iNaturalist has changed a lot. And not for the better. It’s mostly a quantity over quality problem. The general strive of the community for MOAR [sic] observations irrespective of quality has attracted more and more people that are marginally or not at all interested in the goals of the platform or even not interested at all in biodiversity or biology.
The main factors contributing to this rise of marginally interested and uninvolved people are:
- The mobile apps - with their ease of use and permissiveness of poorly described obs - are attracting more and more ignorant people that don’t want to invest even the slightest effort to make a good record. Click-and-go.
- The general rise in popularity of the platform. Open communities usually start with dedicated and genuinely interested members. They are the first to find the community because they actively search for their interests. But with the rise of popularity - more and more marginally interested people become marginally involved.
- Various ways of attracting people that may not have any interest in biology and biodiversity per se - like bioblitzes, gamification, school/university requirements and other. A healthy community should be united by common goals and interests. There’re more and more people coming here that do not share the founding goals and interests of iNaturalist. Heck, even the forum is gamified and full of useless comments and topics created just to give the originator some fake sense of being useful or just to get a certain badge or being in the top of whatever.
This rise in the numbers of ignorant and uninvolved people manifests in a myriad of ways:
- Not caring to photograph even a dead specimen from more than one angle. Or not caring to make a clear photo.
- Not caring to check the suggested taxa and clicking the first that matches in color - sometimes choosing beetles for wasps, choosing Lasius niger for any smudge on the photo, etc. Choosing an Australian species for something seen in Europe. This person is most likely not interested at all in what (s)he is doing.
- Not caring to give a correct date - choosing the current date when there’s no metadata for something seen long ago. Or not caring that the metadata of the screenshot does not give the correct date of observation - happens very, very often; people will even take a screenshot of a zoomed in image as an easier alternative to actually cropping the image.
- Not caring to transfer a photo between devices to preserve metadata and taking a photo of the device instead.
- Not caring that the radius of the coordinates includes a whole continent.
- Not caring that they post the same thing several times.
- Not caring that they infringe copyright and in turn - submit fake data. And as it happened to me - flagging another user’s obs as a revenge for being caught:
Someone might argue that those “not caring” instances are actually cases of “not knowing”. While there’re indeed people not knowing but willing to learn, I’m saying that there’s a huge increase in people not willing to learn and not interested in the activity and goals of iNaturalist.
This rise in numbers - and increased proportion of uninvolved to involved people - has also led to an increasing lag for IDs. Some people have even insisted on prioritizing IDs for newcomers. I’m trying to do my share with IDing even though I’m quite slow because I have to use keys and references since I’m not “fluent” in any taxon. But as a “result” I’m getting less IDs for myself. And I have to cope with more and more ignorance and to explain the obvious and to defend my flagged observations.
This is not a positive experience for me anymore. I might not be mentally strong enough to endure, that’s why I’m saying Farewell. I’m even considering deleting my account to prevent further mental damage to myself from attempting to give it another try.
The lesson - I think - is that healthy communities should be united by common goals and not artificially inflated with uninvolved people by attracting them by means other than those common goals.