Opting out of community ID vs literally anything else

This I fully support and think is how it should be done. This isn’t what’s happening in my case, I feel. Obviously, my feeling is not solid fact, and I understand that. I don’t wish to silence another user, or stop them from providing input, but I do wish I could discuss it with them. This user doesn’t do that anymore, and just systematically puts “plants” or just “life”, when there is no way to say what I put it as isn’t correct.

A lot of the time I say “I get how nobody else can tell, but I took the picture for the purpose of documenting this specific thing”. I know that doesn’t mean everybody needs to trust my word and just assume that I am correct. Most people say “oh alright” or ignore. I like that, as it seems if you can’t contribute anything to it, why add anything? Perhaps they also feel like they are contributing, similar to how I also have feelings about the topic, so that’s why I want to deal with it appropriately and kindly.

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That’s exactly my standpoint. It seems like the user I am referencing just looks for immediately identifiable traits, and if those aren’t seen, it is IDed as something else. Nothing is exactly wrong with using iNat this way, but I think it ends up getting rid of a lot of data and content that could be useful.

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I always assume the best, so I am hopeful this person is actually trying to help and contribute the best they can. But yeah, I haven’t seen an incident in which it was helpful. But that’s my opinion.

Not to act like everybody should trust me because I said so, because I don’t think that, but majority of the observations that I am referring to, are of species that I pretty much constantly observe, so I am very familiar. I see identifiable traits in the pictures that perhaps others don’t. That doesn’t mean people NEED to believe me or anything, but I think if I can see identifiable traits, somebody else probably can too, just not the person who is ending up identifying them.

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a few things, because i have come across this too:

If it is not a huge amount of observations, and especially if they are doing something ridiculous like knocking an obvious conifer back to ‘life’ because they think it is not a tamarack, i reject community ID for that observation.

if it’s reasonable, like i thought something was a green ash but someone else thinks it’s a black ash or that it is not a green ash, or is certain one can’t distinguish green from white ash from the photo, i usually leave the ID there and let others review it.

if a user is habitually ‘following’ you around and knocking back your IDs because they don’t like observations taken from roads or are playing ‘photo police’, i recommend checking with help@inaturalist.org or messaging @tiwane on here. If the behavior persists and they won’t stop, I think you are justified in blocking them. You aren’t supposed to block just based on ID disagreements, but this may raise above that point.

Also, as an aside, dandelions in particular a a problematic taxa. For chicory, queen anne’s lace, etc etc a blurry photo from the road is absolutely diagnostic and good data. Rejecting these doesn’t make any sense at all. Dandelions on the other hand… well, the taxonomy is… a horrible mess. At best there are 2 species in the US that can only be told apart by seed color, at worst there is a cluster of ‘microspecies’ that literally can not be distinguished at all without genetics. I will leave it at that to avoid going on my already well worn taxonomy rant, but I would say someone knocking a photo of a yellow field of dandelions back to Taraxacum sp. would unfortunately be warranted.


I am really glad I discovered this was a function, because it isn’t all my observations or anything, and I really love that other people chime in and that’s honestly how I learn the most.

This is exactly why I don’t like the opt-out option. Other people are usually very helpful on majority of my observations, and those discussions are productive, and enjoyable. I love other people’s input, as it typically is very useful.

This is an interesting way to put it, because it definitely aligns with this. All the observations this particular person IDs, are along the road. I have many other observations of the species, not along the road, but those ones do not get touched. It’s sort of like, the only input I receive from this user is input that moves my observations to a coarser ID, rather than verifying any of my other ones. I didn’t think of that actually, but that is part of this pattern.

That’s exactly why I was at a loss of what to do. I mean, I still am relatively up in the air. The person won’t answer me anymore, and only did about two times ever. I would love to discuss and go over why the IDs are put there, but they don’t seem interested in explanations or any discussion. I feel like from a surface level, it seems that I am just being a bit whiny and nit-picky about it, and so no line of action really felt appropriate. Because yes, just disagreeing isn’t a good reason to block, but this is repetitive and has certain patterns that don’t happen with other users.

Absolutely. It’s funny actually because, I just threw that out on a whim. Most of the observations I am referring to are chicory, bird’s-foot trefoil, common reed and wild carrot. Wild carrot and bird’s-foot trefoil understandably can look like other species sometimes, but chicory and common reed typically are easy to ID without a lot of detail. Those are also part of this whole thing though. Dandelions are something I actually haven’t observed a lot lately, but it was just the first thing that came to mind! Mainly because it’s terrible trying to decipher them from all the other tiny yellow flowers that look pretty much identical.

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Yeah, this is one of those things which keeps popping up again and again despite us having established rules addressing it. Some similar websites do this differently, for instance BugGuide declares some photos ‘frass’ even if they are diagnostic, if they don’t think they are good photos (frass is insect poop). I personally take issue with this because i am myself about data not aesthetics when it comes to iNat. I take pretty, arty photos too, but they go on instagram. iNat is for collecting and sharing data. Any of these blurry photos of white pine, queen anne’s lace, etc are data, which is accurate and precise and can be very valuable. There’s no scientific reason to reject it, and inat has never indicated they want less photos for bandwidth reasons, so all i am left with is it is an act of gatekeeping. Gatekeeping is something i strongly feel has no place on iNat. I get paid to study ecology, you do not. Doesn’t mean your observations have any less value. Same as me sharing music on YouTube, i don’t need to hear it’s garbage because i’m not a paid musician. (some might argue it is garbage anyway but that’s another issue haha). We are not defined only by our jobs and some if not most of the important findings in terms of our natural world come from people who don’t have the luck and privilege’s to be paid to be an ecologist. Ok, that rant is over now, thanks for coming to my ted talk. But TLDR is, that person is in the wrong in terms of iNat protocol if they are downvoting things for any reason other than being highly confident no one can ID the species tagged in the observation. I myself do not downgrade blurry or ambiguous observations unless i have reason to believe they are wrong, but that can include things not in the media such as habitat and range. If someone keeps observing something that they probably can’t get to species based on road photos (good example is Solidago canadensis, altissima, gigantea), then i may leave a comment.

Sorry to nitpick about the dandelion i couldn’t help myself :D


Completely unrelated to the topic but i’m just realising this is Dallon Weekes from Panic! at the Disco omfg wow nice to see you here


I agree. I think sometimes the quality is not enough to make it clear to some, but I think if you can’t tell, then you shouldn’t tell anything about the observation. That’s how I do it, and I know many others, but again, I’ve said it plenty, everybody uses it differently and that’s okay. I just want to be able to use it how I use it, while allowing others to use it how they want to use it. This specific situation has sorta stopped me from being able to use it how I want to use it.

I agree with this too. I feel like me saying it, paired with the fact that they are my observations, makes me sound whiny, again. So, I kept it very surface level, and just stayed looking for a solution.

I agree.

I do this too. I give everybody the benefit of the doubt, especially because they were literally there, while I was not.

Thanks as always. You always provide a sense of clarity, and not just when you agree with me! You just seem rather lenient with the interpretation of the rules, which is what I feel like the guidelines suggest we all do, so I am quite the fan.

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Drama! On The Community ID Checkbox



There was a big debate about this way back when the forum was still on Google Groups. I came down also on the side of if you don’t have reason to specifically believe it is wrong, leave it be at casual grade. Or add a non disagreeing genus level ID and mark as no further ID needed, if i am confident no one else can figure it out. But people can pretty good at ID and have figured things out that I never could from a photo, too.

Better than what i have done in the past which is argue with the person a bunch and then get my comments flagged. Whoops.

I’d say not lenient at all, just not interpreting them more strictly than they are meant to be. Autistic exactitude and all :joy: And this topic is one that comes up again and again and like, i haven’t done it as much lately because with Covid we haven’t traveled much, but ive got a ton of blurry road observations.

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I spoke with this user maybe 3 times max, and all they ever really said was “tough luck” and “I don’t believe you”, which I didn’t necessarily appreciate it. Despite that, I tried conversing with them just about every time they identified anything, and they still just actively ignored me. I stopped trying, because it didn’t seem like it would do any good, and I am very afraid of being reprimanded after already falling into that hole once before.

I think it’s very important to not make it more strict than they should be, primarily because it allows more data to come in. I think the fact that there is casual and research grade, already separates those types of observations enough, that there’s no true value to going to a level of just “plant” or “life”, unless they are literally images that are difficult to decipher beyond that. I feel like that’s what those IDs are sorta reserved for.

Another little thing, I find it very odd, and this has happened repeatedly with probably like 5 different people, but people will complain/talk down upon lower quality images, but then make no attempt to ID the high quality images of the same species/plant/animal. The initial complaint is coming from a place of concern, in regards to valuable data typically, so why not contribute to the observations that could reach research grade? That’s rather off-topic, but I think it ties into the whole gatekeeping-certain-types-of-pictures thing. People seem to really target what they consider “data quality”, but then I never see them contribute positively to data quality at all. That’s not to say that they aren’t ever, but they just do not at all for my observations, of which I have plenty, so it should be relatively easy to do so. Just a little side thing. Figured you might be familiar with that type of behavior.


In this case i’d suggest you talk to Tony or help@inaturalist.org (which is usually Tony). This sounds like the user was not following the terms of service in that behavior and maybe Tony can help sort that out. And thank you for not calling out this person directly in the forum, sicne we try to avoid that here.

Yeah I agree, these don’t serve any real purpose. I do use inat data for wetland mapping in Vermont, including casual observations, because i can check the photo for myself, so yes the data does get used and downvoting it to kingdom level makes that impossible.

I know i am meant to view everything with the initial assumption that people mean well on iNat, but unfortunately i think this is just gatekeeping. It happens often, and seems to be linked to perceived ‘credibility’ in terms of official education or employment. At least some of the time. Sometimes it’s just someone being awkward and fussy. When i do something like comment that someone can’t get an ID from a photo, i do usually make it a point to make some other IDs for them, not just a critical one. Otherwise, it is kind of rude.

I myself get to be a big fuss about mapping precision. If something seems mapped wrong, even just a hundred meters off, i am tempted to mark it as mapped wrong. When people map things with massive uncertainty circles it also bugs me, but i’ve had to soften my stance on this all. When iNat was tiny I literally reviewed all plant observations from Vermont, so if one seemed wrong i’d keep seeing it. Now i am not even close, there are sooo many.


While I personally have felt targeted, I don’t think that’s necessarily an accurate reflection of what’s happening. I’m very sensitive in suspecting people are deliberately trying to do something because of me, which is a bad habit that I have just grown into after needing to have my own back for years. Because of that, no matter how much I have felt or suspected this person is deliberately doing this to spite me, I cannot say that that’s true, so I am still assuming it is a miscommunication or just a simple disagreement. I have to remind myself that just because I’ve been bullied in the past, doesn’t mean that everybody who has unclear behavior is trying to be a bully. Majority of the time it is just simply miscommunication or civil disagreement, but it is a gray area a lot of the time. It’s all very objective, so I just sorta want a way out without doing damage. I feel like I am more capable of handling it now though, after input from many different angles.

This is very good to know, because I did figure that even things listed as casual can have a purpose, or else there wouldn’t be a casual grade at all.

It does sorta just come off as a bit aggressive, which I don’t like. It seems like they’re speaking their mind on something that doesn’t really contribute much, or at all.

This is very true. One particular user really was leaning into the credentials thing, to the extent that I felt it was in direct violation of the guidelines that say to not deem your judgement superior to others based on credentials. Honestly a lot happened between this user and I that I felt violated terms of service, but the declaration of “actually, I am a curator so” this, that and the other thing, really bothered me. I really regret not flagging anything while it was happening.

I completely agree. I think it’s not really your/my fault if something you/I say is interpreted rude, if our intention wasn’t to be rude, but it doesn’t take a lot to make sure that people don’t end up feeling attacked or wronged.

I’m going through the “life” ones lately, and it’s very rewarding to do what you can do to clean things up.

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yeah feel this one, growing up as an undiagnosed autistic kid in the school system (not that being diagnosed would have helped either given the quality of that school). Stuff was bad and i still get really defensive. I suppose it can’t really be personal since they don’t know you personally. But, i get the same way about it.

I have added some data from things like old vegetation plots ive done to casual observations, this is data used for ecological studies so while it certainly isn’t immune to errors, it’s as good of data as any ecological data out there. And they are easy to filter out if one wants to ignore them.

Yeah, i will say to you and to anyone else reading this, that i know most websites don’t care and ignore this sort of thing, iNat very much is resposive. Flagging will bring all any curator in, so if it’s a big interpersonal thing involving you, help@inat may be the way to go. Unless i hear otherwise like it’s getting too overloaded. But, the other thing is, if the user is harassing you and even if you truly don’t care, they will harass others too.


An unfortunate reality, that I didn’t really consider. I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks again.


iNat is pretty good at sorting out people who don’t ‘play nicely with others’
@tiwane has helped me, and found a kind solution - thank you.


I agree 100%! It seems like usually it’s just differences getting out of hand, that cause some unfair behavior to arise.

And I will say, he seems like a pretty fine guy, who wants what’s best for everybody, from what I can tell :-)


I don’t see any reason to opt out of community ID in that case. Opting out isn’t going to make the Community ID more precise… Communication is the best strategy there. Even if they ignore you, it’s not like their IDs are making a difference one way or another, as long as they aren’t disagreeing outright.

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Yeah, I don’t really like the opt-out, period. Just wanted input so I could make a better decision in the meantime. That’s been a successful mission, so I’m happy with it. It, being, the situation and the information I’ve received. I’m not using the opt-out.


I have only had to opt out once. I had taken (an admittedly bad, but identifiable) picture of a rare bee, and included a note about it, well someone came along and ID’d it as something else that it clearly wasn’t AND left a note saying that it was either the one he mentioned or another that doesn’t look anything like EITHER species, so he didn’t know what he was talking about. He didn’t respond to any attempts at dialog and went inactive. So I opted-out and left a comment explaining that this wasn’t me being hard headed, and if other ID’ers think that I’m wrong to please explain. Well inside of a month or so I had two real experts come along and verify my ID after which I opted back in. So if you do opt-out I would recommend that you leave a comment saying that you are not being closed off to dialog.