Broadening Accessibility

I just listened to the fascinating Data Skeptic interview with Scott Laurie, and I feel like I “get” things that seemed meaningless to me before.

When I used to see “New Computer Vision Model with 1656 new taxa” announced on the blog, my reaction was, “huh?”

Now I understand that Inaturalist is examining data accumulated by users and checking it against human experts in order to help the AI model identify more species more accurately. And it’s updating the whole system once a month! Which is amazing.

Now I feel like I get it, I’m excited about it, and I’m eager to see what the next update will hold.

I wonder if there is a more effective way of communicating INaturalist’s exciting achievements and growth.

There is a somewhat clunky, technically demanding, down-in-the weeds quality to the app itself, to many of the website’s features, and to the way the organization talks about its work that may put off many potential users.

I am constantly proselytizing about how amazing Inaturalist is, but I’ve made surprisingly few converts. (Surprising to me, anyway)

INaturalist is rightly proud of its scientific nature, non-commercial orientation, and all-around nerdiness.

But to reach kids, non-scientists, the less-formally educated, the less-wealthy across the globe, I think it would be great if the organization invested more heavily in communications, and in streamlining the app experience.


City Nature Challenge and Great Southern Bioblitz reach new people each year. Also location based projects (if nudged by an iNatter)
People first need to be interested in - What IS That nature, then iNat clicks for them.


Most people I know are pretty tired of constantly having to download new apps, making new accounts to sign into random websites that they’ll maybe use once, general disillusionment with social media, etc. So I understand the aversion to signing up and using this unfamiliar app every time you see a plant or bug. I have all the same frustrations, I just think iNaturalist is easily great enough (once you know how to use it) to make up for all those minor annoyances.

Although apparently some people just don’t have the same unending curiosity to know the name of every plant and bug they see. That part I don’t get…


@raphael1c, I work in development at iNat and I appreciate your sharing your comments on how it can be hard to explain the importance of iNat … and how Scott’s interview did a good job of braiding all of the strands together.

Staff are having many internal conversations around this and please know that we’re working on it … there’s definitely opportunity here!


Than you so much Michelle! It sounds like you got my drift exactly: not criticism or whining, but wanting everyone to share my enthusiasm for INaturalist. My pipe dream is for someone to give it a $1 billion gift that gets ploughed into infrastructure that can manage growth, and engineering to make the app maximally easy to use. Thanks so much for all you do! I just figured out how to ID other people’s observations and have found it almost as relaxing, interesting, and uplifting as I do to make observations myself.


Oh, yes!

Usual routine when looking for information online:

  1. Enter search terms
  2. Scroll past the results trying to sell me something related to my search results
  3. Click through to a website
  4. Tell the website which cookies it may enable
  5. “X” out of the popup that appears when I go to the scroll bar, asking me if I want to sign up for notifications. (Alternatively, if using my InPrivate window, do the same thing to the popup requesting me to turn off my ad blocker.)
  6. Try to read an article where the ads take up as much screen space as the content.

It’s enough to make me long for the 90’s version of the internet. No wonder I spend less and less time on every online platform except iNaturalist and the Forums.

Maybe you can counteract that feeling by letting them know about the contrast I just described.


Hi Michelle- A small suggestion with a bit of self-promotion. I actually wrote a short book about getting grant money in the social sciences and humanities that could have some useful ideas about persuading grant-makers and donors to fund your work. I’m sure there are differences between the sort of modestly sized, highly prestigious grants that individual researchers compete for and the big-time institutional fund-raising you do. But as a development professional, you may find it interesting. And I’d feel good if I play even a small role in helping INaturalist secure the $ billions it deserves. See: (moderator removed tracking info from link)


Will check it out - thanks!

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