Provide separate buttons to start new wild or non-wild observations

Proposal:

I propose to replace every button / menu item / etc. that can result in the creation of a new observation with two buttons / menu items / etc.: one for wild observations, and one for other observations. When the second is selected the observation will automatically be marked “captive/cultivated”.

For example, on the Android app, there is a single green plus-sign button on the lower right side of the screen. Users press this to add new observations to iNat. This should be replaced with two buttons. One could say, “new wild observation” the other could say, “new captive/cultivated observation”. This way, users would be forced to think about the wildness of every organism they observe.

Details

The buttons could be different colors, say green for wild and yellow for non-wild to make it easier for experienced users to select the right button at a glance. “Tool tips” for each button, that is, text that appears when the button is hovered-over, could clarify things further. These tips could include text like “when in doubt, choose wild” or “please remember that iNaturalist is primarily for documenting the occurrence of wild organisms”. Crucially, these tool tips would require no additional button-presses.

Rationale
The sheer number of cultivated/captive observations that are uploaded as though they were wild is getting a little overwhelming. Hordes of freshman biology students march out dutifully onto campus grounds and assiduously document the same few landscape plantings over and over. Confused new homeowners upload everything in their inherited gardens. Botanical gardens. Lavishly landscaped public parks. Zoos.

This seems to be discouraging many users. E.g.: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/disappointing-consistent-failure-users-not-marking-observations-as-cultivated/8791

I think that the best way to stem this tide is to force every user, every time, to confront the question of an organism’s wildness by offering two distinct routes to upload. This approach avoids adding an additional step to uploading an observation, so it shouldn’t affect power-users’ workflow much, or at all. I don’t want iNat’s data to be overwhelmed by a tsunami of cultivated plants.

I think that’s a good concept, but as many other discussions have made clear there are a lot of observations for which the captive/wild ranking is subject to valid and vociferous debate.

Personally I’d rather keep the captive/wild rating separate from the initial observation system.

It’s also important to keep in mind that one of the primary purposes of iNat is the community/nature engagement, and that the ranking system (casual/research, captive/wild, etc) is sort of an added bonus, despite that being the more important portion for some of us.

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I don’t really understand the rationale you give. You note that captive and cultivated stuff is ‘overwhelming’ the site, but why would this change stop any user who would otherwise upload something from doing so?

This seems less focused on reducing the number of records than just shunting them into the darker corners of the site faster.

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That of ddennism is a proposal that should be evaluated in deep. As regards I think that it is not so dissimilar from this older idea:
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/add-pop-up-to-ask-observer-if-captive-cultivated-for-certain-species-in-that-area/7259
A “two-button system” could have the pro of reducing the time needed to post an observation while, in my opinion, it could be a little be less intuitive then the “pop-up system”.

Regarding the “grey area”, it is true that for certain observations it is debatable if is more correct to flag them as captive/cultivated or not but, fortunately, they are few while the vast majority of them are easily attributed to the class of wild or non-wild organisms.
Moreover, users should be invited to post enough photographic material to enable themselves and the community to make an idea of the wild/non-wild status of a given organism. Unfortunately many users do not understand the importance of photographing the surrounding environment!

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I don’t think the point is to stop people from uploading captive observations, it’s to stop people from uploading captive observations as if they were wild. If we all agree that captive/cultivated observations should be marked as captive/cultivated, then I think we (in theory) should all be in agreement that having them marked that way from upload is preferable to having to do it after upload (see more below).

I would argue this is a separate issue entirely, but one that is for now linked. For now, marking things as casual “shunts them into the darker corners” because casual observations are hidden from many parts of the site, including Identify by default. There are multiple suggestions for how this might be handled differently, but if this part can be improved, then marking something captive/cultivated would no longer put it into a black hole, giving no incentive to leave things marked wild temporarily just to get an ID before flipping the not wild DQA.

I don’t see anything in this proposal that changes how gray area observations are handled. As I read it, all this does is use one route (add wild observation) to do the exact thing the current button does, and another route (add captive/cultivated) to do the exact thing the current button does except that the DQA “not wild” is already set on upload. If it was unclear how to mark that DQA with the current system, then it’s still unclear how to mark it with this system, and the user should choose the wild option by default (as stated in the proposal). Perhaps the buttons could be labelled something like “captive/cultivated” and “wild/unsure”.

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I’m not clear if it is or is not the objective.

If it is the desire, I’m not clear how this would impact it.

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By providing a separate upload button labeled captive/cultivated, I think it’s pretty clear that the objective of this proposal is not to stop people from uploading such observations.

Instead, I just see this as a minimally intrusive reminder to consider the choice when uploading observations, without adding any extra clicks, and accompanied by some tool-tip information for those not yet familiar with the choice.

And furthermore, the reminder is directed to the one person who is in the best position to make the distinction – the original observer – instead of depending on photo-interpretations of subsequent viewers.

The result is that more observations should be correctly classified at an earlier point in their life.

What we then do with that classification is currently a matter of debate in other topics. One suggestion is that captive/cultivated not automatically remove an observation from the Needs ID pool, but is still available as an independent filter choice for those who do, or do not, want to look at captive/cultivated things. But until we get more things correctly classified, such suggestions are close to moot.

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That’s exactly what I am trying to say/ask. I don’t see any way this would stop or slow the volume of observations, yet my reading of multiple statements in the request is that the hope it will do so.

Yeah, I guess I was reading it as referring to the tide/tsunami of

(e.g., mis-classified), and not to the total number of non-wild observations. But maybe the OP will come back and clarify.

The following has probably been suggested many times before … but here’s a mock-up of an upload screen (on desktop version) that would (1) bring the “wild / not wild” tick box to the top (visually saying, “this is actually important, don’t ignore, please”) and, most importantly, (2) flip the default so that an observation is not wild unless you actively tick the box to say it is wild. I.e., if user uploads without thinking about it (a common scenario, I gather), the observation is coded as “not wild”. This doesn’t fix all those instances where people might be unsure of whether something is wild, of course (we’d need another tickbox to fix that). For people who only upload wild observations this change will seem burdensome, I suspect (because click), but the benefit might be a cleaner database.

I am still not hugely on board that users who are using a site whose primary focus is collecting data on wild organisms should have to specify they are submitting something wild. And that this clarification is any more or less important to the overall data quality of the site than verifying other elements are accurate. Why not force users to say location is right etc?

Casual observations compose 13 percent of records on the site right now. Even within that 13 percent are multiple types : cultivated stuff, stuff missing dates or locations or no photos, pets, humans, landscape pics, flagged stuff, spam, stuff that has been flagged as cultivated but maybe should not be based on the grey areas of the rules etc.

Truly cultivated plants are some single digit percent of records on the site. Like all things that annoy people, their perceived level of occurrence is greater than the real one. I’d rather see a solution attempted to deal with that single digit percent than a sledgehammer that goes after the other 90+ percent as well.

Edit- I should note that there will also be truly cultivated stuff in the needs Id group which will increase the 13 percent, but I have no idea by how much or if the data there shares a similar breakdown (ie what percent in there are truly cultivated stuff vs poor unidentifiable photos, tough to separate taxa etc)

Maybe allow (expert) users to toggle the default
to Wild
or Cultivated
depending on the focus of their obs.

New users need a default which requires them … to choose. Which is it? Wild or Cultivated?

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I personally don’t think changing this will make much of a difference… i suspect it’s less that people forget to tag things and more that they ether don’t want to or don’t understand the distinction to start with. requiring users to check an extra box will just result in more time spent and also potential error. Having two buttons might help some but you have to balance it with people just hitting the wrong button for whatever reason.

Maybe better tracking and display of cultivated organisms, removing the ‘casual’ tag and such would help. But this data is always going to be something one needs to review critically before using for a lot of things. It’s just the nature of iNat. I consider it more as data I have a ‘relationship’ with similar to that of a field notebook - i understand it and its strengths and weaknessess; if i were doing some sort of intensive statistical analysis i would work with a subset of the data anyway. I know exactly the limitations of my own field notebook but when looking at someone elses, i look a bit more critically even if they are more knowledgeable than me because i don’t know what is going on within their head, etc.

I certainly don’t want to shunt anyone’s observations to a dark corner.
My goal with this proposal is to increase the percentage of captive/cultivated organisms that are marked as such. And to do so without inconveniencing “power users” with any additional steps. Right now, huge numbers of cultivated plants are marked as wild. If marking things as “cultivated/captive” constitutes an undesirable “dark corner”, then that sounds like a separate issue for another discussion. I think there are already forum posts about this.

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Prompting that choice in the uploader’s mind is exactly the aim of this proposal. A default choice (like a highlighted button?) would be unfortunate, in my opinion, because it would remove this choice from the front of the uploader’s mind. As with any other datum generated for this site, user error could indeed occur.

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“Casual observations compose 13% of records on the site right now.” I don’t think this statistic indicates what you imagine it indicates. Because so few captive/cultivated observations are ever identified as such, they don’t ever get flagged, and thus never become “casual” to begin with. They masquerade as “wild” - maybe forever. To me, 13% of records is a huge warning sign because I have a feeling the true percentage of captive/cultivated observations is far higher! A mere 13% indicates that only a tiny fraction are getting caught. If you doubt the problem, see the examples in the forum page I linked to in my initial post. Or just hit the explore button anywhere near a college campus.

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I like this idea a lot, but very similar iterations of it have been proposed in the past and the additional “click” has, as you anticipated, been seen as truly too burdensome. For people making massive numbers of observations (like every other step they take in some monitoring context), I think it adds up quickly.

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flip the default so that an observation is not wild unless you actively tick the box to say it is wild. I.e., if user uploads without thinking about it (a common scenario, I gather), the observation is coded as “not wild”.

This will result in countless observations of wild organisms being marked captive.

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Oh yes! I’m sorry if it wasn’t clear in my original post: I am referring only to reducing the number of observations that are tagged as “wild” but are in fact of captive/cultivated organisms. The original post has nothing to do with the total number of casual observations (marked as such for whatever reason), nor with the existence of non-wild observations.

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I did not say that 13% of the records on the site are flagged as captive, I said that 13% of the records are casual, which has a variety of reasons, one of which is cultivated plants. 40% (well 39.4% if you want precision) of the casual records on the site are from records with no photo, 25% are casual due to missing geographic data. a percentage are casual, sorry I dont know how to query for this are casual due to having no date etc. So we are somewhere down to less than 5% already without accounting for other reasons.

Are there localized issues, in particular related to students being forced to use the site and the City Nature Challenge? Absolutely, but i don’t see any evidence that there are only a tiny fraction of these records being caught. Just looking through the needs ID pool from my home nation (Canada which is the 2nd largest national contributor on the site) shows an apparently small percentage. To be fair, I even changed the search to show only records from June to avoid any bias of the lower number of plant records available in winter here, and I still see few obvious records in there that are cultivated plants,

In fact almost 17% of all the Canadian ‘needs ID’ records are already ID’ed to some level of fungi, but not research grade. These are records that will almost never get to research grade and far outnumber cultivated plants. Should we do something to stop these?