Lots of duplicate photos, one place, different people in Washington County, Oregon

I’ve been looking at photos in Washington County, Oregon. There are LOTS of duplicate photos, posted by different individuals, March 4 and 5, at and near Dirksen Nature Park in Tigard. I mean, the same photo is posted twice or more, each time by a different observer. Looks like somebody is making an admirable effort to get kids out there, but the results for iNaturalist have drawbacks. I’m not sure what, if anything, to do about it.


I had a quick run through the first page of obs in explore, and there are photos that look similar but are slightly different angles etc, so I can’t see any actual duplication.

It is acceptable for different observers to observe the same organism, in fact it is built into the definition of an observation:


What is an observation?

Observations are the basic units of iNaturalist. An observation records an encounter with an individual organism at a particular time and location.

We can clearly see “organism, time and place”, but there is an inferred “observer” as the other half of the “encounter”. When I first joined iNat I was under the impression it was just the first three things, but after I joined the forum I was made aware of the fourth, and to be honest it has reshaped how I see iNat. I think a lot more emphasis needs to be made on the “observer” aspect of the observation.

There will be occassions where observers use the exact same photo, and for situations where they are sharing a camera but want to maintain seperate “life-lists” for example, it is allowed. I think it is prudent to clarify in the description of such observations that that is what they are doing, so that those “reviewing” the observations don’t jump to any wrong conclusions re copyright infringments


I think kiwifergus is correct, I don’t see any evidence of rules being broken here. I can see how this could get tedious for identifiers, though - there are 17 observations of the same heron on one day, and 18 the next day. Based on observation comments, it looks like these observations were made as part of a science class trip, so this volume probably won’t continue for more than a few days.


Yeah, we have a “reserve” near Wellington, where school groups are taken quite regularly. I can remember the feeling of dread as the next round of photos of the same shags on the same branches from the same observation platform on the track would start appearing, but I shifted that to a concerted effort to engage with them directly. Especially if they made observations of spiders, my personal interest area, I would try and make comments about each species to stimulate interest and engagement, and every now and then I would see an observation of something that I wouldn’t have thought was there…

It also reminds me of a “family game” I once worked on, but never got around to trying. We would go on hikes with family and friends, a dozen or so people all up, and I would always see things and talk about them with those I was walking with, and it occurred to me that it would be a fun exercise to have everyone in the group take photos of the things they saw on the hike, and then share their 9 favourite photos (taken by them) as a 3x3 board. The objective being to see how different all of our perspectives on the hike were. Some would photograph the people, some the “play” as they interacted, some the scenery, while for others it would be the birds and animals, or the flowers and unusual plants, and for some, especially myself, it would be the micro bugs. The opportunity to reflect on how others see things differently can be hugely informative and rewarding.


We have some schools near me that do projects in iNat. They often observe cultivated plants around the school, but I try to identify them and say something encouraging. (And mark them cultivated with a reminder to do so,) After all, that’s the nature available to them.

I found that multiple people’s photos of the same thing can be helpful. You can often tell from the time stamps and background that they’re all looking at the same organism, which helps you confidently ID even the ones with blurry photos or photos without the defining characteristics.


Yes! I once saw 3-5 observations from a school of the same squashed caterpillar (same location, time of day, stained concrete in background, body position, etc).
Some were from a distance and blurry, but the close-up ones were identified by iNatters, so I put comments in the “bad” photos with a link to the identified ones, and vice versa.


I really thought some of the plant photos were exact duplicates, but I’m not going back to look! OK. I’ll ignore these. Thanks for checking.


I have seen a number of exact photos with only 1 species in the image with the same observation date and species name. When I spotted the 2nd or 3rd duplicates I wasn’t able to easily find the 1st one so I left as is. I did note this recently for 2 observations and a user used an expletive in response to comments about removing one of the observations. I flagged both comments. Tough to document these duplicates unless both observation URLs are still open. I’ll try to make a note of these in the future.


Were you asking them to delete, or telling them to? If asking, is there a chance they could have perceived it as telling? Did you “know” the observer, or were they a stranger?


I suggested there might be an issue … then someone else instructed them to remove the duplicate. Then a completely different person (not the observer) used some choice words to the person giving the instructions to delete the duplicate observation and that comment was flagged by a few of us.

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I see many couples doing this. Good to see some clarity on how to handle it.
Sometimes I ID one, but not the other. Perhaps I’ll stop avoiding those as much in the future.


Wow, that kinda makes it worse… If butting in on some else’s debate I think there is a higher expectation for civility!


This happens all the time during bio-blitzes. I don’t think there’s any getting around it, and I don’t think it is doing much harm, either. Unless you are doing research on the organism in question (I think most of the stuff on iNat is not used for research purposes), in which case we hope that there is an algorithm or a way of sorting data that will take care of this.
My husband uses e-bird and they have explanation of some very complicated methods of sorting data so they eliminate counting the same bird twice from two observers, as well as for eliminating other error. It is way above both of our heads, but it isn’t a new problem. Any peer-reviewed research will describe methods for sorting for error in citizen science projects.
I think one of the main purposes of iNaturalist is to get people to notice organisms around them, and if 17 people are noticing and photographing the same thing, then it shows we are succeeding on that part. This is why I even ID garden species or potted plants if I can (and if I can’t, I don’t switch them to “not wild” because that thwarts the observers attempt at gaining some knowledge about their plant).


If only “not wild” didn’t remove things from “needs ID” that wouldn’t be an issue.
Though I have noticed a lot of captive/cultivated observations being IDed lately (and they were marked before their newest IDs) so either people are adding casual to their filters or something changed.


It can be a pain to identify 18 blurry pictures of a heron by 18 different kids, but on the other hand, having 18 blurry photos of a heron at the same time and in obviously the same setting means you can identify more of their observations, which is nice for them. It must be discouraging to get told we can’t ID your stuff because your picture taking skills aren’t good enough. I occasionally put in the comments that I’m identifying based on their taking a photo of what’s obviously the same individual as in observation (with URL). I feel that falls within the spirit of “identify to your level of confidence.” And sometimes I give them a tip about how to photo better. It’s that whole learning thing: it’s nice if the people around you are willing to let you do something badly for a while until you get better at it.

I admit sometimes I do only a few of a classroom’s observations, but I hope other people will get the rest (or, heck, their teacher or peers with identified photos will help them record the identity they already know: snake, spider, flower, insect, animal, Large Milkweed Bug, Blackfoot Daisy.

I also admit it’s easier for me personally to be all calm and supportive of beginners when I don’t actually have to talk to them in person or wait while they make mistakes. I’m an impatient introvert :-)


I mark as Not wild, and I ID if I can.


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