Choose your own common names

This feature request arises from the comments back and forth between @jdmore and me on this topic: I think that an additional place on each observation should be added so that an observer can substitute the common name that they actually use on their own observation if that name is different from the common name that iNat assigns automatically. As an example, currently a person can search for “Fairy Lantern” and find Calochortus albus and choose it for their observation. But then that person’s observation will display the common name “White Globe Lily” on their observation, even though “Fairy Lantern” is also on the taxon page. This can be seen as neutral, agreeable, or disagreeable to the observer. This feature request is for an additional feature that would create a display box on an observer’s observation on which the observer could type in the common name that the observer actually uses, for purposes of inclusivity, linguistic preservation, and ease of use for the observer. The display box ideally would be prominently visible in the observer’s view of their own observation, and other users who might like to search for observations that have that common name in that display box would be able to easily make a search by that common name and find it.

So it would be set by the user per observation? Or per taxon?
I.e., If someone has 100 observations of a certain species, would they have to set it 100 times, or once?

Would it appear as the preferred name only for the observer (like the current common vs scientific setting), or for visitors as well?

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Alternatively would also be nice to have full selection of language for common names. Presently the default language for names has to be one of the languages you can use for the entire site and cannot use a language that isn’t fully supported, even if the names are available

Edit: Thoughts on implementing
Could go one of two ways-

  1. how it already functions when there isn’t a common name in your default language, like for English speakers looking at Eurema mandarina and it just displays Latin name

  2. If no name in your chosen common name language, it then defaults to your default/interface language, ie. if I set my common name language to te reo Mа̄ori/Irish/Hawaiian/etc but my interface language is English because they aren’t fully supported, it then defaults to English. If no English name after that, follows the same progression as 1)


Interesting question. I can think of one reason to have it be per observation, and that is that the observer may start calling the taxon by a different common name as time goes by.

This is in addition to, not instead of, the iNat selected common names, which would remain as they are. So, in my example, there would be a box showing “Calochortus albus”-“White Globe Lily” and maybe another box (perhaps labelled “name used by observer”) below it, showing “Fairy Lantern.” So it’s not intended to be taking away any information currently added to observations, just allowing the observer to be able to deal with their observations with the common name they use, and also for the observer and others to be able to search under that common name to see how widespread the usage is.


Another example I’d like to give is this observation: I have never heard anyone in person in the Central Valley where I live refer to this bird as a “Central Valley Bicolored blackbird,” but simply as a Bicolored blackbird. So is it a common name if no one says it? Does anyone other than iNat call it that? (Both of those are rhetorical questions.) If I had the additional box to use I would put “Bicolored blackbird” in it. But, more importantly, for people whose ancestry predates mine here by many years, and who learned the name in a different language, and still use that name when speaking or writing, it would allow for use of that name, too (in addition to the one-size-fits-all common name supplied for everyone in the whole county).


We have a butterfly in New Zealand, Red Admiral, but a different species to the northern hemisphere one. Observations were always getting IDd as the northern hemisphere species because it was higher in the short list for “red admiral”, so someone changed the common names to “New Zealand Red Admiral” and “Red Admiral (northern hemisphere)”. The later got set as a regional name in NZ and the old “Red Admiral” name returned for the US one… perhaps that “iNat version” of the name was a similar situation to this?

At first I was against this idea, thinking it might overly complicate things… but the more you describe it the more I think of it as similar to an idea that was floated (but not made a feature request as far as I know) of allowing personal notes to be made against an observation. These would only be viewable by the iNat account that places them though… If you can imagine a little “post-it note” icon beside the favs icon, and hovering over it shows the first X lines of it, and clicking it brings up the edit popup for editing the notes. If someone wanted to make a note of what they call that species, they could do so in these kind of notes?? It would have the flexibility to handle many other situations as well though…

A number of people have requested (myself included) an ability to “bookmark” observations in iNat, so that we can come back to them later for instance, but iNat have said they won’t provide that functionality as it is already available via browsers… fair enough. However, using bookmarks only works part way anyway, because you have no way (apart from the “name” of the bookmark) of indicating why you have bookmarked it. For instance, I might want to note that I have looked in these 3 books, but still need to check these other two to see if it alters my ID position… or I might want to have a note of why I wanted to talk about this observation with a particular class… currently I need to keep a seperate record with the iNat numbers against the notes, and it is cumbersome!


Personally I’d cancel common names altogether, but then I’m a taxonomist, so I’m biased :-)


Probably. That seems more like administrative convenience and not a real common name, though–if common name is defined as the name people commonly use.

I am more envisioning something that isn’t hidden and can be searched by anyone, so that the data base has everyone’s input, equally displayed.


I think I set up the regional Red Admiral names, though they may have evolved since.

The point was that someone whose account is set to New Zealand or within would see Red Admiral for the NZ species and North American Red Admiral for the N. Am. species.

And someone else whose account is set to North America or within would see Red Admiral for the N. Am. species and New Zealand Red Admiral for the NZ species.

For either person, choosing the wrong species would show an odd common name, and choosing the right one would show Red Admiral. This would help mistakes be caught earlier.

The name “Red Admiral (northern hemisphere)” is malformed/disallowed. It is a common name with an annotation appanded, and such annotations are disallowed by iNat policy.


We discussed this request and have decided to not move forward with it, so I’m closing the topic.