Placeholder and unknown

I don’t know if this is a bug, has been discussed before, or is a platform issue. I use Windows 7 and 10 on a PC. I’ve noticed a number of folks who put their tentative ID into “placeholder”, and their ID’s show up on my “identify” page as Unknown. I have been advising them (and they are usually new users) that they should add a rough ID, like flowering plant, or beetle to get the observation into the system. Otherwise it tends to disappear into the great unknown. Is this a problem only on my computers? Is there a way to explain to folks what a placeholder is (I don’t even know)? I hate to think of a new user thinking they have done the right thing, receiving no reply, and leaving the platform.

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The placeholder shows up usually when someone typed something iNaturalist didn’t recognize to tie to an existing taxon into the “What Did You see Field”.

It usually seems to happen due to

  1. misspellings
  2. someone using that field instead of the description field (e.g., they type somthing like “Apis on flower”, location coordinates, etc)
  3. connectivity issues in the field (eg., the person correctly entered “beetles” or “coleoptera”, but without a connection the app didn’t pull the taxon and left it as plain text)
  4. alternate names not recognized by iNaturalist
  5. taxonomic names not in iNaturalist

And, following on from @star3 's comments, I think it’s mostly a “feature” of the phone apps, although one can deliberately add a placeholder obs with the web app. When I’m using the phone app on a deliberate obs hunt (as opposed to random “omg look at that!” pix, I am usually so intently focused on observing that I don’t have the patience to stop and ID each obs at the time. Not the best practice, since it means I don’t necessarily photo all the identifying characteristics, but there it is :-)


Ok, all this makes sense. But if you use placeholder on a phone App, would it show up on my PC platforms as Unknown? I don’t have a ‘Smart’ phone, more of a dumb phone (10 year old Blackberry Curve!).

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Good questiin - only having a smart phone I don’t know :-)

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(and some more characters)


You’re doing the right thing. Doing IDs on a phone is not ideal IMHO because it’s better to see the photo on a larger screen. But if I don’t add an ID and I have entered something in “Notes,” such as the name of an associated species, that becomes the “Placeholder.” Ugh. So I try to add IDs before uploading my sightings from the iPhone.

I might add that the last item on the list of helpful responses at encourages people to do just what you are doing.


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