Adding useful ID info to taxon pages

So this or things like this keep, getting, suggested. The feature requests are closed, since the iNaturalist team is interested in doing something like this, but in @kueda’s post here he mentioned that the “current version of this idea is something like allowing people to vote on the “usefulness” of ID remarks and show the most useful ones on the taxon pages”.

I’m not a fan of this version of the idea. The main things holding me back from creating identification tips are:

  • User-created identification tips are not visible where iNat users would naturally see them: on the taxon pages
  • User-created identification tips cannot be edited by multiple users. This a big reason Guides don’t work for this.
  • Comments are not a good place to put detailed identification information: they’re specific to one observation page, which is naturally about the observation, they’re specific to one user (the comment author), and the UI is optimized for creating short comments, not editing longer content with images.

The version of the idea mentioned by Kueda addresses the first point, but not the other two.

Kueda mentions there’s been a discussion about replicating Wikipedia. As far as content goes, I think Wikipedia would not accept content specific to iNaturalist’s two core activities: making observations and identifying observations. I can’t see them having, for example, in an article about turtles, region-specific sections with tips for observing and identifying the region’s turtles. But the functionality provided by Wikipedia is perfect for this. It’s also pretty advanced, so having iNaturalist developers replicate the functionality of Wikipedia is an obvious “nope, not going to happen”.

What I want: the bare bones, first iteration prototype which would get me excited would just be an installation of MediaWiki or some other wiki software on an iNaturalist-controlled server (maybe at https://wiki.inaturalist.org/), plus displaying taxon articles in the wiki on the iNaturalist taxon pages, the same way Wikipedia articles are copied into the taxon pages of the same name.

Seriously. That’s all.

There are some obvious integrations which could be made (e.g. user accounts on the wiki automatically created when a user registers with iNaturalist, automatically creating taxon articles when they exist on iNat but not in the wiki, automatically renaming wiki articles when the iNaturalist taxon is changed, etc.), but all that can be done later. I just want something where I can share some of the stuff I’ve learned, a lot of which I wish could have been shared with me earlier. I and - I hope - a lot of others, would be willing to put in a ton of work to make content there which would help identifiers. I have a pile of notes on how to identify things, and it seems like a waste that I’m the only one who can read them. Having an obvious place to put my notes, where I could find them later, would be incredibly motivating. (Plus, it would push me to organize what I have a bit better, so as not to embarrass myself.) There’s already some content on this forum which I would like to make more visible to the larger user-base. (Edit: also, practically everything in this thread: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/photo-taking-recommendations-by-taxon/1962/) (Edit2: and the content linked from this post: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/add-captions-to-default-taxon-photos/2126/12)

Wiki pages would also allow us to add links to external sources, links to existing comments on iNaturalist observations, links to articles in the iNaturalist wiki which are not part of the taxonomic hierarchy, and links to posts on this forum.

10 Likes

One potential issue, at least in theory, is that keys or ID tips may only be relevant in certain parts of a taxon’s range. Just like guidebooks, a key to wildflowers or butterflies of New York State might differ in emphasis and structure from a key wildflowers or butterflies of Maine, even if many of the same species appear in both. A distinguishing field mark in one region, “species A is the only species in Maine with a red stripe,” may no longer be distinguishing where additional red-striped species co-occur.

4 Likes

Yes, that is a potential problem. My thinking is that initially there would be ad-hoc creation of region sub-sections within the article for a taxon. So in the same way that there are, say, bird field guides for eastern and western North America, the article for orb-weaving spiders might have a section for each continent or region.

A more advanced setup might have articles associated with both a taxon in the taxon hierarchy and a place in the place hierarchy (Location hierarchy? I don’t remember the difference right now so I’m going to use “place”.), so that if you’re viewing the taxon page for a species and place, then the article which appeared would be for the smallest taxon and place which included the species and place you are viewing. E.g. if I’m viewing Toxomerus geminatus in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and there’s an article for Hover Flies of Ontario but no more-specific articles then that article would be displayed. Priority should probably be given to the taxon over the place, e.g. if there’s an article for insects of Toronto and an article for Toxomerus geminatus globally, then the Toxomerus geminatus article should be displayed.

1 Like

Ditto.
I have been working on web based projects including wikis and I know how mind blowing can be examining all the possible scenarios, try to cater for all of them and thinking that an aircraft carrier is required. Web managers start putting on chain mail et cetera.
Just keep it simple.

Most of the hints users want to share can fit a comment box, like keys do - plus some pictures.
Solid revision management engine for the admin. comments on revisions. That’s it. Mediawiki does it, overly tested, perfect doc for user and admins.
Currently users have (nearly?) nothing indexable, searchable, linkable.

Nearly all the already created content based on tags/markups - once you want to move it to your handcrafted aircraft carrier- can be nearly painlessly re-digested with some good script and then reprocessed as required by the end users if they really need cosmetics.
Having such pilot allows also to understand what is really required and avoid building a bulky system.
Keep in mind (and the one writing has been always a lover of elaborated systems) that if you want a user developed hint database you need to keep it really simple and not scary or geeky.
Most of the complicated stuff on top of it will stay underused especially at the beginning, so forget it for launch.
as they say KISS

end of my verbose opinion

2 Likes

Is this idea still active?

While the all ideas about adding ID info are great, I would simply like a way to find my way back to interesting comment threads, i.e. “What was that cool thing bouteloua was saying about xxx a while back?”. You know, personal bookmarks like the Favorites. And maybe if enough people bookmark something, it shows up on the taxon page under a “Related discussions” tab or something. Seems like that wouldn’t be too hard.

2 Likes

It’s possible we could come up with one or more taxon links (right side of the About tab on taxon pages) that could search iNat comments / posts for the taxon name. Might be kinda messy, though, and not guaranteed to find all (or only) useful information (if the taxon name was abbreviated in the post, for example, or if it had nothing to do with identification).

2 Likes

Back when I joined iNat, I started noticing lots of useful info getting buried in comments on observations, and especially because typically only a handful of people get to see them after they become RG (drop from the “needs ID” pool). A lot of it was simple tricks in using iNat, and so on. I started to create a project called “iNaturalist Classroom” or something similar, and the idea was you add any observation that has educational merit, ie those that a new user would benefit from seeing. Even if it were taxa specific, that is fine. Then a link to the project observation view with the “reviewed = no” filter set would allow people to review the observations, and mark them as reviewed once they had seen them. I saw it as a quick primer for new users to catch up with everything we had collectively learnt so far, so to speak. I deleted the project, thinking it was too gimicky, and I was kinda new to all this stuff anyway, so maybe it was just me wanting it…

maybe we look to restarting this kind of project? If someone wants taxa specific stuff, they can search the project on the taxa

Of course, there has been so much leraning since I joined, and there is an explosion of membership now, it might be info overload on a new user

4 Likes

I added a sample link called iNaturalist comments (search) to this taxon page to search for comments containing the taxon name. Look on the About tab under More Info on the right. This is a taxon for which I have added many comments with ID guidance – many more comments, though, than are coming up when the link is followed, since the taxon name was not always spelled out completely in the comments.

Also note that this does not search comments attached to IDs, only stand-alone comments.

It’s not an ideal solution, just something that’s possible using existing curatorial functions. Nevertheless, if people think this would be useful, this can easily be turned into a templated link that would appear and work on every taxon page on the site. It would likely produce zero results for many taxa.

EDIT: unfortunately this currently does not work across different iNat network platforms, because Taxon Links will not accept relative URLs. So my sample link will only work if you are signed in via iNaturalist.org (iNaturalist global); otherwise it just displays all comments. Probably would want to fix this before putting this link on all taxon pages.

5 Likes

Hey all,

Sorry, I somehow missed the responses to this thread a few weeks back.

I like both ideas! The Project puts the onus on me to remember to add observations with good comment threads. But having an automatic Project for every taxon is an interesting idea. Is it possible?

The button is nice, too, though a bit less easy to control and as you point out, less than ideal. But until something better comes along, I think we should go with it. Or are you saying that because of the other iNat platforms, it’s a bad idea?

Thanks!

2 Likes

Yeah, adding taxon links that only work if logged in through inaturalist.org, and not through any of the other national portals, would not be in keeping with international operability of the site.

I submitted a feature request to address this limitation.

1 Like

Thanks!

I have an issue with an over-abundance of links to “More Info” under the About tab on many species pages. An example can be seen here and in the attached screen capture:
https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/485405-Eupithecia-longidens
In this example, ten links are listed for “More Info”, but three of them, Animal Divsersity Web, NatureServe Explorer, and Tree of Life, offer no new/different information about the species that can’t be found right on the iNat page. This is clutter. Are these links being added wholesale to all taxa, to selected species by curators, or how? In contrast to several other links on the list (BHL, GBIF, MPG, etc.), these particular links serve no obvious purpose. Moreover, as a curator, I can’t seem to figure out how to delete them.

2 Likes

I don’t believe it is possible to delete them (or at least 1 specific one on one specific taxa). They are set up as cascading links somewhere higher in the taxonomy tree and then all qualifying children show it. The issue is for some things it may well be redundant but for others with limited or no Wikipedia content they can be valuable.

3 Likes

If I have an identification key for an insect family that could also help other users in the future, where would be the most appropriate location to post this information (or link)? I would expect to find it under the “About” tab on the taxon page, but instead can only see the text imported from the corresponding Wikipedia article.

If a link to an identification key was added to the comments of an observation, it would only be seen if a user opened and read all the observations submitted for that particular taxon. Journal guide entries seem to be buried away as a subset of individual user profile pages and are not linked to from the taxon page. Similar information contained on project pages is even more difficult to stumble across.

As we are aiming to help users identify their own observations, it would help greatly if we could post identification keys to supplement the automatic image identification program.

3 Likes

Other than journal entries there is no place. There is an existing topic about this on the forum I will try and find and link to. It has been much debated, but it is not a small endeavour.

1 Like

I moved these posts to the existing topic on how to present ID information.

2 Likes

@Loopy30 If I understand your question correctly, I have done precisely this type of thing in several cases. I have first written journal ID articles which cover one or a few species, and in one case most of a genus (Cisthene). As a curator, then I can add a link to my journal article in the More Info list under the “About” tab. Below are a few examples; go to the About tab and look in the list for More Info.
“Key to Cisthene in Texas”:
https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/143997-Cisthene
“Notes on Texas Petrophila Identification”:
https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/178410-Petrophila
“Comparing Some Sallows and Daggers”:
https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/174367-Copivaleria-grotei
This is precisely what prompted me to post the complaint (above) about the multiplicity of links under “More Info” since so many of them are of little/no use and, in my conceit, I think contributions such as mine ought to be easier to find without having to sift through a long list of less-than-useful links.

5 Likes

It looks like the system allows only the curator who created the link to delete it.

In edit mode, each link shows the curator who created it, and provides a comments section down toward the bottom. For links you have issues with, I would recommend @ tagging the link creator in a comment there, and initiating a discussion.

It can be done both ways. In edit mode, if you see any of the template tags ( like [GENUS], [SPECIES], etc. ) in the link URL, and the “Show for descendent taxa” box checked, then it was set up to display for a set of taxa (possibly also restricted to a geographic area, which is another option there). Or it can just be a direct URL for a single taxon.

I agree that links set up for a large taxonomic group can be of varying utility for a particular taxon. It’s the trade-off for efficiency, in not having to individually set up hundreds or thousands of single-taxon links for the most useful ones. I agree that

Thanks @ gcwarbler, I have been slowly working my way through all the linked discussion threads to this topic. Posting a link to a journal article in the “More Info” tab seems to be a workable option for curators to use. For the rest of us though, this method does not appear to be available.

As noted above and in other associated threads, Wikipedia is not a guide, and identification keys are not appropriate material to add there. What I can do however, is post a link (or at least the publication info) of an external reference that contains the identification key. When I found a useful key to identifying the species of the tribe Psenini, I posted the info as an external link on the Wikipedia article under the heading “Further Reading” (as Gittens, 1969). Unfortunately, in this case the article is behind a paywall and is not accessible to everyone.

If there is any iNaturalist user that would like me to help them to do something similar, I can certainly help, just send me a message with the details of what you would like to see added to a specific Wikipedia article.

2 Likes

I’ve created a related feature proposal that you can vote on: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/expand-the-similar-species-tab-into-an-editable-identification-guide/13890.