Etiquette for Identifiers on iNaturalist

Be polite. Always be polite and supporting. If necessary, mutter a few choice words about an observation or observer, but don't write them. In print, appear polite, supportive, and welcoming. Terse, perhaps, but polite.

What if someone is impolite to you? Realize that in print people sound more harsh than they meant to, and that lots of people are under stresses we don't know about. So respond politely or disengage, or if they're really bad, report them to the curators or help desk.

Most impolite people I meet on iNaturalist are school kids forced to use the program by their teachers. Take them as seriously as they deserve (not at all). There are two other kinds of problems I've learned to avoid. Some serious iNatters upload a whole bunch of observations without identifications and then add names over the next day or two. They tend to get testy if you add names, especially if they're names above the species level. So if you see many very recent "Unknowns" by an observer who already has many observations, skip them. (Apologies are like oil for the social machinery, so apologize if they fuss, even though you're always right to add names. Delete your names if asked to.) Also, there is a very active iNatter in South Africa who has strong ideas about how the identification process should go. If you do things differently he will let you know, tersely at best. For this reason, I avoid ID'ing very recent observations from South Africa unless I can ID them to family or better (which I usually can't).

When I find recent posts by observers with very few observations, I assume they're new and say "Welcome to iNaturalist!"

I generally don't leave comments when making a first or confirming identification unless there's something I really want to say*, but when I disagree I often briefly explain why. What traits did I use? What clues did I not see that I needed?

*I have a file of explanations that I use a lot; why nobody can put a species name on this cultivated, hybrid rose, why this grass is Alopecurus pratensis (Meadow Foxtail), not Phleum pratense (Timothy), etc. I'll post the file later in this series.

I usually don't thank people who make an identification for me, but if they supply extra information I do. Often. Well, sometimes. OK, in those odd moments when I remember to do it. But it is polite. Another way to thank someone is to go ID his or her observations.

Posted by sedgequeen sedgequeen, May 21, 2021 20:30


I really like this post. I have noticed similar patterns, too. Although I have as of yet to come in contact with any younger students other than myself.

Posted by m-stanton 6 months ago (Flag)

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