Group messaging on iNaturalist?

I’m not making this a feature request yet because I’m not even sure if I really want this. I’m just curious what the community thinks about whether group messaging should be implemented on iNaturalist.

if enough people are in favor of this, I might turn it in to a feature request.


I’d love this. Sometimes I want to message 3-4 people about something so I have to just tag them in an unrelated observation to avoid sending 4 separate messages. Would also help as everyone can see each other’s replies too (as opposed to separate messaging where you can see everyone else’s replies, but they can’t).

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yeah, that would also be useful if you’re messaging lots of people about a project, and don’t want to send 50 (or more) separate messages.

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You can make journal posts and @tag the audience in those?

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that could be a possibility, although some people don’t respond to @-mentions. recently I was also tagged in a journal post, and I didn’t receive a notification for it.

that one I got…
maybe something was just running slow that day?

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there is a rework of the notifications system, and for many of us it is eagerly looked forward to… When you get a lot of notifications, it can be easy to have some drop off the radar, as once you have clicked on the notifications balloon, the whole list is marked as read, and reverts to only showing the most recent 10 (I think?)… So if the tag was #67 in the list…

If they type your [account] name wrong, then it can mean you don’t get the alert either. During heavy usage times, notifications get a low priority background update, so they can be a while coming through. Other issues too…


I’ve definitely made this mistake before, but this time there were only 6 notifications…

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Group messaging could be used by spammers. Not sure if it’s actually a good idea.


yes, I had been thinking about that, which is part of why I didn’t make it a feature request right away.
the advantages might outweigh the downsides though…

Are you looking for group private messages or group @ mentions?

I think what would be super is group @ mentions. For example, there is a bunch of caterpillar-rearers who tag each other on interesting obs. Perhaps the creation of a @-group could be created, and people are invited to join the group (they can accept or reject the invite). This would mean that the people getting notifications from the @-group have explicitly subscribed to the group, which eliminates the spm issue.


I had originally been thinking of group private messages, but group @-mentions would also be cool!
if you made that a feature request, I would definitely vote for it!
(freeing up votes… :man_technologist:t3:)

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Notifications for @ 's are tricky. I recently didn’t get a notification for an @ because it was in the description section of an observation, apparently that doesn’t send a notification? Or else i missed it somehow.

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Yep I’m quite sure mentions in the descriptions of observations don’t send notifications.


I know from personal experience that in the Forum private messaging system, if you add @ mentions to a message it “opens” that message thread to those additional users.

Pretty sure it doesn’t work that way in the iNaturalist private messaging system, but maybe it could??

EDIT: turns out I was wrong about @ mentions in Forum messages – see subsequent posts below.

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A long time since I used skype (if it even still exists?) but you could add people to a group chat and they could see only the messages added since they joined it, not previous ones. I think in discord servers it might be the same, although I haven’t tested it to be sure.

Jim, from your experience here in discourse are the previous messages visible to a new participant in the discussion? Referring here to direct messaging rather than public topics/channels of course… the Journal approach I suggested above would be more analogous to the topic/channel than a private direct-messaging system

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I suspect not, but haven’t heard back one way or the other, so can’t guarantee. Each private message seems to be just another separate Discourse thread in all other functional aspects, except it’s visibility limited to the original poster, the specified recipient, and any other @ mentioned.

Maybe @tiwane can provide a more definitive answer?

EDIT: oh wait, maybe you mean previous posts within the same private message thread? Yes, I believe those are visible to newly invited participants. Just not other, separate PM threads. I think.


if we get a third participant, we could try a direct message test with counting back and forth to four, then tag in another participant and have them tell us what number we “started with”… and maybe for throughness we could carry on the count to 8 and then add a 4th participant via the address line, and see where they can see back to… finishing the count to ten would give them all something to see :)

or yes, we could find out from @tiwane :)

[edit] test has been done, see below for result

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We have undertaken “The Test” and the results are in!

When you “invite” a participant, and they accept the invite, they will see the entire thread. Further, tagging someone in the thread of a private message does NOT generate an alert for them or bring them into the conversation, it has to be a direct invite and that invite has to be accepted. If you are a participant in the conversation, then tagging will generate an alert, and if the tagging is in a reply to the person tagged then they will get two alerts, for the tag and the reply.

Thanks to all that participated in the test!

@tiwane FYI

Oh wow, discourse blocked me from making a “fourth reply” in this topic, even though one of my three replies has been deleted by me prior to attempting my new “third”!

anyway, here is my “fourth/third reply”:

This experiment does show that the group direct messaging is very functional in discourse, and similar functionality in iNat would be awesome. However, given the much stronger connections between the forum and iNat since the move from google groups (accessible from community menu, process/pathway to keep usernames consistant between the two, etc) I can’t help thinking that perhaps discourse is a better option to hold such conversations in anyway. As soon as the functionality of the iNat direct messaging system becomes limiting, is perhaps the trigger to jump it across to a “group conversation” in the forum.

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Well said, that is what I took away from our test also. The main limitation would be that the pool of available Discourse users may be a tiny fraction in the sea of iNat users one might want to include in a particular group message.