Controlling thread of constant personal comments

I’ve tried my best to control the comments spiralling out of control on this observation https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/32508774#activity_comment_3505661

but the users are persisting. Any help would be appreciated.

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I would suggest that no one here add any further comments to that observation. Instead, @thebeachcomber email help@inaturalist.org so that @tiwane or other staff can take a look and maybe some action.

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Cheers Jim, will do so now

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And thanks Thomas for doing your best to moderate things there.

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Wow, I’m so sorry that happened to such a cool observation. What a great find! I hid the egregious comments on the observation and suspended the offending parties, as insults are grounds for immediate suspension on iNaturalist (https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/community+guidelines). At least one of the users had been warned previously as well.

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Unusual snake records seem to trigger this sort of thing, for some reason. I recall some other iNat records with similar inappropriate back-and-forth involving the same players. Perhaps a carryover from the less-regulated herpetological discussion groups elsewhere on the web.

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That would be my guess too. I don’t think it’s acceptable on iNat and I had warned some of these users before after past transgressions.

Dear I Naturalist Moderators, Curators and Staff,

My Name is Brian Hinds and I am one of the suspended users.

I respect your decision to suspend my account.

This only leaves the matter of my 2,110 observations on your database. I need to have these observations removed or all of the locations changed to private, all projects removed, except for Dr Pauly’s Rascal project and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Sensitive species project, if the records are to remain, that is the only access to those records that may remain.

Now for my Defense in front of the panel.

I take full responsibility for my replies to the insults thrown at me, but when the curator seemed to have sided with the person Bobby Fingers who throw the first insult, and two of Bobby’s friends piled on, I was left no choice but to share how I feel about the uncalled for lynch job and trying to ruin my credibility. I, by admission, reacted strongly.

Bobby Fingers has been a crusade to insult me over and over again and tries to discredit me, and 6 months ago I blocked him on INat (You can look it up), (I really wanted the dude to leave me alone) thinking I wouldn’t have to see his posts and he wouldn’t have to see mine, but it appears that function doesn’t work properly.

Our first debate started on a Kingsnake record from SE Arizona (This area is under great debate taxonomy wise) when he insisted one of my records be labeled with what he thinks the snake is. But I do my best to Follow Inat’s naming, based upon Inat’s naming of accepted name changes, as my only concern was reaching research grade for conservation reasons, and to avoid taxonomic questions or debate by doing so. There is over a 100 kingsnake observations that should be research grade in Arizona, but are not and they are instead are labeled down to the kingsnake family level, which makes it hard for researchers to pull from. This is mainly because of Bobby and his following, have a rebellion towards the last name change. Now, I don’t understand why Inat has not asked users that we follow I Nat’s naming in these circumstances, but it is what it is. I care more about the animals and research than what we call them.

Some food for thought, respected curators of Inat, when our database (www.naherp.com) has disputes of this nature, we just remove all the offending posts and this does the trick 95% of the time, and politely remind the first offender that insulting others is not cool. In extreme circumstances we shut down comments to the record. This puts it away. We found out a long time ago that if you allow members to carry on it gets off track. If the offending comment on this thread would have been removed, and my response to that comment removed that would have been the end of it. I do see that ultimately they were deleted (which is good), but not sure why moderators and curators don’t have that power? If MrBeachcommer, (Sorry I don’t know your name sir), had that power he could have just deleted the comments, and stopped this before it got out of hand, and INat loses valuable contributions and contributors. In our 13 year experience this works better than asking users to stop posting and suspending valuable contributors.

For the record, I don’t ever recall being being told I was going to be suspended formally as Mr.tiwine (Sorry sir don’t know your name either) has implied. My only bad interaction has been with Mr Fingers and I tried to block him. I am responsible for my replies to him, but at some point I feel I have a right to defend myself from the online bullying I have received from Mr Fingers and his friends, since Inat can not do that for me. But I also accept the fact most here and the Inat board consider this kind of response improper, and accept my punishment. Hopefully, the moderators here will accept my apology for not being able to suffer that kind of bullying over and over again, without replying in kind (or in my case a bit rough). Every person has a responsible right to defend themselves from personal insults when they are ongoing and unprovoked.

Thank you for your time on this matter.
Yours Truly
Brian Hinds

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Just for the record, I won’t comment on the other stuff, is that I believe the block function only impacts your own observations. From the notes on it

Blocking someone prevents them from messaging you, commenting on your observations, identifying your observations, and otherwise interacting with you on iNaturalist.org. It also removes their observations from your search results and removes your observations from their search results. However, it does not make you invisible to them. They can still find your observations and view your profile, they just can’t interact with you.

I don’t believe it was designed to hide their content from you across the entire site.

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Holy smokes. I’ve never seen anything like this (and I don’t know the deleted comments). People, none of us is perfect. Perhaps this is just moth folks, but I’ve had a number of long conversations about an identification without anyone getting abusive or personally nasty (or nasty at all). This is a site for information sharing towards a common purpose - an identification. I have no suggestions on how to curtail this, but it really bothers me. In the words (fictional) of the fractious Quebec politician, Renee Levesque, “Ok, Everybody take a Valium”.

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I think the preferred behaviour, based on a few posts I’ve seen, is to hide rather than delete: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/hiding-comments-functionality-is-now-live/4783

But I don’t know; I’m not a curator, and on the exceedingly rare instances when another user has insulted me in an iNat comment, I ignore it.

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This whole thing is ridiculous and petty. Not much more to say. But the person who raised hairs first on this observation hopefully has the interest in apologizing, regardless of who wronged who first, and regardless of whatever past turmoil has occurred between the two parties. This is not about “admitting defeat” to the other person, but for turning this discussion over on a new user’s observation. Really not fair for a new user to have to see.

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As noted above, sending a message to email help@inaturalist.org is the best thing to do right away rather than responding to any inappropriate comment. A response in the heat of the moment might just get you suspended along with the perpetrator (a Pyrrhic victory).

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Hi Brian,

Thank you for the kind and thoughtful response. I’m sorry about your past interactions with bobbyfingers, and I blame myself for letting his comments slide by for too long (I’ve contacted him about them in the past). If you want to discuss how to move forward, please email help@inaturalist.org

I sent messages to those involved, you should have received an email notification for it. Perhaps it went into your spam folder? I just tested out sending a message to a suspended test account and the message did generate an email notification, so I don’t think that’s an issue.

I understand the desire to respond, I think we’ve all been there, but I think it’s also important to remember that iNaturalist is not an in-person, real time space where an immediate response is required or even prudent. We all have time to compose ourselves and write a civil reply that abides by the Community Guidelines. Or even better, flag the comment and email help@inaturalist.org and staff/curators can intervene by hiding the comment and suspending and reaching out to the other user. Also, flags help us keep a record of a user’s behavior - if they’re behaving this way with you, it’s likely they’re doing the same thing to others. iNat’s a community and you can bring in others for assistance.

To be clear, only staff have the power to delete another user’s content. Curators can hide certain content, however, including comments.

We definitely want knowledgeable contributors, but I don’t think it should be at the expense of civility and respect. There are hundreds or thousands of experts on iNaturalist who are able make valuable contributions to the community while still being respectful. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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Hi Tony, @tiwane
Thank you for the reply, very much appreciated.

Before I address all the points in your thoughtful response, I have to work on the email issue I seem to be having, from I Nat. I have not received any emails from I Nat nor from yourself. Maybe it’s an old email in my account, or maybe something else is wrong? My Email address is fundad@kingsnake.org, can you send it there so I can review it?

Thank You
Brian

I am reading the thread and it is looking like it is going in a helpful direction.

I want to add that in 13 years of interacting with Brian on at least three internet databases, I have never seen him have an insulting interaction with another contributor. As Brian pointed out, on the main herpetological database which we both contribute to, such personal comments are simply not allowed, they are deleted immediately.

On the other hand, I have heard secondhand at least three people complaining about the other party’s behavior in the past. Brian has taken responsibility for his inappropriate response, but it should be taken into account that this is not a response to a single comment, but a built up response to someone who has been engaging in unhelpful behavior repeatedly. In this situation, when that party built on the past harassment by getting personal against Brian once again, his comments not only stood but a moderator made a statement that unfortunately gave the appearance of siding with that party, which was followed by several of that party’s friends piling on the personal responses and helped contribute to the direction the issue went.

None of us are robots. Is self-defense necessary on an internet forum? Not really… But is it understandable? Especially in this instance I think it is.

Brian is a highly respected contributor to the scientific and conservation communities, if necessary you could get letters of commendation from the USFWS, CDFG, BLM, and UC communities (among others) for all the work he has done in California to promote citizen science and wildlife conservation. He has contributed immensely to several iNaturalist projects and is one of the primary data contributors for several important species. I think it would be a shame not to reinstate him.

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Is this referring to me? (genuine question) If so, I apologise if it seemed that way, but I believe I took a neutral position.

My comments were all directed towards all parties involved:

“Also, regardless of your attitudes towards other users, please refrain from making personal comments :)”
“Regardless, there is no need for anyone to make personal comments of any kind on iNaturalist.”
“Can all users please stop posting any more comments on this thread.”

If they were construed as otherwise then I’ll make sure I phrase them better next time.

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I’m sure you didn’t intend to take sides, but in context it did appear that way.

After Brian posted in the thread, the other poster in question (who as we’ve mentioned has a history of derogatory or condescending statements not just towards Brian but also towards other ID’s) came in and criticized the way Brian had chosen to tag the record in an insulting way. Brian’s very first comment had recognized that the snake was a hybrid and he clearly knew that when he tagged the record, but wasn’t aware of some other possible ways in which to tag it. After that poster insulted Brian, Brian defended himself, and you replied to Brian, not the poster who originally insulted him, with this:

“If I had chosen Colubrid as the ID it would have remained labeled as a kingsnake”

This is untrue. If you enter a coarser ID you will be prompted with “Is the evidence provided enough to confirm this is species X?”. You can choose to explicitly disagree with the species ID, which would raise the ID to colubridae in this case.

Also, regardless of your attitudes towards other users, please refrain from making personal comments :)

It was a reply to Brian, not a reply to all users, and it appeared to ignore the insults in the original comment. Again, perhaps you intended your statement to apply to everyone, but it did look like you were saying to Brian “He’s right, you’re wrong, and you need to be nicer” without saying anything to the guy who started it at all.

The first part regarding the mechanics of IDing certainly was, but the second part was directed to all parties. In hindsight that was obviously not clear and I’ll make sure to specifically tag people.

Of course you are free to interpret what I said in any way, but I have to disagree with you here. Saying ‘please refrain from making personal comments’ in no way means ''he’s right, you’re wrong". It means exactly what I said; do not make personal or insulting comments, because under iNat’s rules, they’re not allowed. To add to that, even if fundad had been insulted 1000 times, retaliating also puts him in the wrong, neither him nor any user ‘earns’ the right to respond with insults of their own regardless of the situation.

Also, the only reason I attempted to moderate the thread was because fundad’s comment was flagged. Bobbyfingers’ comment was not originally flagged by anyone as being inappropriate, something fundad or any other user could have done. Obviously this does not mean he wasn’t in the wrong, but it was fundad’s comment that was originally flagged.

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To expand on what I said, I strongly disagree with fundad’s argument that he has a right to defend himself. Yes, from what I can glean his situation was immensely frustrating due to an apparent ‘bloc’ set against him, but two wrongs don’t make a right. Everyone involved is an adult, some maturity goes a long way. If fundad had kept his cool and flagged the comments against him, those users would have been suspended (as they are now), and he would not have.

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