Top Identifier deleting erroneous IDs to conceal errors- what to do?

I have had several interactions with a user that has pushed for a top ranking ID spot. They have reached #1 for the taxa but their behaviour concerns me. As I review RG observations within the taxa, I have been finding many occurrences where they have overzealously agreed. When I attempt to correct the ID, this user will not acknowledge me unless I am later agreed to by one of 2 specific users. The user has now resorted to entirely deleting (not withdrawing) their erroneous IDs, at times 6 months old, which removes evidence of their mistake once a user they respect agrees with me.
Is this appropriate behaviour for the site? Does a ranked identifier possess a different level of responsibility to own their mistakes? What should I do in this situation? I feel somewhat hurt by the treatment I experience from this user. Any advice is appreciated.


I agree that’s disreputable behavior, but don’t think it’s against any policies. I think I’d just remember they’re not very reliable, that leaderboards aren’t worth taking too seriously, and try not to let it get to you. Enjoy the nature.


This sort of thing is part of why I don’t think there should be anything like a “top ID” ranking.

iNat has been pretty good about trying to avoid the competition aspects that other social media platforms like Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, etc have and that lead trying to game to system for “points”, but there are still as few aspects of that here and the “top identifier” thing is one of the major ones.

Personally, I’d be perfectly happy if that ranking was abolished.


I actually do enjoy the light gamification element of having a leaderboard to climb. It also helps to find people to reach out to for identification advice. The people that do it moreso for points do show their true colours, though. If only they alone were struck from the leaderboard for a certain amount of time.


In my opinion, the ability to look for people to tag when you’re struggling to ID something is the only thing that the leaderboards are useful for. You can also achieve the same thing by going to the observations page for a taxon and selecting ‘top observers’ and ‘top identifiers’.

As others have said, there are bugs with the leaderboards and I don’t think you can take them too seriously. As to users deleting IDs, there is nothing inherently wrong with that. I work in a Herbarium where we always keep incorrect prior IDs on specimens because they’re useful for taxonomic research, but not everyone works like that.


I think it’s kind of sad. I think we should leave our errors in place because that can teach other iNatters that we all make mistakes and that’s OK. I mean, I withdraw errors, but that’s all.

There’s not much we can do about it, though, so I’d say just let it go. It’s his problem, not yours.

I find the leaderboards moderately useful. They can help find people to ask for help (though getting to know other identifiers can work better). And I like the “the light gamification element,” as @iisips says. Emphasis on light. Serious competitive identification is just silly.


what is the intended functional use of deleting an ID, when you can just withdraw it, anyway?

1 Like

I use it when I accidentally click unintended taxa or accidentally add an ID twice or click “agree” twice


yeah, that makes sense.

(thinking about it, i wont do it, but i could afford to have deleted some of the IDs on my first ever observation)

Yeah, most people use delete for unintended IDs, and withdraw for intended but incorrect IDs.

When you’re churning through heaps of observations and only typing the first few characters of a name, trying to be fast, it’s not uncommon for the suggestion to change almost exactly as you click the mouse button over your selection!


I’d say it’s not ideal, for sure, but at least they’re going through old IDs and correcting them, which I think is beneficial.

Not really, there’s no actual distinction between a “ranked” identifier and an “unranked” one. The main point of the list is to help peopple find someone who might be able to aid them with identifying their observation, but the way the list list is compiled certainly has its flaws there.


I think it would be an improvement to the site if they only allowed you to delete an ID if it was the most recent ID (ie nobody else has added an ID after it) that way it maintains the history of the observation.


Bit of both ways about it

Some of India’s Top Identifiers had to stop identifications because of their incessant and unreliable agree to any id . On pressure from the community they have been stopped but all their messed up id’s are going to take a long while to undo, while people who aren’t great at taxonomy or understanding what happened are ok with their RG id’s.

On the other hand knowing who is a current and reliable identifier is great to know as well. Some people may have tonnes of id’s but are not longer active or they may not be regionally relevant. So knowing a bit of who is active would be nice.


The leaderboard, and the top identifiers list, are useful.
But, I pick thru the lists for familiar names who are reliable, informed, and active on iNat. Those lists are tools, which we have to interpret before using them.

If the name is new to me, I try for more info on their profile. But while some are clearly actively researching a taxon, the info on their profile is unhelpfully blank. Then I have to rely on … I recognise the name in future.

You have gazillion IDs, never leave any helpful comments, nor join in the discussion on controversial IDs … next.


I agree that would be beneficial if done thoughtfully, but the impression I had from the original post was that they were just blindly agreeing to wrong IDs – in which case their behaviour would not be beneficial.


That’s how I feel, too - the history of ID changes on an observation can be very informative and a hint to common misidentifications to follow up on. I’ve come across observations where a comment on an ID pointed out what was wrong with a previous ID, but the wrong ID in question was no longer there rendering the comments now mysterious and useless for learning anything from them. Maybe including the ID in the comment will help keep that history intact (e.g. “I disagree this is Ranunculus because…”)


I generally don’t delete ID’s unless it was a mis-click (or a particularly embarrassing ID that I nope no one else saw) as leaving mistakes visible, I feel means you’re being more open about your abilities. However there is one group who I wish would delete ID’s; the observers who agree with every subsequent improving ID. Those observations can be hard to read.

As to leaderboards, I am fully in favor of them. They not only give a good indicator of who’s familiar with a particular taxon, but also who’s active on the site. Doesn’t do any good to have an expert who never logs in. Also, every time this is brought up, the “gamification” of the leaderboards is always brought up in a negative light. Why? What’s wrong with making it a game? If you don’t like the leaderboards, ignore them. But for a guy like me, I am enormously competitive, if iNat got rid of the leaderboards, I would probably spend quite a bit less time ID’ing. It might be different in other taxons, but for me, when I run into people who consistently make bad ID’s, they usually only have a couple of hundred ID’s total. If they’re “gaming” they’re not very good at it.


I, more often than I like, have to delete IDs of Section Lobatae oaks that in my haste, I end up IDing as Lobata (Comb Jellies) :joy:. Other than that I leave my mistakes in place. I simultaneously shudder and bask in my former ignorance, knowing that one day in the future, I will do the same about my current self.

I do get a wee bit frustrated, but not too much, when folks go back and edit comments that have been replied to. Sometimes it makes the person replying sound like a lunatic, since their response to the comment is decontextualized by the commenter totally changing the comment. Usually this involves things where someone made an error.


These do make a mess, but at least it’s often pretty apparent from them that the observer in question is not adding any knowledge, just clicking agree, so their IDs have little value. That can be useful information.


When an id is deleted,how does this affect the page “Similar taxa” “Other taxa commonly misidentified as this genus”?

I find this page quite useful at times.