Searching ‘Placeholders’

Hi, is there a way to search placeholder names? Thanks!

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returns UNKNOWN and for me several times with placeholder


If there are no IDs then yes, this will show obs with placeholders, but it won’t show what the placeholder was if there have been IDs made. I think Lisa is wanting to find observations based on the content of the placeholder, whether or not it can be seen in the observation.

@lisa_bennett do correct me if I am on the wrong track! And welcome to the forums :) … If there is no solution by tonight when I get home from work, I’ll go digging and see what I can find.

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If you want to see the placehouder value you can use .json or not ? If your browser supports .json you get a nice table. And there was another way

You can also add .json to the end of the URL and look for the field “species_guess”

“species_guess”:" Cepaea nemoralis forma P123(45) "


If I use SOURCE i see this, is that the way to go ?

meta content=“photo” name=“twitter:card”>

< **meta content="** **Cepaea nemoralis forma P123(45) on** June 24, 2017 by Andre Hospers" property="og:description">

Thanks Andre, it looks like what we need is “species_guess”…

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Yay! I was asking about searching for placeholdered items earlier, and this looks like a clue. So, what would be the format to put that into a working Identify url? If it goes like this example

then after =asc might go:

But to finish it off, what term(s) would go after its = sign to produce a series of placeholder-labelled records to identify?

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I think the links Andre supplied are what you would use to see obs that have no ID, and therefore the placeholder would be “visible” as the ID on the observation.

Sorry Lisa, I can’t seem to get the &species_guess= url hack to work. @bouteloua might know how to achieve this?

Not one I know off hand, sorry! I suspect it may require use of the API.

OK, a little experimentation with this yields some bad news…

I put up an observation and gave it an ID of “Quercus roburt” (deliberate mis-spelling to make it an obvious placeholder)

.json shows the species_guess as “Quercus roburt”

I add an ID of Quercus robur (valid taxa ID) and it shows the binomial and vernacular.

.json now shows species_guess as “Pedunculate oak” (the vernacular for Quercus robur)

I withdraw the Q. robur ID and the placeholder of “Pedunculate oak” is displayed.

.json continues to show species_guess as “Pedunculate oak”

No matter what ID I apply, it has it’s vernacular replace the placeholder, and there appears to be no way to find the original placeholder

No where in the .json is the “Quercus roburt” that I originally entered, so it is gone for good!

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Thank you. @kiwifergus, that is exactly what I was trying to articulate (badly!).

I’m a bit of a technophobe so I find some of the responses challenging, but I’ll give it my best shot!

Thank you all!

One comment, it may still be available. And i don’t know the answer to the this. Keep in mind the json is nothing more than the data values returned by the api call. It may be possible that the data is still in the database but simply not retrieved by the api call.

True. I have only ever heard of the placeholder text being stored in “species_guess”, and after this experimentation I remembered a comment from someone about them being overwritten and lost. I certainly do hope they are preserved somewhere!

@tiwane @kueda might comment on the availability of the placeholder text after an ID has been made.

This is my question. I often go through big batches of unidentified observations to try to at least ID them to a group that experts will look for (say lizard, hummingbird, etc). Sometimes I come across species placeholders and I don’t know what to do. I’m not an expert so I can’t actually make the identification, but if I do a general ID - it will overwrite the placeholder and I don’t want to lose that information. Therefore, I have to just skip them and they remain as totally unidentified.

Usually I put an identification to the best of my ability and add the placeholder in a comment, so that the people who can verify the placeholder will eventually find it. For example:


Good strategy! It’s tricky when they are often experts but don’t curate their uploads (I’ve been guilty of that too!)

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Is this best practice? I had started doing this, and found someone was uploading their back catalogue of a certain genus, including what the observer claimed were hybrids. I was identifying it to the genus (it’s one of the few I recognise), and putting the placeholder text underneath. The original observer was not impressed, and said I shouldn’t identify things if I don’t know what they are. I haven’t responded - nor noticed any more observations from this user. Was I in the wrong? I thought getting the observations to people who knew the genus was the most important thing.


No, they were in the wrong. You are completely right to ID as you have. If they want to control what the ID is, they can opt out of Community ID. You could ID them “wrong” and still be in the “right”, as long as you are truly IDing them to what YOU believe they are. If they think you are wrong, then it is on them to explain to you why, and I personally would add to that the requirement that they do so respectfully, otherwise I would be inclined to ignore them!


For cases like this, it’s a fairly common misunderstanding that people don’t realize their placeholders are not actually “for real” with respect to the site’s database. They don’t see it as Unknown in their own observation list; they see the placeholder text.

I typically reply about their obs being formally “Unknown” to the site and not linked to any taxon prior to my help to get it “on the list” somewhere- and that all it takes to get it filed even more properly is for them to now improve on the repair id.

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Part of the reason I was so taken aback was that this observer clearly knew that their hybrids weren’t in the database, as they’d given more details in the comments on some, but not all, of their observations. I was identifying these to genus was because I thought that people who knew the genus would know whether putting hybrid species into the database was possible or worthwhile.

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