Still don't understand what a "Leading" identification is

After looking at my Year in Review and hearing @catchang’s discussion of identifications, I looked again at the definitions of the various categories of IDs and I’m still confused. For a “Leading” identification, what does it mean that the “taxon descends from the community taxon”? Can someone please give me simple examples in practical terms?

Does this just mean that an ID I offer on someone’s observation is “finer” (lower taxonomic level) than what the OP or community has thus far offered?

Here are some of the most common situations I encounter:

  1. A moth is uploaded and IDed at genus level. I offer a species level ID in the same genus. [I assume this is the simplest “Leading” ID type.]

  2. A moth is uploaded and IDed as species A. I offer an ID of species B. How is my ID classified at that moment? What if the community ID later supports species B that I offered. Does my species B ID change if it becomes the community ID? Does it go from being “Leading” to “Improving” (after the fact)?

  3. More complex: An observation is uploaded as species A and that ID is subsequently agreed upon, making it Research Grade for species A, but I come along and offer a correcting ID of species B. Does my disagreeing ID start out as a Maverick ID? What if the OP and/or the community comes around to species B? How is my first “species B” ID classified then?

Of course, cases can get more and more convoluted, but the above examples are the most common I face and I’m just wondering how my IDs would be classified.


Here are all the definitions:

In essence, but specifically that is finer than the community ID, which is what more than two thirds of IDers agree on.

  1. Yes, that is correct.
  2. Your ID could change from leading to improving or supporting, depending on whether yours was the first ID or not.
  3. Your ID is only maverick if it is outvoted by more than two thirds, so three IDs would be needed to overrule your one. If other users change/add IDs your type will change depending on the exact situation.

2 against 1 is Pre-Maverick
A Maverick ID makes no difference to CID. They have consensus.

I think you’ve helped clarify the situation somewhat but I’m still confused by some of its complexity. I probably shouldn’t worry about this at all, but since iNat seems to like categorizing my identifications in Years in Review, I’m just trying to understand what’s in that black box!

For Situation 2, yes, assume mine was the first ID as species B, then it was initially an “Improving” ID, correct? When does the arithmetic convert it to “Leading”?

For Situation 3, let me be more specific: An observation is IDed as species A by OP and has just one concurring ID as species A, thus Research Grade. I come along next and call it species B. How is my ID classified at that moment? I think I understand that if subsequently yet more IDs as species A are added, then mine would become a Maverick. But if the vote is 2 to 2 (mine being the first as species B), what is mine classed as? How about 2 A’s to 3 B’s, with mine as the first B? i.e. if the arithmetic doesn’t yet yield a Research Grade consensus, how is my ID classified? However…

I don’t really want to/need to know how every possible variation would treat my IDs. I think the point I’m making (for myself, if no one else) is that the classification of IDs may be an interesting metric en masse for behind-the-scenes analytics, but it seems to me to be too complex to have any practical utility for individual users.


An interesting test of whether I understand it right myself! But I think your difficulties are not coming from understanding the definition of leading - which is very simple (is your ID below the community ID on the taxonomic tree?), but tracking how the community ID changes when different IDs are added.

For situation 2 you seem to have the definitions the wrong way round to my mind. If the community ID is Animals, and your ID is Birds, yours is leading. If the community taxon subsequently changes to Birds, (or Pigeons), the arithmetic will change your ID to Improving. An Improving ID is one that was once decended from the community taxon, but the community taxon has now moved to agree with or go past it.

For situation 3: when you add your ID it will be leading because the community taxon will become the common denominator of A and B. So yours will be descended from it. If there had been three IDs agreeing with A before you add your B, then your ID will be maverick, because the community taxon would still be A.


Matthew has already answered your specific questions, but as it seems you are more interested in what it means overall I’ll try to get at that.

Lots of leading IDs generally means that you have IDed a lot of observations that are not RG, or you are correcting misIDed observations. This could indicate you are one of the only IDers IDing this group to this level of specificity. You tend to (hopefully) lead the community in the right direction, but they are not there yet.

Lots of improving IDs means you had a lot of leading IDs that subsequent IDers later came along and agreed with. This could mean you are usually the first in a group of IDers to add IDs, observers just agree with your IDs, or a community of IDers has emerged when previously it was just you. You tend to successfully improve the community ID, which only happens when others agree with you.

Lots of supporting IDs mean you agree with a lot of existing IDs. Maybe you are confirming a lot of single IDs to make observations RG, or you just like adding another confirming ID to observations. You tend to support the existing community.

Lots of maverick IDs mean you ID a lot of observations where the community (or you) is very confused. Maybe you ID chronically misIDed groups, or observations stuck at higher levels.

Overall I tend to focus on adding leading IDs. Ideally they become improving if there are other IDers (in my case there often aren’t). I will add supporting IDs, but only if an observation is not yet RG. Other IDers have other priorities though.


‘I was first’ is a reward to people who happened to be right time right place for 24/7 time zones. Personally I put a high value on people who narrow an ID with a brief helpful comment. Taxon specialists might only dip into iNat when they have leisure - not first, but ultimately the best.

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I personally ignore leading, improving, and supporting. I do pay attention to Mavericks for a couple of reasons (even though they aren’t affecting CID).

  1. If I am wrong, then the maverick is a learning opportunity for me - I’ve been outvoted, and I can investigate to learn why and improve. I can also “clean up” the ID if it is wrong, since it is always possible that it provides support for a wrong ID in the future

  2. If I am sure my maverick ID is correct, then this is an observation that I should try to tag some other folks in to offer (and hopefully correct) what I believe is an incorrect ID. I can also ask others what they are IDing based on, and explain how I am IDing - again, an opportunity for me and/or other IDers to improve.


Perfect. My sentiments exactly.


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