Mission: Impossible - Identify Plantae in Africa

My biggest issue with “Life” is that it essentially bumps things all the way back to unknown. State of matter Life is included by default when you select unknowns for identifications. There is a URL hack to exclude it, but how many people know about it? If the goal is to reduce the number of unknowns, whether Needs ID or Casual, it seems counter-productive to that goal.


There is also data loss in Lifing some duplicates vs others. Examples:

  • Hand-added annotations (valuable metadata) are obliterated, and they do not return if the proper taxon is restored afterward. This matters if someone annotated one dupe but not the other.
  • A particular issue is if “duplicate” has been only loosely interpreted by the Lifer, and the data loss is of things like revealing additional camera angles.
  • An unintended consequence is when the observer deletes the other obs vs the obs someone ordered them to delete. Meanwhile the other remaining copy is mislabeled in the Life pile, sometimes helpfully labeled casual too.
  • An unintended consequence of Lifing strife is that some folks up and leave such strife. The ultimate important impact of this fun challenge was that a valuable teammate performed a self immolation in protest of injustice.

Due to the last bullet point, I feel the mission status should be: FAILED

At least until we fix things. One way to fix? Agree to best practices, and write them all down where someone can read them and keep linking to them. Like in the Etiquette thread in OP maybe?

Meanwhile, I’ve seen the raw research data coming right out of the bush. It ain’t always pretty. Maybe it’s hard to push the right mobile buttons in the glare or heat or insects whatever. My strong advice us to try to push all dupes (however interpreted) along at the same level, for ease of analysis later.

When is later?

  • When I get back to it. ;)
  • When the observer gets back to it.
  • When the AI-powered identifying interface that we’ll command will make meaningless the distinction of how the observer has binned their photosets. Making our present disputes moot.

There are staff statements about preferred practices for multiple-species observations here and about duplicates here. The guidance on the first has been added to the FAQ page; @tiwane indicated he was going to add one about duplicates, but I don’t see it on the page yet.

I agree that additionally putting these things on a page more oriented towards the needs of IDers rather than buried among general “about iNat” questions would probably help make them more prominent and findable.


I would like iNat to label Placeholder as Temporary
But my request was turned down, since iNat staff know it is temporary.

Since the observer added the placeholder text - and sometimes it is a chunk of info - the observer should control if and when their text is vanished.

Whatever ID you add to move it from Unknown … the placeholder text is a booby trap which vanishes.

If you are in the field with no internet access, it may be vital to label ‘observation 3 as Possibly whatever’ If it is a painfully sourced Missing on iNat sp we need to keep the info visible on iNat. Somehow.

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If we want to make iNaturalist more focused on the data needs of researchers, then we will have to completely revamp the way it is promoted to the public. Of course, that would also “solve the problem” of the tsunami of observations, if you get my drift. When the user base realizes that they are expected to be a workforce of unpaid field assistants, how many will stay on?

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If that were really the case, then yes, it would certainly be pretty “selective”. But I do think more emphasis could be put on the idea of community, with all the give and take that involves. Far too many users seem to equate iNaturalist with a simple one-way app to get a quick ID and are unaware of - and often uninterested in - all the work that goes on behind the scenes. Reinforcing that concept would not be at all a bad idea.


I am sad that @lotteryd has failed the whole class.

Thank you to the identifiers who kindly invested time and effort on African plants thru August. And especially to @peakaytea who remains a daily companion among our African plants.


The particular conflict that happened here had nothing to do with the data needs of researchers vs. the experience of lay users.

It had to do with inadequacies in iNat’s design that don’t provide a good mechanism for dealing with observations with problems (something that is in everyone’s best interest to be able to resolve – including observers, who would probably have liked an ID for the observations they innocently uploaded incorrectly).

And it had to do with certain users gatekeeping and aggressively enforcing unwritten norms which reflected those users’ personal preferences for dealing with certain situations (not objective research needs). What matters is that this bullying was allowed to happen unchecked and the person experiencing it was left feeling that there was nowhere to turn and no way to mediate the conflict.

Conflicts are inevitable in any community. What is decisive for whether they survive or dissolve into ever-increasing strife is how they manage that conflict. iNat failed in this case.


I’m sorry, I think I have lost track of the thread of conversation here - what do you mean by saying lotteryd has failed the whole class?

That makes me three times sad. For the one who left. For lottery and her shiny project. And for the hard working identifiers.

You’ve taken it out of context, and completely misquoted. To what purpose?

Anyone interested should follow the link to read the post.

Many of us can work on the things lotteryd talked about.

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Lottery expressed that the project failed. That made Diana sad. It makes me sad, too.

This was the reason lottery gave for saying that the project failed. Note the wording: “this fun challenge.” That was what it was intended to be. Instead it devolved into strife, which in turn resulted from:

The mission failed in that we can’t even engage in a “fun challenge” without some of us trying to force others to do things our way.

To me this is not the point of iNat at all.

More accurate I feel is the first text that comes up when you go to the help page (emphasis added)

iNaturalist provides a place to record and organize nature findings, meet other nature enthusiasts, and learn about the natural world. It encourages the participation of a wide variety of nature enthusiasts, including, but not exclusive to, hikers, hunters, birders, beach combers, mushroom foragers, park rangers, ecologists, and fishermen. Through connecting these different perceptions and expertise of the natural world, iNaturalist hopes to create extensive community awareness of local biodiversity and promote further exploration of local environments.

The gathering of data for scientific research purposes has been a happy side effect of a community that has, at its core, the mission to educate and include. Which is why I don’t mind IDing the 700th Aloe that someone has photographed in their garden, or the smudgy photo of a bug.

Helping with tha data needs for this project has been fun, but being caught in the crossfire of intercontinental disagreements has been decidedly less so.


I see. Thanks for clarifying.

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And - if you are still here? - the other half of what I was waiting for.

New species added from our IDs in the second half of August.
CV updated - This new model (v2.8) was trained on data exported on September 17th and added 1,785 new taxa.

Use the internal link for Plantae - 91 species for Africa.


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