Unknowns going to research grade with two votes

I frequently identify unknowns. Occasionally, one has a species in the Placeholder. I copy the information into my comments, and add to observation to the species the observer provided. Then along comes the observer, agrees with me and voilà the observation is research grade. See this recent example - (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/204933706)
But, I have no knowledge of the species most of the time. What us the best practice for such situations?


Maybe just go to something general, like ID it the best you can, to kingdom or family, and then include what the placeholder was in your ID or comment it separately.


Agree, I would ID to the best level you can and record the placeholder as a comment.

If there are existing observations which you ID’d in accordance with the placeholder and you are uncomfortable with them now being research grade, I think is fine to withdraw your ID. Or you can tag an expert in the taxon in question and ask them to take a look so that it gets an additional confirming ID.


Yeah I usually just copy the placeholder into the identification comment like this (for this one I put in the extra effort to research what species the observer probably meant, but you don’t need to).


I use the placeholder as an ID.
Copypasta the placeholder as a comment.

Since I follow my notifications I weigh up who agrees with me. If it is a taxon specialist + the observer = 2.
If the observer ‘agrees’ with me, I withdraw and leave a fresh comment
Thanks now I can withdraw mine

We want 2 people to agree, not I me and myself agree.


Personally if it’s not a species I feel confident IDing, I just add a general ID to get it out of unknowns and leave it up to the user or a different more skilled identifier to put it to species. For example, if the placeholder says “Quercus rubra” but I don’t personally have the knowledge base to distinguish rubra from a bunch of other similar trees, I’d just add “Quercus” as the ID and let the oak experts take it from there.


This is how it should be done IMO, put it to family or genus level if you don’t know the exact species (or can’t know it from the photo). Putting it to species-level doesn’t help anyone if that ID is not necessarily true.


Do you make exceptions if there is evidence that the observer researched and verified it? I hope?

If you can rely on taxon specialist (s) getting to the obs - fine. Use a broad ID.

If the obs lurks in Unknown (or broad planty taxa) for years, I will take a chance on it being ‘RG’ for a few hours. The placeholder ID has a good chance of being seen by competent taxon specialists. Unknowns nearly zero chance.

@jasonhernandez74 I weigh up each obs, and each ID, before I react. I am willing to help an Unknown towards a finer ID, but not to add RG weight to a taxon I don’t know. For example Birds only need Aves to get them to birder’s eyes. Then I can comfortably leave a ‘typo’ placeholder as a comment. I will also work harder to find a RG taxon specialist for taxa which have very few obs on iNat.


Why? The concern here is not whether the observer researched the ID they used as a placeholder, but whether the person who entered the placeholder as an ID in order to get the observation seen by other users can vouch for the correctness of that ID. If they cannot, the observation has essentially become research grade based on a single ID (the observer has gotten their ID entered twice – once via the person looking at unknowns who used the placeholder and once on their own account).


that is why the identifier is responsible for going back to withdraw their ID.
Or - but if you have notifications for IDs in agreement turned off - you have to use a broader ID.

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This is the way.

Don’t go to species unless you have a good reason to think it’s that specific species.


A good reason other than the placeholder being that species. Which maybe goes without saying but I’m still going to say it.

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Outside of a specific situation I don’t consider the placeholder being that species to be a good reason. As it’s a placeholder it’s not necessarily an accurate ID.

If someone has posted it as a species they know it is that’s not registered on inat and it’s a placeholder because of that it’s a good reason, but in that case very few other users will have knowledge difficult to confirm the ID, so best to leave it alone then.

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My gripe with the way iNat chooses to treat the placeholder - is that it is hidden as soon as the first ID is added. It should be the observer who decides to delete the text they added to their observation. It was a useful piece of information from the observer.


Yes that’s what I’m saying. Don’t provide that ID if you don’t have a good reason, a reason other than it being listed as the placeholder. Some people consider that a good enough one but I am saying it isn’t.


Good form here, while remaining general in your identification (the best you can do), to gift the proper possible Genus species in the comments when you can.

That extra effort builds a community.


I don’t understand. What is a « palceholder » ?


A “placeholder” as it is being used here is a name that someone has given their observation when for various reasons they have been unable to lookup or correspond with the actual common name or the scientific name. It will show up as above in the form of (Placeholder: pilea glauca) where either a common name should be or the correct scientific name. One reason for this to happen is when they have been without data service for their mobile app. Sometimes they have a rough idea of what the scientific name is but it is incorrect. Sometimes they will put something illegible. But, and a big but, it is often a huge clue as to what the original poster was after. As in the example that @upupa-epops gave it was very close to the genus and species. Why that is important is that an inexperienced unknownithologist may identify the observation with something like Life. When that happens, the placeholder vanishes. Those in the know will first copy the placeholder into some form of comment so that it is there for future use if they can’t resolve it themselves but wish to identify it to some (helpful?) midlevel taxon. Does that make sense?


Having looked at the conversation, it seems like it would helpful to have be able to select a category called PlaceHolder?

I have not been aware of how to deal with placeholder when going through ‘Unknowns’