If a significant Inaturalist contributor dies

If a significant Inaturalist contributor dies, do you ensure that the legacy/contribution is not lost?
A friend of my died last year; he was a major contributor (16,000 observations). I was just talking about this with his parents.

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The person’s records, IDs, and comments remain on the site. Another major contributor died last year and a notice of that passing was added to his profile page by staff. Sorry for your loss.

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Thanks.

@hb100 I’m sorry for your loss. As far as I’m aware, his contributions should stay up for as long as the site exists.

If you or his parents have access to his account, it might be good to add a note to the profile about his passing, just in case anyone was going to try to contact him about an observation.

(This also got me thinking: I wonder if it would be possible for iNat to switch accounts over to always accepting community IDs once someone has passed? There’s a major contributor who passed away last year, and I’ve noticed many of his observations becoming casual-grade due to taxon changes, and his IDs no longer matching the “new” community ID. It makes me sad to see it happen.)

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Respectfully, I think that if BJ wanted control over his observations while he was alive, the site shouldn’t overrule that now. However, iNat is so young that many issues of longevity need to be discussed and guidelines established. After all, there is arguably a difference between opting out of community ID in cases of simple disagreements versus taxonomic reclassification.

Other hypotheticals:

  • How will staff and curators handle potential “messes” if someone with 100,000 IDs quits or deletes their account?
  • Are the servers going to be able to handle exponentially increasing contributions?
  • Do users need to consider addressing care of their accounts in wills or other legal documents?
  • What happens to our data if iNat and/or GBIF cease operations?
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I hope if GBIF will end its existence, there will be another platform to pass on contributions, I thought about diversification of platforms quite a lot in the past weeks.
I hope as it was discussed two or three years ago, iNat will add a normal system of closong accounts after death of the user, legal issues were mentioned, but I personally don’t believe it is a problem that can’t be solved.

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That’s a good idea. And a deceased person’s contributions are not removed from iNaturalist. I’m sorry for your loss, @hb100.

They might be solvable, but the legal advice we’ve received is that it’s very difficult for us on staff to be certain that a person who passed did actually own the iNaturalist account, as we have so little information aside from their email address and IP address. And determining those things are outside the bounds of what we can realistically do.

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I could see where it might be difficult to ascertain that an iNatter has passed away and that a notice on their profile page may be warranted. If the person is well known to other iNatters by their real name then it’s more easily determined. But if the person uses a pseudonym and no one can determine that that iNatter is the same person as what an obituary states, you can’t be sure. Do we use a communication from a family member or close friend? Greg Lasley was known to many and there wasn’t any question when he passed.

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Perhaps observations could revert to accepting community IDs if the user is inactive for X number of years? And I know I’ve seen mention of the possibility of showing an indicator on accounts if the person hasn’t logged in for a long time. That’d probably be enough for practical purposes. It isn’t really necessary for the internet at large to know if someone has passed away, or left for some other reason, just that they’re no longer here on iNat.

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If you knew the contributor well or know someone in their circle well who is willing to write it, maybe an In Memorium post on the forum? A recent one I’ve seen:

This only reaches forum members, unfortunately. Maybe a community-driven option is to leave a goodbye message on their last observation?

Some discussion here too:

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Well, some people leave and come back, so it would make sense to still write comments for the possible future, won’t do that if person is dead.

This is what the top of Greg’s profile shows now, presumably having been edited by close family or friends with access to his account:

Screenshot 2022-08-16 at 12-27-22 greglasley's Profile · iNaturalist

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Greg is also mentioned here too:

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Or maybe by iNat staff?

I’m very sorry for your loss.

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