Inconsistent or unavailable locations on explore and identify pages

There are some differences for what locations can be used in the search box (as search names, or by simply typing and entering), and how their map boundaries are defined, between Explore and Identify. Some location boundaries also differ from common geographic definitions. See my first comment for examples of each. Any suggestions to correct this?

There are 2 types of locations: ones from Google and ones specific to iNat. Only Google locations are visible on the Explore search bar, and only iNat ones visible on the Identify bar. However, you can view iNat places on the Explore filters. And any filters you have can be carried over to Identify through the handy (but way too small) Identify button. You can also search iNat places here.


Note that any place searched for with these filters should also be available in Identify.

You can also create new iNat places if there isn’t one to fit what you need.

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Can you please provide URLs and screenshots? It’s very difficult to diagnose an issue without specific details like that, which is why they’re part of the new bug report template.

I personally wish all of the places were searchable in the explore page with one text box.

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Location examples, screenshots, and URLs from Google Chrome:

Explore: South East Asia, bees (23013 obs.; map incorrectly includes India, Taiwan, etc.)

Explore: Southeast Asia, bees (15621 obs; correctly excludes India, incorrectly includes Taiwan etc.)

Identify: Mainland South East Asia (only result; incorrectly excludes Maritime SE Asia)

Explore: Polynesian Outer Islands (only “Polynesia” result, incorrectly too small - 0 obs.*visual map shows prior search- ignore)

Identify: Polynesian Outer Islands (only “Polynesia” result, incorrectly too small)

Explore: Micronesia (only “Micronesia” result, incorrectly too small, 2441 obs.)

Identify: Micronesia (incorrectly too small, 0 obs.)
I - Micronesia

Identify: Micronesia Region (867 pages of results)
I - Micronesia Region

Identify: Federated States of Micronesia (79 pages of results- different from previous)
I - Federated States of Micronesia

Identify: Tropical Asia (Are Tropical and SE supposed to differ or be the same?)

Explore: Tropical Asia - no location result (*visual map shows prior search - ignore)
E - Tropical Asia

Explore: Asia (incorrectly includes Europe etc.)

Identify: Asia (192284 pages of results)
E - Tropical Asia

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Are you looking for a certain place? Most of what you’re looking for seem to be loosely defined geographic regions that are not official places (aside from continents). If you really want to, you can create a new place. If you’re just using it for ID/Explore purposes, you can string together multiple places (such as countries), or exclude some from others, in the URL. I do this for IDing things on the West Coast of North America for example.

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Google sites cannot be changed because they are from Google. Unless they are specific country/state/etc. places, the iNat sites were probably created by someone else on iNat. I think you can edit these, but not sure how that would mess up projects or other things that depend on them.

Pretty sure only the latter is possible. I’ve never done it but it looks fairly straight forward. Best not to create a new one if something similar already exists though (and you could modify with URLs).

Well they can both use iNat places and Google places, it’s just not set up exactly the same. Not sure why it’s different.

It looks like there’s a Micronesia, but not a Melanesia or Polynesia so you could create those. You can also have Oceania observations without Australia:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=97393&subview=map&not_in_place=6744

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Creating locations is an interesting idea to look into. (But I’d almost trust the precision of an automated map system more than manual location creation.)

In the meantime let’s see if this generates any more ideas/discussion. I think this was unexpected to observe, even if there’s not necessarily an immediate or known fix.

Not sure what you mean by automated, but you can upload KML files to make maps if you don’t want to make a polygon.

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This isn’t a bug, it’s how iNaturalist works, for better or worse. iNaturalist has its own “places” - either standard places like countries, states, counties, which iNat maintains, and community-curated places, which users make.

But because iNaturalist will never have as many place names as Google does, the location field on the Explore page searches Google Maps. This way you should be able to get the map to the right area. We then create a “bounding box” around the area that Google gives us. If you see “bounding box” here, then you’re not looking at an iNat place, it’s coming from Google.

image

So when you searched for South East Asia, you basically got what Google has for that term.

Now, if an iNat places exactly matches a Google place, eg Asia, then we show you the iNat place. That genrally only works for standard places, though. So when you got that Asia place, that’s iNat’s place for Asia.

Now, the Identify page doesn’t search “location”, it only has a “Place” search:

So it will only use iNat places, not bounding boxes around Google-sourced locations

What you can do is, when you have a result in Explore that you like, click on Filters then click on Identify and you can use Identify for the observations in that Explore result. And you can bookmark that if you want.

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That’s good to know, I’ll maybe try the last part.

I’m mostly focused on Identify also. I see no Identify map, so couldn’t tell whether it uses a bounding box.

Anyway, if Identify locations are Google, can users submit corrections to Google (outside of iNat)? Because Google corrections “upstream” would reflect on iNat. Part of the confusion seems Google “should” know some locations better.

@thomaseverest When you talk about creating locations, do you mean for Explore, Identify, or both?

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You can submit suggested changes to Google, but they seem to take a while to review and I’ve only ever done things for very minor issues (such as a nonexistant address). Places can be used on Explore and Identify with URLs, but only show up in the search fields for Identify and Explore filters (not the main Explore search bar).

What section/product of Google is that, do you know contact info?

I’ll probably look into both methods.


Screen Shot 2021-07-09 at 11.02.30 PM

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I remembered other examples, Northeastern United States and Canada, Northeastern US, the Northeast, Eastern US, etc. This makes me think similar issues affect most areas on the global map. I understand users can create individual maps, but that would take an overly long time now since it affects the map globally. That’s why I originally meant it might be something iNat itself looks into. Whether by contacting Google, or if anything can be done in site development. I could maybe also help make a few maps, especially if multiple people help, staff or non-staff.

Part of the problem is that those places aren’t distinctly defined. Take the Midwest for example, where everybody has a different definition (I know someone who thinks their home state of Minnesota is the only state in the Midwest). I doubt Google or iNat admins are interested in putting boundaries on something that subjective.

I think some are more well-defined, like northeast states (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeastern_United_States). Also, the maps already use most of the locations, so they can define them. It’s just they somehow defined some incorrectly, maybe unintentionally, like part of europe shown in asia search results, and india and taiwan shown in southeast asia results. So, I think it is definable, for at least most locations. It also affects a major function of the site, which is why I raised different possible solutions, and maybe see it as more of a priority. Asking Google would be a good first step though.