Is it useful to write out my identification steps?

Sometimes, for taxa that I think of as being more difficult to identify, I will accompany my identification with notes as to my sources, or in some cases, the step-by-step procedure I followed, often with links to sources. My hope in doing this is to get other potential IDers to be more likely to join in, either agreeing or not, so that it doesn’t just hover forever at Needs ID.

Is this likely to be an effective strategy? Are you, as an IDer, at all influenced by seeing identification notes, with references? Will you be more likely to stop and add something to such an observation rather than just mark reviewed and move on?


Can you provide some of your observations with these notes?

Yes, I am. I often will use keys, etc. that someone linked with their ID to check, and then confirm, the ID.

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I strongly recommend you continue doing this. It’s very helpful and even encouraging when experienced identifiers share their knowledge on a given subject. It builds users’ understanding the different species, preventing them from making the same ID errors over and over while also, in my eyes, strengthening the community’s bond. As you mentioned, doing this gets us new potential identifiers to work on the Needs ID pile.

I often deal with hybrid waterfowl observations and much of the time, explanations behind IDs are needed. I will go out of my way to detail what traits suggesting the ID and sources I used. I’m also making a journal post which I can link to in my explanations.

I also like to talk, lol.

You can look at my comments (on waterfowl) here:✓&mine=true&q=Waterfowl&commit=Search

There’s also this post I made that people seemed to appreciate:


I would also say that is you really want to get the user’s attention, you can:

  • Mention them.
  • Write the information in a separate comment so the user get a specific notification.
  • Use images; copy and paste an embedded image into a comment.
  • Respond to questions.

I don’t know whether writing this will help you get another identifications but such describing of identifications is surely very helpful to others, also to people who want to learn something. I often wonder whether a given person IDed something as X because they know or see something that I don’t, and if so, then what it is.


I have learnt so much thanks to identifiers explaining their ID or mentioning their sources!


I’ve written a few guides that I link in observations when people ask how I came to an ID, so I do think they are helpful. But personally, when I make an ID outside of my normal interests, and someone comes along and says: “no not X, note orange tegula, it’s Y” or something to that effect, I don’t agree with them, I just withdraw my ID. I can tell they know more than I do, but I’m not agreeing with them based on that because I can’t personally defend that identification. However, I have had times where I withdrew an ID and 6 months later find it again and agree, because at that point I do know and can defend it personally.


Yes - remember - the many people who quietly come to iNat, looking for information, for a photo of … or more about that. They will read your explanation and then it ripples out.


I think it’s a good idea because it helps others learn to identify things. I mainly look for birds and dragonflies/damselflies. There are species that look very much the same. I am always looking for tips for how to identify them successfully. I am fairly new to identifying dragonflies/damselflies. So, when a more experienced person includes a detailed explanation, I really appreciate it. And, I still appreciate what to look for in birds even though I have gained some experience doing it. You can always learn something new with birds. An experienced birder once told me how to recognize the profile of an American robin at a distance when it lands on a branch. (The flutter their wings and dip their tails.) It it just a little thing, but it is helpful.


The most help I’ve ever gotten on one observation is

Now that’s informative!


I’ve had a few convos similar but not quite so detailed, I enjoy every one of them.

So in main reply - yea keep writing it out. Lot of us appreciate it. And i’ll find realy helpful comments on other observations i’m going through to help ID, so it may not even be the original audience who finds it. So I’d say, even on users with few uploads and seem long since gone, it’s still worth writing things out because you never know who in the future will see it and find it super helpful.


Yet despite all that, it’s still stuck at genus. From my point of view, this is evidence that it is not useful.

It’s useful because I learned

a) what to look for and capture in future photographs to be able to pick a species and
b) the potential limitations of the data in this latest genus revision


Well, for what it’s worth:

In the immortal words of Sherlock Holmes, “Having eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however unlikely, must be the truth.”

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I have never liked that line, how do you know that you have eliminated the impossible, and more importantly, how do you know that something is impossible? Especially if it is in a taxon that I’m not that familiar with.

Personally, I don’t like agreeing with the identifier based only on what they tell me, because if someone else challenges the ID, that mean that I can’t realistically defend it. I will use what they say as a base for my own research, and may agree later.

Also, I have a lot of observations that will never get past Genus, because when I took the picture, I didn’t know what to shoot. You learn from those and try to improve for future shots.


That would appear to place you in the minority. I see users agree with every subsequent ID added to their observation, comments or not.

As for eliminating the impossible, that could include ruling out all known species and concluding the subject is undescribed. When the choice is a range extension of a known species or something new, New Mexico often falls in the latter category when researchers finally get their hands on specimens. Recently, we had a dung beetle split off an eastern population (I can’t find the paper…).

Minority yes, but not alone. I frequently run into withdrawn ID’s or have had a lot of people who put a correct species ID on their observation withdraw even after I agreed just because they didn’t feel they could explain why they selected that species.

My concern is if I agree based on what the other guy told me, then technically there is still only one ID on my observation (his, and mine that he told me), which starts to look an awful lot like a woozle (See Woozle Effect)


That is a fitting name for what I do - when I helpfully add the placeholder - and once the observer ‘agrees’ I withdraw mine, so we can wait for a third identifier. Placeholder plus observer still equals 1 to me.

It’s always useful and appreciated for fungi observations - notes about odor or taste, spore colour, host or habitat are very helpful for identifiers.

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