Requesting an I.D

How appropriate is it to reach out to someone who is identified as a top identifier for an unidentified submission? I’ve done this two or three times in the past, and the response has always been cordial, but am I being too intrusive?


I’m sure people’s preferences vary, but I am more likely to respond if the tag is relevant. Generally this means that the user shows evidence of having done the following:

  • checked whether I actually have any identifications in the country/region (rather than just being at/near the top of the global leaderboard)
  • checked my profile to see whether I mention any expertise on the taxon in question (for people who do broad sorting to get observations seen by specialists, it is possible to end up on the leaderboard for some of the more obscure taxa without being able to recognize anything more specific than order or family)
  • checked my profile to see whether I mention preferences about whether and how people contact me (some users don’t want to be tagged or prefer to be contacted by direct message instead)
  • has waited a reasonable amount of time before tagging experts to ask for an ID (my rule of thumb: at least a week since the observation was uploaded)
  • does not overuse tagging (i.e. does not tag the 4-5 top IDers for the taxon on every single observation, but rather reserves tagging for observations that are particularly difficult, unusual, or interesting, or in relation to a topic that we have had conversations on previously)

I agree with this as the most important thing to check. I’m toward the top of the leaderboard for a few moth families based on doing lots of IDs on one continent, but I’m pretty useless for moths in any of the rest of the world. I get lots of tags asking for IDs from different continents, and it can get a little tedious to respond to all of them with “sorry, I don’t know moths from this part of the world”. But if you’re tagging someone who does lots of IDs of that particular taxon in that particular ecoregion, I’d say go for it.


Agreeing with what was said above. On top of that: I prefer if people wait a few days before tagging. Reason: I try identyfing ALL new observations not yet in RG in ‘my’ taxons anyway, so tagging me usually has no effect other than cluttering my notifications. But tbh it’s not a big issue.


I would also add that if you are bulk uploading (ie: more than just one or two observations here or there), it is easier for the identifier if you direct message them with a link filtered to those observations in the same place rather than sending them/@ing them for each individual observation. Or if you know you’ll have a lot in the near future, maybe hold off until you have them all uploaded for the time being


I agree with sentiments above, but also want to express that IMHO you shouldn’t be too worried about being intrusive. You’re clearly not spamming people, and iNat is a public and open space for collaboration and sharing expertise. Users should feel at liberty to pester each other respectfully.

As for mode of contact, I am personally a fan of tagging, and don’t mind direct messages at all, either, but I’m certain some would say the opposite, so you do you. :)


A good quote by @kueda :
" If you’d like me to check out an observation / journal post / whatever, please explain why and don’t just @ mention me, e.g. “Hey @kueda, what do you think of this?” instead of just “@kueda.” The latter makes me feel like some kind of pet or robot that you’re summoning."

I don’t mind being tagged at all, but, like Ken-ichi, I like it to be more of a conversation with a requester doing a touch of research first (looking through the other observations in the area, looking through bugguide, or tagging alongside other top observers).


Along with all that’s been said above, when considering who to tag, I like to check their profile (and maps of their observations) to get an idea of whether they would be an appropriate person to ask. This means I don’t always select the one who is at the top of the leaderboard


As one of the top identifiers with the order salmoniformes I do not mind at all being tagged for an ID on a fish, although I will admit it gets repetitive when tagged in “fresh” observations as I regularly check the new uploads every evening and will do a page or two of older observations that I’m currently working through. It’s somewhat irrelevant to tag me in observations that I’m mostly certain I will see regardless when it’s new, but if it’s an older observation (say two years or more as that’s about where I’m at with salmoniformes IDs) which has the chance that it’ll take me longer to get around to it (as I am also addressing research grade observations to check for a lot of the cryptic species that do not have AI recognition) so those types of tags are a lot more useful. However, I am also too nice to request to quell those repeated tags as it would feel a bit rude on my end, but otherwise I agree with all other comments made here.

When it comes to taxons that have more observations overall (like snakes for example) there is going to be top identifiers that can’t help much, as I’m pretty sure there’s a few of them up there that mainly do coarse ID’s and therefore get recognition for an ID of a species that they have no experience with, and that’s okay. Mainly, the only way you’d figure that out is by asking but otherwise I don’t see any harm in that, especially if it’s not chronic against a user by any singular user giving repeated tags. Even in certain genera that have one dominant species but the rest are a lot less common (say genus uta or pituophis) the top identifier for common side-blotched lizard or gopher snake in their respective genera dominate it, and that leads to the top identifier of the genus being the top identifier for the species that dominates that genus. So when searching for an identifier, I would search for observations with an ID that they’ve made to what is relevant and check to see if they are coarse IDs, supporting IDs, or leading/improving IDs to get a gist of what their identifying skills may be, but timing is important. If it’s been several hours, I’d wait. If it’s been a week or longer than that’s probably the consensus to tag. I also find it completely acceptable to tag when there is a disagreement or possible disagreement, which is what I usually do when I am unsure of an ID so I will ask my peers immediately because of the chance of a disagreement. It’s definitely a case by case basis depending on a lot of factors and knowing what a certain person’s preferences are.


Tag from time to time. Very few people will have problems.

One thing not to do: don’t tag multiple people at the same time. You’re asking people to do something special for you, so you should make them feel that you think they’re special. I know it feels efficient to tag several people at once, but it’s better to tag one, wait, tag someone else if necessary.


Sorry for all those times I pinged you on fresh IDs when I was still learning salmonids :sweat_smile:
If you feel like I’m starting to do it again please let me know :heart:

If you are an active identifier, you will recognise who is working alongside you - for that taxon and / or location. Who is clearly working thru the same batch, in their own time, and does not need tagging. And who you can ask.

My first rule is good clear pictures that show field marks - or I am wasting your time.


Interesting… While I think this is a good rule of thumb, I would say it depends… some general thoughts on the topic of tagging…

  • Advances IDs: With difficult species or rare finds it can even spark good discussions among experts and lead to a common learning process/ more social interaction, when multiple people are tagged. Of course, this should not be too many, but I think in these cases two or three tags are not a problem at all - I also see that experts bring in others by tagging them under observations where were tagged themself.

  • Agreements It does not hurt to communicate that (mentioned above) directly - @sbushes and I have an agreement to tag each other to bring clear misidentifications “back on track”.

  • Wait a bit Every expertise has its limits, so it makes sense to tag more advanced and /or specialized experts - but as a non-expert, you might not know when it makes sense to bring them into the discussion, so I would wait a bit before doing that.

  • Learning: At the moment I also asked a student who is learning identification of a specific taxa to tag me now and then when she makes identifications herself, so that I can scrutinize them and support the learning process - kind of a tiny mentoring (we also go to the field now and then). And there are already “learning partnerships” on Inaturalist, such as by @edanko for flies stating “You should keep tagging me whenever you are unsure and want feedback.”


I appreciate all the advice and suggestions. I confess that I’ve never considered the importance of a person’s experience with a geographic area; I do look at the range map before I suggest an identification. Thanks to everyone who has replied.


Yeah, the value of IDers tagging other IDers should not be underestimated!

This use of tagging is a bit different than the original poster’s concern, but it is actually why I tag people most of the time – to get help correcting a misidentification, to get a second opinion on an ID I am not certain about, or occasionally just to bring an unusual observation to the attention of other specialists who I know would like to see it.

I think one reason I feel more comfortable tagging IDers for this purpose than for help with my own observations is because these are generally people I “know” and have interacted with on account of shared interests and there is thus a sense of being engaged in a common undertaking (i.e., it feels like more of a personal interaction, not an anonymous demand).

Also my particular social anxieties mean that it tends to feel somewhat selfish and inappropriate asking for something for myself in a transactional situation where I haven’t done anything to earn the favor and I can’t offer anything to the tagged person in return. But these are inhibitions that affect my own actions, not something I think others should adhere to or imitate.


Agree to everything that has been said… check the profile, check the map and don´t worry too much… I just want to add - if in doubt, whether the person you tagged is fine with it, just ask whether and how often you can tag that person. I for example do not mind quantity, if the observations are relevant to me… other prefer to get only few tags by a single person in a given timeframe. It is very different for each IDer


Or, in one recent observation of mine, @ mentioning someone as part of an explanatory note that I had referred to their online identification guide in making my initial ID. Think of it as citing your sources.


I love getting ID requests in my parasites of choice bot flies. I have had times when someone tagged me while they were still in the field, which allowed me to ask them to take a different picture from a different angle to see the key features. I have also had people tag me with pictures of a male that was in a pose they use on a lek site. I have asked them to go back the next day and see if there is a male in the same spot at the same time of day, and have found new lek sites this way. So for me speed in seeing the post can mean a lot.


I don’t mind being tagged, but sometimes life gets in the way. I’m in the middle of moving from Washington to Texas. I haven’t seen my PC in months. It’s easier posting observations with my phone, than reviewing them.