combination with a “?” or author citation.

“I sometimes do this when suggesting a possibility that is beyond my real knowledge. Usually I add a ?”

A good thing to do, with “maybe” or “tentative” or a question mark.