Dealing with inactive users

#1

Some users will leave incorrect identifications and then go inactive. It doesn’t always cause problems, but it is a major annoyance. I have a few ideas for a solution to the problem, but nothing concrete and I’d like to open the topic up for discussion in hopes that we can find a good solution. I have a couple examples below:

In this example, an inactive user is blocking the better ID: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/11774
In this example, one inactive user and another potentially inactive user are blocking an ID: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/541651

The closest thing I can think of is to label an account as inactive after a certain time offline (maybe a year?) which gives the ability to downvote an ID. It’s certainly not ideal, but it might fix the problem. You might also have the option to inactivate the ID, but that runs into other problems. Everything else I can think of at the moment requires changing the identification system, would be more complicated, and has been discussed before (basically having some IDs count for more than others based on community reputation or similar).

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#2

@nathantaylor I’m moving this from Feature Requests to General as it seems like more of a discussion topic than a specific actionable request.

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#3

Sorry, I couldn’t decide whether to put it in General or Feature Request. At least it’s where it needs to be now.

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#4

No worries, Nathan!

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#5

One simple option, for most cases, is to recruit more observers that agree with the proper ID, as seems to have happened in the first observation you linked to. Where that will run into problems is in cases where the observer has disabled community ID.

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#6

Recruiting more observers to agree is useful and the best work around we have currently (I’ve done it before a few times), and I have run into the disabled community ID problem a few times too. But, I’m trying to get more at the root issue.

The reason is that I’m also thinking about this in terms of a future problem that we could run into. For example, if many years from now I and all those who agreed with me no longer use iNaturalist, the taxon is split into two distinct species, and a new name is added to the database to represent this. Following the example, let’s say all of the North American examples of the species end up falling under the new name instead of the old one (the members representing the old name could be South American or something), it will be extremely difficult to change the names to the correct taxon.

I’m just remember trying to get the North American E. esula observations changed over to E. virgata. That was difficult, but I can only imagine how difficult it would have been if all the initial observers and identifiers had become inactive (even just 25% inactivity would have caused a major stumbling block). I know this might be thinking in the really long-term, but it is an issue that is causing problems now and I think it would be useful to start discussing potential solutions.

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#7

By the way, it really isn’t that big a deal if we can’t get another Research Grade petty spurge from Oakland, CA. :slightly_smiling_face: I’m more worried about the issue itself in this case and thought it (and the other link) provided a good example.

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#8

same problem here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/20909716
The user registered ~2 weeks ago, gave this wrong ID and since then has not been online. I doubt that he/she will log in again.
Unfortunately I don’t know any users that could be recruited… it seems that there are very few user that are expert enough for this group of catfish.

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#9

In the least I think it would be really helpful to have a display near a user’s name throughout the site if they have not been active in the last… six months? or some similar time period. I like to offer ID help when i disagree with an ID for instance, but don’t want to waste time writing a paragraph on how to tell two ceanothus species apart if the user will literally never see it.

The issue with stuck IDs is harder. I don’t think we should deactivate or weaken IDs for inactive users, but it would be neat to make a filterable flag for ‘please help fix this’. Though is it any more of an issue than the many other un-reviewed ‘needs ID’ obs? I don’t know.

The rejection of community ID thing is harder. I kind of wish people could not blanket reject all community IDs, but a lot of reliable power users do that for whatever reason and would probably get pissed if we removed that feature. Maybe only allow it for people who have made X number of IDs or observations, or else have it deactivate after a year or something if they aren’t active? I don’t know You can vote those observations off of range maps with enough votes, but it’s a pain and they never really go away.

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#10

Don’t know if you consider any of them experts, but I do see a few other users with multiple IDs on the Hypostomus ID leaderboard at lower right on that observation page. You could try recruiting some of them to the cause…

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#11

I’m curious–how does it work to vote opt-outs off of range maps with enough votes?

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#12

I think the idea of a probationary period of say 3 or 6 months would eliminate 90% of this problem. Users are typically on for a few weeks, or in it for the long haul… and sure, there are always exceptions!

If the IDs and agreements made within the first 3 or 6 months didn’t count toward CID, or if a “probationary” flag were applied automatically during that period (might be easier to implement that way), then there is nothing to overcome! Regular users seeing a good ID (or from someone they know is reputable but new) could confirm their ID to make it count. Also, the idea that experts could have their probationary status cancelled from the outset by staff and/or curators, would ensure it doesn’t impact new expertise coming on board.

Where Identifiers are not responding to questions etc, it could also be possible for curators to step in and flag individual IDs as “probationary” until such time as the identifier does come back online to respond/partake in the dialogue. Likewise, curators or staff could “release” an individual ID from that status if they believed it to be made in good faith

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#13

Yeah, some good thoughts, but I would still be concerned about discouraging new and earnest ID-ers before a curator could intervene.

Maybe if it were more innocuous: have probationary IDs look and act like any other IDs, unless and until one becomes an obstacle to community agreement. Then just mark it “maverick” and let the community ID continue to take its course. The only difference would be, during the probationary period, maverick starts when you are the odd one out of three, instead of the odd one out of four.

Maybe this is what you already had in mind?

This wouldn’t help in odd cases like my own, where I signed up and was largely dormant for a year or two before becoming more regularly active.

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#14

Yes, the IDs appear just like others, or maybe have a slight greyed out appearance. If a user is savvy enough to notice that slight difference, or even that their ID hasn’t weighted in on the CID, then they are likely to be asking questions about why it is so with other users. They would quickly be identified as candidates for waiving/cancelling the probationary period. It could be as simple as having a coloured ring around their user profile pic to denote it…

Remember, if you invite or encourage an expert to join, you would likely be releasing their status right from the outset anyway. If they encounter the site by other means, then they are likely curious enough to stick around for long enough to get the status released. If they were “put off by that”, then they would no doubt find something else to annoy them sufficiently to leave the site! And to be honest, an expert would quickly realise or conclude that any “joe public” could “break the system” with incorrect IDs, so I think that is more likely a deal breaker for them than a door-check type of probationary period that can be waved.

And again, being inactive for a year before becoming active, is kind of in that 10% that isn’t the 90% :)

The idea could be extended to factoring in taxa… some taxa are easy to identify from photos, and some are not. Imagine if curators could set a taxa as being “noob friendly” and so ANY ID for that taxa would not be flagged as probationary. The new user could still be wrong, but it would happen rarely enough so as not to be a burden on the rest of the identifiers. Anyone identifying a dog, for instance, would have their ID count immediately regardless of probationary status.

I guess what I am saying is that YES, inactive users are where the majority of the flaws in the system are manifesting. Having a means to limit that, especially at times such as CNC, is desperately needed.

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#15

They are both RG what is the issue

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#16

Putting some incentive in to staying on and staying active
Or a level system to encourage use,
Unfortunately there are always going to be people out here that may only log in once or stay active for a month or two and move on
I wish this getting off topic there could be a way to give people a way
To donate there observations if something was to happen to them

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#17

They are now, but if you look at the ID chain, it wasn’t when the discussion started.

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#18

As it stands, they kind of have donated them!

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#19

I think that’s actually a curation issue. If A. bis gets split into A. bis and A. tris, the correct thing to do, AIUI, is to create a new A. bis taxon representing the more restricted circumscription and do a taxon split that inactivates the old A. bis and splits into the new A. bis and A. tris. If the latter two taxa are atlased, all the old A. bis IDs that fall into only one range get automagically converted to the in-range taxon.

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#20

This is true. It wouldn’t work if the two species are sympatric, but that would be really useful in some cases.

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