Create a way to publicly acknowledge excellent user behavior, possibly with "Observer of the Week" or similar

Edit 3: very low priority suggestion : add some way to publicly acknowledge the wonderful behavior, helpfulness, patience and general excellent conduct of users. The best idea from this exchange, which I believe will have the most buy-in is to have an observer of the week type of acknowledgment (precise method of acquiring nominees and other logistics can be discussed if folks like this idea at all). There would be an opt-out, even if that’s simply being asked by the curator in charge of this idea if the person is interested or a way to indicate, ahead of time, that generally they are not interested in being nominated, to respect the different privacy needs of users (see edit 2).

the rest of this earlier version is being left in place, for context, but please respond/ vote mainly on the above language, thanks. Sorry for any confusion as my views as have progressed with the input of other users.

very low priority suggestion : add some way to acknowledge the wonderful behavior, helpfulness, patience and general excellent conduct of users. Maybe an additional leaderboard function that allows users to nominate other users and then based on how many “votes” that user ends up getting some recognition for their contributions that may not otherwise be captured in pure numerical tallies of output. The other benefit to this, other than just honoring the really wonderful community members here, would be to incentivize good behavior. This may seem silly to many of you (if so please be nice in your comments!) but I keep wishing I could publicly acknowledge the folks that have provided me with a free education and lovely encouragement as I progress, in addition to just adding IDs.

Positive reinforcement can go a long way and tends to have an exponential growth effect.

Edit: I’m leaving this as it is for background purposes (it will be hard to follow discussion without original post) but I am encouraging readers to ignore the specific idea of leaderboards other than as part of the context of the post in favor of the broader request to acknowledge outstanding behavior and contributions

Edit 2: users should be able to opt in or out of recognition. Some people are very private and may not want any attention for their excellent behavior…even though I may want to hand out a medal that may be the last thing they want…this should be respected.

This seems like it could be a part of the broader reputation system that is often discussed here (i am surprised no one has put it in feature request yet)

1 Like

Yes. that seems like a good place for it, though I’m not sure I understand the details proposed in that but I am open to someone incorporating the idea elsewhere…in which case I can delete this maybe?

I’d wait unless someone else proposes it. It was a huge angry mess in the Google Groups forum so i don’t want to reignite it, and will let someone else do it.

1 Like

I’m not against this idea, exactly, but I am very cautious in general about formalized rewards and reputation systems, because in a large enough community someone always starts optimizing for a high score at the expense of less-easily measured goals. People are especially prone to this when having a high score or reputation grants privileges or powers, either explicitly (e.g. the software upgrades your status when you reach a certain score) or implicitly (e.g. users treat people high on a leaderboard as having more authority, expertise, or status).

For example, on iNaturalist there are already leaderboards for the people who have identified the most observations within each taxon. There are no explicit powers associated with being at the top of a leaderboard, but some users will request identification help from the top few in a taxon when they want something identified, regardless of their area of expertise. Example. (Observation from South America, user spams global top identifiers, most of whom know little about South American species.) One way to game the system and reach the top of some leaderboards might be to confirm a lot of research-grade observations. An accidental (and literal) gaming of the system happened with the QuestaGame account, putting it at the top of many leaderboards. Some users complained about this, because they lost their top spots on some leaderboards. Even though leaderboards don’t mean anything. (Or, nothing important, at least. Top identifiers are often just top identifiers, and nothing more.)

Exponential growth can also destroy a community. Steady linear growth is the way to go, most of the time, with enough time for new users to learn good behaviour from the community instead of bad behaviour from each-other.

Despite all that, this is a good suggestion. I would just be very, very careful about how it’s implemented. One possibility: I’ve seen a system where in addition to flagging things for curation, content could be flagged for curators attention for being of exceptionally high quality. The curators then put out a semi-regular summary of high-quality contributions from the past week or month. That system worked well because the curators were hard to deceive, and were willing to adjust their criteria about what counted as high-quality in response to community feedback and attempts to game the system, and because the community got to see regular examples of high-quality contributions, which let them see ways to improve their own contributions.

Something a little like this is already going on with Tony Iwane’s Observation of the Week blog posts. In addition to highlighting the observation he also introduces us to the observer. Maybe the intent of this feature request is to have something like a Contributor of the Week, where the focus isn’t just on high-quality observers, but also other types of high-quality contributors (identifiers, curators, researchers, etc.)? I would vote for that.


Thanks Jeremy, for taking the time to write a thoughtful substantive response here. Here are some of my thoughts in response:

I’m solely referring to good behavior cultivating further good behavior not increasing users or site activity, just “oh that was nice for that person to explain that to me…I didn’t realize that was a part of this site’s activity, I think I’ll go ahead and be helpful and friendly to the next user.”

That’s essentially, exactly what I’m requesting (although I probably didn’t state it the best possible way). I used “leaderboard” because I don’t have the vocabulary to suggest some other concrete thing in its place but I am more inclined to be in favor of what you are suggesting here in light of your other concerns. Gaming the leaderboard system would be precisely the opposite of the behavior that I would wish to see celebrated and encouraged by the community. I could care less about that stuff for the most part but a way to capture and honor excellent contributions that go above and beyond in an observer of the week/month whatever would be really lovely. The only concerns/ considerations I see there would just be time limitations of the author of such posts, limitations on the numbers of people who could be recognized in a timely fashion and then a need for a way to populate a vote or other mechanism for users to nominate other users…

further suggestions would include other fixes to prevent an abuse of said system. Perhaps users can only be nominated after spending a certain number of days, making a certain number of “up-voted” comments/IDs, spending a certain amount of minimum time using the site etc.

I tell people personally when they do something especially kind or helpful but I do always wish I could say, “hey everybody, this person is awesome and we need more of this behavior! Yea! for them, keep it up!”

If you can help me reword my initial post better (don’t understand exactly what happens with modified feature requests) I’m most amenable.

1 Like

Yes!!! I like this. I’m decidedly not tech-savvy so my ideas are not particularly related to real-world knowledge of feasibility and I don’t have much similar experience to draw from. :+1:


For the title, maybe just remove the reference to leaderboards:
“Have a way to offer acknowledgement of excellent user behaviour”

Edit: or even shorter “Create a way to acknowledge excellent user behaviour”


The easiest way to acknowledge someone is with comments. Kind words can be powerful. Comments draw other comments “I liked that too” and form a measurable way to find such useful content (from memory you can search on number of comments).

When you notice and remember good behaviour or useful content, subconsciously you will build up a trust and respect for those people. I know a number of identifiers, for instance, that I am very confident in the IDs they make, and I developed trust enough to confirm their IDs despite not having the knowledge or literature to do so. In a similar way, there are “administrative” curators that I would assist with anything they ask for by way of tagged requests eg help on getting something flagged as captive/cultivated.

Personally I don’t like leaderboards, for many of the reasons specified, but I do like metrics as a way of self improvement or for gauging the experience of a person before I embark on a lengthy description of how to accomplish a task. For instance, the ratio of observations to identifications can tell you whether they are “data gatherers” or “data improvers”. The former will be able to tell you where to see something, whereas the later will be more likely able to direct you to resources and literature.


I agree. I’m already doing precisely that though and it doesn’t allow for a larger group to acknowledge and learn from someone’s good behavior. I’d have to stumble upon the comments/users you like (which is unlikely because of geography and different taxonomy interests). What I’m discussing is less about particular, whether personally or generally, usable/useful commentary (that’s covered in a different thread here, though I can’t remember its name) and more behavioral/ general conduct. When a very encouraging user (I won’t name him) says, “You got it!” “yep!” and has a 100% percent reply rate to my annoying litany of questions and does it with good-nature…I think if the person is comfortable being recognized he should be celebrated and held up as an example of how to treat people.

Yep, I’m in agreement now too.

this is useful but for my proposal not really related to my goals (although I may be verbose, I’m not always clear!)


Maybe an annual “prizegiving”, where a number of awards are voted on by participants in the form of nominations, and then the top 4 in each category go through to be voted on by everyone… Oscars iNat style?

i think the idea of occasional ‘identifier of the week/month’ or ‘curator of the month’ type things could be really nice.I also like when the observation of the week highlights a user too. There are so many of us here for so many different reasons and some of the stories are really interesting.

Some other metric like number of days logged on or something like that could also have value maybe


Please see my topic and initial post edits…I have tried to incorporate all the better-worded suggestions here.


Definitely would want to do more highlighting of great iNat usage and I love writing Observation of the Week blog posts but they’re a bit time consuming. Would love to show some love to identifiers as well.

I try to do this as much as possible, but sometimes a) users are busy and don’t have time to respond with much b) there is a language barrier, c) some users don’t want to talk much about themselves, all of which are fine although I’d like to do more in the way of dealing with (b).


Perhaps this could be a volunteer curatorial role? Finding and writing up the posts then having them reviewed by you before publishing? That way a variety of international curators could help with language-specific needs and reduce the overall time you need to spend. I don’t know about the feasibility, may end up being the same work for you. Just a thought.

Alternatively, what about some kind of way to add positive comments in a section of the profile area of other users? “Thanks, so and so for helping me learn…” “always helpful and really patient!” Instead of in the comments of observations where they may be lost, forgotten or never seen by the intended recipient?


That is an amazing idea, Mira, I think it’s something I’ll try out!


If it worked like Flickr testimonials, where it is submitted to the recipient (with notification) for their approval first, before becoming a visible part of the profile, and is then un-editable after that, I think that could work too.


Haven’t heard of those. Are they still around?

Flickr is still going strong (despite exaggerated rumors of their demise), and Testimonials are still a thing. They are at the bottom of the public profile pages. Here’s one given to me and one I wrote for someone else (scroll to bottom of each):


Thanks Jim! I like this idea!

EDIT: I should say I’ve used Flickr for many years (and still do, now that I’ve left Instagram) but never really engaged much in the social aspects of it. I should do that.