Misidentification, accountability, and bullying

I wouldn’t have deleted it, the worst thing that could happen would be the users marking it as being Captive/Cultivated, which isn’t horrible. From what you’ve said it sounds like it probably was either planted or introduced by some sort of anthropogenic means, but those are still accepted on iNat! I don’t really understand why you deleted the observation but I can see how the constant arguing would have been a stressor.

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In such cases try to tag someone else, who can be another pair of eyes to make a decision. Loosing observations because of such situations is the worst.

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he said suggested… not requested. A feature request needs approving, but a suggestion can be made several times

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I agree… but the problem here is the attitude… the arrogance exhibited by such people (even though they are quite likely right or justified in their position) discourages participation and conversation, the two objectives I believe iNat is on mission to support.

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Yeah, the way someone goes about saying something matters a lot.

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I don’t know if this happened in your case, but if you and another user agree that the genus is “as good as it gets” you can mark it as such in the data quality section and it will become research grade at the genus level. In this case, it wouldn’t show up (I think) in the identify window so overzealous identifiers new to the site or the taxa (which I’ll admit I’ve definitely been in the past!) won’t see it in their cursory searches.

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Of course this isn’t limited only to new users. I’ve seen time and time again where people have identified observations to higher taxonomic ranks because they felt the observation lacked “evidence,” and not because there is evidence that the original species identification was wrong. It really irritates me when I see people (sometimes new users, sometimes long-time users) bumping back identifications because they cannot identify them from the available evidence, even though they were not the ones who actually examined and documented the organism. Not to be harsh, but it seems like some people (who usually are highly knowledgeable) assume that others have less knowledge, experience, etc., and therefore must be wrong when they identify their own observations beyond what the quality of the observation (photos, audio recordings, etc.) might suggest to others. If I haven’t made it clear already, I am not saying that people should not identify an observation to a higher taxonomic rank when the original identification is quite clearly incorrect.

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Maybe I’m incorrect here, but it seems ‘wrong’ to identify an organism beyond what you can observe in the photo as a confirming identifier. So in this case, the organism is destined to sort of sit in limbo as an unconfirmed species-level identification instead of a potentially becoming research-grade at a higher taxonomic rank. I suppose that might reflect my over-valuing of the ‘research grade’ designation, and undervaluing observer experience on the site.

In sort of a metasense, I kind of think its the appropriate posture to assume that the initial identifier might be wrong whether you’re identifying herbarium specimens, museum specimens, on iNaturalist, or even when using human observations that you did not collect yourself. I think it can be a bit ‘data dangerous’ to assume otherwise.

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This issue of ‘new users’ keeps popping up, with various suggestions about how to stop their actions. I don’t know if iNat has any data on the average lifespan of most school/new users, but my suspicion is that many do not last long. Like the weather, perhaps it is an issue we just have to live with. I also suspect that the auto id may play a part. In the rush to complete their project, they enter the first thing that pops up, and others ‘agree’. It should be remembered, though, that many new users go on to become productive users.
The second incident bothers me more. Those who are arguing with the person who took the picture are being presumptuous, and are not listening to what is being said by the OP. As @kiwifergus says,

the problem here is the attitude

I should also mention that I’ve been lucky - Noctuidae doesn’t seem to attract the same kind of users. I can’t recall an incident where an inexperienced person deliberately messes things up, and most of our ‘disagreements’ are discussions without any rancour. So my response here should be taken with that in mind. I have had responses from experience people in other insect taxa that put me off trying to identify the insects. To me it isn’t a big loss - I’m satisfied with my niche.

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I’d just like to add that context is important. Some moths cannot be told apart without dissection which cannot be done from a photo. So if I collect a moth in S. Ontario and identify it as Xestia dolosa I might be correct. I might also be wrong, as there is another species in the area that cannot be reliably ruled out without dissection. Similarly, a worn moth may be correctly identified, but I can’t verify that because some features cannot be seen. I will bump the more precise id up to Genus because I cannot reliably agree (I do leave reasons). If that person decides not to make the change, at least my reasoning is there for others to see.
To be clear, I’m not disagreeing with you, but adding that sometimes context matters.

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I would disagree, as the majority of observations (at least in my region) sit “in limbo” anyway and never are confirmed by anyone else – what is so bad about letting a few more remain unconfirmed rather than identifying them to a higher taxonomic rank based on photographic evidence alone (rather than physical evidence)? It can be difficult to photograph an organism (especially some of the more “obscure” native plants in my region) in a way that makes it easy for others to identify it – and some can only be identified with physical examination, which I don’t see as much of a reason to omit these species from iNaturalist. I tend to favor documenting which species are in a particular rather than concentrating on producing a few images that can be easily identified (especially when they likely will not be identified anyway).

Again, I am not saying that anyone should ignore an identification that is clearly wrong, but that people should not go around bumping IDs that may not be identifiable from a particular photo on its own back to a higher taxonomic rank. Most of all, it is the attitude of “no one else knows what they’re talking about because I’m an expert,” that bothers me.

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Of course, but that is not what I am saying; I apologize if I was not clear enough. How would you (just as an example of what I mean) like it if I started identifying your moth observations to family level because I cannot tell the differences between them either because of your photos or my lack of skill? I hope you understand what I’m trying to say here.

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I hear you - I’ve experienced this with a couple of my observations of carpenter bees. I was at first confused why they would ID it to a higher taxonomic rank when the species ID seemed obvious enough to me.

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A couple of the people id’ing just opened accounts today and appear to have zero expertise in the specific order/family/genus.

Based on the amount of community interaction I see on most observations, this sounds like a single user being vindictive. I’ve never seen two brand new users show up to give a species level ID on a difficult observation. I suspect you disagreed with one person who wanted to drive home their ID and started making new accounts to disagree with you. I’d imagine that is against iNat rules in some way and could have been looked into if the observation still existed.

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These examples really aren’t difficult to come by if you look in the right places…
Just have a dig around in some of the taxa from the computer vision clean-up thread for commonly misidentified species and you’ll find stacks.

Here is a similar example I posted before :
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/in-cases-where-the-cv-is-not-pretty-sure-of-anything-offer-a-suggestion-of-a-higher-taxa/14781/4?u=sbushes
Two new users both using autosuggest to take a blurry observation to species level. If users are new to biological recording… which many are… they likely won’t have any idea what constitutes a “difficult observation”. At the time, I took a look at the activity of one of the users as the OP has here… and saw they had just blitzed a whole bunch of observations in a similar way.

With no warnings in play, and the autosuggest itself offering species-level IDs for blurry indeterminate blobs…I think its fair to say the system as it stands actively enables this sort of situation.

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It’s not unusual for new people to make bad species level ID’s I agree. But for two users to be created the same day to come in to disagree with the OP, I’d say that is unusual. Even in your example pic those two users who posted their bad IDs 2 months apart.

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I do understand what you are trying to say, and I’m not looking to start an argument. If you were mainly, say a Mollusk person, and gave no rationale for the change, or if it seemed like you were deliberately out to disrupt my ID’s, I 'd be ticked off (in the latter case, I’d be enraged). As I’ve said above, I have never experienced either of those scenarios, so I’m not speaking from a place of knowledge. I have long maintained that if an ID is changed, then a rationale should be given. If I bump a taxon up a level I say why - sometimes a poor photo means I cannot, in good conscience, make an id. About a week ago, a person posted wonderful photos of a moth, but only from the side. I was sure I knew the species, but since I would need to see the dorsal wing, I could not ID it past Genus. I let the person know, and my rationale for leaving it at Genus.
I guess this is a long way of saying communication is essential, and if someone changes an ID, I believe they should give a reason. If they don’t, I’d call in some help. If it kept up, I really don’t know how I’d respond.
As an identifier, I believe it my responsibility to give the best ID’s possible (although many of mine have been glaringly questionable!), as with confirmations.
As I said, I’m not arguing, but trying to present a slightly different perspective, while acknowledging that I have not directly experienced what you appear to have.

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I disagree pretty strongly. If you know that there isn’t a way to conclusively ID an organism from visual inspection or the evidence given, it’s entirely appropriate to disagree with the ID as @alexis18 and @mamestraconfigurata have laid out. This is the situation that the disagree text refers to when you ID with an explicit disagreement. If you don’t want to do that yourself, that’s fine, but the site provides that functionality to users for an important reason.

Best practice is to explain your reasoning for doing so; that’s how we learn.

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In a lot of cases, new users create their accounts for a class project (on the same day during the same class period) and start IDing similar sets of observations with classmates. This often occurs when a class project requires students to make a certain number of identifications (which is bad practice because it encourages situations like these, where new users make identifications just to get it done and not because they have expertise).

In many of the cases of multiple bad IDs close in time that I’ve personally seen, this has been the reason. Someone using sock-puppet accounts to influence IDs would definitely be wrong (and against terms of service), so if there’s evidence of a pattern of this it would be appropriate to refer to staff. However, I think in most cases it’s likely not a user with multiple accts acting in bad faith.

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I’m definitely not arguing. Actually, I agree with you wholeheartedly; there must be communication. That is why I never add a higher ID without explaining my reasoning. As an example, I’ve seen a few observations show up in my area of plants that are found nowhere near here but may look somewhat similar to the observed species (the result of computer generated IDs, mostly), but I’m unsure which species it really is. In those cases I will explain why I am adding a higher taxonomic ID, or say which species I think it may be, but am not confident in identifying. I hope this makes sense.

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