Simplify/Reclarify "Impossible to Identify" pop-up on observation upload

If one of your observations in the upload set is missing a location, or a photo, or a name, you get one of these two pop-up messages:

“You are submitting observations without photos and taxon names. Observations without this information are often impossible to identify and will not be visible by default in observation searches.”

“You are submitting observations without dates or locations. Observations without this information are often impossible to identify and will not be visible by default in observation searches.”

I find these two messages troubling as they are both vague, and involve a lot of implied knowledge. I find them vague in that they don’t specifically explain the problem in question, as only one issue will trigger the message saying there are two issues present. In terms of difficult terminology, I believe these messages are most often seen by new users who may not have any idea of the significance of “observation searches” or what “impossible to identify” really means. For the latter, this is not just my own bias – I have recommend iNat to several users this year and most of them have come to me asking about what this means.

My suggestion would be the following messages. The site picks up on single problems, so it must be possible to provide specific messages based on the individual issue at hand.

No photo:

You are submitting an observation without photos or media evidence. Observations without evidence are marked “casual grade”. Casual grade observations do not appear in default searches, and are unlikely to receive feedback until evidence is added.

No date:

You are submitting an observation without a date. The date of sighting is important for research use and study, as it indicates when a sighting was made. Observations without dates are marked “casual grade”. Casual grade observations are unlikely to receive feedback until evidence is added.

No location:

You are submitting an observation without a location. Location is important for identifiers to suggest feedback or confirm your observation. For sensitive or private locations, Geoprivacy settings are available to hide the location from other users. If you can’t remember the location or still don’t want to provide it, just providing a vague location such as a nearest town or county is recommended.

No taxon names:

You are submitting an observation with no taxon name. A taxon name allows identifiers to find and verify or suggest feedback on your sighting. If you are not sure of the ID, provide the nearest level that you know. For instance, an unknown tree or fern can be labelled as “Plantae”. No taxon name means that your observation will not appear in searches.

Multiple errors:

You are submitting observations without certain information. This may be evidence (photos or media), taxon names (a label that categorizes your observation), location (GPS indication of where you made the sighting), or a date of sighting. In order for observations to be valuable to researchers and/or identified, all 4 of these should be supplied for each sighting.

I think the no media and no ID only comes up if you have no media AND no ID. Otherwise, it would get really annoying as lots of people add casual obs with no ID knowingly. But if you add one with no ID and no evidence, it just creates an empty map icon with no way to use it for anything.

makes sense for the other ones you bring up though.

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It comes up for me if there is no ID only. All my observations have media attached.


I generally upload 50 obs at a time. When I get these messages I also find it difficult to work out the specific problem, so I vote for this (no votes left). Also it would be very useful if, when such a message pops up, a red box appears around the observation(s) at issue so we have to take time locating them.


Following up on some older feature requests. The current message for observations with no media or lacking an ID is:

Observations without media will not be visible by default in searches, and those without any identification may not be seen by experts looking for specific taxa. Even a very coarse identification like “plants” can help a plant expert find your observation.

This one’s a bit more helpful now as far as explaining why these might be problematic. But I agree it’d be great if it were a bit more specific to the actual situation.

(For observations with no date or no location, the message is still the same as in your post, and the new message is displayed if there is no media or ID and the date or location is missing.)

My main gripe right now is more that when I have a long list of obs, and I can’t find the one that’s missing details quickly. A red highlight box around the “trouble” obs could help a lot too.

But that’s especially true when it doesn’t indicate whether ID or location is missing. I try and quick scan through the list but it’s a bit trickier when I don’t know what boxes I’m looking for.

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Linking related request for future reference: