Questions about comments etiquette

Hi - I’m pretty new here and want to better understand how the comments section works.
Here are my questions:

  1. When I submit an observation and someone agrees with my identification by suggesting the same species, what should I do? I’ve said “Thank you” - should I do anything else?
  2. If my submission does not have any comments but I’m not sure if the species is correct, is there a way I can get someone to look at it?
  3. If my identification is contested by someone and I see my mistake, should I simply agree with them by saying “Thank you” or should I put the new species name in again, to show that I agree with the experts?
    Here’s an example -

Thanks for your help!

  1. "Thank you"s are nice, but by no means required. I usually explicitly thank someone if they’re IDing a particularly troublesome species, responding to a prior request for help, or include helpful notes which help me to make better identifications. Or, um, if they’re gently calling out one of my many mistakes.

  2. You can tag people - the most frequent identifiers of a clade are generally listed on the right hand side. Use this sparingly – sometimes it takes a while for things to get to ‘research grade’, and that’s okay. There are a small number of experts able to dedicate their time, and they move at their own pace. I try not to get too hung up on RG… even though I do like it when it happens!

  3. This is a tricky one! You should only agree with an ID you can independently confirm. Sometimes somebody corrects me and I go “OH, yes, it’s obvious now” and fix a dumb mistake. But usually I couldn’t really independently confirm their logic, so I prefer to withdraw my wrong ID and wait for somebody else to confirm. (To withdraw an ID you’ve been convinced is wrong, go to the downward arrow at the right of your ID, and click “withdraw”. This leaves a record that the species can be easily confused and it removes the conflicting ID and lets the expert voices carry – so it’s a very nice way of bowing to expert advice!)

  1. If you feel like it. But I think you should thank them even if they disagree. Sometimes people provide a little extra info in the comment and I learn something new. I always thank them for taking the extra time.

  2. The very act of submitting an observation means you want people to look at it. If you want it to get ID’d quicker, the give it the best guess that you can. So many observations get left as “unknown” and they never get looked at.

  3. If someone contests your ID, then take a second look at it. Do some research. Look at a bunch of photos of the two species and see if you can make a more informed decision. After that, if you’re convinced the other person is right because their conclusion matches your own, then sure you can agree with them. If you’re unsure, and the person’s ID has cast legitimate doubt on your own, but you still don’t have enough knowledge to make a informed decision, then you can simply “withdraw” your ID, and wait for someone else to provide theirs. Never agree with another ID just because you think they might be an expert.


I agree with the previous answers and will just add a thought on how my approach has developed on agreeing with someone else’s id.

When someone has either finessed my higher level taxon id with a lower level identification or disagreed with my identification, I might go do my own research. Sometimes I’ll ask a question like:

@---- , I researched the differences between [species x] and [species y] and couldn’t easily see what details were in my photos that you felt identified it as [species x]. Can you help me out? (I often add text that explains that I’m not challenging, just seeking to be educated).

Or, similarly: @— , my research indicates that [species x] will contain [this detail] but I don’t see that in the photos. Was there another detail or some other information I could have looked at to help with this id?

Whether I ask questions or just do research, if I feel I can finally make an id that I feel pretty confident in, I will often (I should always, but it’s more ‘often’ than ‘always’) show my work. I explain (in a comment) what I was looking at that made me think it was [species x].

That serves a few purposes for me.

A) it shows I did my homework and didn’t just click ‘agree’ with no personal knowledge

B) if someone challenges me down the road, I’ve got my research at my fingertips. It can be hard to track down my research sources 6 months out. (I often add links or citations to sources I used)

C) I imagine that some other person will stumble across my notes and get some info they’ll find useful. I doubt it, but I like to imagine it. :-)

D and finally, it helps cement knowledge in my head. The research I’ve done on differentiating two species of Crescent butterflies is easy for me to re-find in those comments and I remember it more easily having written it out a few times!

I don’t think one needs to do this. It’s just my way. But I think it helps one decide if agreeing with an id is done in good faith and knowledge or just for agreement’s sake. Just the other day I had to walk away from an id feeling I didn’t personally feel I had the skill/knowledge to agree - even with my own research - even though I trust the person who made the id.


Another option for question 3 is to add an id at a higher taxon. If someone disagrees with you and you’re not sure if either ID is correct, your can just ID with the lowest taxonomy that encompasses both IDs. Usually when there’s a disagreement, the community ID (at the top of the page) will calculate the higher taxon.

It’s also fine to use a higher taxon ID when uploading your observations. If the AI suggests several different lupines and you’re not sure which one, it’s perfectly fine to just ID it as lupine and wait for a lupine expert to tag it with a species name.


Yes - that is the iNat way - to agree at the level you are confident at.
But each time I dare to do that, I get told off for DISagreeing.
They seem to interpret the given rules, differently to me.


I have begun doing this more often…I used to feel as if I should try to narrow it down, but so often I ended up being incorrect, I have learned there is no shame in initially IDing at a higher taxon.

Sometimes I return to my own obs and use the Compare tool to do some narrowing…which eventually results in some other user coming along and often confirming my ID or suggesting something else. It rarely ever remains stuck at a higher taxon for long.

Either way…I feel I’ve learned something in the process. :)


You’re only disagreeing if you pick the orange “No, but it’s a member of…” option in the popup. If you pick the green “I don’t know…” option you’re agreeing with the higher taxon but not disagreeing with lower taxon IDs.

If you honestly disagree with an ID and you’re getting bullied about it, report it. The community ID is meant to reflect the knowledge of the whole community and if someone is bullying others into agreeing with them, that kind of behavior is not tolerated on iNat.


IMO there’s no shame in being incorrect too.


Not being bullied, just misunderstood.
I now write explicitly not disagreeing with your species


Had a bizarre exchange for a plant. They claimed it was one plant but didn’t have photographic proof (ie evidence) to say it was beyond a certain point, and I had commented that. They insisted it was because it was identified on a botanical trip. This doesn’t mean anything to me, of course, so I disagreed that it could be gotten to species level. This sent them into a petty tit for tat that I shouldn’t have engaged in, with the most important aspect to me that they claimed I’m using the feature wrong. When is it right to disagree?

I have disagreed strongly with “disagreements” when I feel that I’m right based on evidence. I haven’t once called someone nasty for it. This is yet another time I’m questioning my place on here.

Don’t let one difficult person put you off.

I IDed a flower - it is distinctive - it is that.
But the observer snarled mine has 5 petals, the ‘stock photo’ has 6. You are wrong. So there!

1 Like

Personally, in cases like that, if the ID from the botanical trip could be right based on the available evidence, but can’t be confirmed, I would just withhold any opinion, mark the observation as reviewed, and move on. Clearly they were privy to additional information not available to me. And there’s no shortage here of other opportunities to be helpful with IDs.


I would probably not Disagree with anything more than a comment here. All we have is a photo. The observer saw the actual organism and even seems to have experienced people also looking at it too. Unless I saw something in the photo that rules out their ID, I’d leave it alone. Not seeing evidence just means that you can’t confirm or make an ID. It doesn’t mean their’s is wrong.


I’ve never said thank you except in those cases where I ask for details that will help me distinguish the species.
Otherwise, when my ID is disputed and after looking for myself to confirm my mistake, I assume agreeing is sufficient. Anyone who takes the time to explain always gets gratitude in print.

I make all sorts of effort to correctly ID before adding to iNat and I always look at whether someone who disagrees with me is a top ID’er.

As far as withdrawing an ID (per comment from schizoform) should that be done only when you’ve mistakenly ID’d someone else’s posting or on your own, too?
I’ve always just agreed on my own.

1 Like

If your own ID on your obs is (now) wrong, then yes, withdraw it.

Just to clarify, agreeing with a different ID on your own observation will automatically withdraw your previous ID (if any). No need to do it as a separate step, unless you just want to withdraw your old ID without agreeing to or suggesting a new one.


I agree with that - no one is perfect, so we all make mistakes. It’s a good way to learn. I tell people ‘I’m always willing to help, but I’m not always right’. I will also offer an id and ask for outside help.

1 Like

My overall approach if I disagree with an ID, I will give an explanation of some sort, even just a link to a description or web page. It gives folks a trail of crumbs for them or others to follow. They can agree, or disagree with my ID changes, but at least I’ve given my thought processes.


Not only is guessing a good way to learn, but it helps the observation get looked at by the appropriate people and receive a good ID. Some specialists on iNat only look at observations with order, class, phylum etc in their field. But doing ANYTHING is better than leaving it “unknown”. Either take the opportunity to learn about the thing you spent time to photograph, use the machine recognition, or take a reasonable guess. Everyone should be able to make a basic classification like plant, animal, bird, fish etc. Anyway, getting too far off topic…

Comments are not required for good etiquette.