.json values nulled when ID is deleted

I was going through Unknowns yesterday when I noticed some odd behavior. After adding an ID I realized at the last second that there was a placeholder I had missed, so I deleted my ID and opened the .json of the observation to recover the placeholder. I noticed that the species_guess value where I have previously found retained placeholders was nulled. I managed to recover the placeholder through a cached version of the page, so I went on without too much issue. Today I was thinking about the same thing when another observation with a placeholder ID came up, and I decided to do a little digging. With my ID added the .json behaved “normal” with species_guess still showing the placeholder, but when I deleted the ID the species_guess switched to null. Not wanting to mess up anything from other peoples observations I made my own observation to test the behavior of the .json with deleted IDs. It seems to behave a little differently with your own ID (leaving the last identification as the value in species_guess instead of the original placeholder). When another user added and deleted an ID species_guess was nulled.

This may be “working as intended” but I think it is a change from how placeholders were retained in the recent past.

Please fill out the following sections to the best of your ability, it will help us investigate bugs if we have this information at the outset. Screenshots are especially helpful, so please provide those if you can.

Platform (Android, iOS, Website): Website

App version number, if a mobile app issue (shown under Settings or About):

Browser, if a website issue (Firefox, Chrome, etc) : Chrome

URLs (aka web addresses) of any relevant observations or pages: My test observation after an ID was added and deleted showing a null species_guess https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/69310897

A previously unidentified observation showing species_guess with the placeholder with a active ID (if I delete this ID species_guess will revert to null)

Screenshots of what you are seeing (instructions for taking a screenshot on computers and mobile devices: https://www.take-a-screenshot.org/): Showing the progression of value changes to species_guess as IDs are made and deleted (behavior is slightly different here I assume because I added the ID)

Original Placeholder


Change to the .json with an ID I added added then deleted

species_guess nulled after another user added and deleted an ID

Description of problem (please provide a set of steps we can use to replicate the issue, and make as many as you need.):

Step 1: Find an ID with a placeholder (not your own)

Step 2: Add an ID then delete it

Step 3: .json species_guess value is now null

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how do you remember it working in the past? the way i remember things, the original placeholder has always been wiped out when an ID is made.

to me, this doesn't seem like a bug exactly.

i’m writing all this just based on my memory of what happens, but i believe the thing here is that species guess changes to the observation ID. so when you add an ID, the placeholder gets wiped out. then if you delete your ID, since the original placeholder is not retained anywhere, then how does the system decide what to put back in species guess? given the choice of replacing species guess with null or the current ID, then it seems to make sense to me to replace with null when the observer has not made an ID, and to replace it with the observer’s deleted ID, if the observer had previously made an ID… or something like that.

here’s a related feature request that may be relevant: Do not overwrite placeholder text - Feature Requests - iNaturalist Community Forum. you’ll note that the decision was made not to accommodate this request. but maybe it could have more traction if it was reframed and narrowed to “Do no overwrite placeholder text on others’ observations”? (it’s a stretch, i think, but it never hurts to ask, i suppose.)

Take a look at this link to a observation with an active ID, and species_guess still has the placeholder listed (Foliose), it only disappears when the ID is deleted.

I may have been misremembering how deleting an ID affects the placeholder though… It looks like the method suggested in that thread was withdrawing and restoring ID not deleting. I still don’t understand why deleting an ID should remove a placeholder, but if this is working correctly I can move this to a feature request.

ok. so then the issue is that withdrawing an ID on someone else’s observation preserves the placeholder text but deleting an ID does not?

(sorry, i misinterpreted the caption text in your original post as relating to the images below the text (wrong), not above (correct). so then the “i’m writing all this just based on my memory” paragraph that i wrote above is totally off-base.)

it does seem a little odd that delete vs withdraw would lead to different treatment of the placeholder text captured in the species guess. that said, deletion of IDs is one of those features that seems like it might be deprecated. (you have to edit and then delete on the website, and the Android app doesn’t seem to even have an option to delete ID.) so i’m not sure how much effort should be expended on functionality that is possibly deprecated… (how many people even know how to delete IDs, and how many cases of lost placeholder text result from people deleting IDs?)

Platform (Android, iOS, Website): Website

Browser, if a website issue (Firefox, Chrome, etc) : Firefox

URLs (aka web addresses) of any relevant observations or pages: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/83108890

Screenshots of what you are seeing (instructions for taking a screenshot on computers and mobile devices: https://www.take-a-screenshot.org/):


Description of problem (please provide a set of steps we can use to replicate the issue, and make as many as you need.):

Step 1: Find an unknown observation which has a placeholder

Step 2: Identify that observation. species_guess still remains in the json (1st screenshot)

Step 3: Delete (not withdraw) your identification.

Step 4: Go to the json of the observation page. species_guess is now empty (2nd screenshot)

Is this only happening with your own observations?

Something different happened with a test obs of my own:

  1. Create obs with ‘xyz’ as the placeholder. json shows ‘xyz’ as species_guess
  2. Add ID as Plantae. json shows ‘plants’ as species_guess
  3. Delete ID. json continues to show ‘plants’ as species_guess

I guess this is ok, since I’m the IDer and the observer, but my issue was while IDing other people’s observations

1 Like

(consolidated these bug reports)

i wonder if this should be consolidated with: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/deleting-an-id-on-my-observation-creates-common-name-placeholder/5581?

(seems like these should all be considered together if they are to be addressed at all.)