Blocked by a user inexplicably

Apologies if this is in the wrong place or inappropriate in nature. I go through a lot of observations, especially in my locality and home state. Often, as I’m sure other serial identifiers will find, taxa are wildly misidentified. New Zealand endemics or plants (I focus on plants) not found in the area are misidentified and the computer vision becomes trained to offer that suggestion. It’s a compounding problem and going through IDs is not only the point of iNaturalist, but trains the computer vision and fixes range maps etc.

Recently, a user with a lot of glaring misidentifications seemingly became upset that I changed their identifications, deleted those observations, and then re-loaded with the wrong IDs. I thought this was strange. But, I identified again. They’ve now deleted once again and have blocked me, as I found out by a banner on top of the page of their observations. Because I was using the site as intended??

This is not exactly a helpful feature, don’t you think? To cut me or anyone off from participating because they can’t accept the concept of community taxon. It also hurts a bit and seems petty. Mostly I’m just concerned about the spillover effect of fake oleanders proliferating the computer vision suggestions and range maps.

Does anyone have any similar stories? Or advice?

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It sucks that someone blocked you for what felt like a petty or unfair reason. But it is essential to the safety and comfort of everyone that a feature like blocking be easy and accessible without needing explanation or justification. Unfortunately that sometimes means being blocked unfairly without being able to do anything about it. The alternative would be people sometimes being harassed or stalked without being able to do anything about it - a much worse possibility.

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I don’t have good advice, but checking the block settings, it says " You can only block three people. We think this is a reasonable number that accommodates the people who need blocking while preventing abuse of blocking. If you feel you need to block more people, please contact us."

So they can only block three people, so hopefully someone else will be able to correct their really incorrect IDs (assuming it is a taxa that has more than one person identifying).

Though also, reading this section, it sounds like they might have used the block feature incorrectly unless you’ve already had long discussions with them.

"Blocking is for situations where you just can’t get along with someone and they won’t leave you alone, despite your best efforts to settle disputes in a civilized manner. It is not a way to hide from people, to prevent identifications from people whose opinions you don’t trust, or to opt out of the community ID (there’s another setting for that). Thus, blocking works both ways: if you block someone, they can’t interact with you, but you also can’t interact with them. If you misuse it to prevent someone from identifying your observations, you also prevent yourself from identifying their observations. "

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Yes, this doesn’t seem like the intended use of blocking.

It seems like they want to opt out of community ID really, which let’s them keep their preferred ID (though that’s annoying for the community when the user has created an incorrect ID) but also would prevent the observation from being used in the AI training or going to GBIF (assuming the community IDs it correctly). Not sure what to do at this point though, as there’s may be no way to get them to do that…It is a bad situation!

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iNat clearly says why you can block someone and says you shouldn’t block anyone for reasons described in this post.
OP, please, write to staff, they will help you to deal with it, and will check those obs.

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I can only second melodi_96: you should, you even must contact the staff because this is an example of abuse of the blocking function, bad example for others and bad impact on AI system, which has the problems of its own even without this kind of abuse.

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One comment I will add, you don’t mention if it happened, if a user contacts you or requests that you do not interact with their observations, unfortunately even if they are incorrectly identified etc, I believe you are supposed to honour their request.

Of course if they do so, there is nothing stopping you from asking someone else on the site to review their records, eventually they will run out of people they can block…

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They did not explicitly say to leave them alone. We have hardly interacted at all. There’s only one that may be marginal. There was one observation I put as either “dicots” or “plants” because it was that but not what they put, and they said “If you don’t have an id better maybe you should leave this observation to others”.

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When you change their ID, do you explain why it’s not what they suggested? If not, they might have decided, if you just changed ALL their IDs without explanation, and more than once, that you’re just being mean.

Here’s what I wrote for an incorrect ID that i couldn’t correct past Dicots:

“Green Mistletoe is a parasite of hardwood trees in Australia and nearby islands. It isn’t found in North America. The computer vision suggestions can be very good for a lot of species, but not so good on others… This seems to be one of those it struggles with. It’s a good idea to keep in mind that the suggestions can sometimes be way off, so check the images and maps. This is a common mistake. I occasionally go thru observations of Green Mistletoe to re-identify those from North America.

This looks like a regular tree with lots of green lichen on the branches. I’ve identified this observation at a high level so people with more experienced with plant species in that location might see it.

I don’t see any of the North American mistletoe species in the photo, but if there were, they are in different genera than Ileostylus.“

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If they actually responded to an id “leave it to others” they’re just being mean themselves.

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I would say this: in general, as soon as something odd starts to happen in your interactions with another iNat user, it is a good idea to write them a friendly message, introducing yourself and explaining what you were doing and why. This is in order for you to have a chance to find out what is going on.

Always assume good faith at the beginning, as there may be some kind of misunderstanding that can be cleared up before things get fraught.

Try not to let it get so far that “lines are drawn in the sand”.

But even then it may be possible to resolve the situation positively.

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Sometimes people get snippy like that. :frowning_face: I know this isn’t an option now that they’ve blocked you and deleted those observations, but when people leave me a rude comment about a coarse ID, I wait until I’m calm and then post an explanation (like @jbecky’s example)

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Sometimes I don’t explain, I will admit. But I am always happy to explain and talk about why I think it’s something or another. Or if someone corrects my identifications, I’ll usually ask why because it’s fascinating and I’ve learned a lot.

For them, especially after the comment about leaving the IDs to others, I included links (like to BONAP, which shows range maps) and a rationale for my IDs.

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If you believe this person is blocking you improperly, you can email us at help@inaturalist.org and we can take a look.

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Having someone disagree with a previous ID suggestion (whether one made by me or by anyone else) on one of my observations doesn’t make me mad. But when someone doesn’t explain why they’ve disagreed, it is frustrating. I personally think it’s good work discipline to provide some reason why. And I think the potential for education is great - possibly preventing future mistakes.

I’m glad you provide an explanation when asked. I will sometimes ask for further info from people (for various reasons) and I do get responses. But not at a high percentage. It’s my belief that some of our high volume identifiers don’t really bother to check updates and look for new comments on an observation for which they’ve suggested an ID.

So, I don’t bother to even question for most of them. I just let it go.

In general, I would value fewer identifications from people and more ‘teaching/explaning’ (when there is a disagreement, esp). I wonder if we place such an emphasis on how many identifications we are doing that we devalue taking a few minutes to explain ourselves and communicate - even if it means fewer clicks on that suggest/agree/disagree button.

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It is a pick your battles situation.
‘leave it to others’ sounds as if there is no point in attempting to explain, to someone who has zero interest.

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That’s definitely an issue as no user should be refusing correction unless they can defend their ID’s. I think a site admin would need to get involved and inform them how the site works and the good intentions of community ID. I would think people using this site would like to know what they are seeing (and not what they WANT to see) and would want their data to be useful to researchers. Blocking users they don’t even know (especially ones who may be more knowledgeable) is rude. They should at the very least PM the user they have an issue with and try and figure out why they are so attached to their wrong ID’s. I mean no one likes to get ID’s wrong, but I think we should all admit that no one is perfect no matter what group we are “experts” in!

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I am totally in agreement with @susanhewitt regarding personal messaging. I have done this (read: had to do this) many times after my own curt or otherwise unexpected identifications have confounded an observer or even ruffled feathers!

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I think there is a point where if you have a Scarlet Tanager that they call a Baltimore Oriole, and they constantly block people (including expert birders) who change it to Scarlet Tanager, that they are being intentionally obtuse and would need to be removed from the site if they continue to basically troll other users. I think they would have to justify their ID to continue to resist a avalanche of contrary ID’'s, especially if they are grievous misidentifications! It would be difficult to interact with a user if they ignored PM’s, but why are they on the site if they don’t care what they are seeing?

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The main problem I have (as more of a identifier than an observer) is that the computer AI ID program is pretty bad at birds (which I specialize in) when they’re not facing directly towards the camera and in bad lighting. Due to the fact that there are tons of mis-IDed birds and most observers use phone pictures (not saying that there’s anything wrong with it, just that the computer has a hard time with them), I can’t leave a comment for every one of them. However, if it’s a simple thing, like the bird’s out of range (the computer AI doesn’t take that into account), I usually leave a comment, and if they ask for an explanation later, then I’ll explain why it’s X versus Y.

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