Extremely negative initial experience

Considering “IT project management” or “Product Owner” work, this makes sense. Many feature requests impact each other, or may be redundant (e.g. several different suggestions to treat the same need). It is very understandable to have a single thread for all requests about the same page. Of course I would enjoy seeing “my requests” treated in priority, but there are people who have to manage iNaturalist as a consistent product/project and without unlimited ressources.

I think you are just unluky to get all these +/-unsatisfactory feedbacks in a short time, at the beginning.

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I’m sorry you’ve felt unwelcome.

Personally, I consider myself barely above a “filthy casual”: I have no professional experience with biology or taxonomy. I don’t own ANY field guides, nor have I accessed any. I haven’t taken any master naturalist classes. The sum total of my experience comes from using the iNat app, discussing things on the forums, and watching the occasional YouTube or PBS/BBC video.

I’ve never felt unwelcome here.

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Having seen how nasty internet conversions can get, I’m glad iNaturalist moderates the discussions. I’ve seen occasional ads and really inappropriate posts (they don’t last long) so I’m glad these are edited, too. I’m not surprised good posts occasionally get removed; no automatic criteria will work well all the time. The moderators seem reasonable about fixing such things, but of course figuring out how to contact them can be challenging!

I had at least one feature request folded into a similar previous request. That seemed appropriate to me. (I don’t know enough about the example mentioned above to know if I’d consider it appropriate or not.)

I’m sorry that some of those who have commented here had bad experiences. I think overall the people working on iNaturalist do a good job, but things go wrong. I hope commenters here will stick around to have better experiences also.

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For the record, I don’t know the professional credentials of the vast majority of participants on this forum or those who post on iNat. Some are professional biologists and some are interested individuals who work in other fields, but I usually can’t tell. And it doesn’t matter.

In other contexts, I’ve worked with biologists and amateurs alike. Some were very good and others not so good at species IDs and answering technical questions about nature-related topics. You can’t always tell until you interact with them.

I’m not seeing the alleged bias against anyone here.

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Not at all my experience. Sometimes there are a few tense personal back-and-forths, but that’s pretty rare and are strongly discouraged when they do take place.

The mods are active, and that’s a good thing. It helps to keep things on track and prevents if from devolving into something like a a YouTube comment section, or a FaceBook arguement.

This is a science based site after all, and keeping it that way takes effort. Given the aims of the site and community I’d say the mods are actually pretty lenient.

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Seems like the OP really has left the forum, and I’m sorry to see that. But as the iNat staff member who’s most involved here, I just wanted to respond. The OP’s first two issues were technical ones, which Carrie addressed quite quickly.

Regarding the feature request moderation policy, I think you look through the feature requests there, many have quite a bit of discussion on them. As that category is the “official” way for users to suggest ideas for features, new topics get moderated to avoid duplicate requests or requests for features that won’t be implemented. Even with that moderation it’s pretty unwieldy and difficult to sift through requests and move them on to the development team for a decision. (Trying to go through some this week)

I’m not on the iNat Discord much but I definitely use it and think it’s great, there’s a cool community there. It’s just different than this forum, and to be clear it’s not created and managed by iNaturalist staff and staff-approved moderators, like this one is, it’s a separate entity.

As to moderation, the moderators here are all people, we all sometimes make mistakes, and we all welcome constructive feedback. Thankfully discussions here tend to be quite civil, even for some emotional topics, so most of our work has been organizational, such as splitting topics and moving topics to keep things tidy, as the Discourse guidelines recommend. And moderators here are subject to losing their moderator status (and having their iNat accounts affected) if they violate the guidelines here, just like anyone else.

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I am sorry that you have had a tough time on this forum.

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I didn’t follow the original complaints in this thread very well, but my perception is the discussion quality (and respect between posters) has greatly improved now compared to the iNat message board of several years ago. Credit to the moderators and the decision to move to this form vs google message board.

Not everyone has the same experiences obviously, but my perception is that this forum has been a substantial improvement for the community to bring up and talk about tensions, disagreements, etc, that are inherently part of iNaturalist activities.

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If these minor irritations felt like an “extremely negative initial experience”, then they’re probably a good warmup for dealing with taxonomy here, not to mention the rest of the internet.

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to be fair, we all have different tolerances here and if all you receive initially ends up being negative I think it’s human nature to assume that the pattern continues to repeat. what is minor to one person isn’t minor to another, etc. I think OP’s concerns were valid, especially being a new member without much knowledge of how the forum works. However, moderators were quick to assist and other users offered support, so I would hope that OP would feel differently should they return.

That said, there are other people in this thread that seem to only have an eye for the negative and have an inflammatory personality spreading undeserved mod bashing for no clear reason other than what seems to be a misplaced anger. Those kinds of users are thankfully a minority though and I think we can mostly agree that this community is very supportive, kind, and welcoming. Not seeing that over an extended period of time seems like elective ignorance.

edit: I should note that OP’s last statement is pretty inflammatory and not really welcoming to potential assistance—it’s very presumptuous, but given the frustration they’ve felt over their day here it isn’t without reason/all that uncalled for in relation to how they feel.

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wow…

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I agree with your first paragraph.

Since there’s only 2 people in this thread who’ve posted anything negative, I think your second paragraph is kind of implicitly naming one person.

I also think, since we don’t know the extent of the 2nd person’s interactions (they didn’t list specific examples like OP, but that is their prerogative), it’s a bit unfair to ascribe those motives to them.

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Here’s my opinion on what the moderators should do in the future when someone states in a post that they are leaving the forum: (1) believe that person that they are leaving; (2) leave the post up but close the topic; (3) send the person a personal message that if they decide to stay after all for a conversation the topic will be re-opened; and (4) vigorously moderate (hide/delete) all personal characterizations of others, and attempts to go off the specific topics raised in the original post.

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yeah, I should have been more general and referred to the forum as a whole. more pointed than I intended.

regarding the lack of specificity of that individual’s interactions, check out their post history. but I know that’s beside the point—I’d really just like to extend support to the people that are so passionate about iNat. the vital functions of this site largely lie with the volunteers who help it breathe. I think these are the last people to accuse of tyrannical behaviour (there is irony in this as I guess I’m technically a volunteer here as well, but not to the same extent as many others and definitely not on this forum or in a social capacity). I know I don’t know the specific experiences that prompted the statements, but if one insists on generalising to the point of a critical blanket statement, I think some kind of response is warranted. I don’t mean for my response to come off as dismissive/reactionary/off-topic, but more so as a further reflection on the initial concept brought up by OP’s post and what’s occurred in the thread.

anyway, I think this thread itself has been a good example of mods and others doing what they can to assist and offer support and I think @paloma has a point that maybe it’s run its course. however, others may want to weigh in on this subject should they have had negative experiences as well and there has also been interesting discussion here. which lastly, I don’t want to discourage anyone from sharing their negative experiences on iNat. I suppose I make my statements partly having to do with the way in which one presents their criticism. negative experiences here should be shared, so I hope I didn’t make it seem like I thought otherwise.

as a whole, from my realm, iNat is a pretty cool place with pretty cool people that do pretty cool things.

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Looking at a posting history doesn’t show you the feelings behind those postings. E.g. while the OP’s forum issues were all done without malice, that didn’t stop OP from feeling invalidated by them, and as you pointed out, that was an understandable reaction from OP. I’m not going to analyze anyone else’s comments and try to divine whether the feelings behind that post were justified; I’m just going to take them at their word, offer sympathies, and contrast my experience.

I think the many positive experiences shared in this thread are another kind of defense of the mods and the community, but I also understand why you wanted to go beyond to stick up for volunteers who you felt were being vilified.

P.S. I’m not trying to bring you to task. I think your response cleared things up beautifully. Thank you for the explanation.

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I agree. It’s one thing to say that something specific about the moderation, curation, etc. should be changed. But I don’t think any derogatory adjectives about anyone’s character should be allowed. This forum should not be a place where someone can feel free to engage in verbal attacks on anyone else.

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People feel what they feel. Their experience is just that “their’s”, not yours, mine or anyone else’s. So even though you may have had a wonderful experience, it is obvious that OP has not. Please remember that we all come to the table with a different set of epistemic assumptions to view the world through.
With that remedial reminder of “different people, different perspectives, different experience”. I do want to point out that this is not the first time I have read a post such as this. It’s not even the second, or the third…
In SOME (not all) of the responses I read where some forums members dismissed (as “someone” asked for personal proof of a particular interaction coming across like you don’t believe a word of what the OP says because you asked for a copy of a particular interaction as if the OP needs to ‘prove’ their experience to you personally.), negated, minimized deflected, and made judgement calls on what the OP experienced. If those responses were anything similar to in flavor to the kind of interaction OP had when starting out on the forum, then it’s easy to see why he had a bad experience.
I do want to point out that BASED ON MY OWN EXPERIENCE, the common denominators and themes of slight variation that I have read by those who posted about having a bad experience on the forum are:
1.)Shaming and lambasting of those who are new by more experienced members when they don’t post according to protocol.
2.)A marginalizing of another’s academia.
3.) Moral superiority by those who are seasoned users of the forums, and ‘talking down’ to those who are new.
I would hope that when somebody takes the courage to create a post that they know is going to be unfavorable by the community, we could recognize that courage and remember that that is their truth, that is their reality, that was their individual experience.
Everyone has the right to be heard and validated. Instead of doing anything but addressing the issues of the OP, perhaps if we listened with the same respect that we would like to be met with and then get feedback from the OP on what time or type of interaction the OP would have preferred instead. I am sure within that type of discussion, a solution can be found.
Perhaps there needs to be more specific guidelines for member interactions needs to be addressed? I am not sure, and I certainly don’t want to come across as someone who has the solution. But, with a respectful discussion, I am sure there can be a resolve along with taking positive steps so further new users can come on the forum and have the same respectful interaction that the rest of you had.

Before I have any interaction with anyone in this world both online and IRL, before I speak I ask myself…
Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it necessary?

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welcome to the forum!

I’m not sure if this is regarding the response to OP’s points, but the first response in this thread directly addresses OP’s concerns and other community members have been quick to offer support. Staff and mods have elaborated on flaws within the forum and have pledged to address them.

I do know that defensiveness when people bring up their criticism can be invalidating of the criticism presented. OP articulately expressed what it was they had an issue with which made it possible for mods and the community to swiftly respond and address the issues.

I understand what you’re saying here, but I believe people are intending to express to OP that they’d like them to stay on the site and encourage them in saying that these experiences they’ve had on their first day hopefully won’t be the norm as they present evidence of positive experiences. validation doesn’t have to be complete agreement—it can also be listening and offering support in a way beyond pure affirmation.

I think this is the best thing to take from this. site moderators did introduce some changes to the forum based on OP’s concerns which I think is a good step in addressing this.

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Well put. 🖒

welcome @HollyinHell - that was well put and I think you make some great points. They really spoke to me about my own experiences (negative ones have been very minimal but those have prompted me to take a break when they’ve happened) and in terms of how I might respond to someone who is stepping up to express dissatisfaction. Thanks for putting that forth.

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