Puzzled by disagreement consequences

Someone posted a photo of an elongate beetle larva and identified it as Ocypus olens. I set it back to Coleoptera, which was perhaps presumptuous of me but identifying larval beetles is rather specialised and there was nothing in the observer’s history to suggest they are a beetle taxonomist. Two more people have now identified it as subtribe Staphylinina, but one has told me my id is “in the way” and “You automatically disagree with all taxa below your selected one (here, you are disagreeing with all Polyphaga taxa).” Is that correct? I didn’t know one person could block progress in that way. I thought any identification would be over-ruled by a two-thirds majority, and Coleoptera doesn’t conflict with Staphylinina, so I’m unsure in what sense Coleoptera was in the way. Is it something to do with whether I chose the green or orange statement when I disagreed? (After several years on iNaturalist, I still don’t understand the green and orange. Neither of them ever seems to really fit the situation.) I would specify the observation but I understand that is not allowed in the forum.


To answer two queries:

  1. Yes, it is possible to ‘block’ progress this way. Have a read of https://www.inaturalist.org/blog/25514-clarifying-ancestor-disagreements for clarification. Your ID was a ‘branch disagreement’, ie you not only disagreed that the observation was Ocypus olens, but you also disagreed that it was any/all taxa between O. olens and Coleoptera (so, literally any other beetle ID, of which Staphylinina is included).

  2. To explain the green and orange options:

i) Green. I see an observation IDed as Ocypus olens. I’m not totally convinced that ID is correct (maybe the photo is a bit blurry, or obscures an important character), but at the same time I don’t have hard evidence to definitively say it isn’t O. olens, ie it could very well be O. olens, I just can’t definitely confirm or correct. However, I’m very sure it is genus Ocypus, and that’s the best level I can personally ID to here, so I add an ID of that genus, and then select the green option. In this scenario, the observation taxon (ie the label/name at the top of the observation) will still remain as O. olens because you did not explicitly disagree with that ID. In this scenario you are effectively agreeing with their ID at a coarser level, in this case, the level of genus. You’re saying I agree with you that the genus is correct, but I’m not sure about the species ID (but I don’t have enough evidence to definitively overrule you). The same concept could apply at any taxonomic rank coarser than species, so you could add an ID of family, order, etc, pick the green option, and the same principle applies.

ii) Orange. In the same scenario you see someone upload an observation ID’ed as O. olens. However, in this case, you can definitively say that is is not that species due to whatever character you can see. You would then select your coarser ID of which you are certain applies to the observation, and then pick the orange option, ie you are saying it is definitely this genus (or family, or whatever rank you apply), and simultaneously it is also definitely not that species.

These two options, green and orange, should apply to 100% of situations where your ID is coarser than the currently offered ID and is still contained within that species’ entire taxonomy (eg an observation IDed as Ocypus olens, and your ID is Ocypus, Staphylinina, Staphylinidae, Coleoptera, Insecta, etc).

Hopefully this makes sense


I am that one person. My copypasta, with a link back to the iNat blog post.
Where you can see in the comments that this has mystifuddled iNatters for years.

It mortifies me to explain - to a taxon specialist - or someone who has been on iNat for years (longer than me!)

I am not happy that iNat does not permit us to disagree with a previous ID, unless we add a fresh one. On the other planty side of iNat, explain to someone who called it at dicots that the subsequent IDs are ‘not dicots in iNatese’. When identifier and I know d*mn well that they are so too dicots.

Someone needs to put up a feature request allowing us to ‘disagree with the previous ID’ without iNat decreeing that we have pre-emptively disagreed with anyone else who adds a subsequent ID.

The text that iNat writes below their ID is

  • John disagrees with previous ID
    End of.

iNat doesn’t adds text below the subsequent IDs

  • John disagrees with this
  • and this
  • and
    There. Is. No End of.

I’ve tried. Rant over. Copypasta is my workaround.


It is the only option that iNat permits. To actively disagree. And be passively punished forever :rage:

PS because iNat’s CID algorithm uses ‘interesting’ logic, I check What’s This at the CID. For your obs in the Ancestor Disagreement column you will see your ‘Always That One’ marching down all the taxon levels. Not your intention. Can only be resolved by you withdrawing or changing your ID. And why should you?! We humans agree with you. But the algorithm does not.

Sorry - this is a major sore point for me, since I choose to do a lot of identifying. Motivation for the Pre-Maverick project to try and catch That One, before identifiers launch into a tug-of-war with the we will not be moved algorithm. Which is working as intended.



I found this recent comment, complete with visual, really helpful.


Basically what you have to do is withdraw your high-level disagreeing ID once there are some correct IDs. That way you aren’t “blocking” any more.


Or you know what it takes to identify O. olens, and you can authoritatively say that the evidence isn’t enough to record it as O. olens. The question to which the buttons are answers isn’t whether the organism belongs to a taxon, but whether the evidence is enough to say that it does.


Key point. Tickling that Orange button remains the privilege of experts… as well as of overconfident ignoramuses (to put it bluntly). Better double-check in which category one falls before pressing it :laughing:

I also find it very counterintuitive that I sometimes have to retract a high-rank ID (to contradict an obviously wrong species-level ID) to no longer override subsequent lower-rank IDs.


It is the great dilemma of those of us who ID primarily at the family level and above, not being specialist for a broad array of species. You know the species ID is wrong, but you don’t know enough to provide a correct species, just a higher level group.

I feel it is still best to click that orange button and knock it to that higher level, so that it can be seen and evaluated again. Please do not stop correcting identification errors as best you can. Even if you don’t review your identification notifications, you do not permanently block ID progress, it just takes more people at each lower level of identification for the observation to proceed. That can be frustrating for some identifiers, but it is still a better choice than leaving a wrong ID associated with the observation.

You can keep tabs on your notifications and withdraw your ID when someone chimes in a good alternative species suggestion. My way of dealing with this is to do a quick scroll though my notifications, and look for any where the latest suggested ID is at a lower taxonomic level than the headline ID. Say, in the box next to the picture it says Coleoptera, but in the notes below it says IdentifierX added an identification Genus Ocypus. Then I would pull up that observation, evaluate this new suggestion, and withdraw my higher level ID if appropriate.


Does anyone know of an easy way for us to find our high-level disagreeing IDs? I often miss notifications during busy times and I know I put some “Plantae” out there that I can probably either withdraw or refine.


hmm I’m not sure how to do that easily, I think I only see two kingdom Plantae IDs at all, neither holding anything up https://jumear.github.io/stirfry/iNatAPIv1_identifications.html?rank=kingdom&taxon_id=47126&user_id=annkatrinrose


Huh, I was sure there would be more than two for sure. Thanks for the URL though - I can fiddle around with it to get my IDs at other levels, and the table has a column to look for disagreement = true to find the ones where I bumped things back.

1 Like

you can actually filter for disagreements: https://jumear.github.io/stirfry/iNatAPIv1_identifications.html?lrank=genus&taxon_id=47126&user_id=annkatrinrose&disagreement=true

scroll to the right on the page, and the value in the “ID vs Prev Obs Taxon” column should show “ancestor” if you made an ancestor disagreement.


Thank you!! That will make it much easier to check these.

1 Like

i also just added a column “Seq within curr IDs” which should make it easier to spot if there have been any IDs after your ID.


Awesome, thank you!

This is a very frustrating feature of how ID disagreement works. It’s been discussed quite a bit in other threads and so far no definitive solution has been reached. So the kludge of having to manually retract higher-level disagreeing IDs is evidently the only way to do it.


You are not blocking progress. If you are sure of your ID, hold on to it. INat allows an identifier to make an identification at any level of the classification. It will take a few more identifiers to sway the identity in any directions.

1 Like

Thanks. I have read all the responses here and I have waded through the blog on Clarifying Ancestor Disagreements. I was happy to withdraw my high level id when asked to - I had done that before I consulted the Forum as it wasn’t serving a useful purpose now that others had gone for a subtribe. From now on. I’ll try to remember to stick with the green box and put a comment in to explain why.