first of all congratulations for the idea and implementation of inaturalist.
I would like to point to a very frequent problem which should be avoided. There are nearly all vascular plant reports shown as “organism is wild”, but many of them show plants in house gardens, pots, and botanical gardens. This way we get a totally wrong chorological map of the species.
This is, because the users dont have to activate the “organism is wild” field actively, but this is given by the the system automatically. For avoiding false information en masse users should be asked actively for that point. I think this is technically not complicated, but would improve the data reliability much. best regards: Tamas
Most of the plants and other organisms that are posted here are wild, so having them marked wild automatically is good.
We can mark them not wild when we find not-wild observations. We would do that more consistently if unidentified not-wild observations were kept as “needs ID” so we could easily find them to give them names.
It is worth noting that observations will be automatically marked captive/cultivated if more than 80% (I think that’s right…) of that species locally are marked captive/cultivated. But yes, please do click the button when you come across them!
All observers should mark only their own observations. Nobody else corrects these afterwards. (okay, I did it some hundred times, but I am tired of this and cant do it for tenthousands of observers all around the world). This is a big mistake on the site.
Well, you’re not forced to do it, but we all do it, more than hundreds of times, start with one small region and go outwards, it’s easier to do, teaches the system which genera are more likely to be planted, teaches observers to mark their cultivated plants, and you can see results on the map.
I don’t usually mark an observation of a cultivated plant as “not wild” until it has been IDed. Lots of new users take photos of garden plants because that is what is around them. If the observations are marked immediately as cultivated they will never be seen to be IDed. That will not encourage the new user to continue using the site and extending their observations beyond their garden.
I mark observations as captured/cultivated all the time as I go along IDing Unknowns.
Certainly, it would be desirable if the original posters did that, but many simply do not know it is even a thing. So many records are contributed by new users, who may not even know they should enter a starting ID (e.g., Flowering Plants, Conifers, or Birds), much less add data quality data or annotations.
I think iNaturalist has a pretty steep learning curve for beginners. The staff has said they want to provide better onboarding training; but there’s no saying when that may happen.
All cultivate plants and captive animals should be marked “not wild” during upload. Please do not wait for an ID. As Marina said:
Waiting to mark “not wild” means high-volume identifiers waste more time sifting and spend less time identifying. We should be polite and understanding with new users, but ultimately there is a workflow. As users get more familiar with iNat, they should do their part to maintain that workflow.
There are some fantastic identifiers on iNat that focus on captive/cultivated organism, and that’s fantastic! But ultimately, if you are not getting IDs fast enough for your captive/cultivated organisms, there are many, more-appropriate resources where you can post them (e.g., several Facebook groups that focus specifically on house/garden plant ID).
The problem is that the reverse causes the same issue. Many people will upload their wild observations under the default of “captive/cultivated”. Then either identifiers will need continue to spend time correcting those or the distribution maps will greatly underrepresent the true observations.
Edit to address something I missed the first time:
I like the idea of having to actively mark “yes” or “no” before the observation will upload (similar to the “complete checklist” field on an ebird checklist). That being said, I seldom do bulk uploads and people that do certainly would not want to check the box for each and every observation when uploading a batch on the website. If implemented, there should be a “yes to all” option for each batch of uploads on the website.
Yes, sorry, I missed that the first time. I’ve edited my original comment to address that. Personally, I like the idea. Bulk uploaders might take issue with it, but I think a “yes to all” option for each batch of uploads on the website might alleviate their concern.
Most users will never care about planted stuff, you can’t make them love those observations and spend time on them, people iding cultivated plants can easily filter for those and actually would do it easier when they’re marked as such.
I very much disagree with this suggestion and much of the stated rationale behind it.
First off, iNat is meant primarily as a tool to engage people better with nature. Regardless of whether an animal or plant is domesticated of cultivated it’s still part of the larger body of ‘nature’, and many people get their start looking into this larger aspect of our surroundings via the species they encounter most often, which are almost by default not wild.
When an observation is marked casual many identifiers and users ignore it and don’t provide further information to the original person posting it, which in turn means that they don’t have community engagement, and have a greater chance of themselves not pursuing their nascent interest in engaging with the larger body of nature, which is directly in opposition to one of the primary purposes of iNat.
And for many, if not most, of the observation on iNat they are indeed of wild organisms, therefore the default should indeed be “wild”. It’s easy and quick to mark an observation as ‘not wild’ when you come across it, and iNat has a built in system to automatically mark certain observation as ‘not wild’ based on criteria built into the system.
The built-in system has its own errors though as it will sometimes mark wild organisms as ‘not wild’ when they’re escaped or feral populations in an area with a large number of domestic/cultivated observations.
I very much do not agree that time is “wasted” by anyone looking at, and correcting’ observations of ‘non-wild’ organisms, and suggest that looking at them and correcting them (both by providing an ID and marking them as ‘not wild’) is a net benefit to the community, to the individual, and supports one of the fundamental reasons iNat was developed in the first place.
I’m a high volume identifier and I don’t mind having the cultivated plants in the “needs ID” pile. I ID them if I can. If they’re ID’d or if they’re old, I mark them “not wild.” That’s easy to do in “indentify.” Fast. Not nearly as big a problem for me as not receiving an ID is for the person who posted the plant.
And remember that if you try to ID “not wild” plants you get not only plants that need identification but also those that already have five or six agreeing identifications. Not efficient! I hope that some day iNaturalist will make “cultivated/wild” and “needs ID”/ID’d two different dimensions, though I’m not going to hold my breath waiting.
If instead of “wild” the default was “not wild”, the problem would be a hundred times worse. I think you understand that, which leaves the only alternative as forcing contributors to say explicitly one way or the other at the time of uploading. The problem with this is that iNat is geared towards simplicity, in order to be as accessible and usable as possible.
If there were no ‘cost’ to forcing contributors to fill in extra fields when uploading, then pretty much I agree, and actually there would be loads of other fields too that it would be nice require answers to at the time of uploading. (It would be really great if people uploading caterpillars/butterflies etc would mark the life stage, for just one example.)
But iNat has been streamlined, and that is the key to its popularity and success. I can upload a photo and I don’t need to do anything else. iNat extracts the date, time, and location from my photo’s metadata. I should only add an ID and in fact even that is optional.
You might say “people shouldn’t be so lazy” but the reality is that people have limited time and limited patience. And especially when you are doing thousands of uploads, every extra step adds a lot of accumulated additional effort overall.
Marketing studies of online behaviour have shown this quite dramatically: online shoppers using a shopping cart that requires only 3 clicks to complete checkout are more than 50% more likely to complete the purchase than those faced with a checkout process requiring 6 clicks. And that’s just when people are buying one item! If you repeatedly ask people to make 6 clicks when 3 will do, you will find very significant proportions getting bored and giving up. Streamlining workflow on sites like this therefore brings massive rewards in terms of the numbers of people prepared to contribute.
It’s easy to think everyone here is prepared to dedicate lots of time to iNat but remember that those of us who take it so seriously as to frequent this forum are the “hardcore 1%”. If we alienate the “casual 99%” of users, iNat will become something way more niche.
I agree that some system is needed to address the large and increasing problem of captive/cultivated organisms on iNat not being marked as such. I think asking for it to be specified when the observation is submitted is reasonable, or perhaps an observation could be submitted without being specified but would need to be specified by another user to achieve research grade status.
There are a couple of other points that I think it’s important to address. First of all, it’s pretty clear that a lot of captive/cultivated observations are submitted by people who can’t distinguish them from wild organisms, or who haven’t considered the possibility that the organism might not be wild, or who are new to iNat and don’t yet understand that the site is primarily concerned with wild organisms. Some are even surprised to learn that the data quality flags exist. I think it would be good to make the wild/not wild distinction more obvious and imperative for these users. After all, a lot of users just want their organism identified and specifying if it’s wild or not is completely irrelevant to their intention.
Second of all, iNat’s current policy is to basically remove captive/cultivated organisms from the discourse, which discourages many people from flagging their own observations. iNat needs to start providing some way where users can flag the observation as captive/cultivated and still have it be included in the database in a similar way that wild organisms are. Although of course the distinction is very important, and wild organisms should always be the default/priority, there is still value in observations of non-wild organisms since they are part of the ecology. I don’t believe the problem will be solved until iNat provides some system for handling captive/cultivated observations that is amenable to the people who post them, and the current system is certainly not. I’ve flagged hundreds of observations of cultivated plants which has incurred the wrath of many users, some of which will even mark their observations as wild in the full awareness that they’re cultivated just to cancel out my cultivated vote.