Not a competition?

CNC is not a competition this year, so I was surprised to see leaderboards still up and competitive language on some cities’ project pages (like “Philadelphia is competing in the City Nature Challenge again and we need your help to win!”) Some effort to remove and/or alter these features would be good to see. I mean, I would like to assume that most iNatters and people in general are smart enough to act responsibly, but there are powerful forces out there trying to have us all do otherwise and they shouldn’t be aided and abetted.


I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but I think having it be a “competition” can be as much or even more of a great motivator for good behavior as it is for bad behavior. Lots of people have a strong competitive spirit, and I think we should try to find ways of harnessing that for increasing our knowledge of the natural world. It’s a win-win situation, and I don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bath water.

Besides, doesn’t the whole idea of a “challenge” inherently imply some sort of competition? It’s not entirely clear what kind of competition that entails, but I think by definition a challenge involves competition of some sort. Maybe you’re “competing” with yourself to try to achieve something you normally wouldn’t, or maybe you’re competing with/against other people to achieve some goal (this could be zero-sum or non-zero-sum), but either way you’re engaged in a competition. In fact, all of the relevant google definitions of “challenge” include the word “competition” or “contest”.

(edit: aww, rats. We can’t embed links? here’s the google results for “challenge”


If by “leaderboard” you mean this:

Then there isn’t really a way for project creators to change that, it’s part of the layout for collection and umbrella projects.

As for cities’ project pages, it’s really up to them to change it, and it’s unlikely they’re reading this. They’ve had to scramble to make a lot of changes recently and I think it’s fine if some might have missed that.

In ordinary times, @dep, I think the friendly competition involved in the CNC and iNat generally is entirely salutary and fun and productive. Last year, I went all over my city making observations, saw new creatures, met new people, and had a great time–I’m a huge fan! But this is not an ordinary year and you seem to be missing my point.

I know four people who’ve had COVID-19 already, and hundreds are dying in my city every day. Say all you like about “the healing powers of nature” (as the CNC organizers put it), but encouraging city dwellers to head outdoors and out-observe each other right now is frankly irresponsible. A crowded nature trail is no more “healing” than Trump’s bleach. Full-fledged competitive iNat right now might very well lead to deaths; I’m not exaggerating. A more fitting challenge for the times would have been a competitive ID-a-thon from home.

I think the CNC folks and iNat understand this, and they’ve tried to emphasize cooperation, what you can see from your window, or in your back yard, social distancing outdoors, and so on: safer alternatives to a a normal year’s behavior. And yet as you point out, the word “challenge” continues to imply competition and competition encourages otherwise sensible people to take risks. We still have leaderboards (yes @tiwane, that’s what I mean, those and for individuals): I see people tweeting out “look, I’m winning!” “look, our city is winning” etc. The event has changed, but superficially. There’s still a starter’s pistol, evident winners and losers, and incentives to not just sit at home.

Perhaps I’m just in mourning; I’d love be out there with all the other spring breakers having fun! Yes, people should get outdoors from time to time; yes, I plan to continue to make observations on this platform, which has changed my life significantly, to the extent that I can. But this intensification ritual is dangerous and ought to have been cancelled.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I totally hear you. But as far as this forum is concerned, please keep in mind that iNaturalist does not organize or run the CNC, thus


It looks like you’ve tweeted and gotten responses from both of CNC’s head organizers, and they would be the ones to discuss the actual event with. So I’m going to close this topic.

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