How to encourage amateur observers?

Amateur observers (non scientist) are often post one or two observations (usually casual grade) then never post anymore
How to encourage them to post more?
If there is more people, then there is more observations, and more species to identify.


I think it helps to:

  1. Try to put an ID on their observations

and also leave a comment saying something like:

  1. Those are nice organisms, have you seen any more cool plants and animals?

  2. And, I also always say first:

“Welcome to iNaturalist!”


In my theory, get to them fast! Most people will post something, and if there is no response then they quit checking after a few days. With our current expectation for instant gratification, this may have even shortened to a few hours… I don’t know.
I know if someone posts something on my native plant group you can get an answer within the hour, so I can see the appeal of that. But the fact is that groups are getting frustrated at the volume of people asking “What’s this?” over and over, and there’s also a lot of misinformation spread that way, and you don’t get to potentially contribute to research or science or education, and so much more here… I don’t even know how to tell people what a phenomenal resource this is because our attention span has been shortened to fewer than 120 characters.
Anyhow, there is a filter for identifying things from users who just created their account in the last week. It always takes patience to deal with bad/incomplete photos and the variety of other transgressions we commit when we first start here, but maybe with help they could give high-quality submissions.


Make it more obvious on the app that people are interacting with your records. So many new users are using the mobile apps, but the visual cues that anyone has identified or commented etc are really subtle and easy to miss.


Frame iNaturalist as a game. I’ve gotten people hooked on it by saying it’s like Pokemon Go except you actually find real creatures


As above- getting to them fast helps! I was frustrated at first by my early obs getting no response, because I didn’t realise no one was seeing them without an initial ID, thinking it would be silly to put something as broad as ‘Vascular Plants.’ Now I like to go through ‘unknown’ IDs attaching broad IDs to them (even just Mammals, Fungi, Plants, etc. if I don’t know any finer) with a note saying that’s how to get people to notice, and casual obs as well adding comments to say ‘If you have the date/location/whatever missing info, this will go up to ‘Needs ID’ and we can get it identified’

Link to unknowns with photos (just select your location or add in casual obs if you want)


So, a view count?

I think Seek is explicitly set up to support that kind of engagement!


It was previously discussed, iNat is fun, but not a game, making it more gamey will create more problems than we have now with observations and identifications. But couraging them in any way is still a good idea.


I’ve been trying to get more people into it, but they often upload 5-15 things and leave too.
I have a twitter page where I post my photos, and so far the best idea I’ve come up with is just to mention the name of the website in posts. I’ll say “I’m not great on bug IDs, but someone on iNat says this is Euaresta bella. Check out its wings!”
And hope someone says “what’s inat?”
The posts where I directly try to encourage people to get into it mostly just get likes from people who already do. But being half vague gets people curious.
Maybe I could be more exciting in the way I describe the website lol.


Save link to one of iNat poster-like ads, e.g. first steps to start iNatting, it’s an easy way for people to understand thing, plus if you don’t have access to it, it’s easier to explain to people using those steps.

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Yes, i agree, more observations will come if inat becomes more gamey, but they will full of “impossible to identify” thing or just some random photo
We have to try different approach to solve this, not just bring more observations, but more observations that have quality or just good enough to identify


I read this question 2 ways.

  1. How to encourage amateur observers who are already on iNat.

  2. How to encourage amateur naturalists to join iNat.

For 1 I think that there are several things that need to be cooked into the culture. Rapid(ish) responses to observations engage people and draw them into the discussion. Responses that include commentary and explanations, especially when the ID disagrees with the original post, include newcomers and unconfident amateurs in the community while building knowledge.

For 2 it’s a matter of showing people what it can do and what it can be. I think that there are many reasons why people don’t stay and most of them fall into categories that don’t speak poorly of iNat. Some people will check it out and find it’s not their thing and that’s OK. It’s important to be clear that iNat’s mission is about building awareness and understanding, not things that can be forced on people. It’s also obviously a toy for nerds (like me) but it’s an educational toy. There’s a marketing hook in there somewhere.


Give them a quick feedback is very useful, approving their id or correcting it, especially when they rely too much on iNat authomatic proposed names. iNat needs to be trained through citizens’ obervations about species of the different parts of the world. Very often the first proposal by the system refer to species that are present for example in USA but not in Europe, and often unexpert people make the mistake to accept the first proposal, even when it point to a completely different kind of organism. People who approach iNat for the first times often fail to add a proposal for the kind of organism (because they need to understand how the website works), and so the observation appear as “unknown”: correcting that at least indicating “plant” or “vertebrates” or “insects” etc. make the observation to come to surface and become visible to experts. And even giving an ID to reared species, even if marking them as not living in the wild, help to give people the idea that iNat is a reliable website, and they will pass soon from domestic to wild species. Often they try iNat with the organisms they have in their houses. To be short: to involve people it is necessary to be responsive. Sharing some news from iNat in other social networks could be really useful, too.


философски говоря, всё есть игра ;)

and philosophically speaking, everything is serious! I’m a systems analyst, and everything is a system. Perspective is very much a part of perception…

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Это да, но лучше, если игровые моменты будут дополнять имеющееся понимание работы сайта.)

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I did want to say that another possibility is to have a “Welcome Wagon” detail, in which regular users volunteer to meet and greet brand new users. It would require a listing of new accounts which welcomers can use to find the observations of new users. Needless to say new accounts with no observations at all (which are extremely numerous) would need a different meet and greet (if any) compared with new accounts that already have a few observations.


nice occupation btw, i love complex supersystems ;)

I should add that I am out now though… And it’s a far more interesting occupation today than it was when I was involved