Agree. I think this is the heart of the underlying problem.
I would go further and suggest that an informal consensus is not sufficient: there needs to be some official guidance on how IDers should handle observations that have issues for which there is no obvious, standard solution such as flags or DQA.
Even better would be a formal mechanism for marking observations with certain problems, but until/if such a mechansim is implemented, I would settle for clear guidelines that are explicitly laid out somewhere on the iNat website, for example on the help pages.
A statement by staff members in a forum post, as has occasionally happened on one point or another, is not enough – not everyone reads the forum, and finding such information is not necessarily quick or easy if one even knows that it exists in the first place.
Since there are no explicit instructions about what we should be doing, different IDers/IDer communities have developed different practices to deal with such observations – inevitably, this sometimes leads to clashes and people working at cross-purposes because each person feels strongly about enforcing the (unwritten!) norms that they are familiar with. They may be unaware of other practices or they may disagree with them.
The two big ones here are:
- not IDing
- using some DQA option to make the duplicate casual (which we are not supposed to do)
- IDing as usual
observations with photos showing different species
- IDing as “life” and marking “ID cannot be improved” if the observer is unresponsive
- ditto, but IDing to the lowest shared taxon instead
- IDing the first photo and ignoring the rest.
I have really strong feelings about why the last of these is problematic, but it is apparently well-established amongst certain IDers, some of whom evidently have no interest in changing their practice. The argument seems to be that IDing the first photo allows potentially rare records to be recognized which would otherwise be lost, and iNat needs to provide a technical fix (I guess something like allowing curators to split such observations, or a system for marking certain photos as not applicable to the observation). While I agree that a technical fix would be desirable, the problem with going ahead and continuing to ID the first photo in the meantime means that you end up with the remaining photos being associated with an incorrect ID – a really bad idea if it involves taxa that are often confused in the first place)
I am agnostic about the other two: I prefer the lowest shared taxon, but I understand why some users prefer to use life instead. I won’t try to change whichever of the two options has already been chosen – the important thing, as I see it, is that such observations get a second ID so they can become casual.
What I encounter here most often is users not realizing that marking the “ID cannot be improved” to make the observation casual requires 2 IDs, so I will see users adding an additional comment asking the (often no longer active) observer to separate the images or providing advice on how to do so, but not adding the second ID that is needed to take it out of the “needs ID” queue.
All of these are workaround solutions for dealing with observations with multiple species. As such, they are not ideal and it is unsurprising that people have different preferences about what to do.
Finally, these conflicts that arise from the lack of clear instruction are avoidable. They should not be allowed to reach the point that users are deleting their accounts as a result. I am not criticizing users for doing so. Rather: I think staff needs to take a hard look at why no action was taken at an earlier stage to resolve the conflict – if the problem was overlooked, why; if the user did not feel that they could reach out for help, why; if attempts to mediate were unsuccessful, why, etc.