Observation duplicated then photo deleted from original: photo now gone from duplicate

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Description of problem (please provide a set of steps we can use to replicate the issue, and make as many as you need.):

Step 1: Create an observation with 3 photos.

Step 2: Duplicate the observation.

Step 3: Change the order of photos in the duplicate. The important photo that is unique to the duplicate was changed to show up first.

Step 4: Go back to the original tab with the original photo: I noticed there were no photos at all. So I reopened that observation and the 3 photos were there.

Step 5: WITHIN A FEW MINUTES delete that unique photo from the original observation

Step 6: an hour or two later after the photo was deleted from the original I noticed the unique photo disappeared from the duplicate.

Side comment: I noticed the past few months it has taken a lot longer for new observations and changes to my observations to appear on my observations list. I wonder if this is related.

Side comment added later. This was not a big deal. It was easy to fix. But if I did not think of looking at the observation an hour or so later I might not have noticed the problem and other identifiers might have been confused.

i don’t see a bug here.

if you duplicate an observation, you’re effectively setting up a situation where 2 observation records are tied to the same photo record (or set of photo records). so if you go to the photo record and delete it, you’re going to delete it from both associated observations.

if you want to disassociate the photo record from only one of the observations, you need to edit the observation that you want to disassociate, and then on the observation edit page, uncheck the photo(s) that you want to disassociate and save. this keeps the photo record but removes the association to that specific observation. this means that the photo record will remain associated with any other observations it was tied to. or if it was not tied to any other observations (or taxon pages, etc.), it will be orphaned, and then a background process will come though later and delete orphaned photos.

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As mentioned in 2022 “Change text on edit observation page to assist photo removing”
the process is too confusing to be used by regular users.

As mentioned by @cthawley “Trying to explain the process via comments is very frustrating and rarely results in pics being removed, likely at least in part because it is pretty counterintuitive.”

and by @tiwane “I agree it should be improved, it’s confusing.”

I was told a couple years ago (I think before that 2022 post) the way to get rid of a photo was to click on the (i) symbol on the photo. Obviously, that is not the best way to do it, but without a clear user interface that’s the best we can do sometimes.

Reading your post @pisum I now suggest a better short-term fix would be to change the delete I used to merely unlink the photo, then let the background process clean it up if necessary. I assume a structure where the system tracks links to the photo is going to be too much of a change. I also understand such a change might be in conflict with other operations such as deleting a user which deletes all the user’s data. (And that leads to yet another long topic.)

Another really easy short-term fix would be to change the warning when you try to delete the photo. Instead of the message: “Are you sure you want to delete this photo?” change the message to be: “Are you sure you want to delete this photo? Deleting this photo will remove it from all other observations duplicated from this observation.” No, I don’t really like that long message either. Does the system track when an observation has been duplicated? If so, only bring up that longer error message on duplicated observations.

By the way, the last place I worked this would be treated as a bug because there are no clear instructions that stop a user from accidentally deleting data.

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as i understand it, your workflow is to start from an observation and click on the button to take you to the photo record. from there, you click the delete button. the issue with trying to do what you’re describing here is that the delete button – even if you rename it as an unlink button – has no idea which observation you’re intending to unlink. so if you’re going to disassociate the photo from an observation, you need a mechanism to specify which observation you want to disassociate.

for example, you could add a unlink button on that page for each observation the photo is associated with, like so:

i think this is generally fine, but as i’ve noted, there are other potential use cases for photo records other than just as observation photos. for example, they are sometimes used as taxon photos. so if i updated the message here, i would also look for additional cases where the photo record might be used in other places throughout the system, and note that in the pre-deletion “are you sure?” warning.

ultimately, the iNat staff decide what is a bug or not. as noted, i lean more toward no bug here, and i would tend to write up feature requests to add the kind of new functionality you’ve suggested. but that’s me…

I can agree whether something is a bug or not is business-dependent. I was in a business where customers paid big bucks. This is a business where customers pay what again? Nothing.

I won’t have any problems with how this part of the system works anymore. Once you know how to do it, then you know how to do it. My only concern is the next person who comes along has to deal with a confusing process. A couple years ago it took me a long time to figure out how to unlink a photo from an observation. I’ve only duplicated observations a handful of times.

A few times I’ve come across those observations created by new users with several pictures of different plants and animals. I still don’t know how to write SHORT instructions to these new users how to split the single observation into multiple observations.


Use the forum link (my version uses a 3 letter shortcut prompted by tiwane) I also ID as Life, Good as it can be - to push it from Needs ID to Casual. Until the multiples are split.

Only one species per observation please