Recruiting more identifiers

Not seriously the latter! First rule of community etiquette should always be to maintain a sense of humour, assume good will and not be oversensitive.

seems an uncivil way to convey a thought by any standard


To be fair, I could see myself saying that as a joke to a friend, but to a stranger that would be incredibly rude.

It’s not always possible as a third party to know other users’ relationships with each other, but claiming people are just too sensitive or have a poor sense of humor is, in my opinion, disrespectful and a failure to acknowledge the diversity of people that should feel welcomed as part of the iNat community. Yes, try to have a good sense of humor and remember that most of us are here to have fun/learn/enjoy nature, but also acknowledge that your own humor may come across very poorly through text.

Avoid sarcasm with people you don’t know. Don’t assume everyone shares your sense of humor, or even knows whether or not you’re joking.

There’s a reason this is explicitly laid out in the Community Guidelines, because attempting sarcastic humor through text causes crossed wires…frequently. Especially in an international community like ours. This goes for recruiting IDers, observers, and really anything else, anywhere online.


Assuming good faith can go a long way to avoiding conflicts! If there is any doubt at all, assume that they are joking and ask for clarification.


Part of assuming good faith means you have to practice it yourself. Things like harassing people for taking photos from cars isn’t doing that. For a lot of reasons.


Response to a post in “Having City Nature Challenge in April is Silly.” The response is off-topic there, so I am responding here. The context was a discussion on the rate of observation growth being driven by the success of CNC.

User growth, however, appears to be exponential. I ran a model based on annual number of users at the end of each year, and the model suggests that iNaturalist will have upwards of 2.7 million users by years end. I do not have access to the number of active identifiers. I rather suspect that number cannot be realistically determined. That said, concepts outlined in this topic and elsewhere provide paths forward to encouraging more IDers.

Separately, teachers should be encouraged in the strongest possible terms to follow each and every one of their students and engage in the effort to “clean up” behind their students. This helps close the loop on identification for student users and makes the use of iNaturalist a more meaningful and engaging learning experience.


Ok, I will elaborate… Regular novice observer, comment as above from new but highly active identifier. I felt it was a little harsh, so I direct messaged identifier, he responded with some thing along the lines of “I pulled my punches there, she deserved worse. This is a scientific site and if she can’t be bothered taking the time to do it properly…”. A series of exchanges, eventually I send him the conduct guide from the FAQ, to which he replied with something like " ‘[quoted section on blocking people]’ yeah, thanks for that tip", which I took to mean he was going to block me over our exchanges. I stopped engaging with him at that point. Over the next few days he was tagging me on the most ridiculous observations (in terms of “why did you tag me on this”), so I asked him to stop tagging me, which he did. He is still there doing IDs, his comments are generally less harsh, and things are now civil.

So it goes both ways, Stephen… You can assume that if I am bringing up the example, that I did due diligence in the handling of it, or if in doubt you can ask…


I have to admit, my eyebrows went up at that rights issue too, but if you think about it, Charlie has a good point. Identifier doesn’t know anything about observer… For all they know it might be someone unable to get out of car for some reason. And “first rules” are seldom broken up into three parts that are so substantially dissimilar. so it’s probably the first THREE rules…


Not only US, but every country around the world has other sites or forums that help with organism identification. iNaturalist is much more convenient than any of them, but the user base (including the best experts) is still sticking to the old sites. It’s going to be a long time until the shift from those sites to iNaturalist happens.
I live in Lithuania and we have a lot of active users here, but neighbouring country Latvia has very few. I asked people on Latvian Entomology facebook group why they don’t use iNaturalist and they said that they don’t see the need. They have a huge site of their own and it works fine for them. Too bad because in Lithuania we have great experts on iNat and they would help with the Latvian observations as well.
I don’t know what can be done about it. All these sites see iNaturalist as a competition and won’t help their users to move to a far superior iNat.


2 important things to consider

  • a high percentage of the ‘accounts’ on the site are actually spam so it distorts the real numbers
  • you need to account for seasonality, and factor out the CNC growth. Typically before the CNC the site was running at about 60000 active users per week. It will be interesting to see where it settles by about end of May. By then you will have the CNC impact mostly gone, plus most school use done, but an uptick in northern hemisphere use (for example here in Canada we have a hugely seasonal bell curve of use on the site corresponding to when it is more pleasant to be outside and more stuff to see)

The main argument I would use is that iNaturalist provides a way to archive observations with their date and location information so that they can be used and accessed by researchers. Facebook does not offer that, so after a month or two the observation becomes worthless to anyone. It’s also possible to post a link to an iNaturalist observation to Facebook if they want the best of both worlds.


I totally agree, especially when it comes to facebook. But there are many iNaturalist-like sites out there that do store data and local scientists use it in their papers. For example Latvian site apparently is a very well liked and respected among Latvian scientists and environmentalists. And it has a lot of users too. No one wants to move to iNat from that site even though there are clear advantages for doing so (not only local scientists, but everyone world-wide could use the data and everyone around the world could contribute with the identifications).


In those cases, what would be nice to see is those sites feeding their data into umbrella databases like GBIF so the data are made more accessible. I don’t think there’s any harm in having a diversity of sites around the world, as they can often be tailored to local needs and languages. I love iNat, but I am not sure that we would want it to have a monopoly on nature recording.


honestly, when someone does this you should email it to . did you email them about it? This person is toxic and honestly needs some admin ‘guidance’ if not to be banned outright.

i know for a fact that there are people who are on iNat who have serious illnesses like cancer or aren’t able to walk due to past injury. I know people don’t like being called out on their discriminatory behavior, and that a lot of people just don’t think about this stuff… and i also know that there are so many things to consider and some people really do overreact to everything. But I don’t think this is like that at all. How awful is ti to drive some person with cancer off the site because they are getting harassed about not having pretty enough photos? Especially when it’s in direct conflict with the actual guidelines on how to use iNat. There are so many reasons people might take a photo from a car. I do roadside surveys sometimes, and also have a little daughter where i can’t always go thrashing around in the bushes when i have her with me. Besides, it’s data. If the species can be identified, it’s a data point we wouldn’t have otherwise.

So seriously… just don’t be a jerk. It isn’t that hard. If you don’t like roadside observations, just skip those. And maybe some people are too ‘sensitive’ but honestly, most of the time someone says ‘don’t be so sensitive’ they are trying to defend some sort of putrid behavior, so i’d rather that not be the first rule of anything on here. This isn’t Reddit or 4 chan. if you want that environment you can go post there instead.


I felt that maybe how I was approaching it with him might be inflaming the situation, although I couldn’t see how. Because the initial comment to the observer wasn’t extremely bad, and because he wasn’t responsive to my suggestions, and because I had communicated what I felt needed to be said, I decided to just keep an eye on things. If I saw continued disrespect to other members I would likely have passed it on to staff, as it is in the grey area and perhaps it is me that was “overly sensitive”. Kinda giving him the same benefit of the doubt as I expect him to give the observers! His comments did improve, there are occasional ones that I wince at, but nothing that I think would be taken too harshly. It is highly likely that he took on board the “gist of my message”… sometimes you just gotta scratch the surface and plant the seed, and let nature do the rest.

I think it is important to identify the comments as toxic, rather than the person. If the behaviour continues or worsens after the seed is planted, then it is toxic ground for sure! Most of the time it is just people that aren’t used to communicating over the keyboard.


fair enough. It seems unlikely based on my experience that it was only you but… maybe in this case it was.

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I have my bad days :) … Cassi has planted a few seeds for me, and thankfully they are thriving :)


well yeah, i do too, i geuss we all do. That’s where the patience comes in…


This isn’t a criticism of you, but a personal example and a reiteration of iNat’s policies.

As someone who rarely ever means to hurt anyone’s feelings but has a caustic wit, I have in the past found myself in multiple situations where I have unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings, especially if it’s someone who doesn’t know me well and doesn’t understand my humor. And that’s on me, and it’s something I’ve learned to hold back. It is a terrible feeling (both for me and for them). It is also totally unnecessary and and something iNat aims to avoid.

I understand this can cut both ways, but iNat requires everyone to err on the side of diplomacy and to not joke with people you don’t know. There are simply too many cultural and linguistic differences here that can create misunderstandings. It certainly doesn’t always make me happy, personally, but it’s a compromise we ask everyone to make in order to maintain a welcoming global community and I think it’s an important one. I love getting off a good zinger as much as anyone else, but there’s a time and place for it, and iNat is not that place.


Great summary. I’m a semi-professional plant identifier in real life (I say “semi” because I’m didn’t go to graduate school and most of what I’m paid to ID are cultivated plants) and very new to iNat. I’ve been reading this and other ID threads to try to learn about the process of ID on iNat because I think want to do it as a hobby. I’ve been here slightly over a week and so far:

The site is overwhelming in scale. I see so many tutorials, it seems like the help pages need help pages. I ended up at the forums because I was looking for not just “how to” but some idea of what is socially acceptable and what isn’t regarding more philosophical aspects of plant observations. Namely, what’s with the “captive/cultivated” designation (wow, was that a forum can of worms!) and what does one do if the provided photo is simply not enough information (still working on that one. I hear people mention “closing it out” and I have yet to research what that means and when it is acceptable to do it. )

I’m assured iNat is useful for research and land management, but so far I have seen limited concrete evidence of such. I bet evidence exists, but it isn’t prominent. So far I’m unconvinced it would be at all useful for me to make observations (other than for personal enjoyment, that is. I live in a very urban area where potential observers abound but eligible plants to observe are limited) and only half-convinced you even need me to ID (my area seems to teeming with active experts.) I am however surprised to hear everyone say most users don’t do any IDing even if they know how. Why ever not! If you make an observation, you will never know if it is “useful.” Even if a research project picks it up, it’s not like you would find out. But with ID, there is already an individual person asking a question: what is this? And when you answer, instant usefulness!

When I created a forum question asking what plants “most needed” ID, the replies consisted of the very obvious “do what you know best!” Or “try your local stuff!” Or basic “here’s how to do a search.” That wasn’t all at what I meant. I was expecting more like
-here’s some projects you can join
-here’s a page listing taxa and their devotees, see what’s open
-so and so is the leader of your geographic region, (s)he can tell you about local needs
-here’s the board with “help wanted ad” posts
Or even just a “I personally want your help with xyz.”

This post/thread/discussion/whatever it is called (I am also new to forums in general) has been extremely helpful, if long. I’ve learned way more here than any help page.