Observations shared between users - continuation


OK, until Discourse is able to get back to me about the bug that is not returning votes to users after a topic has been changed categories, let’s use this to continue the conversation from “Observations shared between users”.

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I haven’t read everything so I’ll just drop my thoughts. Some of these things may have already been said or cleared up.

I’m imagining the following situations, maybe you can advise which ones are likely to be covered. Each has its own problems.

  1. A user sees something with other people: they all photograph it and have media to provide.
  2. A user sees something but they are the only person to take “evidence”, but they tag the other observers just as being present.
  3. A user sees the same individual as someone else, but at a different time (e.g. 5-10+ minutes later).

Case 1. Great – this is a stockpiling of evidence that can all be applied to support one observation. But would users lose the ability to have their own “copy” of the observation? For instance what if I only want to see my photos, or keep my notes? What if I disagree with the other “observers” on the location, time or date of sighting? How is that going to be covered?

Case 2. This would challenge how “evidence” works on iNaturalist because it means you can just point to someone else’s observation and say “yeah I definitely saw this”. Does that matter? How will that be treated for leaderboards that require observations with posted evidence by that user?

Case 3. How do we draw the line as to what consists as separate? Are we just leaving it to the common sense of the users? If I see something 5 minutes apart from someone else, is that a separate observation, or should it be combined? How about 10 minutes apart? How about 30 minutes apart, even if it is the same duck sitting on the same lake?

I think having separate versions of the observation per user is still beneficial, at the end of this. What I’d like to see is a dynamic system where you post something and can retroactively “tag it” to another observation, to represent that both are the same data point. But maybe the system can automatically flag different dates and locations, to prevent misuse (mostly accidental).



I can appreciate the issues and other people’s concerns for data quality when multiple people see the same thing and make multiple observations of it.

But I’m selfish. I want my account to have my observations with my photos and I want to keep track of my species that I have seen. Period. That’s why I use iNat. Yes, I love the citizen science aspect. Yes, I love all the data that is generated and how it’s used to better the world. And the bioblitzes I have been on with other iNatters have been some of the best times of my life.

Which users are making most of these shared observations? Which users would be most likely to modify their usage of iNaturalist if they lost their ability to “keep” their own observations if shared with other users? What would the resulting collateral damage be?

If I run into Greg Lasley at Hornsby Bend, and end up “losing” a certain number of my observations because both of us saw some of the same things, I’m going to get frustrated and find another hobby.

I worry that some people may see iNat as only data. That is not what I see iNat as, that is not what I use iNat for as a user, and that is not how I describe iNat when I present it to the public. It’s a great tool for individuals AND scientists, but sometimes the scientists forget that the people generating all this data for them won’t do it if their primary incentive is removed. For me (and a lot of people), one of the most addicting factors of iNat is the whole “catch 'em all” mindset. I want to see all the species in X genus in my continent, etc. If users are arbitrarily disallowed from including some of their observations in their own observations, they have no reason to continue using the site.

User-generated data is messy. That’s just what happens. Your alternative is to not have the data at all. Choose wisely.

Apologies for the semi-rant. Remind me to not do TWO talks in a week again O_o



seems to me the shared observations would always be optional and you’d still be able to do your own if you wanted. I don’t think anyone is proposing the ability of someone to remove someone else’s observations via linking them. Unless I am misunderstanding and i wouldn’t support that anyway. Who chooses who gets to ‘keep’ it? No, what i would want was the ability to do it optionally, and if so still have it show up in my daily count or at least my life list. otherwise i wouldn’t do it.



I got the sense that some people were against shared observations from what I’ve read in other threads, and that there should only be one “master” observation that everybody else just links to. I’m all for adding features, but taking them away… not a good idea!