Question about placeholder notes

Recently I have been trying to more narrowly identify some observations in the Kingdom categories in my area.
I noticed that on some observations, the uploader sometimes leaves a note with the name. I suspect that could be because they don’t know the name in English.
But I also noticed that other individuals who have identified from Unknown to Plant, sometimes leave a “Placeholder: Species” note.

I’m wondering why someone would not identify it more narrowly if they know what it is, and what is the purpose of leaving a placeholder note instead. I want to be sure I’m not making things more difficult by identifying these.

Here is an example

Thank you~

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Sometimes the placeholder is because the name has been slightly misspelt, so iNat doesn’t recognise what has been entered as a valid species name. Sometimes placeholders are a result of a poor internet connection. There maybe be other reasons, too. Generally when identifying, it is good to copy the placeholder in as a comment so it isn’t lost when you add an ID. If an observation is Unknown, but with a species placeholder, I only identify it as far as I can. So I might ID it to family, just to get it out of Unknown, but I can’t add the ID the observer had as a placeholder if it is not a species I’m familiar with.


Sometimes they are new to iNat - and don’t know how to find Their species
Also newbies disappointed by no response, no help, inadequate onboarding.

Sometimes it is second, or third, language issues.

I am disappointed with the way iNat manages the placeholder text. It is prime real estate on an English language website, top right. (This box is important! Fooled you, again :rofl:)

Placeholder text should remain visible, till the observer decides, to delete it.

iNat tells me, staff know it is temporary. Not a bug. Working as intended.
Observers and identifiers have to find a way to use ‘working as intended’.

My workflow is to attempt to find the ID, if it looks like a typo. Unlike Google’s ‘did you mean’ iNat does not forgive a single missing or extra letter. (Then IDed with ‘placeholder’ in a comment - and withdrawn when a second ID comes in, so mine does NOT take it to CID)

To add a broader ID and flag for missing species, if it is that.

Thank you for joining Team Identify!

Your example is a note - so it DOES stay visible. An actual placeholder automagically vanishes into a clickety clickety clickety coding hole :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:


For your example. It is an older synonym, which is searchable.
But the 2 words written as one, would not be.

And you have 3 languages, Botanese via English back to Korean!


An observation with a placeholder will be labeled as “unknown” . As others already pointed out, typos, misspelling, malformation and addition of citation will produce placeholders. Often an observation stays in the so-called “unknown limbo” for quite some time as not many Identifier, especially experts go through it. Most identifier that go through the “unknown limbo” add coarser IDs. It is very common to add the placeholder text as comment. When the placeholder has been overridden with a coarser ID, it becomes visible to a broader mass of Identifiers, so in most cases it will get the right ID. In any case, I suggest to avoid placeholders if possible.


PS some confusion here.
This is an example of an obs which had an iNat Placeholder
Which iNat vanishes with the first ID.
That is why I have learnt to copypasta an actual Placeholder in a comment

The original query is about a verbal ID in notes or comments. Not a problem, simply adding another step for identifiers.

(if you know what it is - why didn’t you add the ID? Yesterday I got a comment - thanks, Diana I agree. Then I needed a carefully worded reply. You need to actually change your ID. Withdraw (or agree if you can)


Hi melephant :slightly_smiling_face:
If I come across an “unknown” with a placeholder, I add “Observer’s Placeholder: text” to my higher-level ID. Describing as “Observer’s” helps add context for other IDers to know who’s contributing that information to the observation.

For the example you have given, it is possible the initial IDer has copy/pasted the title of the observation for speed and accuracy of documenting the placeholder. :wink:
Identify popup


I was recently in US national park for a week with limited internet. I could only add IDs that I had used in the app recently. Since I had purposefully deleted and reinstalled the app prior to the trip, I had a very limited set of ID options. My IDs were a hodgepodge of placeholders and “good enough for now” match.

I synced when I got home and then did clean-up on the website. I used filters in identify to look for my unknowns. If I hadn’t gotten used to those functions by doing IDs, it would have been easy to miss some or not even think to do it.


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