Any thoughts for iNat Staff?


Hey all,

The iNaturalist staff will be meeting up for our annual retreat next week and, in addition to mothing, we will be coming up with plans and goals for the next year.

Now, to shamelessly pilfer Carrie’s excellent post to the Google Group last year:

In preparation for that, we would love to hear your thoughts about how the core team can best support you in your efforts to grow participation in your area (be it geographic, taxonomic, or otherwise).

We would appreciate if we keep the focus of this thread on the generation of ideas, without extensively repeating discussion of previous feature requests or changes, and without criticizing other people’s ideas.

Other ways to think about this prompt:

-How can we help you be a better, more effective multiplier of iNat activity?

-What can we do keep new, returning, or occasional users engaged?

Comments by the end of the day on Monday (California time) will be most helpful.

Thanks for all that you do to make iNaturalist an awesome, productive, and welcoming community.


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I will keep this brief (relatively) for a change, sine i am always overenthusiastic with comments.

-Tony’s increased presence in this new forum the last two days has been wonderful. I know you are just testing it out, and this is not just a request for more attention to myself, but having the increased admin presence here is wonderful in keeping things on track and productive (thanks Tony!). If you have the staffing and can swing it, keeping that going in this forum as we hopefully move to this new medium would be awesome.

-Broadly, consider tweaking the mission statement. I won’t rehash the whole discussion from Google Groups, but it seems like instead of ‘connecting people with nature’ i think something like ‘helping people share what they see in nature’ or something. The former one is really vague, buzzwordy, and imho doesn’t represent what this community actually is. I won’t say more unless you ask :slight_smile:

-Consider revising curation as cassi suggested and also consider defining the auto-obscure policy more clearly. It’s a hard balance and iNat does a great job overall. But a couple of times I’ve felt that something kind of silly was being obscured, like a super common tree species near it’s range edge with no collection risk, and I haven’t been able to find who to talk to about it but don’t feel uncomfortable just un-obscuring it (if I even can).

I will leave it at that for now. Thanks and have fun. Let us know what you come up with if you can. I enjoyed that last year.



I haven’t really given this a lot of thought, but could inaturalist identify the new, returning, and occasional users and invite them to this forum to give us feedback on what would help to keep them engaged? Maybe start a thread designated for that purpose so they won’t be overwhelmed by the rest of this site? Maybe a convenient link to it from their dashboards?



I’ve been thinking that it might be cool to get notifications when a project I’ve joined passes 1000 observations, 500 species, etc. It would both remind us what projects we’ve joined but also motivate people to reach the next milestone. This might not work great with the current notification system but I know you’re planning to upgrade it.

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Can you please clarify if this request / topic is meant to cover new functionality. I read it to be exclusive of feature requests, but would like clarity before I contribute.

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Hey Chris,

I think broad feature/function suggestions and thoughts would be fine here, but more specific, actionable feature requests should be added to




I don’t think this would be possible for collection projects because technically no observations are “in” a collection project, but I think it could work for traditional projects.

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2 things come to mind

  1. Do a better job of communicating when the team has reviewed a request and decided for whatever reason to not take action on it. For example (just an example, not meant to reflect your stance) if you review requests to add geography intelligence into the computer vision system and determine it is not technically viable, not something you want to do etc, document that so when it gets raised again that can be referenced.

  2. If as I believe is the case you have a specific goal of expanding use outside the core English speaking nations that comprise 75%+ of users on the site, determine how to better support users in those areas. 3 areas come to mind here :

  • convert the help / community guidelines etc pages to a format that allows their translation and getting them translated
  • driven by several experiences over the last few weeks establishing as a guideline that as soon as it becomes evident there may be a language barrier in working with users to do everything possible to engage a native speaking curator or power user to help communicate in a language the user is comfortable with. I tried to get this documented here :( but it seemed to go nowhere
  • if you know you are trying to open a node or expanded user base in a nation, make a pre-emptive effort to get species lists populated. Obviously the site can not add every species in the world to the site, but if for example you are trying to expand use in Hong Kong, figure out what are the most likely plants, insects etc from GBIF or other local sources and ensure they are in there. This is driven by seeing the recent major expansion in Russia, but frustration as so many species are missing.


Promotional material for when setting up show stands, or at bioblitzes etc. This could be a library of imagery for things like banners and teardrop flags that can be sent to local printers etc.

Live display viewer - A webview into iNaturalist that can be put on a monitor, that maybe cycles around OotD (intl + regional), latest 12 (ie a grid view) observations for a particular place (or project), and a series of short videos to introduce iNaturalist and the iNat app. Being able to setup such a webview or presentation like you would a project, so that you can customise it to a situation. I’m imagining getting a display setup at the entrance to our local library, at the local museum, and at the Department of Conservation reception, as well as a number of places where one could be rotated around.

iNaturalist merchandise



I never thought I’d say this, but I am kind of enjoying the badges and tips and reminders that show up on the side of my screen while I’m using this site, and I’m thinking that new, returning, or occasional users might like something similar on the site. For example, when “Upload” is hit, a reminder that each observation should be about one organism only, a tab to hit if currently the observation has more than one organism, which would lead to an explanation of how to fix that, and a link to this Discourse site if they have more questions about it. Maybe a prompt to mark as captive/cultivated if appropriate, and a badge for doing it the first time, again with a link to this site if they have questions about it. Maybe a badge for the first posting of something in a new kingdom or family or genus. Maybe a reminder that they posted an “Unknown” and a prompt to choose the appropriate kingdom. In other words, something to help them navigate through what they are actually doing at the moment, and to give some positive feedback immediately.



someone actually made one, working globally, though i don’t remember the link.



I’d still like the things I mentioned on carriesetzers’s previous post. My top ones are:

–A separate tab in the Dashboard (or whatever other solution) so that it’s possible to ever see project or personal journal posts / Make it so the red notifications in the top right doesn’t vanish forever if you mis-click. Projects are an important outreach tool (are actually what hooked me into the site to begin with), and journal posts from them could potentially be an important outreach tool if they were findable, particularly for regional/bioblitz projects trying to publicize events. Friendly personal engagement with other site members is even more important, and I’m sure there’s a bunch I’ve missed out on since I can’t deal with having to open literally 300 tabs if I’m offline for a few days (which is even with confirming ID notification turned off).

–Relatedly, some way to announce regional events to people actually in the region, and who haven’t joined/aren’t aware of specific projects. This new forum could potentially serve for that.

–The ability to have eBird-style shared observations would be awesome, and I think a fantastic hook for getting new, engaged users. I have a number of nature-appreciating friends and family who I think would be low-volume but high-quality observers if they could get over the initial hurdle of having to understand the site’s appeal/function.

–Change how Obscured observations are displayed. If they were a toggle-able layer on maps that would be great, since engaged users quickly destroy useful/comprehensible map views around their homes (e.g. Santa Clara & San Mateo Counties). Users are also perennially confused about why an observation is “in the ocean,” which I’ve had to explain dozens of times. Charlie suggested in another thread maybe just showing the box and not the randomized point? Or maybe there could be “exact location hidden” text prominently?

–User-editable ID tips tab for taxa, as brought up here.



I saw that one, and also the display in the background on one of the videos of Scott Loarie, kind of a hybrid of those, something that can cycle round on a monitor and not need interaction, but would draw the eye of passersby, and give a window into what is being seen around the area. Encouraging people to sign up and add their observations too…

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That would be really cool to have in like a visitor centre for a park, and the other places you mentioned!

Something that would need a lot more work and development but would also be really cool would be a touchscreen computer like they have in some museums, but where you could do things similar to on the Explore tab on the website (explore a map of the park, view simply formatted observations, etc.).

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Thanks all! We’ll be en route today and I’ll collate these and bring them up with the team.



There has been a huge increase in observers and observations, to the point that identification has become overwhelming in some places and taxa. I know several users who do a lot of identification during the winter to try to catch up, and a few more who only post observations from the previous summer during the winter, because they get immediate attention then rather than being buried in the flood.

On the other hand, about 60% of observations on the site are research-grade. I’m not sure if that’s less than it has been in the past; it seems reasonably high (but I bet it’s a lot lower in some taxa).

So, in addition to encouraging more observations, iNat probably needs to work to build the community of people who identify observations. The community is already growing fast (lots of new skilled naturalists joining), but some care should be taken to make certain it’s growing fast enough to keep up with the growth in observations. One way to do this would be to make it easier for users to learn to identify. There’s a great mass of information (and misinformation) hidden in comments on specific observations. It would be really, really wonderful to have a wiki-like tab on each taxon page where users could collect tips for identifying organisms in the taxon, instead of each user having to slowly build a collection of bookmarks of observations with useful comments.



maybe you saw it but there’s a request for that in the feature requests on this same forum… which you can vote for… see :slight_smile:



Nope, I had just signed up and saw tiwane’s post, so I hoped to add this request in time for it to be brought up with the team. It was done before I’d had a chance to read the other posts.

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Something to consider: (I don’t know if this is where this comment should go but because I can’t think of how to frame it as a concrete suggestion I’ll offer it here)

I began using iNat with only the app. I must’ve made an account and then not logged onto the actual website for at least several months if not an entire year. It occurs to me that since sooooo many features are available on the site and very few on the app, that folks may forget or not even realize the scope of possibility that exists especially if guides have changed or things added since an earlier visit or sign-up. I also remember being confused when people would suggest annotations etc. and while I’m occasionally dense, it took me a while to be motivated to really do a deep dive on the site to understand just how much more information can be captured.

This is just one example but I’m wondering if there could be a way to periodically remind folks primarily using the app that the website offers more and we should all go for a visit? That might help with engagement of users who want to identify too. I started doing that on unknown obs in the explore tab on the app before I delved further on the site.

Don’t have a sense of feasibility but I thought I’d mention. I realize the ship may have sailed on thoughts for staff (or whatever other mode of transport ;)



More mothing events. :slight_smile:

I would like to see some improvements to ID’ing with the app – right now, it’s a bit challenging (for me at least) to ID stuff with the mobile site/app… I’d sure love to see improvements with the current app (or perhaps a new app?) devoted to ID’ing.

As always, thanks!