An observation with multiple photos taken on multiple dates

Since we are splitting hairs: you use the word “guidelines” not “rules”. A guideline is defined as “a general rule, principle, or piece of advice.” As stated: the guideline given is “If you revisit that organism later, such as returning to a plant on a later date when it’s in bloom, you should make a separate observation because it was observed on a different date.” Therefore, whether it is worded as “should” or “must”, you are not following the community guidelines.

I think most people don’t see the above guideline near as nuanced as you do.


Considering iNat accepts field sketches if they have diagnostic features (see Are drawings evidence?), I think iNat would have no problem with an identifier taking the observer’s word for that as long as it reasonably makes sense.


I think you are misconstruing the usage of “should” in the iNat documentation here as @gcwarbler suggested above. If you read through the page on observations that @Marina_Gorbunova posted ( the word “must” is not used at all in the observations section. Should is used for many things that are “rules” of iNat in its documentation. For instance:

“Photos attached to observations should include evidence of the actual organism at the time of the observation”. It is an actual “rule” that photos must include evidence of the organism.

“Photos used in your iNaturalist observations should represent your own experiences, not just examples of something similar to what you saw.” This is a rule that users cannot just upload a picture of a different organism that they think is the same one. If they don’t another user should mark that observation as no evidence of an organism, etc. The “should” here is also a “polite must”.

In another section the document also says: “If you record an observation of a tree, then go back a day later to take another photo, please add a new observation using the new photo, because it represents the tree at a different point in time.” I think that this is as clear a statement as possible (and definitely without vagueness) that the iNat guidelines are that users should not engage in creating the types of observations you are defending.


What Marina linked is not a guideline. That is the “Help” page. The guidelines are here:

You would be surprised what other users will infer from very simple statements of fact or opinion.

@tiwane could iNat staff comment on this, please?


This part of the guidelines may pertain, as the date would not be accurate data for all of the photos:

  • Add accurate content and take community feedback into account. Any account that adds content we believe decreases the accuracy of iNaturalist data may be suspended, particularly if that account behaves like a machine, e.g. adds a lot of content very quickly and does not respond to comments and messages.
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Not at all. That guideline was added to stop the accounts that rapidly pump out tons of unidentifiable observations and never respond to attempts to reach out.

So iNat requires that to be separate obs. With date and phenology as appropriate. And linked via notes or comments or whatever.

A similar issue with rearing caterpillar to butterfly. That should also be various linked obs, not here we all are in one.

Unfortunately we still cannot ‘annotate a photo’ we have to annotate an obs.

PS I often use photos of fruiting when IDing. Plough thru scads of photos from ‘obs includes fruit’ to find an actual picture of the fruit of this plant. iNat is clunky for that. A smaller version of the issues around sorting thru photos for an obs of multiples, where someone has gone ahead and IDed the first photo.


Observation is what you say you observed. Photos or voice recordings are only supporting evidence.
I see a cotyledon and post a photo, that is the observation. Adding photos of true leaves and even a flower later is just supporting evidence.
If someone marks that observation as casual for whatever reason, I would be quite upset. A record of when that plant germinates would be lost along with my enthusiasm.


There’s no record if you posted photos from 3 weeks later, date will be clearly wrong.

I think the help page written by iNat staff still clearly falls into the category of guidelines🙄


Yes, but if you take it home to rear it (as you presumably do) then the GPS on any photos you take of the adult will be your home address…

Of course, and from the moment you took it home, it’s a captive organism (unless you make photos the same day or e.g. do the microscopy of a moss some days after you collected it).

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If you take it home and rear it, those observations get marked as casual. You can easily link them to the RG observation from when it was first found through the notes and/or comments. Subsequent casual observations can still reasonably be used to validate the ID of a plant originally not at an IDable life stage. I truly don’t understand the resistance to linking observations. It’s easy enough to do as I did with this observation.

It’s reasonable to assume the natural phenology of a plant could change drastically once it is being reared due to a great number of factors (e.g., recovery stress from the move, soil/sunlight/heat differences).


It’s not resistance to linking observations, I don’t want to be forced to link observations, especially when it’s much simpler to just have a single instance. That freedom seems reasonable.

As for the guidelines, they are most definitely separated from the “Help” page. The guidelines lay out rules, the breaking of which can result in suspension. The “Help” page is for new users needing to learn how they should interact with the site. Note how the index on the left links to the guidelines (rather than stating the page is also included in guidelines), and how all of the language in the “Help” page references the guidelines as a separate entity.

No one is forcing you to link observations. I’m assuming you are under no threat of suspension (if you are, then yes the distinction between “help” and “guidelines” then does become important).

I’m allowed to post pictures of my house plants and no one forces me not to. Nor would I be suspended for such. But I should mark them as “cultivated” and certainly I won’t argue when someone following the guidelines does mark them as such.