Please go through the casual observations

I’d like to encourage everyone to go through the Casual observations of your favorite species (and the unknowns too) and see if you can help the IDs along…

I was searching for houseplants and landscape plants to identify (just to be nice) and was disappointed to see several people who seemed to give up because they didn’t get any IDs at all because their observations lacked either a valid date or location. If they had been gently counseled to correct their observations, they might still be users.

For example, here’s what might be (based on its name) a whole troop of Scouts that came and went in 2019 without getting a single identification of their 29 observations:

That makes me sad. I particularly hope it wasn’t the all-girls scout troop 19 formed in 2019 right here in my city :cry:


The consequences for a missing location is that no-one will see these observations. The observations are excluded from most people’s default place. They could have been taken on a different planet. The same applies to people who elected to Private Location.


I agree that would be a sad situation, but I think that this is more of an issue of new user onboarding.

I personally just don’t ID observations without a location, as it’s so hard to know what the options could be for an ID.

I could see some value in working with really recent observations (like the past week) that are in casual as those users may still be learning/interacting on the site.

However, trying to ID those types of observations way in the past is also often a pretty thankless task as most users are never coming back or don’t respond to requests to add missing info to their observations.


This thread suggests helping out by clearing up casual observations with missing data:

Ways to help out on iNat - wiki

As @cthawley says it’s probably best to target new users or recent observations. I just discovered that you can change the new user (Account Creation = In the last week) filter from the default by editing the url after you’ve selected it. e.g. if you want accounts in the last 2 weeks change &user_after=1w to: &user_after=2w


There are some prefab responses for common casual grade issues here (though sometimes I just say “missing map pinpoint” (if you say “missing location” a lot of people leave a comment with the location rather than adding it to the map))


I am pretty new here, so I may be missing something, but why does the system even allow the entry of an observation without any location? What is gained by having such feature?

I have entered some very old observations of mine, where I don’t know the exact place, but I always just expanded the circle to cover my uncertainty, sometimes on the scale of a county, but it still seems to me much better than leaving the place out altogether - and everyone can think of a location to some accuracy.


I have wondered the same thing that opisska expressed. The only time I can understand where location is irrelevant would be for captive/cultivated, as, to me, having a houseplant located in my house in Virginia that isn’t native anywhere around here would be a pointless data point, and perhaps confusing to the AI learning. Then again, I don’t often enter captive/cultivated, but I know that some people have reasons to do so.

I think some people do this to keep track of life lists. Some people may also upload photos and then go back and add locations later for a better workflow. I agree it’s not generally a great idea, but I think there are some situations it can be useful.

I’ve gotten pretty good results going through casual observations and asking about dates, photos, etc. Most of the time I don’t get a response, but often enough people don’t realize they didn’t include valuable data and they’re very thankful you brought it to their attention—sometimes years after the observation was posted.

You’ll also run into indexing problems on observations that should be RG, but didn’t get re-indexed (say, after a taxon swap) and are stuck in Casual.

People use iNat for all sorts of reasons. If it were just a data aggregation, perhaps this wouldn’t be allowed, but it’s also focused on general outreach. I personally would never do this, but I’m sure other people find reasons for it. I run across observations without photos all the time where people didn’t take a picture but wanted to have a record anyway. Perhaps this is similar.

1 Like

Actually, I see private observations in the Identify interface. It’s just hard to identify most of them. Except Nandina domestica. That plant has a many distinctive characteristics and grows pretty much everywhere.

Me, too. That’s why I asked people to look at the Casuals. My camera doesn’t have GPS and adding locations can be very time consuming and really slows down the workflow on my old computer. Sometimes I submit without a location because it’s bedtime and I want to quickly record my field notes before I forget but don’t have time to sit through the location selection flow. When I go back the next day, sometimes I miss an observation.

And I keep seeing new users who missed that piece of info and then are never heard from after their first session.

I look through the Casuals because many new users start with stuff near them. For many people, houseplants, pets, and landscape plants are what’s near them. They have to get hooked on the App with those observations before they start crawling around on ground looking for bugs and spiders.

I’m asking us as a community to make an effort to help onboard new users. Perhaps I should have worded it like that in my original post.


Many new users are here just to know what iNat is for. Maybe they post some observations and even do not log in again to see what other users have replied… So no wonder if there are observations missing the date or the location. I think that not many users know how to display casual observations but, at the same time, I am pretty sure that not many of them are interested in such observations. Why should I blame on them?

Possibly few of them could find some interest in living beings if encouraged but no more than few. In many cases you will get no answer after having requested an amelioration of the data.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.