Add an optional photo prompt to the New Observation screen in the apps

Many observations lack photos of key parts of an organism that are important for identification. For example: close-up photo of a flower but no leaf photo, top of mushroom but no gill pattern, back of an insect but not the face, I’m sure there are hundreds of examples.

To help beginners or even people who are observing an unfamiliar taxon, have optional photo prompts that pop up after a taxon is selected. The prompt would say something like “These parts are important for identification” then list the parts, then have two buttons “Add more photos” and “I’m done.” Turn it on by default for new users but let users turn the feature on or off in the settings.

I think the list of parts should use very simple terms, not something that needs a glossary. For example: back of flower, upper leaves, fruits, top of head, lower leg, top fin. Sometimes habitat or host is really important so that could be a pointer too.

It won’t be enough for the most difficult taxa but I believe it would help both identifiers who want a little more information and observers who are frustrated that their observations don’t get identified.

Some administrative points:

  • The list should be short. Don’t make users scroll through a laundry list of desired shots. 3 or 4 should be enough.
  • It should probably be restricted to curators but let everyone flag the taxon to request changes. Boiling down the most important parts of a taxon takes some research and/or experience.
  • The curator should be able to copy the list to direct descendant taxa.
  • It’s probably less important for the web upload since most users are uploading photos taken much earlier.

This idea came from this discussion: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/roles-of-taxonomic-experts-on-inat/13363

Are you thinking that the suggested parts would be suggested based on what the AI thinks the observation is? I could see users getting confused by suggested parts that don’t make sense because they were suggested for something visually similar but unrelated.

This is mostly what I do, so while I would love automated photo prompts in the field, I’ve just accepted that I take pictures when I can and learn as I go. Even then, it might still be helpful to see when I upload so that it can tell me for next time without waiting for a user to specifically tell me what to improve.

2 Likes

I can see where you’re coming from, but I think having these sort of prompts in the field might do more harm than good. It’s hard enough getting a photo of, say, a butterfly before it flies away without having to fight with this sort of pop-up.

It would be more helpful to have some sort of separate guide to taking good photos, something like a couple of pages of PDF with suggestions for each main category, like photoing the gills of mushrooms and not just the top.

4 Likes

I wouldn’t recommend this for the camera screen, only after someone has added their photos and has selected a taxon. If someone is entering the other data, they’re probably done chasing that butterfly.

1 Like

I see that as a bonus. If I take a photo and select a suggested taxon and the prompts don’t match at all (for instance legs or wings on a plant) I would realize I’ve picked a taxon that’s not even close to what I’m looking at and try again.

3 Likes

This is a great suggestion. Also, as it would be optional, it wouldnt need to be answered (or even available for all species). So if the butterfly flew away, the user could still submit the obs… but if an extra photo of some leaves, sepals etc could help id a plant, that would be great. And it would really teach the amateurs (speaking as an amateur who loves this app)