Questagame plant observations offer dubious value


Hi everyone,

I look almost exclusively at plants, so my comment applies to plant observations only.

I seem to be forever marking questagame observations or cultivated flowers as not wild, and many of them seem to show as a large rectangle (exact location obscured?). Many are marked unknown, yet the notes underneath might have the organism correctly identified.

Is there a better way to deal with the relatively high proportion of relatively useless observations? Messaging questagame to please add as much information as they might know (for example mark the observation as plant or animal) seems pointless as the message would not get to the observer (or would it?).

There also seem to be a relatively high proportion of totally unidentifiable observations. I am mindful that Questagame might be a good way to get young naturalists involved, and so I’m reluctant to criticise them, but is there a better way to deal with this class of observation than to mark ‘no’ under ‘evidence of organism’? Again, I presume feedback on individual observations would not make it to the observer. Am I wrong?



I should add that my main concern is that, as things stand, these observations are feeding into the Atlas of Living Australia and GBIF as verified observations of wild organisms.



That sounds like a very not good thing. There is a similar issue with what folks here have called “users under duress,” where students are forced to use iNat as part of a course. The resulting observations vary wildly in quality. Some discussion here
and here
and I’m sure many others back in the google groups days.
Not sure a solution has been IDed tho…



Thanks @notyouraveragecatlady, Ihadn’t seen those two discussions, and they do indeed sound like very similar issues.

I like the sound of a reputation-based system. Perhaps you need a minimum of others to agree with your own observation identifications before being able to ID those of others.



If you see something cultivated you should make “no” to "organism is wild. We have the same problem in Los Angeles with a (relative) high submission rate of garden plants, and that is how we usually circumvent the issue.

These are not new problems – they existed before QuestaGame import.

Edit: Some feedback will make it to the users, usually location questions, date/time, sighting details – QG usually forwards it to them if a comment is made.



I agree with mftasp, questagame remains something obscure to me.

By the way, does anyone have an idea of how new users are recruited? I am tempted to think that the huge number of pointless observations (cultivated plants, pets, humans, non-living things, etc…) are, at least in part, linked to the way people become aware of iNat and decide to sign-up without knowing well that the site is mostly devoted to wild living beings.



Your impression of them! I happen to like them, and see value in knowing where the cultivated stuff is. When we discover escapes, it can be useful to see what is growing nearby to help with ID, as well as identify sources for the escape. They (plants) are often hosts for insects good and bad, and learning about those relationships/interactions is huge for me!

Keep in mind everyone comes from different perspectives. Sure, the EMPHASIS in iNat is on the wild, but it is all life and biodiversity at the end of the day!

You might get them in on whatever basis they are getting here, but while you have their attention, you can change hearts and minds…

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@ kiwifergus do you ever scan hundreds of observations in order to “clean” the site from almost useless obs? I do it almost every day and believe me, I got to this impression after getting to the conclusion that many people just do not read the site instructions and think that iNat is like, for example, Instagram. That means a place to post photos without a criterion.
In other cases it is not so clear that a plant may be cultivated but I am not writing about them.
PS: maybe you could go to see what they have done with a recent project focused in southeastern Asia…



Often! I do it cos it’s fun :)

If you are not finding it to be fun, maybe filter them out? I’m pretty sure they apply a field that could be used to drop them from your “Identify” results.

You don’t have to “clean” the site! There is a stream of observations that is occurring, and there are many of us that “choose” to add value where we can. I don’t like to judge the observations as rubbish or “almost useless”, but I do understand what you mean. Two ways to approach adding value to such observations is to tackle the IDs/DQAs/corrections etc needed post-observation, or to work at educating the observers at the pre-observation stage. I try to do both, as well as find some time to make observations myself, which I find equally enjoyable!

And do you mean Penang? We have many wonderful learnings that have come out of that situation. It was a timely heads-up as to what we are about to experience with this years CNC, which will make Penang look like a backyard bioblitz!



I do it just because I cannot filter them!
Maybe your values are not mine.
Every user whose observations are put to casual grade is informed why this has happened and is gently asked to use the site more properly.
Yes, I mean Penang and I understand that it has been a good learning but let me say that at the same time it has been a huge incident and extremely time demanding for curator to fix the issues.
In the end, if you are happy with tons of plants in pots, pets, humans and other nonsenses which are not flagged as casual, I am happey for you but I won’t change my mind.

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What you judge observations as (useful, useless, achieved specific goal, etc.) depends on your motivations and goals. There is, of course, nothing wrong with having a wide audience that represents many different interests, motivations and goals. Actually, I think it is a positive thing and part of the reason for iNaturalist’s success.

But if we consider what the site’s primary goal is ( then the question we should ask is whether those dubious observations helped to connect people to nature.

Hmm, maybe these observations don’t seem so dubious after all.

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Indeed! And I can’t stress the point enough, that while they might be only active on iNat for a brief time, there is that window of opportunity to reach hearts and minds.



Given that the goal of iNat is to connect people to nature we need to bear in mind that for many people their pot plants, or the planted urban square down the block, is as close to nature as they will physically get. In fact, in many areas entire urban landscapes are “planted” = Johannesburg claims to be the largest man-made forest on earth: it started off 100 years ago as a treeless grassland.

Biodiversity includes the urban environment, and connecting people to their environment starts at home. Growing and caring for pot plants (and pets) is a good way to start an interest in nature. Allowing them to share is a good thing.

((And heavens: enough rare wild plants and animals are being collected that end up as pot plants and pets, so these data can be very useful as well)).




that’s the goal of the people running iNat and it’s a good goal, but a lot of people are here for a lot of reasons, and i feel that ‘mission statement’ gets hauled out too much to justify uses of the site that are at detriment to some parts of the community, namely those of us who also care a lot about specifically collecting biodiversity data (which is a WAY of connection with nature of course). That being said, i don’t really care about potted plants as they don’t really clutter up range maps or native species data because they are generally just entered as ‘plants’ anyway.



Anyone here is allowed to post, more or less, anything.
They are only asked to respect feew simple rules that, in my opinion, are onlt meant to guarantee the cohabitation of users who are interested in wild living beings and those who do not care if something is wild or not and even those who are interested only in captive/cultivated stuff. And they are supposed to be old enough to understand that every place has its rules.
Notwithstanding if someone decide to make people aware of which are the best way to use the site must accept to dedicate a lot of his free time because, at least in Europe, every day there are many new users who post a lost of the stuff that deserves casual grade.

In the end, ok to let people be connected with nature, both in its wild and non-wild side, but iNat primarily remains a place to map wild living beings and it is desirable that new users would know this at their very first entry on the site.



I do actually agree with this. Even though I’m not one to shame captive plants, it would be more in line with iNaturalist to then encourage these users to look at wild plants from there. Plus, enthusiasm for “wild” nature as opposed to garden beds and botanic gardens is what we really need in the world right now.

Fine if you are looking for insects and other critters, and even weeds, but not so effective for captive plants.



Same situation with new iNat users uploading cultivated plants without setting data quality.

Checkbox: Is this a Garden Plant?

  • No = Submit unmarked
  • Unchecked = Mark as ‘Organism is Wild = No’

I think the checkbox method should apply to both Questagame & new iNat users when uploading observations.



One cool thing that I noticed about Questagame is that they seem to be bringing in a lot of observations from India and southeast asia (although Australia is definitely their primary area of coverage). The insect and arachnid observations are pretty good quality on average, which is surprising since they are mostly from cell phone cameras. I agree that their plant observations are often poor quality though.



Hi Everyone,

Was just alerted to this conversation. Great to see, and hope I can shed some light on the matter.

QuestaGame has a rule that it does not accept cultivated plants.

And yes, @notyouraveragecatlady is spot on, it sounds like a similar situation to what happened with Penang - a surge of new users learning how to play. In the last few weeks we’ve had a surge of new players due to the University BioQuest - - especially in South Asia.

By the time we mark the plant sighting as cultivated, it’s already been shared with iNat. This is something we can try to fix.

I think @kiwifergus, @andrewgillespie and @tonyrebelo raise good points, and it may be worth QGame revisiting its rules. It wouldn’t be a problem, for example, for QGame to offer minimum reward for cultivated plants - and close them quickly, before they hit iNat - because QGame players have a daily sightings limit. It’s not in their interest to submit every single cultivated plant they see.

QGame is also doing its best to work with iNat in a way that’s mutually beneficial for the shared mission of connecting people to nature through tech. It’s upgrading the “sync with iNat” feature to meet security requirements, and based on iNat’s request, it’s looking into ways to reduce the flow of sightings to iNat via the single QGame “group account” asap. (In the meantime, we do wish iNat would remove QGame from the leaderboard, as we’re concerned its misleading people).

Yes @mftasp, QGame tries its best to follow iNat’s, GBIF’s and ALA’s principles of what’s best for biodiversity data collection, and it passes on advice to its users accordingly. We’d also be interested in connecting iNat experts directly with QGame experts (who are on, ideally allowing both groups to communicate and help ID sightings from the other group (without having to login to different systems).

Hope this helps explain some things. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this and happy to discuss further.



I personally think the questgame situation has gotten a lot better than it was before. there were some missteps, but some people really want a gamified experience and questagame is a way where that can exist without it being pushed on the rest of us who don’t want it. (I keep meaning to try QG but have been too busy, and this time of year there isn’t much to see here anyway).

Can you make a captive/cultivated designation from iNat move backwards to QG? Maybe even cause someone to lose points or something? If part of the game is avoiding captive/cultivated stuff, it may add motivation for people not to do it