Open letter of apology for once being a reckless user

As a long time educator, it hurts my heart to see people agonizing so over mistakes. Mistakes are part of learning - for all parties. You kept saying you were 100% at fault but also that you didn’t understand the depth of the service and never knew those were messages. That’s a learning opportunity for iNaturalist, not just you.

A good friend once told me, shame is never a good motivator. And many people on this forum have said (many times), we don’t know the intent of any user so let’s all assume the best and not the worst. It’s easy to forgive someone who learns and grows. Thanks for the apology and explanation but don’t let shame linger any longer.

So, with that said: I’m glad you’re continuing to use and enjoy the site. You wrote, “not all of my observations are great,”. If you’re worried about the quality, don’t. I post blurry pictures, pictures of sidewalk weeds and common insect pests. I even post pictures of animal holes in the ground, old bird nests, gnawed beaver trees and poop on the path (when I’m quite sure it isn’t domestic dog poop!). Some photos will be unidentifiable but if I get an idea or a suggestion of what it might be, it makes me happy. And all ‘poor’ photos teach me how to get better photos for identifications.

Mostly I’m excited for you because I KNOW how much more fun it will be for you and your family going forward. I have become much more observant of nature… much more knowledgeable of nature… and much more appreciative, protective and even a little worried about nature. That’s the goal of the site and I think you’ve got some fun times ahead of you as you use iNat more and more.

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There’s this project: Road iNatting
https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/road-inatting

and someone (on this forum?) once linked to this pdf:
https://theprairieecologist.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/a-field-guide-to-roadside-wildflowers-at-full-speed_january2020-1.pdf

old thread:
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/observations-of-trees-taken-from-moving-vehicles/21598/2

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I’m glad you stuck around and iNaturalist is working for you and your son. Posting lots of photos of the same common species has value in this changing world. I’m glad your son is into that.

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There was a particular vernacular name for the process though (I think from discussion on a discord server? That’s a dimension of the community I’m not really familiar with) that was named after a particular user, verb-ing their username, sort of like “redpolling” became a term for a particular activity.

That sounds great that you get to use iNaturalist with your children and that your son is getting so much out of it.

As other users stated, citizen science apps like iNaturalist just “naturally” are not something most people are accustomed to, and I am sure a plethora of users start out similar to how you do. I think most identifiers/curators are understanding of that and so we try leave comments that help point new users to tips and guidelines so to help them understand, although I know a few get tired of it. But I don’t think its anything to be guilty about forever. I think you working towards using iNat the “intended” way makes up for anything prior as you and your family are helping add to the data.

Now that you are where you are, you can help others too.

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Pay it forward, especially when you see someone new on iNat. TBH I think we all floundered at first.
That is why you will see lots of forum posts
How do I …
Why does …
Can someone remind me where this is hidden (reorder photos for example)

You may find this thread interesting. I did, and it continues to unfold as new people find it. Fair warning - It is long
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/neurodiversity-and-inaturalist/17268

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That mostly shows how adding message function to the app (at least it’s on android now) should’ve been done long before, yes, as you see on your own example, people who start with an app are ones we see more “problematic” use from, it’s not their or your fault, but the way community advertises the app and how app lacks a lot of what website and forum has, I think main part of how not to get into any trouble on iNat is to start with website and read everything you can on the forum, it’s like you don’t get even half of website functionality and non-written rules without forum. So, we as who tell others about it, should make accents on how it is a compilation of cv and community and how you need to go to the website, that’s what I try to tell those interested in what I’m doing.

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Agreed. The app is often spoken about in isolation from the website as the thing to join and even I have been guilty of it, but the website has infinitely more features than the app (I can’t believe you can’t even see messages on the app) to the point where the website should be what’s advertised instead. At least until the app improves to nearly its level.

I somewhat begrudgingly use the app for two purposes: 1, getting a genus-level ID of a plant in the field when I just can’t wait until I get home to find out; and 2, uploading all the photos I took from my phone, which is the important feature for me. Every other aspect of iNaturalist - exploring, identifying, conversing - practically must take place on the website. Whenever I talk about how much I love iNaturalist, I’m really talking about iNaturalist the website.

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OP, very kind of you to apologize but most important, as many others have said, is learning from them.

And even if you were still making the mistakes you’re feeding your son’s interest in nature so you get a pass! We’re all really glad you and your son are into the site.

Edit: name removed from original “Road iNatting” due to clarification below that it was changed for a reason.

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Now I use website for phone photos, upload everything from the phone (also allows having memory not at 97% all the time and no need to delete anything) to my laptop and then can upload everything from the day in 2-4 batches instead of spending the whole evening uploading one by one via app, but yeah, I also use it to id something quick if it’s a cool interesting plant or use for birdsongs that don’t require better than phone quality.)

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Every time I get the opportunity to tell someone about iNat, I always make sure to emphasize the extremely better functionality of the website. And, you are spot on with everything else you’ve mentioned about iNat.

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Wow! Thank you for the heartfelt write-up @dallonweekes. I don’t think that you should beat yourself up over it. Not many people would have the courage to admit they made mistakes and own up to it - I am impressed! Thanks for sharing.

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Thank you! I don’t want to blame myself too much because there is a major lacking of information on the app, but again, I dig the simplicity, as much as it did hinder me initially. It’s easy to use, as long as you know how to use it.

I’ll admit, I’m not sure if that last bit is in a “all the lousy pictures will be fully visible to everybody” or as in, “even the lousy quality ones are making a contribution”. Either way, that type of individuality is definitely preserved on this site which is fantastic.

My mentality with low quality or blurry pictures is, if I know what it was or I believe that somebody else can decipher at least a general idea of what it is, it’s upload-able with good reason, especially since pictures aren’t technically even a requirement.

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I would argue that there’s essentially no major guidance on the app, though it all seems very obvious to me now, I think it’s clear that it could be very conflicting or unclear to others. I think it’s great that it’s something people talk about, which is why I wanted to make the post explaining my mistakes, because I think I am not the only one who could learn from it.

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Thank you. I’ve read through the neurodiversity thread quite a bit actually, and thought it was really validating. I am not neurodivergent, but I do think a lot of my son’s mannerisms have grown on me and I find myself enjoying a lot of the repetitiveness of things too. It’s very nice to know it’s seen as a strength, and not a weakness, among people here. I think people have done an incredible job of creating a very safe and pleasant community all across the board here.

I also will say, I do know about the whole car picture thing. And yes, I do it a lot. A lot of them are from my son, my daughter does it sometimes too, though she tries to take more artistic pictures of things, whereas my son just tries to get as many as possible and he actually does a pretty good job usually. I’ve added stuff to the one project, I think it was something with the word “road” in it. I will admit though, I’ve slacked a lot in adding to it just because a lot of the time I go really fast with uploading stuff. It’s nice to know that it isn’t an unheard of practice.

My work involves a lot of car/bus/van travel, so whenever my son is with me he takes pictures out the window essentially the entire time. A lot of them never make the cut because it is completely indecipherable but a lot of them are great, too.

Thank you for the very kind comment. I really appreciate it.

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I’m glad you stuck with iNat after learning better. I think the proposed onboarding changes are very much needed, there’s a lot of people that go in with assumptions on how the platform works and don’t change their behavior after being corrected. But I’m always glad to hear that everyone has made mistakes at one point or another.

I’m a pretty new iNat user, so I’m sure I’m still making plenty of mistakes, but for the first week or so I was using iNat, I thought the IDs were more supposed to be “best guesses” in the vein of computer vision training, so there was a lot of “well it sure looks like the thing in the CV” IDs with organisms I was very unfamiliar with. I learned quickly enough when experts kept correcting me on IDs, and have been “staying in my lane” now, but oh boy is it embarrassing still to think about!

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That’s another reason that motivated me to share. I think if I made the mistake, a lot of other people surely are too, and it may be mistaken for just kind of being a jerk. I think I probably seemed like a jerk because I didn’t answer anybody until my account was suspended so it sort of felt like too little too late. I guess I just feel guilty still because it’s painfully clear to me now, but you’re right, it’s all a learning experience.

As far as the image quality goes, I’ve had a lot of people complain about certain images due to how bad the quality is, which I understand, but on the other hand, there’s been various times where those exact observations are later identified by multiple other people who feel they can decipher it confidently. Some people are downright rude about it as well, which really disappoints me because there is absolutely nothing against the rules with uploading a low quality picture. I do always assume people are not deliberately being mean but I’ve gotten comments like “were these taken by a child?” and honestly sometimes, yes they were. It still just seems over the top and unnecessary. I feel like being nice is great and all people should try to do it whenever they can. I don’t take it personally when stuff like that happens. My mentality is similar to yours, where if I see any benefit it uploading it, it’s going to go up.

I’m really proud of how informed my kids are on their surroundings because of iNaturalist. I’ve always really loved science but was never that good at it. Both my kids are already far more intelligent than I was when I was that young, especially with nature. They will get super excited over seeing a certain type of plant and develop favorites, most of which are usually pretty mundane species which I’ve always found funny. The fact that they even have opinions on it though makes me really happy because they clearly are knowledgeable.

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He’s especially into that. I’ve always thought it’s really helpful too, because a lot of things people wouldn’t even pay mind to are the first things he notices and wants to document. A lot of them end up being invasive too, so the representation seems more important in those instances. Thank you for the kind comment.

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I definitely feel less guilt after starting this conversation. I made it with the intention to bring awareness to potential problems people have, while also clarifying I have great remorse about it, and both of those things I feel much better about! People seem to be more on the same page than I thought after reading different posts on here.

I’d like to think I’ve added much more useful stuff than harmful stuff, so I would like to think it somehow makes up for it. Thank you!

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Yes, I’d like to think that type of awareness and willingness to help really contributes positively and I intend to do that whenever the opportunity arises.

Also thank you for including that. I’ve read that, in portions, and found it really nice. I love the support and kindness majority of people provide on here.

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