Is anyone else bugged when someone broadens an ID to a vaguer level with no explanation?

For example, when someone IDs a not well-known insect genus to family or order level with no explanation why it isn’t the selected identification.
(For example, a parasitoid wasp species changed to [insert its family level] or “hymenoptera”)
(Or when a subspecies that is the only subspecies and/or coloration in its range is broadened to species without explanation)

This then makes it harder for experts to find the identification so it will almost never get identified beyond that.

I suspect it is new users who mistakingly click the wrong option (which can be pretty confusing) when they enter their ID, which broadens the community ID instead of keeping it the same.


have you tried reaching out to folks who are making disagreements to see why they are disagreeing?


I always check on the website if this happens since the Android App doesn’t show if it’s an agreeing or disagreeing ID.

However, I definitely like the appearance of broad-to-narrow set of IDs so it’s a little jarring to see it go in reverse. I’d definitely want to see a comment from identifier explaining why they added it, even if it’s “Definitely X, just not sure about species”.

If it’s a new user, I just assume they’re using the App, where it’s much easier to agree to the first ID rather than whatever comes next.


It bugs me because I wish it was easy and simple for things to reach species RG. But it often isn’t. I’ll ask for further clarification but a lot of the time, in my experience at least, it makes sense when people do this.


I can only explain my point of view as someone who identifies a lot. My main group are jumping spiders, many of which can only be identified to species level if you observed an adult and know the exact habitat type it was found in and/or if you have a look at the genitals under a microscope. Most people just blindly trust the AI, which in most cases suggests an identification on species level.

Therefore, I end up with thousands of observations in my queue, which are on species level, but many of them can only be identified properly to genus level. Layman are unaware of this because they don’t know how similar different species can look like. To be correct, I would have to push so many observations back to genus level, because we simply can’t know for sure which species it is if we only have photographs available. That some people feel bugged about this is the reason, that I stopped doing it. In such cases, I only add higher level IDs without disagreeing. This way, I “did my job” by adding my ID and the authors of the observation don’t need to feel offended that I’m disagreeing with them.

Since there are so many observations waiting to be looked at, I simply just don’t have the time to explain to each individual observer, why I added a higher level ID. If you want to know, you can always ask, though.


As a layman with spiders, I usually do go with what the AI gives me as I often have no idea and leaving it at “spider” level it just seems to never get an ID. At least that way I do get an ID of some sort, even if it is just genus. Thank you for working on all those ID’s.


Usually when I 1st see it, it bothers me. Then I look at my photo to see if it really was good enough to ID, often enough it is not. Plus as others have mentioned, some things just can’t get to species level without a microscope or such detail. So I try to be understanding. In the long run it usually doesn’t hurt if one person says “birds” and 5 ID as “bald eagle”.


Your reasoning makes sense.

I wonder, would setting up an auto text response help with your workflow? Assuming a generalized comment would express what you want, you could set up trigger letters that add your comment with a couple keystrokes (settings - keyboard - auto text in iOS). Just for example, you might set up an auto text that inserts “Based on the evidence, this specimen could only be identified to Genus“ when you enter the keystrokes, upID. (I’m sure you could say that much better than I did).

I mostly identify Unknowns, so my trigger keystroke, Unk in the Comment adds “As this Observation was entered as Unknown, it may not get reviewed by experts. It helps to add even a very high level ID to the Species ID field when you enter your observation.” Since the majority of Unknowns are contributed by inexperienced users, I like to add some bit of guidance for their future use.

Well, just a thought…


i know people do this, but this kind of reasoning does slightly increase my annoyance level. it’s not the end of the world, especially in moderation, but i certainly wouldn’t encourage people to do this in general.


I just keep a notepad open with what I commonly need to say and copy/paste it in.

Usnea is a good lichen example like your spiders, there are a few species here and you need lab work to get to species. So if I’m bumping it back to genus I litterally copypaste that note in that I write up about it. At the start of my copypaste is a note about Usnea hirta which doesn’t exist here but people often select, so they know it is definitly not that one. I can keep it in with the rest of the text if I need or exclude it, based on what I am IDing. It only takes a few additional seconds, and provides information rather than assuming they know they can ask.

Right now I’m going through a lot of Stereum sp. (fungi) and I don’t have time to personalise each one so that one litterally says: “Stereum ostrea is actually now known (2021) to be an Asian species. If you are curious you can read the full text here that has key to some common Stereums often called S ostera in past - but in any case there are actually many Stereum sp in North American most people just don’t relise and it defaults to S. ostrea with the computer vision :) I am IDing a lot right now, if you want more personalised detail about my ID on your observation feel free to ask.” This way they can see the source (which has excellent detail about species ID) if they want to look for themselves, but also know they can ask (important as many people posting stereum photos are new / newer users, they are pretty showy kinda like turkey tails so they get photographed a LOT!)


Most things I don’t do this but there are a couple areas where it feels it is the only way to get an ID.

Probably a better way would be to look at the suggested similar spiders, and look for a common family, or genus among them by going through the taxonomy tab of the top suggestions. This brings them below “spider” (which can take a while, and I can understand that frustration) but you also are following the intent of the site without putting up what you know are probably wrong ID’s.


Oh, I already do that. I’m a novice with spiders, so at no point am I actually putting what I think is wrong. I am putting up what I think it is. And am not getting upset when someone rolls it back to genus level, when I am wrong.


I could not agree more!!
I have had this issue on more than one occasion and find it incredibly frustrating.
To get an iD as specific as possible then have agreement on that specific ID is a wonderful feeling.
To then have someone come along later and intentionally make a more general ID seems senseless, pointless and dysfunctional…almost an act of sabotage.
Not only is it not beneficial, it can cause problems later for anyone searching for a specific ID.
I don’t get the blasé attitude of the iNat peeps on this issue. One would think the whole idea of making an observation as specific as possible would be a beneficial goal and carry more importance.
I sometimes think the gravity of the issue might hit home if administrators had all of their ID’s made more general on purpose.
Seems to allow for a more general ID is counterintuitive and counterproductive.
Reverting all specific plant ID’s to “plant”, specific bird ID’s like Townsends Warbler to “bird” etc., just makes no sense even tho it is technically correct.
I don’t get it and personally think it ought to be frowned upon. There are malicious observers out there who do this because they can. I hope that changes for the better of everyone in the near future.
Good on you for bringing up the subject. I hope more people do the same and there is a shift in the near future regarding this issue.
People with ill intent and time on their hands could reclassify specific identifications anytime to Mammal, Plant, Bird, Insect etc. I wonder just how well that would be received.


In my experience, new users rather press the “agree” button than the “disagree” button. Especially for Hymenoptera, there are good experts active on iNat that often “disagree” with a too specific ID. It appears that this group can be quite tricky to ID. You could check the profile of “disagreeing people” or as others already mentioned ask them about their ID. Most of them will explain it. Subspecies are often difficult to assign as some people upload photos with a private location (its impossible to check if its in range) or some people post pictures where details for determining the subspecies are not seen (for example the underside of some butterfly wings)


I’m not going to explain 500 times that early instar Mictini nymphs are very difficult to identify (it’s often impossible). If you want an explanation, feel free to ask.


…unless the original, more specific ID is wrong, I assume? Good reasons have been made above for not saying exactly why the more specific ID is incorrect. As someone who IDs a lot, I agree with @benjamin_fabian

It may be a good vibe but to get an ID as correct as possible with the evidence available is the point of iNat’s system. Lots of people make IDs that are more specific than are able to be made from photos, or just wrong even if it’s possible to ID from photos. How they feel about being wrong is ultimately down to them.


I absolutely agree that, when disagreeing with an ID in any way, we should leave an explanation.


That is impossible for taxon specialists who process a high volume of IDs.

Or even for the identifiers working thru the backlog of Unknowns or Needs ID. Any help you can offer would be appreciated.

I have a copypasta open when I ID - for the ones I use on autopilot.

But I … when someone says, it’s not that species, and leaves a hard disagreement at It’s A Plant. Then I need to @mention enough people to push the ID to something more useful than planty, thanks, not. Sadly iNat doesn’t let us simply say ‘it’s not that species’.


I think (like many things on iNat) it’s a nice thing to do, but not essential. I add rationale on a case-by-case basis. If I’m going through a particular species and there’s a similar one it’s often mistaken for I’ll often have a copy+paste of the key differentiating features between the two. If I’m just looking through everything in my particular area, I may and I may not. I will say that if it appears someone has no knowledge of the subject and just used the CV I am much less likely to add an explanation. They have no justification as to why it ‘is’ that organism, so I feel no obligation to explain why it ‘isn’t’.

Conversely, if someone corrects an ID that I blindly made (shame on me!), I don’t feel offended at all when an identifier disagrees by kicking my ID up to a higher level taxonomically, and often thank them. They’re doing me and the data a service by taking a look at the observation and making a more correct identification.