Unknowledgeable commentators

I hope this isn’t duplicative. I could not find a similar discussion. We appear to have a number of people who reduce known IDs to genus level for no apparent reason and without comment. We also have too many who conform IDs after many others have confirmed. This is sad and takes up valuable space. My largest problem with Inat is that it engenders a contest among some egos to be the top commenter, the top whatever. Is there a solution? I believe Inat should eliminate the competition stats.


I think the list of “top identifiers” is useful when looking for someone to ask for ID help in a particular group by seeing who is most active there. For example, I identify a lot of Acrolophus moths in North America, so my name pops up at the top of the identifiers list, so people then tag me to bring my attention to North American Acrolophus that they want help identifying. I don’t know what anyone would gain by just clicking “agree” hundreds of times in a taxonomic group they don’t actually know well just to see their name at the top of a list. If that is happening, it’s very disappointing. :/


There are a few.





P.s. Those are just the ones I immediately thought of.
There are many more.

I am not saying it can’t be discussed again; you indicated you were unaware of previous discussions so I thought I’d point out similar topics since it is a subject you are interested in.


I used to think in a similar way, but @paul_dennehy has touched on, it is a good way to find people familiar with a species. I had a woman approach me this morning about Mythimna unipuncta because I was listed as the top identifier (I have a fondness for that species for some reason). I was able to help her. I’ve also used it to find people to help confirm an ID I’m not sure about - I’ve used @paul_dennehy a few times! iNat has recently taken some steps to try and deal with repeat identifications, but I don’t really think it is a major problem overall.


If someone reduces a known ID to genus level without comment, why not just ask them why they made that decision? I used to try to comment on every ID I made, but I have found that with the number of stagnant accounts it is often pointless. So now I usually only comment in return - if someone has a comment asking a question on the observation, or if someone reaches out to me. Commenting is very time-consuming, and the number of IDs to be made is overwhelming.


This says more about you than about the observers or identifiers.

It provides an opportunity for engagement between members of the community, be they observers of identifiers – and often they are both, of course. Communication is very much the point of inaturalist, so I’d argue that submitting IDs or comments to existing observations in whatever form, and then responding to those contributions is an effective use of “space,” however you may define it. There even is a mechanism for dealing with people who don’t engage in good faith, their observations or IDs can be flagged for review. Most contributions by far, that I’ve seen, are made in good faith.


@kestrelhaven It’s on you to engage in conversation and explain why an observation deserves a species-level identification. I regularly demote identifications without commenting; I only have so much time that I can devote to the task of curating observations on here. Commenting takes a lot of time, but I will always respond when questioned about my identification.


I will build a bit on @joe_fish’s comment here by combining it with @schoenitz’s point about assuming good faith:
if you reach out to someone who left an ID and they don’t respond, don’t assume they are ignoring you. They may be very busy and have missed a notification. You can wait a few days and comment again or DM them.

It is best to exercise patience with each other. :slightly_smiling_face:


If you read through the tome of comments made for the short lived decision to limit the amount of ID’s made to an observation recently, it is quite interesting. For a lot people putting an ID on something was a way to mark that they had checked it, and for difficult taxon, if 4, or 5 people want to come in and agree on an ID, great! Especially if it’s a group that I’m not familiar with. And for a lot of taxon, you really can’t get to species level ID with a photo, and it may be misleading to leave an observation at species level: when I was getting into non-Bumble Bees, earlier this year, I had several observations up’d to genus level, I learned from it.


There are indeed some annoying folks out there who appear to try to rack up a lot of ID points by just clicking “agree” on everything in sight. But they aren’t wrecking anything except their own reputation. THE LISTS OF TOP IDENTIFIERS of everything are SO USEFUL AND IMPORTANT! I use them all the time and refer other users to them. Except for the few frauds, top ID scorers are the people who have demonstrated (a) they know a taxon and (b) they are willing to help. It would be a sad loss to the Community to scrap these lists.


It’s happenning, believe me. And some of the top IDers are not IDers, just agreers.


And don’t be scared to DM someone and ask why. For those of us that are cleaning up taxa, I just don’t have time to comment why EVERY time but am more than willing to answer why if you’d like.

Lots of folks that do a ton of IDs have no way to keep up with notifications.


Second this. And, by the way, tagging and/or messaging someone with a question is the right way to distinguish between an IDer and a fraud. True IDer will answer - eventually. There will be no answer from a fraud, even after repeated requests.


I know for myself and other iNatters who are in outreach and education, we try to get anyone and everyone that might have an interest in nature to use iNaturalist. Part of the hook is the ‘gameification’ and I’ve described it to my students as “part worldwide citizen science project, part social network for nature nerds” as well as “Pokemon Go, but with nature”. The competition stats give users something to shoot for, even if it’s just a seemingly pointless personal goal. Ultimately, it’s fun. I don’t think they should remove the competition stats due to a few that are just here to inflate numbers for whatever reason. I totally understand the aggravation, but the more fun taken out of the user experience, the fewer people we’ll have using it. I’m more an observer than an IDer, but even I enjoy looking at my numbers at the end of each year.


Can you provide example taxons/ids where this has created an actual issue? The TOP lists already do some accounting for this type of problem. And realistically, by the time someone has looked at the ‘flashcard’ several hundred times, they’re likely to have brute forced themselves into some familiarity with it and is likely to be able to defend their ID or be trivially identified as just an enthusiastic neophyte.


Hi @zeo111, welcome to the iNaturalist forum!

As far as pointing out specific issues, we actually discourage pointing out or linking to specific problematic content or users here.

If someone finds anything concerning about a particular user’s behavior, it’s usually best to either reach out to that person via a polite, direct message, or to bring it to the attention of a curator or site staff at help@inaturalist.org Thanks!


The lists of top identifiers for taxa would be a lot more useful if they took into account the proportion of improving IDs. If someone at the top of the leaderboard has 95% agreeing IDs, that doesn’t tell you much about how knowledgeable they are.


In light of that it seems in poor taste to make ‘believe me’ statements as generalizations when decisions like this around UX should be data informed. How would you suggest soliciting concrete examples of the problem being brought up in order to make a determination whether it is a real problem, or just a perception? We’re not targeting a specific user, we’re after how this behavior could have a functionally negative effect on the platform so I’m open to suggestions on how best to data inform my perceptions.


I and others regularly flag and report inappropriate identification behavior, so the staff are aware of the issue.