Absolutely tired of plants not marked as cultivated - Solutions welcome

As a side note, there are cases where determining if a plant is cultivated or not can be difficult. Sometimes natives get planted as part of restorations projects. Sometimes things get planted in the strangest of places – memorial flowers could be planted on remote trails for example. I have seen Sweet William under a part sign inside a provincial park. Did someone plant them? Not sure. Sometimes places you thought were wild might have had a garden or shrubs planted decades ago, and someone lived there, but all traces of the building and such were removed. In addition, while invasives in a garden are not cultivated, some weeds in a garden may be the result of seeds in seed mixes that were there by mistake.

6 Likes

Excellent points… After our Christchurch (colloquially known as NZs “Garden City”) earthquakes (2011?) large areas of the city were red-zoned and no longer allowed to be lived in. For a long time, cultivated gardens were left to fend for themselves, and gradually turned wild… with escapes and successive generations left to do their thing. A fascinating opportunity to observe and study such situations, and complete with a myriad of grey area cases as far as iNats captive/cultivated flag to ponder over.

5 Likes

I think ultimately, if one is tired of marking them (captive/cultivated), then just do something else for a while! If the accuracy of the data is not good enough, then get data from else where. Or maybe even consider throwing a ton of money at the iNat team to help them come up with a solution.

3 Likes

Ideally, yes human intervention would not be required to learn the system. That is an ideal however and reality is that no software ever truly gets all the way there.

I do think though that the opacity of the “correct” path to take to do things such as:

  • mark something as cultivated and why you might even do so
  • why something is marked as Casual and what it means
  • why something is not marked as cultivated when it clearly should be
  • etc.

leads to reoccurring forum threads about these problems and that on-boarding^ a new user may not solve the issue. It seems to me that expectations are either out of alignment or the site’s UI is not servicing the needs of some common use cases. Maybe these are bad use cases that should be discouraged, I do not really know.

^It is entirely possible that my understanding of what is meant by on-boarding is off. :grin:

1 Like

Perhaps a flag or option could be made to denote if an observer does not know if plant is cultivated or not. Often it comes down to the exact place where it was observed, and if as an observer you can’t remember the exact position (you marked a sighting as an entire trail system, for example), this option could be useful. Alternatively, if an observer does not know what species they are looking at (if it was this species in a genus it is cultivated, if it was the other is it an escape/invasive), such an option would also be useful.

1 Like

It’s been suggested that a “grey area” setting be allowed, ie wild|unsure|cultivated.

@jeffdc the need to help people learn, ie one person helping another vs someone being able to figure it out on their own, is increasing the connectivity between members of the community, especially with new members. iNat mission is to build community around biodiversity issues. Hence it is actually very much “on-mission” to have this hand-holding and “in-person” assistance Vs the independence of being able to figure it out on your own. Just saying that maybe it’s by design? Or even if not by design and is rather accidental, perhaps it could explain the lack of motivation to “fix” this. After all, if it’s broken but actually achieves what you are trying to do better, why would you fix it?

4 Likes

I also don’t really know what is meant by “onboarding” and how it could possibly fix complex problems

2 Likes

Not to play devil’s advocate here, but… yes? Ideally the site would be easy to understand for the average newbie.

5 Likes

I don’t think that is so. Bearing in mind there is little connection from the iOS app to the iNat community, there’s not much chance to get mentored. There is not even an indication in the app there is an INat community on the web. It’s not even that easy to notice if someone left comment on an observation, without some exploring.

6 Likes

I disagree. I think back to when I first joined iNat… NatureWatchNZ back then (7 years ago!), but it was still using the iNat app. I was looking for a tool to ID plants and record their positions reasonably accurately on a map. I started using it, and danged if people didn’t start talking to me through comments. Back then there were maybe a dozen observations a day in NZ, tops. Those initial contacts were giving me advice on how to use the site, and actually stimulated my interest in using iNaturalist beyond the particular task I was using it for at that time.

To this day I reciprocate for that. I mainly ID spiders these days, as the number of observations per day has skyrockleted, hence the need to narrow my focus. I’m often giving comments about what I am identifying… especially if they have angles of view that are particularly good or bad, to help observers gradually learn the type of photos that make good identifiable observations. But when I spot a new observer (single digit number of observations) I check that they are in fact new and in a comment on their observation I welcome them to iNaturalist! When anyone thanks me for an identification, I thank them back for sharing what they see… and when I see things that they could do better, or might appreciate advice on, I give it. I’ve even had some of those observers that I have engaged with visit me when they are in Gisborne! I’ve visited some of those that I have met through iNaturalist.

I admit it’s easier for a new user to fall through the cracks of this “manual onboarding” now that there are thousands of observations a day. One thing I encourage users, especially those that have reasonable enough phones (which is almost everyone these days), is to access iNat on the phone via a browser, rather than the app.

And I’m NOT saying that I personally would prefer them NOT to fix these type of problems (ie this topic it’s captive/cultivated marking). I’m just saying that the WAY it is broken is actually encouraging dialogue between users, and that in itself is very much ON MISSION, so perhaps that is the reason there seems to be little momentum from the developers to fix this stuff!

7 Likes

and just to clarify, they ARE working on better on-boarding. And it IS something that would be better done right than rushed.

2 Likes

You can learn all iNat system by yourself if you just read everything website has, additionally you can read forum that has all the answers to all the questions about it. But to expect “onboarding” on a website with so many possibillities can be sone without help of others? No, without people and forum it’s rarely going right. You need both use it a lot and read a lot.
To deal with cultivated plants all we need is a big net of dedicated botanists, here in Russia we don’t have such a big problem as I see in other countries (no matter how many obs are there), not observers and not iders, nobody cares that plants should be marked, when you mark one you can see a whole field of others aroung the neighborhood, we need to write about it a lot in local projects with tags of users, we need far more do it ourselves with thei obs and write comments, and we need o find much more plant lovers to review all of this. I really rarely go check other parts of the world, cause misids and cultivated plants are just everywhere and I don’t want to spend time on a problem people don’t care to solve.

2 Likes

And, you were using the iOS app, then?

It’s Interesting … I’m impressed that people put that much engagement into that version of iNat, as it is quite streamlined and focuses more on ease of basic functions.

2 Likes

We have a good invasives project for South Africa. Where we can report new infestations for followup.

1 Like

I’d hesitate to frame this as a software development issue. Yes, there may be a use case for it, just as there is a use case for adding a geology module for people who post rocks and want them identified, or want to use the site to track garbage etc. The point is the site doesn’t want to fill that niche.

The site explicitly tolerates adding small numbers of captive/cultivated stuff. It even says so in the getting started / help pages. The rationale is they recognize many new users will do this as they learn the site/app, but then should transition to what is the site’s objective which is wild biodiversity.

The challenge is that ‘transition’ from learning the app to wild biodiversity gets sidetracked by (at least) 3 things

  • the sheer number of new users due to the rapid growth of the site
  • people who legitimately do not know the difference between cultivated and wild, or those who know but dont care because they disagree with the site definition
  • the widespread use of the site in educational settings and the resulting masses of students who dont give a toss about what they submit, they just want the assignment over as quickly as possible so they can go back to the cool corners of the internet
3 Likes

I agree that it does not have to be a dev issue, but if there is interest in covering the use cases discussed then it is a dev issue. I do not have an opinion on the roadmap for iNat or what the overall mission is. My overall point is simply that these issues exist and that the solution (to me) is not on-boarding. i.e., it does not seem possible to reconcile the fact that some people want the iNat data to be a useful for research (e.g., data is not “clownish”) and that others want it to be open and easy for anyone to upload anything. It can not be both without it becoming a software dev issue. The set of all users can never be trained/on-boarded to stay on the path; guard rails are required if data quality is a requirement.

1 Like

I think one thing that is clear, is this is not on the objectives or roadmap for the site, nor is it likely ever to be.

1 Like

It’s not possible and in fact it’s bad for iNat, it’s community based, if everyone starts uploading everything iders will just leave, they already face a lot of problems shown in this topic.

1 Like

Almost impossible for software to force a solution, when even the few people on this thread don’t completely agree.

3 Likes

I work on forest issues. Far too many of the trees in the forest are from plantations after the forest was clear cut. So how do you deal with the fact that many trees are not of native stock. Have been in the forest for over 100 years? There is a plantation of sequoias that are now 120 years old that appear natural. I know these are cultivated as I worked in the forest in 1991 and was shown and told the story. It is clearly a problem when plants are just a crop and the practice goes back many generations. Clearly garden plants are easy to spot but century old restoration plots not so much. But, many times the photo of the garden specimen is superior to wild and native specimens. I really don’t want to lose the photos or documentation of where to see them. As with all introduced species, when do we start treating naturalized specimens as not cultivated?

6 Likes