Inexperienced users inappropriately confirming IDs: add template for response on responses page?

I see a persistent problem of inexperienced users confirming IDs of other even though they obviously not knowledgeable enough, based on obviously wrong IDs; which unfortunately makes the observations research grade. Sometimes, it turns into 3-4 agreeing, wrong IDs, which can be hard to correct, especially if the users disappear. I thought a reasonable solution is to have a standard writeup on when and when not to agree with an identification that can be shared privately with an offending user. I’ve tried to very gently comment on the observation about the issue, and found sometimes people get offended anyway. Is there any writeup available for sharing?


Hi Dan!

There was recently a large and raucous thread about this, at .

Since that one was closed, I’m going to go ahead and close this one too just for consistency’s sake. if you skim over that thread and find that there’s another angle not covered there in need of discussion please feel free to make another thread or message @ moderators and i can re-open this one.

In short: Yes it can be a problem, but there’s no easy solution and in the end it usually washes out with more input from others. At least that was my take.


After receiving your message @dan_johnson it sounds like maybe i was too hasty to close this (sorry, that is always a balance!) and you were thinking of creating a boiler plate response for this issue, something along the lines of - adding something there? I edited the title to make it more clear that was the case, but if i was wrong about that you can edit it further. Hopefully this makes sense? Sorry if i caused confusion.


And this is generally why I use opt-out of community ID. I get a lot of cases like this, where people should not make an ID to a certain level. And actually that can involve both non-experts and experts. A “tentative ID” to one expert may be enough to label it as that, for another it is a line they will not cross.


I don’t know if it’s boilerplate worthy but I recently commented to a new user about agreeing with my ID of their observation. I tried to put the take some of the heat while asking them to reconsider.

“My ID was a bit of a guess. What did you see that convinced you it’s scarlet oak?”

This could also be appropriate for experienced users too. The observer always had a better chance at the ID. They were actually there. The rest of us have to work off photos.


Based off iNat’s guidelines, it clearly states

( I’m not sure if this helps.

I’m guilty of doing this but I’ve been going through my previous IDs to fix it and, going forward, no longer plan on agreeing on everything. It’s challenging when other users begin to question me being more accurate though.


If you mean they ask, “Why did you downgrade?” my stock response in those cases is “best I can do at my current level”.


:sweat_smile: that’s nicer than me. I then ask “using macroscopic features presented in the images provided, can you elaborate on how you differentiated between these species?” But I’m almost always ignored :upside_down_face::upside_down_face:

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There is always the potential that feedback can be ignored, unfortunately. But don’t take it too personally! Similarly people shouldn’t always downgrade just because a less-specific ID was added without context. It works in both directions, which I think a lot of users don’t think about.


Heres a quick draft of such text, that could likely be improved:

Hi @user! Welcome to iNaturalist!

When adding identifications, you should generally only do so when you are confident that the observation shows that species, and not any other similar species. If you want to thank someone for their identification, a simple “Thanks!” is always appreciated instead.

I think your identification above may not be such a confident one. If this is incorrect, sorry for the misunderstanding, and keep up the good work! Otherwise, please try in the future to only “agree” with identifications when you are confident that is correct. More identification work is always helpful, and I encourage you to continue identifying species you are familiar with. Thanks!


In a case where two plant species can be confused, for instance, I often just ask whether they considered the second species and they then often say oops nope, thanks, and go back to genus. The biggest issue is people not responding to questions about their IDs often because they either stopped using the site or only use the app which doesn’t show that type of notification


The genus which I’m having a lot of frustration with is Datura. A lot of individuals simply put D. wrightii when there simply isn’t enough information provided to correctly state that. They legit will argue with me because they feel so strongly.

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One other idea out there is to have in site write ups discussing problem taxa like that, perhaps with photos of what diagnostic features need to be visible. I don’t wanna roam too off topic here but can’t easily link the forum topic now…

This is a classic “global expert” vs “local expert” debate. Botanists in California, including some of the best in the US, have been identifying these plants for decades based on features they see. The published keys use other features to distinguish them, which often use other features, including those not seen in many identified specimens. I’m not trying to downplay your expertise – but I think it is good to value that there might be a valid story as to why people feel strongly about it.

I’ve been amazed how many times “field experience” has completely changed the matter of an ID. There is simply a lot not recorded from pressed herbarium specimens that can legitimately classify species in the field. Erodium is one example. Erodium keys exclusively rely on hairs, and micro characters of seeds. However, even though literature makes no mention of it, all the species can be very simply identified from flowers, leaves, and growth habit. If you talk to the world experts on Erodium, they will not even speak of flowers, because they rely on the literature. I think this is just like the Datura situation.


The Datura situation, in my honest opinion, is far more complex. While there’re visually observable features which can be used to distinguish between a few species, the plant itself is highly adaptable and can change it’s characteristics to fit the environment it lives in. Some people, typically ‘local experts’ believe that there’re only four or so species when there’s published information which supports nine or so. To be specific, D. wrightii and D. innoxia are nearly indistinguishable from visual characteristics but there’re a plethora of D. wrightii observations when they, in my opinion, look more like D. innoxia. But at that, since I’m not confident in using those features to even try to distinguish between the two, I would prefer it be IDed to the genus instead but no one wants to agree :upside_down_face: At that, I would also be classified as a ‘local expert’ because I’ve been surrounded by this genus my entire life, even here in NZ. I’m sure that other species have a similar situation.

I know this is roving off topic but is there a monophylletic sub-genus species grouping we could set up and put those in so they aren’t stuck at genus?
Assuming the taxonomy in question is the taxonomy inat uses. I don’t know datura well.

I added that text to the help page after failing to come up with a boilerplate response that didn’t ruffle people’s feathers. I actually had one on that Frequently Used Responses page but ended up removing it because I found it elicited too many negative responses. Not sure there’s a way around the ruffling except to be as specific as possible in regards to the observation and IDs in question, which means it wouldn’t be a good fit for something on the frequent responses page.


We have a similar issue in Europe but on the contrary: The presence of D. wrightii in Europe has been accepted only recently so people are used to identify both D. wrightii and D. innoxia as D. innoxia.