Should we change the way "opt-out" observations are treated?

It is possible to reject on individual observations


If I understand correctly, it does got to casual if the community IDs all disagree with the observer’s. The problem is that if the observer put something high like “Plantae,” pretty much no ID the community gives is going to trigger disagreement. That must be why we see those photos with long strings of IDs still in the pool.


We could approach this from the other end and give identifiers a search filter that would exclude opt-out observations. The observers would no doubt argue against that, but it would give both parties control over their experience.


You can only reject the community ID as a whole, not individuals who misidentify observations. The entire observation goes to casual grade instead. I don’t want to flag, I just want to opt out of that particular identification. Sometimes they are spectacularly wrong, other times, they are not seeing the subtle difference. I also get the pile on when photographing a flock of mixed species and use that image for multiple observations. I already have an extremely zoomed in image that doesn’t lend itself to photos of individuals… trust me and everyone else in this situation, we would rather have a National Geographic quality image, but in order to document absence presence we have to have an image. It would be good if there was a way to mark the photo as not suitable for the AI.


Oh, I understand. You want to reject one specific person’s ID. You are welcome to that opinion, but personally I think that sounds like discrimination and I’m glad it isn’t allowed. Seems to me either the person is behaving badly enough to be flagged or blocked, or they are welcome to make their ID attempts just like anyone else.


I agree with that.

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Who is discriminating if the observer is being challenged by stubbornly incorrect community members? I appreciate being corrected when I misidentify a species, but not when the identifier incorrectly corrects my observation. I have had situations that young people (who know it all already), are inclined to have school mates that agree with their leader. This has happened to me dozens of times. This is the latest troubling observation.

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I do not like “opt-out” option, but I see some people use it wisely, so probably better to keep it.
Than, there is a need of quit a blocus on a wrong identification. No clear idea about how to do it but probably a small loop asking for “correct identification” and the support of 3 curators. In some cases it is evident that the identification is wrong and the person who set it perhaps just went iNat. If we let an accumulation of wrong identification, iNaturalist will not look as a serious place to work.

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My experience has been that if you treat them as an equal and explain things to them, they come to realise that their input is respected and appreciated, and they naturally come around to making more serious and thoughtful identifications. If you assume the “I’m right and you are wrong” position, and start bashing them with rules and guidelines and labels of “stubbornly incorrect community members” then they are naturally gonna respond accordingly.

I had one recently, where I stumbled on what I believe to be a mis-identification. I put my ID but didn’t give a reason, I felt the other identifiers would either realise their mistake and correct it, or query as to why I dissented… and at the end of the day, I am content in the knowledge that I have put what I think, others can choose to agree or not…boy was I surprised when I got told in no uncertain terms that it could not be that species based on the observers stated size, which I very much think is an estimate that is considerably on the high side regardless of which species it was. I gave my reasons, to which they responded that they would contact an arachnologist and wait for their input… cool. Meanwhile, another identifier chips in with what I believe to be a brigaded support of the other identifier (the one who was challenging my dissenting ID). A discussion sort of starts to take place, but the brigader is obviously “mind made up” and even quotes back to me literature references that I had made, but gets them around the wrong way. Eventually the identifier that originally pushed back on my dissenting ID responds that the “arachnologist has spoken, and these should not be identified to species from photos alone” (my interpretation), even though I can see clearly enough detail to ID to species…

Now, I am fine with someone holding a differing position to my own… that is what community ID is all about. But I do object to brigaders making explicit disagreements against my ID with insufficient cause, especially when I am an active identifier, am asserting my position, and not in any way over-reaching on my ID. The response when I ask him to remove his explicit disagreement, or at least change it to genus non-explicit? “Nah, I’ll hold my explicit disagreement, cos I can’t see enough there to ID to species” (again, my interpretation). The sooner we get that dang disagreements modal re-worded… the better!

Personally, I think opt-outs are fine. Worst case scenario is some observations don’t go to RG, and if you explain what is happening to those that are using them perhaps inappropriately, they generally get it and change. And if not, so what? Ultimately, observations belong to the observer, they can manage them as they see fit!


Well, I ended the terror of that observation. It is now Research grade for Eared Grebe.


I’ve encountered this a few times in the last few months and I realized that the people adding disagreeing IDs to my observations and who were way off the mark were all part of the same student project. I imagine they were assigned iNat as a school project and had to have “n number of IDs for others” to contribute to their grade or something like that.


“accumulation of wrong identification, iNaturalist will not look as a serious place”

Exactly, I am pretty stubborn and don’t like being wrong, but I accept my fallibility (grudgingly sometimes). Jim Moore corrects my plant IDs all the time, and I am so very grateful for his patient explanations. Some of the experts are fairly rude in their condescending answers. As kiwifergus says, it is better to be kind and explain why the original ID is wrong, than to berate a person. I have learned a lot from iNaturalist and want to continue to use it to further my knowledge and to make sure I never sit high on a horse believing I am an expert. There is always something to learn as long as the vehicle is finely tuned with research grade observations that truly are peer reviewed by knowledgeable people, not just those that think IDs are like Facebook likes.


Thanks! I wonder why I’ve had some go casual then, maybe it’s related to less specific IDs (e.g. order, or family). So species ID will keep it at needs ID in those cases.

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The longer I think about this the more wrong this feels.

OK. Maybe (certainly) my perspective is biased. As somebody who uses the ID modal with more or less default settings, when I run across an opt-out observation it is most often older and a largely inactive user. Because of the way I look at observations I rarely get to witness actively maintained opt-out observations that are RG or casual. Maybe they exist, and constitute the majority of opt-out observations. I have to recognize this possibility.

However, the way you describe your considered management of your observations describes the way every active user who I’ve met treats their observations. I do, too. Yours is not an edge case where the draconian tool of opting out may be a good idea. There is an initial ID, then there is community input (hopefully!), and if things work out then there is a resolution. All this works without hanging a big reminder of “you may have an opinion but I get to have final say” over the observation. Put another way, the very possibility of having a disagreement with the observer is what I see as motivating engagement. Why would anybody (excluding personal friends perhaps) look at my observations if I don’t have to as much as acknowledge their input? Maybe they want to use iNaturalist as flashcard-like learning aid, but then why bother entering an ID at all?

So you do you, I will continue to argue for marginalizing opt-out observations. Without active disagreement, a spreadsheet with the species I maybe saw is just as good as iNaturalist.


The only legitimate reason I can see to use the “opt-out” feature, is an expert-level user who is frustrated at or wants to avoid community-level misidentifications of their observations.

For example, say a state botanist, herbarium employee, or someone else who is a researcher in a particular area who makes observations of organisms in the wild as part of their work, starts using iNaturalist and starts uploading material related to their work. I can see them not wanting to have their ID’s (which are the results of years of experience) overridden by community ID.

I’m not sure, realistically though, how this could be enforced. Perhaps there could be some sort of admin privileges required to turn on the feature, such as only allowing people who have been appointed as curators to do this, and then having clear guidelines about who would be allowed to do it and what the purpose of it is.

I’d also have a few concerns. No one is an expert at everything, and if a user moves outside their domain of expertise, especially if they’re not approaching ID’s with the same rigor they do in their work, the same problems with mis-identification could arise.

I don’t like the idea of requiring a certain number of observations, because a researcher could be an expert, but might only upload a small number of observations. I also don’t like the idea of turning it off for inactive researchers for this reason.

Given the status quo (that anyone can turn it on), I do like your suggestion of treating “opt-out” observations as casual if there is not community agreement. I didn’t even realize that that wasn’t already the case. I would have assumed that that would be the only reasonable way to do things, because otherwise an inexperienced user could override stuff.

I also don’t like the idea of turning off the "computer vision "suggestions. What is the motivation for that? If it’s a casual user, not an expert, that could cut them off from valuable feedback that could help them get better at ID, perhaps see the value of community ID in some cases.

With inactive users, I’m actually more concerned about their effect on community ID. I have seen something where I or someone else comes in to point out that there might be a misidentification, and because the other users in the discussion are inactive, they don’t reply and don’t update their identifications, even when there is compelling evidence that they are wrong. This is a poor result and I wish it were something that iNaturalist could address through some other way (for example, giving inactive users less weight in ID.)

I disagree…

Take the scenario of James putting X.y as the ID, someone dissents and puts X.z and then 5 others pile on with agreements with X.z. Observation goes to RG and James is in the position of having to entice from the other identifiers the reasoning behind their positions. This would require James a) to actively do so, and b) the other identifiers to actually respond with the reasoning… and many don’t, or perhaps it’s just “I just know” etc…

With James’ opt out approach, the onus shifts to the other identifiers to persuade James why they are right. Not just an “I’m the world’s foremost expert on these, just take my word…”, but an actual “you can see the setae mentioned in such and such a paper, but also I have worked with these for 15 years now and I have come to the conclusion that all of X.z have that curved fovea vs X.y having a straight fovea, which is not in the literature, but I have never found a case where it is not so…”.

I have had discussion with James on a few observations, and have experienced this first hand. Not only do I have to explain and convince him, but I actually have to take stock of my own position and consider it far more seriously when arguing the case, than I do when I am simply making a vote amongst the crowd, so I actually benefit from the need to persuade as well! As far as his opt-out is concerned, I get it and respect it.

I had encountered this first with an NZ observer, and it used to frustrate me… to the point where I literally saw the username and would just refuse to make an ID on the basis that she wasn’t respecting my input. I had opportunity to converse with her on a project, and when an opportunity came up, I queried her on her reasons for opting out, thinking I could persuade her to ditch the annoying setting… She ended up convincing me that there is merit to doing it that way, to the point I have often considered taking it up myself.

iNat has taught me a lot of things over the time I have been a participant, and one of those things is to “let go of the need to control what an ID resolves out to, and just trust the community Id model”. My thinking is that if we all do that, and there are problems associated with the results of that, then iNat developers will adjust the model accordingly, so I am massively against anything that short circuits the community ID model. Observations belong to the observer, they are literally sharing what they are seeing around them, so we have to start from a position that respects that effort/decision. As long as a dissenting opt-out ID excludes an observation from RG and keeps it in the casual arena, I see no problem with them. At worst, they are a “half-share of what you have seen around you” vs a “full-share”, and I choose to be grateful for the half-share vs no-share!

Reading back for typos, I can see another glaring reason to take an opt-out approach… in posting the observation of the encounter, the observer is really only presenting a very limited portion of the encounter. 1-5 still frames that don’t show depth of field very well (2d vs 3d), and unless there is gif animation doesn’t show movement and behavioural cues, nor smell or feel… As a person who is knowledgable enough of the natural world, James is in a position to make a far more critical assessment of “what it was” than someone seeing it through the window of the observation record, so it is fitting to assert more control over what the display ID for it shows…


You can always tag more users to check the observation, one disagreeing can be overruled pretty easy for most of groups.

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tag meaning with @user?

Yes I think so.