Suggest a tentative ID

When identifying little-known taxa (in my case sea squirts or sponges), I find it helpful to suggest a “best-guess” ID, which essentially places that observation under the taxon I’ve chosen.

Of course, the problem is that this ID is likely to be incorrect, but counts towards the Community ID, and all it needs is one agreement to make it Research Grade.

What I’m suggesting is to be able to mark an identification as “tentative”, with the following functionality:

  • A tentative ID does not count towards community ID
  • A tentative ID is searchable by taxon, and appears under filtering “by species”, unless there is a Community ID at the same level or better
  • There is no Agree link, or if there is, it is a “tentative agree” - creating a new tentative ID
  • It does not initiate any other processes on the site, such as generating a default taxon image.
  • There is a link for the identifier to promote the ID to a regular one (similar to the Agree link)
  • A tentative ID could exist with a higher-level ID for the same person (if possible). ie, I know this is “Bears”, so I have a proper ID at that level, but also a tentative ID for “Australian Drop-bear”

Why not just use a comment to suggest the ID?

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If you just use a comment, the observation won’t appear in search results under that taxon.

So to clarify, the purpose is to be able to search for a taxon that might not have any reliable observations, and see observations with tentative IDs - essentially a list of candidates for that taxon.


Interesting idea, I agree it would be useful. By extension, I think this is also part of the problem with what ‘Research Grade’ presently means.


You can do that with a comment though.
Suggest a coarse ID and leave a comment with the finer taxon.
When users click the compare button on the coarse ID, it brings up the suggestions. They can then change the coarse taxon in the popup’s filter to the one you offered in the comments.

If you are worried that they won’t know how to do this, you can leave instructions in a comment.


Is this not what marking the observation “can be improved” accomplishes?

While it’s related (and hopefully includes a comment explaining why it was checked) I don’t think it’s a replacement for the suggested functionalities that are part of this request.

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Can you mark “can be improved”? I thought you marked if it can’t be improved.

I think, and please correct me if I’m wrong @benarmstrong, the scenario is something like:

ID 1: Genius
ID 2: Genius specius
ID 3: Genius specius + upvote next to “Based on the evidence, can the Community Taxon still be confirmed or improved?”

Where IDer 3 is saying “yes, I think it’s that, but I’m not willing to put full confidence behind my ID. It’s tentative”. By upvoting that item in the DQA, it keeps it in needs ID until another user downvotes it.


Ah, ok. I’ve never used that DQA field, so I had the behavior wrong. Sorry, @benarmstrong.

I will say I’ve only done that very rarely; I’d be more likely myself to leave a comment or to just skip it without adding any confirming ID.

I like the idea of having a tentative, refined ID that doesn’t change the CID but will allow one to filter obs so as to see these tentative IDs.


When would you ever need to search for all and only those observations that some people thought might be a certain taxon? Surely a far more effective way to find all potential candidates is to simply constrain the search to an appropriate parent taxon?

I also don’t see what is wrong with just making a normal ID - which is only ever a suggestion anyway. If you’re really unsure, suggest a parent taxon instead and add a comment to the identification itself with your tentative ID (e.g. “cf. X. foo / X. bar”). A definite ID at a higher taxon rank is far more valuable than a tentative ID, especially if you also add a comment explaining exactly why a more specific ID would be unreliable.


Yeah, now that you spell it out, I can see using that flag for this purpose has its flaws. Marking specific IDs as tentative that wouldn’t contribute to community ID would be a far more precise/useful feature & less prone to error.

Fair point. I could see not wanting to search through say, all of Asteraceae for things which may be rare genus X, but then again even a search for tentative ID may not turn up all possible obs, if no one has put the relevant tenative ID on them. So if you are that dedicated to finding genus X, you might search the whole family anyway.


I thought “Can be improved” is about the whole observation, not just your ID. ie, if I choose a species, and click “can be improved”, it means that I think it’s possible for the community to ID the observation to subspecies - which has nothing to do with my particular ID.

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Making a tentative ID will help to build a body of knowledge in areas where there is very little expertise. It allows people to compare features and images of these organisms without having to trawl through higher ranks to find them all. If someone comes along that does have the required expertise, there’s a collection of candidates for that taxon that they can just confirm or reject.

As for making an actual ID, I occasionally do this, and I can’t count the number of times that someone who clearly has less knowledge than I have will click agree, even when I comment that I’m not certain. This then puts the ID into Research Grade, which then kicks off a lot of processes (ie, entering details from the observation into databases like the Atlas of Living Australia) - all based on an educated guess.

*Edit - I agree with the value of adding a comment about why I made the ID. In fact, it should probably be mandatory to leave a comment if you make a tentative ID.


People seem to think that people won’t run with the tentative ID and then put that as their ID. It will offer up leading spots to people and some people do things for the numbers, plus others will look and see nothing that points to it not being that ID and put it as the suggested ID.

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There’s always that risk, but I think it’s less likely with a tentative ID than a normal one, especially if it’s visually different enough. An advantage though is that if someone does run with it, then it’s only their ID that counts, it’s not theirs and mine.

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I see two benefits of being allowed to put a tentative ID: 1. ppl who are pretty sure of their ID but not confident enough to post it can place a tentative ID and thus not affect the CID but can make an ID that others can easily find in a search.
2 on the other hand, ppl who are generally way too bold with their IDs will see the logic in rather making use of the tentative ID feature so as to state their position but without affecting the CID.