Issue with users automatically agreeing to an identification

I agree, this is a problem. I frequently see users agree immediately and without question to identifications, which is probably reinforced by their observations moving to research grade.

I would be ok with the agree button being removed from the thumbnails on the identify page. I almost never use this agree button, opting to take a closer look at the photos before making an ID.

Yes, “Agree” is too weak of a verb to convey what the user is actually doing by clicking the button. It has too many meanings and interpretations. I do not think this button should be removed completely, but I think other words or phrases could better convey what this button actually does.

I really like “Confirm ID” or something along these lines as a replacement for “Agree”. Great suggestion!


That’s going to be just as bad, because new users will think they are being asked to confirm it! Who wouldn’t want to be helpful to an identifier “asking you to confirm” their ID…

I still reckon nix ALL Agree buttons for new users, and maybe a pop up message when they qualify at 100 obs/IDs to explain clearly that the agree button they are getting access to is ONLY for when they do actually want to ID the same. Entering in an id is not a difficult step for a new user to have to do.


It may be a problem, but is it a big enough problem to warrant making the system more complicated? I think not. One key issue for me is that RG isn’t irreversible, so we can reverse it in cases which involve misidentification. If it doesn’t involve a misid., then worrying too much about the fact that it shouldn’t really be RG at this stage seems a bit pointless to me. The other key issue is whether a significant number (proportion?) of misidentified RG observations are being generated under the present system? My feeling is that the number is tolerably low (and any that are discovered can be reversed). No system is going to be perfect, but the current system seems to me to work well enough.

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It is not only new users who sometimes (more or less) uncritically agree with existing IDs. I posted an example somewhere, but no time to find it again now. There is a continuum of cases from 100% uncritical to 100% independent. In between, you can do a quick Google image search to check the plausibility of an ID, or you can trust the reliability of the previous identifier, etc. Ultimately, you have to trust something and make some assumptions. Given this continuum, I suggest that there is no reason to restrict agreement options unless it can be demonstrated that there is a real problem to be solved by such a move, rather than just a “niggle”.


What about preventing someone who enters an initial high-level ID for one of their own observations from taking any further part in the ID of that particular observation? I have no idea how technically feasible it would be to set this up, but I suggest they should not be able to use the Agree button and should not be able to change their ID by writing in the name provided by a subsequent identifier. Their initial high-level ID for that one obs is effectively ‘frozen’, but I see no reason why they couldn’t add comments, just not further IDs. That may sound a little draconian, but I suspect in most cases people who enter initial high-level IDs aren’t really qualified to agree at lower levels anyway.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind that restriction. As a test, I’ve been practising what I propose; I know little about plants, invertebrates, or fungi, so I commonly ID them at higher levels and then deliberately don’t take any further part in the ID process. It hasn’t stopped most of my obs being IDed to species level (most within hours or days, a few within weeks), even here in small-population NZ. If it’s possible to set this up, there seem to be several advantages. First, it should stop many of the ‘auto-agree’ IDs by observers who are probably not qualified, and so make RG a little more robust. Second, there’s no need to go to three IDs for all obs to achieve RG. And third, the Agree button would still be there for others to use, so identifiers aren’t hindered. And it also doesn’t discriminate against new users.

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I’m neither advocating for nor arguing against this idea, but would propose a minor tweak were it to be considered which is that the ‘freezing’ only takes effect after someone else has contributed an ID. For instance I frequently will start by adding an high level ID and then try to upload my records, and then go back to ones I know I want to review and will update them. Kind of I know this is a syrphid fly, but cant remember the exact markings on each one, so will upload as Hover Fly and then go back reference in hand and update.

Also - welcome to the forum.


Agree. We probably don’t really need to ‘freeze’ users ability to ID at all, but if we did, then I agree with your tweak. Also, hover fly (family level) is not really a high level. Sometimes I put plants in as dicots just to get them on and then I ID further when I get time. But again, do we really need any of this? It is that much of a problem?

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You could just check a box on the Data Quality Assessment that it could use improvement (can’t remember the exact words)–that should take the Research Grade off of it so an additional person can find it in “Needs ID.”

I think Stephen’s assessment is sensible - IDs can be modified or obs downgraded as necessary. As time goes on, the data can improve.

If there is a data quality issue, then maybe it should be possible to flag a taxon as one that has overall quality issues and is in need of some expert love. (See below)

I’m not a big fan of restrictions, particularly when you consider how often iNat is used as a tool in classrooms - I think it’s better to change user behaviour with nudges. How about, instead of blocking the agree button, having it so that for the first n agreements a user is required to add a comment about that agreement? Context is a good thing to have generally.

As above, if there are particular taxa that are problematic, and flagged as such, then user behaviour could be prompted in a similar way. (‘Why do you think this is X?’) (PS, see below about guides)

I hear what you’re saying, but I’m really bad for this because I tend to start uploading late at night, and then get prodded that it’s (kiwi) bedtime so end up sending off a few high level IDs in with the intention of going back to a guide the following day to look further.

Finally -

(In NZ at least) There are some really good guides on iNat that could help a new user (or any user) but I think they’re effectively hidden in plain sight. Guides can be far more useful diagnostically than the raw Wikipedia article reproduced on the species page (Compare with, thanks to @tony_wills) but guides don’t seem to appear contextually around the site (unless I’ve missed something). Maybe they should appear where relevant on a species page.

Nudge to change behaviour, don’t restrict. Somehow link guides in so users can learn more.


Thanks. I didn’t know that!

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but that is the whole point of my suggestion… it is not a restriction per se, as they can still make IDs by typing in the name, or selecting the AI offering they consider best. What it does, is introduce new users to the idea that you have to think when you ID, rather than just agree with the first person that suggests it is something… Also, it slows the process down, which I believe is important. When I joined iNat, there were few new users and many experienced… every observation and ID I made came with help from many others on what was best practise, and because there was so much dialog, I tended to move slowly and wait for feedback about how I was doing. New users now are left to bash away for days if not weeks before anyone finds time to suggest what they are doing is incorrect, and it is simply a new user to experienced user ratio kind of thing. Given that the effort to “correct” or get back on track a mis-ID’d observation due to AI/Agree’ing, that ratio is compounded on.

The removal of “Agree” buttons for new users would have them making less confirming IDs, giving experienced IDers priority on making the confirming ID, and hence the chances of catching mis-IDs before they get to RG and dropping out of the ID Reqd pool. It is possible that this will only delay the impact slightly, but if that delay is sufficient enough, you will find that (and I estimate) 75% of new IDers will see that “Agree” is not a “Like” or a “Thankyou” BEFORE they start using it as such, and the muddying of AI accuracy is reduced.

Quite frankly, if nothing is done to stem the tide of AI/Agree RG obs, I would be inclined to give up on iNat. I feel the clock is ticking for many IDers…

Actually, strike that… I love iNat regardless of whether it’s data is messed up or not!


I know, Stephen… this suggestion is not going to fix every problem with the site, but I see it taking a big bite out of the problematic AI/Agree/RG feedback loop. If you can see a “fixes everything” solution then give it, instead of picking holes in a potential big step in the right direction


Fair. I can definitely see where you’re coming from on this.

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Yes, I get that, but my comment that you quote was intended not as “the reason” not to adopt your suggestion, but just as one factor among several.

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I see this as a problem almost every day in my review of Castillejas, incorrect IDs confirmed almost immediately and then becoming “research grade”. In my opinion, this is a very significant issue putting at risk the entire mission of iNaturalist in providing distribution data and other information to resource managers and others. I would like to see this addressed in user guidelines that would suggest: 1. please don’t confirm other’s observations unless you are certain they are correct, and 2. please don’t confirm a friend’s ID just because you are friends or were on the same outing together.


Thank you…I noticed others doing that. I hope others realize that though not an expert by any degree, some things I do know are NOT what has been suggested as a new ID. I’ll keep doing this then.
Personally, I find that messaging a person who has given a different ID with the question carefully phrased as How did you come to this ID? has been valuable in me learning whether I do agree or still feel the ID I have put in is going to stay.

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One thing I appreciate about iNat is that it gives everyone a chance to be involved in making identifications even if it is just a “ditto” id. However, right now the id of an elementary student who wants to be a part of citizen science is weighted the same as the college professor of entomology. What if when making an id you could select a level of expertise; Expert - “I am familiar with this taxa and most similar species” 5pts, Knowledgeable - “I am familiar with many of this taxa in this area” 3pts, Learning - “I am learning this taxa and know some of the similar species” 1 pt. An observation needs 10 pts to be research grade. Also Expert levels could require a comment to build a database of accessible species descriptions. Just an idea I have been playing with.


What you are describing is a weighting or reputation system, and I believe iNat is reluctant to go down that road. I was concerned about it when I first joined, but the more you are in iNat the more you realise that CID does work. We have a pseudo weighting system in that if you know or come to recognise expert identifiers, you can add weight to their IDs with a confirmation. Caveats: don’t do it unless you will be around to change or delete your ID, and withdraw it if there is contention.


I think what sometimes happens is that, when an ID is given without a comment or remark, users who are inexperienced with iNaturalist/nature see the ID and consciously or unconsciously assume that it is being given with a high level of confidence, despite the fact that (or perhaps because) iNat calls every ID a suggestion.

I think it’s pretty much always worth adding a remark to indicate one’s confidence level in one’s ID. Like if I’m confident in my ID, then I put something like “This is X.x,” or if I’m unsure, then something like “I think it’s X.x.” Either way, anyone can still disagree with or question my ID. And maybe it will remind inexperienced users not to assume that identifiers are always sure of their IDs.


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