Improve How "Unknown" Observations Are Treated and Displayed

How about a ‘group’ designation when uploading obs. These could be radio buttons or a dropdown of the coarsest ‘groups’ - something like: vertebrate, invertebrate, plant, fungus, bacterium, unknown - which would just need a click/tap to select without the need for typing in any letters. The group(s) must be chosen before the obs can be saved (if there is no other ID added), and they can be done in batches like one can with the location, fields and projects.

This would lump the obs into more helpful groups (for the IDers) while removing the need to type anything (which seems to be the major issue mentioned by several people above (especially when in the field on the app)). It would also mean that the coarsest IDs are already on the ob so that users cannot get upset by other users adding them.


For what it’s worth, the Korean citizen science site 네이처링 (Naturing) has a similar system (along with biome categories):



some folks here have mentioned implementing some sort of draft mode.

in one suggested implementation, there would be a DQA flag that would indicate draft. i had started thinking myself that this would be a logical way to do it, but i think there would be items that would never get taken out of draft mode, and that would cause a different kind of consternation.

in another suggested implementation, there would be a more distinct publishing workflow. because of forgetfulness or unfamiliarity with workflows or tech unsavviness, i bet this would cause a lot of observations to get stuck in a draft zombie state, too, though no one but maybe the iNaturalist development team might ever be able to see the problem. so a publishing workflow might create a hidden problem.

i think a compromise solution, which might carry other benefits, is to provide a “give me [x time] before you ID this observation” option. in this workflow, you could add some time, say, up to 1 week, to an observation or group of observations (only) at upload time. after upload, you would not be able to add time, though you could reduce it to 0. these observations would be excluded from Identify until time expired. in a timeline view of observations, there could be a box checked that allows you to still see (but not act on) observations with unexpired time. if the box was checked, the timeline would be sorted based on the upload date. if the box was unchecked, the timeline would be sorted based on the date at expiration of this time. (or something like that.) the extra solo time could provide people something like a draft mode, or it could provide the observer first dibs at trying to ID an observation. (sometimes i want to go ahead and upload interesting stuff for people to see, but i want first dibs at trying to use my ID skills before other jump all over it.) and because the solo time would expire at some point, that would prevent observations from getting stuck in draft mode as a hidden problem.


Ah, rather than a “draft”, an “embargo” (like you can do with GenBank uploads).

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yes, “embargo” would be a good term for it, though time-limited on IDs specifically.

My thought for minimizing that was to have an automated, un-mutable reminder go to the owner of the draft(s) weekly or something similar, just reminding them that they have drafts pending. If that doesn’t get them out of draft mode, then it’s probably intentional on the user’s part.


@charlie, I was looking for a Feature Request on a draft mode–do you want to turn this into one? I will vote for it.

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I do want a draft mode for batches of smartphone observations. Not sure about a blanket one for nature challenges so if you want that you may make a different feature request… i will make one if i get a chance but it’s nearly kid bed time so i may not get a chance now

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I was thinking of a draft mode for the website upload. Maybe it could be in there with the smartphone request. I’ll wait for you–I have no idea how it would be implemented. No rush.

well… it sounds like you want something different? Though maybe they are complementary? I don’t understand the point of a draft for the website upload, but then again i barely use it.

Well, for a draft for the website upload, I thought I remembered a conversation where people were saying they don’t like it when they’re trying to upload observations and people keep jumping onto their observations to ID them before they want them ID’d. I kind of liked the idea of being able to upload the photos while having some time to figure out IDs myself before they become public. I was trying to find that conversation by a key word search but that led me to this one, and then I realized this was my own Feature Request which turned into a discussion of draft mode, too, so I just thought as a Forum Moderator expressing interest on this thread about a draft mode you might want to just move things around so this draft mode conversation would have somewhere to be voted on. Just found the other conversation where you mentioned a draft mode, but, again, there’s nowhere to vote on it:


i usually don’t upload stuff on the web untill i am ready for it… so i wouldn’t likely use the draft mode there. Mostly just for the website. To be honest i have feature request overload right now and I think so do the admins so i’m probably not going to write up a request for that proposal in the near future. Especially since like half the feature requests on there now are from me. But you can do it or if you don’t i will probably do it… eventually

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So, with respect to the draft upload area, is this the issuue (note: I’ve only been on iNat since Sept so am not a power user!)?

Website (which is what I mostly use): from the Explore or observations page, I click the green Upload button. Resulting screen says drag and drop pix or upload file. I have Explorer (I’m Windows) open in the folder with my cropped/etc pix, I select what I want and drag them to the upload page. That upload, each into a little widget that let’s me ID, etc. If I want to research an ID, I use another tab or browser instance. When I’m ready, I hit the button to save or upload (I’m on my phone & don’t remember the exact word)

So is the problem that that window needs to be saved in a private space? Cuz if one navigates away from the window in the instance, iNat loses all the obs & goes back to blank. Which is extraordinarily aggravating!

I don’t know how batch wld work on the phone, so can’t speak to that.

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my issue with the phone is, the app is to me very easy to collect data but not easy at all to edit or adjust observations and you can’t easily add fields or add annotations at all. And sometimes when you upload the species you try to enter doesn’t connect properly. So i’d like to be able to do those things on the website before they get published.


I use the website only. My issue is that I don’t want to do more to my photos before Upload than crop some of them. After that, I want to Upload all of my photos. I can’t see the photos very well at that point because they are small on Upload, but I get them grouped appropriately, and I upload with preliminary IDs, before doing any research. But at that point I haven’t decided the order of the photos for each observation (because they are so small on Upload), so I do that after they’re uploaded. And I also try to refine my preliminary IDs after they’re uploaded. I was just thinking it would be nice to be able to do those things before they go into the “Needs ID” feed. To me that makes sense–allowing observers to have their Unknowns and newly uploaded observations left alone until they’re ready for input, without putting the burden on the identifiers to guess where identifications are welcome or not. But this isn’t a critical issue to me, just one that I would vote for.


I understand. Well, as I said above, I’d be all for a change that just saved the current upload staging area - the number of times I have kept my finger on the backspace key too long and been thrown out of the page, and have lost all the work I’ve spent hours doing, well, I could probably have addressed a good chunk of Unknowns!

And on that note, I wish the app (Android anyway) would let me filter on Unknowns. I know it wasn’t really designed for IDing, but that’s one of my very successful work avoidance strategies, and if I could do Unknowns I could address a lot more observations.


i wouldn’t necessarily say it’s intentional. it may be just someone who’s not familiar with the way the system the works. and even if intentional, i don’t know that you would want to allow someone to keep stuff in draft indefinitely.


I just realised I access iNat in three ways!

  1. Android app… The occasional observation where I either don’t have my main camera or getting it out would take too long and miss the opportunity. I also read and contribute to discourse via Android.

  2. Website… Where I do my identification sessions, bulk upload observations, discourse, research, etc.

And 3) Website via browser on Android! I actually prefer to do many things via the website on my phone than trying to use the App.

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Good point. The reminder notification should probably come with a link to instructions for finding and resolving draft-mode observations. (And encouragement – we really want to see what you found!)

Not sure it would hurt either, unless the devs found that it was a drain on system resources. To the rest of us it would be as if it were never posted in the first place.