Make users more aware of the accuracy field when uploading observations through the web interface

I have been uploading observations for a few years, and only recently did I learn about the “accuracy” field. A seasoned user pointed out that my observations lacked this field, and that it is actually quite important to include this piece of information. From other posts on the forum I can see that not knowing about this field is actually quite common (see e.g. here and instructions on bulk updating to correct this here). I think that this issue is especially relevant to users whose photos are already geotagged, so they will not be drawing any circles on the map and they will simply not see any numbers in that Acc box, or see any need to fiddle with it.

How do these people currently learn about and add info to the accuracy field? As far as I can tell, you have to click on the location field so that the map pops up (which these users will not do very often as they think their photos are already geotagged). Underneath this map there are multiple fields, one of them reading “Acc (m)”. There is no explanation or indication that this information is useful/important, and from forum posts I think it is clear that this current workflow makes many people overlook (the importance of) this field.

My suggestion is: let’s make the (lack of) accuracy data more obvious - while not too intrusive nor required - for users uploading photos through the web interface.

I am attaching some options for this that could be considered.

OPTION 1: add an indication in each observation box to allude to the (absence of) accuracy data. I am attaching some samples below. In this example, there is an ACC text at the right top of each observation box to indicate whether or not accuracy data are available. Most importantly, when the user hovers over this text, a message is shown what that means and the user can click it to learn more (redirect to a page that describes what this is, why it is important, and how to deal with lacking accuracy data). If the observation already has accuracy data, that icon turns green.

Alternative scenarios are to only show this icon if accuracy data are missing (so hide if present), and of course exact location and style are to be fully figured out.

OPTION 2: add a box to set accuracy data without having to open the map

This will make it more obvious to users that this exists, and a small text blurb can explain it a bit more right away. In this sample I am only showing it in the box on the left, as not to make the regular boxes too big, although those might also be an option.

OPTION 3: add an alert on the page if accuracy data are missing

This is a simple one: it adds a message e.g. at the top or bottom of the page, if one or more observations has accuracy data missing. The drawback is that you don’t easily see which one (perhaps add a button?) and it makes the page a bit less clean.

OPTION 4: add more info in the map popup

Alternatively, some additional warnings + info links can be added to the popup map. The ? is a link to learn more, and by adding text to warn people that this is missing (without requiring it when submitting the page) more attention is drawn to this.

That is it. I think any of these options would be an improvement over the current system and would help people like me catch this shortcoming in their uploads much, much earlier. I personally prefer option 1, which I think is not very intrusive and yet makes it very clear whether or not this is missing. I would love to hear what other people think.

Great suggestion @phoekman. Do make sure to vote for your own feature request!

In case useful for those weighing your case, I have never heard of the accuracy field before seeing this post.

This does sound like a good idea. I thought I’d point out that another way to adjust the accuracy is to click on the map itself – that’ll produce a circle that you can drag in and out, showing the accuracy.

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Thanks @psweet – that indeed is also possible but (I imagine) not really used intuitively by people whose observations are already geotagged. I imagine that this is most used by those observations that completely lack GPS data.

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welcome to the community.

i’m not against educating people about the positional accuracy field. that said, what you’re describing here seems like the wrong workflow because it’s more about collection than education. and from a collection perspective, it’s not ideal either because by the time a user sees the proposed indicators, it’s really too late to provide a positional accuracy value that’s anything other than a guess.

frankly, i think the importance of capturing positional accuracy is overstated. if you capture it, that’s fine, but if you don’t capture it, that doesn’t necessarily mean the location data is necessarily worse or unusable. there’s so much variability in how positional accuracy data is captured. there’s no guarantee it will be reliable, nor that the same value captured in 2 observations will necessarily mean the same thing (due to different collection methods). i suspect folks who rely on that value directly (or on the presence of that value) to do data analysis may not really understand the subtleties of that data point.

here are a couple of posts i’ve made in other threads that provide a little more detail about what i’m talking about:

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Accuracy field is usually blank when a position is coming from a mobile phone or from a camera with GPS or from an overlapping GPS track.
The idea sounds great just to let people know about accuracy field.
As for me, I think that we have more problems with manually positioned pictures coming from cameras. Sometimes people are using very broad localities with accuracy 100 km or even 1000+ km. A warning message could be added in this case as well.

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Hi, I have recently started ID’ing observations by others, and have become increasingly aware that many new (as well as some experienced) observers, don’t add the accuracy level to the GPS coordinates of their observations. My understanding from Tony Rebelo, leading inat in south africa, is that the accuracy is important to the specialists reviewing and using the data in management of conservation areas.

Is it possible to add an ‘autoresponse’ comment to such users when accuracy level is not recorded, to ask them to add it?

thanks
Santie Gouws
South Africa

this doesn’t seem like a bug. this is a feature request probably. seems like this could be merged into: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/make-users-more-aware-of-the-accuracy-field-when-uploading-observations-through-the-web-interface/23494.

my personal opinion is that the need to record positional accuracy is overstated. for most, i think an automatic comment would be more likely to confuse or be ignored than to be helpful.

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hi, I was adding this comment to the features forum, not the bug forum.
I think it is about the content of the message to prevent confusion. I have been adding the following comment (which could certainly be improved upon) to such observations mainly in the Fynbos region in south africa, it is up to the observer to respond or not, but at least a nudge could be useful?

‘Hi, could you please make sure you add the location ‘accuracy’ to this and all your other observations. This information is useful to the specialists utilizing the data. Apart from the GPS coordinates, they also need the degree of accuracy of the measurement of those coordinates. When you look at the location on the map, whether on phone app or on your computer, it should show a little circle around the pin that is indicating the accuracy of the measurement of the location of the observation. If it isn’t there, then in the app, just click on the location, and zoom in. It will automatically start adding a location accuracy. On your computer, you need to click on edit, then on edit again where it shows the location, then you can add it there, the closer, the better, but if you are really not sure where exactly it was, then just make it 100m or 1km or more, whatever is relevant. Remember to save your changes.
Thanks!’

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i think this is factually wrong. maybe folks using data would like a (horizontal) positional accuracy / error value, but they don’t really need it, nor is it recorded consistently enough (in terms of methodology) that i think most people should make much use of it except when it’s exceptionally large (to throw out data).

your message seems to indicate that all of a sudden data will be more useful if you just add an accuracy value or make it arbitrarily smaller. but adding an arbitrary / guessed value after the fact might make the data worse.

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Hi @dryfveer, I moved your post from the #bug-reports section of the forum to this existing feature request.

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The vast majority of my observations come from my dedicated camera and I use third party software to geotag my photos from a GPX track. Unfortunately the geotagging doesn’t add horizontal accuracy data, just coordinates, so most of my observations lack any horizontal accuracy data. Any horizontal accuracy I add to them would just be a guess and I agree with @pisum that this isn’t necessarily an improvement. I think emphasizing it would a) reduce the number of observations being added because of confusion and it being an extra barrier and b) pressure people into just adding something without thinking much about it.

In my experience (and I could be wrong) most observations with incredibly large accuracy circles come from mobile app users and I honestly can’t figure out how they get those.

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i think extremely large accuracy circles made via app are often due to folks manually setting location when the map is at a low zoom level. the lower the zoom level on the map, the proportionally larger the circle is on the map – so the larger the accuracy value. (this is different from the web page, where the size of the accuracy circle can be adjusted independently of the map zoom.)

another possibility i think could be if folks choose a large place as the basis of their location. for example, if i choose Houston, TX, USA, as my place, that will give me a location centered on city hall, with an accuracy value a little greater than 50,000 meters.

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Sorry, I should clarify that I know they’re likely doing this, I just have a hard time picturing someone not zooming in more when two continents are shown in the map. But clearly that’s what’s happening and it’s not clear that the central circle of the location chooser (represents precision/accuracy).

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