Long-range funding plan for iNaturalist (is there one?)

I would like to see (and this is a pie in the sky), that anyone wanting to create a platform like INat, first look at what is out there. Instead of re-creating the wheel, add their funding in to improve the wheel.

With a platform like INat (or equivalent) where it allows you to customize so much, it could easily be used for just about everything.

From what I have seen on this platform the INat team would look at any way to improve this site, and accommodate other fields of interest.

This would assist in pooling resources for the greater benefit of all users, both amateur and professionals alike.

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I agree with this. Smaller, specialized on-line databases are probably most vulnerable to going extinct after a few years as people move on (or pass on) and funding disappears. The bigger and more diverse (and more useful to more people/programs) a platform like iNat can become, the better chance it will survive for many years. We need to make it too big to fail.

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Careful what you wish for. I was on Google Plus. All gone!

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hmmm… generally, i don’t disagree. but what exactly is the thing that makes iNaturalist what it is? why did this person post this thirsty koala sipping a cyclist’s water to Instagram instead of iNaturalist? if there was a way to extend Instagram so that you could get organism identifications and data for research, would you still need iNaturalist?

funding and infrastructure are important, but i think it’s usually the vision and the people that execute that vision (including the community) that are the things that differentiate between success and failure.

the specific community here, and the amazing database and data visualization tools, are far beyond anything Instagram would ever provide for tracking organisms.

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Sure you’ll need iNat anyway, Instagram has a whole different purpose, not many people would enjoy tons of your not the best nature photos, even now when you post a lot at once you get comments to stop, think about posting 50+ observations a day.

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Here I saw fears - whether Inat will close?
Of course, it depends on money, on management.
Perhaps from something else that is not clear now.
Inat is very good. It looks like a very successful project.
I hope Inat will develop. I wish this for inat.

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Yes, agreed, but in reality you also need consistent funding sources to retain staff and infrastructure to keep anything like iNat going long-term. It would be helpful if iNat staff could tell us how they see things proceeding over the next decade or more, how donations from iNat users are being applied, and what other funding sources are being used now or may be available in the future.

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Everyone who is able and willing can also start making donations to iNaturalist, they have a monthly donation option now and I don’t believe there’s a minimum amount requirement so you can just chip in a few bucks a month to help keep things running.

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I’m sure @jnstuart knows about it, the question is how they use donations, as said in previous comment.

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Yes, but not everyone reading the forum post may know. It is ok to share info in many venues.

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Sure, though big banner over 1/3 page got you knowledgeable pretty quickly.

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I think it becomes not worthwhile (with transaction costs maybe) at some lower number so the lowest you can donate per month may be 5 dollars. However, you can do one time donations of as much as you want, too.

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i’m in favor of long-range plans, but i wonder if a decade is too long of a time frame for something like this? i mean, it doesn’t hurt to try to plan that far out, but just realize that things, especially when they involve technology, can change quickly. just for reference, the iPhone launched in 2007, Gmail didn’t officially go live until 2009, and Netflix didn’t move to a streaming model until 2010.

regarding funding streams, what i’ve seen in my experience with non-profits is that unless you have a significant endowment or are somehow well-connected to deep pockets, it’s going to be tough to have a realistic idea of what your funding is going to look like more than a few years forward.

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Agreed. But when I think about the huge amount of volunteer effort that has gone into creating and managing the iNat platform, in addition to what iNat staff does, it seems that some information from staff to users about long-term sustainability is warranted. Otherwise it can feel like we’re building a “house of cards” that might not last for all that long.

Personally, if I have doubts about the sustainability of any effort, I’m less inclined to donate time or money to it. That is especially true of web-based projects. Just my own experience.

But I’m repeating myself …

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That GBIF ingestion is a major motivation for me. A reminder though that only those RG observations with CC0, CC BY, or CC BY-NC licenses are shared with GBIF: see https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help#GBIFdata - I do encourage people to check what their copyright defaults are.

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Just to be clear, that is the setting for your observations that is taken into account (there are separate settings for licenses for photos and observations), your photos can still be all rights reserved, or any other more restrictive license than those listed above, and your observation if appropriately licensed will still go to GBIF.

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Staff have previously stated they have funding for several years, apparently good for a non-profit. The only issues I have is:

  • Exponential growth: usage seems to double every year roughly doubling hosting/bandwidth costs at that rate.
  • Donated Services: “Servers are […] donated and hosted by Microsoft” kueda in 2019 review - what happens if they “suddenly” decide to no longer donate?

With iNatural starting to more heavily promote direct user funding, which to me seems akin to begging and infers to me not being financially opulent.

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This I have found to be true. And that is the inherent instability of human organisations…the success of a vision in the hands of a person or group of people attracted to that vision, draws others to the success and all it offers…and on the departure of the original people, the new leaders/owners can use it for other purposes, leaving the organisation to go where it will, for whatever purpose.
I guess this is evolution, for better or worse, but it is a fact worth being aware of.

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i would bet this is more about diversification. from an ongoing concern perspective, it’s better to have 1,000,000 people giving $10 each than to have one person giving $10,000,000 because it’s much less likely that 1,000,000 will all decide to suddenly stop giving. in other words, diversification is the way to address to your “what happens if Microsoft suddenly decides to not donate?” problem.

i guess this is a natural reaction, but this kind of reaction could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. it’s unrelated, i think this is somewhat relevant: https://www.npr.org/2019/12/13/787113927/a-father-his-daughter-and-the-choice-to-start-a-family-as-an-act-of-hope.

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