Observers Mocking Identifiers?

A bird is sitting on a dry tree. The photo just shows a few centimeters around the bird, the whole tree is not visible. First id “Plantae”. Um, that must be a mistake. My id: “Aves”. “No, no, no! The bird has already been identified. This is for the plant.”
A bird with a seed in its beek. Identifiy the plant.
A man sitting on timber. Identify the tree.
A woman spreading charcoal on the ground. Identify the plant.


Those are not examples of naive newbies. Because naive newbies are naive, and might honestly believe that that is possible - hence I would not mention it here.
Oh no. iNatters with many years at iNat, and thousands of observations.

How do you deal with that? Just mark it “Reviewed” and move on? Add “Plantae” (or “Angiospermae”, and in DQA “as good as possible”? Something else?


never seen this happening, but plantae is lowkey problematic because it has a lot of ““low quality”” data, specially photos in which you can"t see the trees flowers, branches, stem, seeds neither close photos of leaves


Move on. And try not to let it bother you. There are over three and a half million observers who have contributed to iNat by now; I’d be very surprised if none of them saw the world differently than I do, in a very literal sense. It’s OK. There’s certainly LOTS to work on besides observations that annoy or frustrate you. And you certainly have my sympathy!


i wouldn’t interpret this as mocking. i add observations all the time that have multiple species in the photos (for context), and i will always make ids and notes to indicate which thing i’m interested in in that particular observation. if folks don’t like the way such observations are constructed, i encourage them to just move on.

it annoys me when someone else comes along and identifies such an observation to the other thing that is not the subject. so you shouldn’t do that.


The man sitting on timber - I think I have come across those too.
I am uncomfortable with a nicely detailed portrait of ‘a man’ but what’s the wood he is working on.
I move on smartly. And recognise the observer next time … forewarned is forearmed.

I don’t see it as mocking the identifier. But I don’t share their optimism that a branch of dead tree can get an ID.


I implore you to look at the project “Ignore the Elephant Seal”. The purpose of it is for observations of something other than the seeming primary focus of an image. Kind of like what you’re describing, but there’s certainly no ill-intent. I think maybe new users might do that to be little punks, like I’ve encountered times where students will post pictures of their friends or of inorganic things and say it’s valid because “germs” are in the picture. That kind of thing.

This project though is good, clean fun. I think of it as being kinda creative. Looking at pictures and observations in a different, less-standard way. I think most people who do this type of thing regularly, myself included, will only do so if it’s somewhat reasonable for it to get an ID. Some you mentioned wouldn’t fit into that category but I still wouldn’t assume it’s done to be problematic.


Yes, absolutely. The observers put up these observations for their own reasons, and as long as they are within the guidelines they positively have the right to do so.


Why is it bad to try to get an ID for a tree a bird was using? Nothing wrong about this at all. If you are knowledgeable in the plants of this region and feel that there isn’t enough info to get an ID,treat it the same as any other plant photo you can’t get an ID for. Presence of a bird shouldn’t negate a plant observation.

It’s definitely not mocking, it is interest in plants.

this is awesome


I have seen observers mock, belittle and insult identifiers, but in this case it feels like something that was done for a bioblitz like CNC. You know, get every single observation possible: “ok got the bird, what else? Oh! the tree! and what the bird’s eating! and is a bit of moss in the lower corner?” So maybe more in the realm of friendly competition than malice?


I have too, and vice versa, after all it is the internet, and while the behavior isn’t acceptable it does happen. But i agree the specific cases described here aren’t mocking, unless mocking also accompanies the described behavior.


I think this is why it’s important to clearly state what the subject of the photo is when multiple species are included. You can do this by saying what you want IDed in the notes or by editing the photo to highlight the organism in question. I’ve seen some observers use circles or arrows, but you can also just include the original photo and a second zoomed-in one. I’ve done something like this.


A bunch of these cases may just be people finding new details in photos they didn’t notice at first. Or repurposing old photos they had before they joined iNat.

If I’m focusing on a subject, I may miss what’s around it, only to find a second or third organism on review of the photo. It might even be someone else to point it out. Chances are, I’ll only have the one photo to work off of, so I would just have to reuse it for the observation. I’ve got multiple examples of this and it seems that plenty of others do as well. The thread, Observations “hiding” in other observations; Share your examples! comes to mind.


I think if you’re unfamiliar with a taxon, even if you’re an experienced user, you may not have a good feel for how identifiable a partial image of some organism in the corner of a photo is. For example, I’ve submitted blurry partial photos of flowers in the corner of a frame, and sometimes the local experts will know exactly what it is with high certainty. But other times even a beautiful full-frame photo of a flower isn’t identifiable past genus even by an expert because some specific part isn’t showing. So I can totally forgive someone wondering if a random chunk of a tree branch or a squished berry in a bird’s mouth is identifiable, because let’s face it, sometimes it is.


If you haven’t already seen the “What’s the worst pic you uploaded to iNat?” thread, it’s definitely worth checking out. Impressively, a lot of them have been identified, but there are definitely examples of someone going, “hey, I wonder if someone can ID that thing in the corner?”. I think my favorite was someone who took a photo of the night sky and was later trying to ID one of the trees at the bottom of the frame


So a side effect of gamification (see also our milestone thread…). Might be sometimes the case.

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Thank you for the shout-out (: I started the project because I found the reddit post it references extremely funny, and would sometimes find observations where the ID seemed to conflict with the image until I took a closer look. I think it’s a fun way to engage with photography and the world by checking our assumptions of what the most interesting and relevant thing in a picture is.

In a way it also reflects the way my attention and focus has changed as I’ve become a more enthusiastic naturalist. From largely ignoring the world around me, to being captivated by the noticeable and flashy birds, to drawn in by insects, to wanting to identify the plant the insect is feeding on, etc. Sometimes I’ll be in a location where something very eye-catching and extravagant is happening, but I’ll be drawn in by something small and barely noticeable (the other day I “ignored the elephant seal” in real life by fixating so intently on a spider wasp that I failed to notice the active helicopter on the other side of the field with its propellers whirling noisily).

I would hate for people to see the majority of the images in the project as being mocking or mean-spirited, even if they can be a little silly. And as others have said, if it’s not something you’re interested in engaging in, you can easily just pass over those observations and look for the more focused ones instead.


I’ve certainly seen that on occasion, e.g. a picture of a fly sitting on a mushroom growing in a mix of moss and lichens with dried up oak leaves and some pine needles scattered around = 6 observations to 'catch ‘em all’ with one picture.

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Another project that comes to mind that is relevant to this specific statement is “Debatably an Organism”. This is another one that I think of as being creative and kinda switching up how people see and use the site. I see it more for myself as a way to let people know that I am aware the quality isn’t great but I think it’s usable so why not. Some people have accused me in the past of uploading lower quality images or blurry pictures as a way to mess with people or somehow disrespect the system. That’s certainly never been my intention and I don’t think it’s other people’s intentions majority of the time, either.


First of all, I assume the good intentions of the observer. If it is not clear to me what they consider to be the object of their observation, I ask a question in the comment. Or I suggest an ID, noting in the comment which part of the photo it refers to. Perhaps I’ve just been lucky, but I’ve almost never encountered a case where the question couldn’t be resolved in the discussion. So it seems to me that cases where observers are really “mocking” identifiers are rare. And there’s nothing preventing this from being flagged for moderation, it seems to me.


The most mean-spirited mockery I’ve seen involves young students mocking the assignment they’re required to do, or maybe each other. Those students often have no clue real humans are involved as identifiers. Annoying though they may be, this is of little importance.

I think the great majority of people who post a 4-pixel bird really expect (or at least hope) that it can be ID’d. Ditto for the food a bird is eating, a tree somebody’s sitting on, etc. I’ll post some obscure little insect in a photo of something else, hoping it will be ID’d and maybe useful to somebody. I suspect some people like to show off their ability to find obscure organisms in corners of their photos, but these are records of what’s where when, so at least theoretically worth identifying. I must admit, though that I get annoyed at one person who posts the same photo repeatedly, for every single species he can hope to ID in it. I don’t think he’s mocking IDers, though. He’s serious. I just skip past his observations any more.

And as to the plastic owls, metal dinosaurs, etc., that I’ve posted, I hope they’re received in the spirit of friendly humor that I’ve posted them.

What to do? ID if you want to or skip past to observations you like more.