Our iNat paintings

I was having a discussion with someone today about joke IDs and inappropriate observations, and in trying to come up with a way to explain my thoughts on the subject I came up with the following analogy, and after I posted it I stopped to think about it more, and it really does change my way of thinking about the “problematic observations and IDs” in iNaturalist. I know some are not going to agree with me, by virtue of how they view and use iNaturalist, but I thought I would share it all the same.

Another way to think of it… if a small child comes up to you excited to show you a picture they painted, you aren’t going to turn them away and throw their picture in the rubbish because it is “rubbish”. You are going to encourage them to do more paintings and get better at painting! That is what iNat is trying to do with the general public. Some of those children are always going to be crap painters, that is the nature of it. But if you squash the passion instead of nurturing it, what great painters out there are we losing? A better response is perhaps “haha, funny joke, but is that really fair to the person in the photo? Loved the house plant observation, do you have anything growing wild in your neighbourhood?”

If you think about it, many of the “observers” in iNat are really just kindergarten level naturalists. Some are post-graduate level naturalists. iNat is not unlike the mixed level classrooms that are fairly common now, unlike my day when everyone in the class was at the same level or similar to yourself, in particular thanks to streaming. I think we would be appalled if the year 8s referred to the work of the year 3s as “rubbish”, especially in front of them, even if we secretly might agree with the assessment!

This classroom analogy works a treat! Imagine if an art gallery curator visited the classroom and decided to dump half the paintings from the class into the rubbish…

Those coming to iNaturalist from the scientific community, and those that have considerable knowledge and expertise with identifying specific branches of the taxonomy, and especially those that have had experience only with others that are equally as serious about the data as themselves, please remember that you are year 8s, some of us are just year 3s, let the painting have it’s time on the fridge :)


That means, you will also keep a kid’s drawing on the fridge when it depicts their classmate with a writing on it “Jenny is a …” (fill in yourself from a wide choice of the mock ID’s or something worse).

The reference to paintings on fridges is just a further expansion of the analogy. The bit that applies to your “Jenny is a…” is the bit where you acknowledge the joke, draw the attention to the inappropriateness of it, and then focus on the desired behaviour. That particular painting probably wouldn’t make it to the fridge, and to be honest if I was the one that painted it and had been shown how inappropriate it was, I wouldn’t want it there either.

[edit] I think I extended the analogy out to “paintings on fridges” in relation to the other aspect of that discussion, which was the “crap observations” aspect. I do see a lot of observations that are made with phones, of very small spiders and so on, very little chance on most of them going further than class let alone family, genus or species. I have seen argument from some people (not yourself) that “rubbish observations should be deleted, why encourage them at all”? Sometimes it is polite suggestions that photo #4 is a waste of iNat storage space, othertimes it is flat out rude comments to “don’t be lazy, get out of the car and take a better photo next time”. I should add that in almost all of such cases, no matter how rude I personally would consider them, they are offered in good faith, it’s just that the commenter thinks they are in a “streamed class of year 8s”.


I am sorry, but you are very much deviating from the subject and distorting the meaning of what was said. What was meant as “crap” by @blue_celery in the other discussion was exactly posting EXCLUSIVELY OBs of human beings with some admixture of potted plants and house pets (or just exclusively human beings without any admixture). And nothing else - there is quite a number of such on iNat. The question is left unanswered - what use/value/meaning have these posts and how do they help connect people with nature? Actually, how such users did connect with nature? By posting a selfie or a picture of unsuspecting schoolmate/family member and adding a mock ID?

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What i’ve observed is people doing this rarely do more than 1 or 2, at the most a dozen observations like this. It’s irritating, yes, but in the vast scheme of things, trying to combat it can cause more harmful results than just ignoring it. Most of these users either transition to ‘real’ users once they figure out how iNaturalist works, or else they get bored and leave. But if you fight with them, they stick around longer. Mark the observation as casual one way or another so that no one else has to see it, and the problem is solved. If it’s harassment, other violations of the terms of service, or excessive, then say something, flag the comment, or email help@inaturalist.org.


I have the feeling that we are not getting to the point.
I have seen almost no users turning from “craps posters” to “normal users” if we take into account only that small fraction of users who post exclusively people, objects, potted plants and pets.
Wondering why this happens, I have ginven myself the answer that these users are here just to see what happens if they post a photo of something they have in the gallery of their phone, something that is close to be photographed or someone to make some fun, the latter case not necessarily for malicious scopes.
Maybe we could make this exercize: lets count how long the majority of these users has lasted here in iNat. I think that we will got to the conclusion that most of them post just a handful of observations and then disappear. Multiply these few obs for a certain number of users and you will obtain a rather large number of observations that need to be fixed (identifying them as homo sapiens or setting them as casual).
In the end, maybe we shouldn’t really be frightened if we will lose some of these users that are using iNat as “Instagram 2 the revenge”. Instead, why not putting some efforts in encouraging all those users that have the potentiality to do better?


The problem is that these observations marked as casual/human can be seen. By anyone, actually. You need just two clicks in filter to see them all. The best solution for such users would be to delete the account if they are not active for more than six months. If you check the accounts of this type you will see that @blue_celery is right: they leave after having left their litter here and never come back. In case you still think one cannot see these accounts,here is the tip: go to explore then filters, print human in the field tags/description and unclick verifiable. 45,454 observations. Small part of them are not human,just happen there for some reason. Still the number is impressive.

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i guess i am a little confused, what problem exactly are you worried about that makes you think we need to delete these accounts? Just that they are irritating? Or some other broader issue?
45,000 sounds like a lot but iNaturalist is … really big now. That’s less than 0.1% of the observations on the site. And they shouldn’t show up on the ID help page, nor range maps.

There are certain situations where the problem is more severe, in particular ‘duress users’ amongst school groups, and i think the ideas discussed about improving that situation would also help here. See also https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/duress-and-contest-users/422 and others.

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I have several points, some of them I am moving from the other threads:

  1. I still think it is very unhealthy to post photos of minors (with "IDs"or without them) in a site with geolocation and realtime. Of any people, actually.Have you ever thought that if anything happens (attack on a kid, for example) and information source is traced to iNaturalist? I thought lately a lot about it and remembered a discussion with a colleague on the use of iNat for school projects. She said - but if anyone can see pattern of everyday behaviour of a kid, that puts the kid in a vulnerable position. I said that this was hardly likely because naturalists do not have set patterns of walkabouts. But recent discussion in the forums and the case has put more doubts to my opinion. With exact or almost exact adress and a photo of a person… (I also added there (not open conversation) several examples of OBs where kid on a photo is easily traceable to their home address - I am not adding them here).

2)OBs of classmates and family members with (insulting) mock IDs - which is kind of bullying.

  1. Leaving these OBs on the site with such an easy access : a) sets bad example for further such behaviour (repeating certain mock IDs is the proof of it); b) leaves vulnerable kids in vulnerable position - these who have unthinkingly uploaded their selfies or pics of their family members along with their home location and these who were a target of a bully - their portraits with ID like “white mushroom” or “domestic guinea pig” are left forever for anyone to see.
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I agree, i just think it’s different than the other issue we were discussing.

i also agree with this, zero tolerance for bullying behavior.

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Why different? You asked what is the point of deleting the OBs with human images. I answered and will repeat more exactly: by keeping these OBs the risk is increased as more people can get easy access to this information.

i also agree with this, zero tolerance for bullying behavior.

You agree with this,but you do not see the need to erase the photo of the bullied one with an insulting tag?


What I am saying is that photos of humans aren’t inherently a problem worth worrying about, but in some situations, like georeferenced photos of kids that likely don’t have parental approval and like bullying, those are problems. I think removing the photo of a bullied one with an insulted tag is a good idea, but i don’t think the answer is to remove all photos of humans automatically or something like that. In any event though, I don’t feel that strongly about it, so that’s all I have to add for now.

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I am glad of this understanding, but you are in minority, apparently. When in several occasions I have raised the question of removing the above mentioned types of OBs, it was either disregarded as being no problem (case of kids and home adresses) or as an “innocent kid joke” (bullying) not worth bother.

That is absolute rubbish. Show me one case where there has been disagreement that ACTUAL evidence of bullying behaviour has been disregarded or dismissed as innocent joke.

The problem is that you are carrying the classification of bullying behaviour TOO FAR. There is a very real risk here of “the boy who cried wolf”.

I’ll illustrate with what happened with our conversation:

I made a comment to you on a topic about being too liberal with the term “bully”. Not long after I get tagged by you on an observation saying “case in point”:

I looked at that observation, didn’t think there was any evidence of bullying behaviour, felt the best way to handle that was to highlight the site purpose and inappropriateness of those type of observations. I also followed up with a request for him to consider deleting the observations. This was an observer in a high density population area of France who posted 3 observations of houseplants a month ago, and then posts 4 subsequent photos 2 days ago of a house plant and 3 “adult flatmates or friends”. All appear to be mature adults, although the maturity level is obviously suspect. I finished by pointing out that I believed that was the best way to handle these situations going forward. I would imagine it to be another month before the observer sees the request, and even then may or may not act appropriately.

You then commenced what I felt was an inappropriate conversation on this persons observation, for which I was receiving alerts for every time one of you posted a comment:

After that last comment, I started a direct conversation between you and the other commenter, myself and Tony, and stated that I thought you were carrying on like a couple of old grannies on a school bus tut-tutting over the misbehaviour of the school kids. I pointed out that that sort of commentary was only likely to aggravate the very problem you are complaining about, and ASKED you politely to CONSIDER deleting your comments, which you thankfully did. After Tony’s comments in that discussion I felt it appropriate to withdraw my own message as well.

I’ll give another analogy here. When you have been shot, or seen a shooting, you are naturally going to be wary of everyone who has their hand in their pocket. If you have witnessed actual bullying and seen the outcome, then you are going to be overly concerned about “hands in pockets”, which this kind of humour largely is. Is every parent who calls their child “you mischievous little monkey” bullying their own child? If a group of us are at the local swimming hole, and we are unsure of the depth of the water, the cry is “who’s going to be the guinea pig?”. If I am watching my wife eat, and she eats a little faster than I think she should or usually does, I will say “you pig! slow down and save some for me!”. There is no malice intended, there is a relationship between us that allows that level of humour to be acceptable. You as an outsider looking in on those interactions are AN INVITED GUEST, and you don’t have the first clue what the relationship between those people is about. That they have invited you into that encounter I would sugest they should conduct themselves appropriately, yes indeed… there are things my wife and I will say to each other but only if no-one else is around!

You keep raising this “what if something happens, and it’s iNat’s fault?” nonsense. Another analogy… we are standing near a motorway, the speed limit is 100km/h. Several cars go whizzing by, all doing at or just under the speedlimit. You say that that speed is far too dangerous, you have seen cars crash at half that speed and people get hurt. Many, many cars go by, and no-one gets hurt. Then there is an accident. Someone gets hurt. It is not neccessarily the motorway, or it’s designer, that is at fault. Should we put the speed limit down to 50km/h? Only if it can be found that the speedlimit was itself the cause of the crash. If the driver was reckless, then it is not the motorway or the speedlimit at fault… it is the driver! Now, let’s say an accident has happened, and an investigation reveals that the cause of the accident is the speedlimit, that it does not adequately cater for all conditions of car, or weather conditions and so forth. The transport authority acts on that report and lowers the speedlimit appropriately. If they didn’t lower it after the report, THEN you can make the argument that they are negligent. What event has happened that you are deeming iNat systems and policy to be potentially negligent? A granny tut-tutting on a bus is not a report that would warrant a change of policy or system!

Another analogy… I invite you as a guest into my house for dinner, and during that dinner, I call my son an idiot for skipping out on a class. You, having worked at a child protection service, have seen cases where children are called many names, and many times over, and you have seen the damage it causes. Do you “delete” my comments? Do you take away my right to parent my child on that one situation alone? Even as a professional in the child protection services you would not, so why would a stranger invited into my house have any more right to do that? You would have to see ACTUAL evidence of risk before having the right to do that…

…so why should it be any different with iNat?

the definition of bully:

noun: a person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable.

verb: seek to harm, intimidate, or coerce (someone perceived as vulnerable).

note that the noun definition states “habitually”. I don’t think that applies to 3 observations of different people. 3 of the same person, yes. If it was 1 observation and several other “modes of attack”, then yes. I don’t see that in the observation you are tut-tutting about.

note that the verb definition implies an intent to do harm or coerce. I don’t see that in the observation you are tut-tutting about.

But I do see a conversation developing on someones elses observation involving several comments as meeting the definition of “habitual”, and I see comments aimed at denigrating their mental capacity as being consciously malicious and coercive, especially given that I can see in the forums a history of your attitude on this subject.

I understand that you see evil in the world, and feel compelled to confront it. I just think you are going way too far, and even if it was appropriate and justifiable, I think your approach is not going to achieve the result you claim to be seeking.

This topic/post was just meant to be the analogy of the kids and paintings and mixed age/level students, which I still think is a wonderful analogy in terms of helping people to see the perspectives of other iNatters. If you want to discuss this “bullying” further, please make your replies on one of those threads.

if it helps:

and I apologise for my own transgressions here (including the allcaps :/ which I will let stand as emphasis, not shouting!)

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hmm… No comments. But thank you for these family life examples. They allow to understand your attitude better.

That would make the task much easier. Ortherwise it would much rely on the personal interpretation of which thread may represent a case of bullying.

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Is it a language thing?

No. Or rather in very small part only.

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