Deceased observers - and a deceased symbol on their icon

So the main issue is just looking for an inoffensive icon that would indicate an “in memoriam account” when not on their profile page, right? Since on the profile page you could write out that it is an “in memoriam” account and that the user is deceased in whatever the reader’s language is set to.

On the genealogy sites they often just use a simple headstone icon to indicate a deceased person, sometimes with RIP on it. That seems kind of benign and easily understood to me, although it can look a little cartoonish. Maybe if you hover over it, just use the flyout text that states that they are deceased.

If someone was to call out the deceased with the @ or post a comment on one of their observations, maybe just have a pop-up that re-iterates that the user is deceased.


I don’t think this is necessarily universally understood as it would apply to cultural or religious traditions that make and mark graves in that way. I think all symbols that are religious in nature should be avoided. A strike-through, asterisk, greying text, single letter for whatever translation of deceased “D” etc. make more sense to me and are appropriate and respectful for a diverse international audience.


Wikipedia has an optional setting to display suspended users’ usernames as stricken through, which, like inactive users, is another status that’s helpful to know before you start engaging with someone through IDs or comments. Maybe that’s why strike through text struck me as a bit insensitive.


I agree “struckout” is decidedly unfriendly: only for users cancelled or struck off or banned.

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The longer this thread goes on, the more squeamish I feel about people announcing my death on iNaturalist, whatever the words or symbols. Guess I’ll just have to live forever.


Just to clarify, I didn’t mean the strikeout. It’s just all starting to make me feel it’s like changing someone’s profile for them, without their permission. I wonder if it might make some people want to leave instructions for their heirs to just delete their accounts?

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Perhaps options should be presented to users when they sign up for an account (and presented to all currently active users). We already make agreements for licensing of our content, and I personally would (happily) choose to divest “ownership” of all my iNat content when I died (I don’t really think of myself as “owning” my observations anyway, but perhaps I’m in a minority). Some users wouldn’t want to accept any loss of control/ownership, and they could simply opt out.

There are many private collectors of natural history specimens who have bequeathed their collections to institutions after they died with the full intent that they be accessible and useful for as long as they (the specimens) remain extant. So why not an option for a user to click a “Turn over my account and submitted content to iNaturalist administrators after death” button if they so desire? Many (hopefully most) of us are already adding observations to the database with the intent (for the most part) that they be useful data points now and for the future.

Of course, opting to divest “ownership” of one’s account/content to iNaturalist wouldn’t be a full divestiture where photographs, etc., can be used for any/all purpose (I assume original licensing decisions would stay in place), but simply an internal management divestiture where content added to the project is allowed to remain in the project and be curated by the project. In short, it would remain useful for all of the reasons that I and many others submit observations in the first place.

Leaning heavily towards the “Promote preservation of useful curated content” side of things seems appropriate, especially as observation losses would be most significant on the 50+ year-old observation side of things (i.e., in 50 years or so when statistics suggest that lots of current users will start to “leave the project”).


I like this idea. And for the deceased symbol/word, how about just making it a choice on Account Settings of a couple of acceptable words and/or symbols, along with a choice to opt-out of that?


As an aside, I don’t think Godwin’s law has been broken in this instance. From Wikipedia: “miscasting an opponent’s argument as [hyperbole] when the comparisons made by the argument are actually appropriate”. The statement by Tony is not meant to dismiss an argument, but is adding to the discussion by saying an odious regime can still make something useful!
Re: the main topic. Just stamp a word across the users profile saying ‘dead’ or deceased. All cultures have a word or words for that. It may seem a bit brutal, but this is a Nature site - the duck (or whatever) has not ‘passed on’, but is dead. Why do we tread lightly around humans, but treat non-human life in a more straightforward way ?

Because we’re humans.

But the main question here is how to display the information succinctly everywhere else someone’s username is displayed. Only a small fraction of people go to every users’ profile with whom they interact. Most interactions occur on observations and the identify page.


I think some flowers laid down at the base of a person’ icon would be tasteful and relatively universal.

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i guess it’s some sort of reverse Godwin’s law, still not helpful to the conversation at all, though. It’s totally off topic. No one is discussing whether any given religion may be odious nor should we do such here, simply that this is a global website so choosing a symbol from one religion is inappropriate here.


The dagger is not associated with any religion. What group would really object to the dagger, other than the Assassination Guild?

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I would object to the dagger. As others have alluded to, I would also be uncomfortable with someone choosing a symbol that connotes religion, violence (assassination guild?), particular death / burial rituals (including headstones and flowers) etc., when a certain letter “D” for deceased (or other languages’ equivalent) would have no negative association and could be used instead. Please don’t assume that because you have no negative associations with a particular symbol(s) that others will be equally comfortable or even comforted by such symbols.


Just for reference, this is what is being discussed, right?
Some of those absolutely look like Christian crosses to me. I don’t really care in my own case, but i absolutely think some people might be uncomfortable with that. I am just not seeing the need, either, when there are other options.

from that Wikipedia article:

While daggers are freely used in English-language texts, they are often avoided in other languages because of their similarity to the Christian cross.

This is an international website.


Ok, to be clear, I was not referring to any religion, culture or part of the world as odious. Just following Tony’s line of though that odious regimes lithe Nazis (or Stalinism) can actually produce useful things.
My main point was that “dead” is dead in any language or culture. It is a universal term. And I don’t believe we can please everyone - if I died, and knew I going to be referred to as having “passed on”, I’d be really annoyed. No matter what the language.
And that is all I am going to say on the matter - whatever the outcome is, I will accept it.


when i die i need my tombstone entered onto iNat with at least 10 of the duplicate fields tagged in as ‘alive: no’


I’m going to close this conversation as it seems to be veering off topic. Will update when we have heard from our legal counsel and have a proposed solution.


Alright, after some discussions with our legal counsel, we’ve decided that it’s too difficult for us to verify that a deceased person is actually the owner of a specific account (in our records, we don’t have much more to go on than an email address and username), and thus we won’t be supporting a public-facing way to denote that a user has specifically passed away.

Rather than deceased, we will look into implementing a way to indicate that a user has not been active on iNat in a long time, or to easily see when they were last active, a request being discussed here: