Recurring Issues re Subject of Observation

I notice these problems in going through “Unknown” and “State of matter Life” observations:

  1. A lot of users don’t seem to know not to keep changing their minds about whether their own observation is for the plant or the bug or the lizard in their photo. They post with one, identifiers go in that direction, then the user IDs to another one, the identifiers try to go down the new road, and then the user suddenly chooses “Life.” It doesn’t seem likely that the users are trying to prevent their own observations from being identified. I think it’s more likely that the screens they are looking at don’t make sense to them or are incomplete or something.

  2. A lot of people who act like they own the observation aren’t the actual observer, so an observation starts out with the observer making an identification of “plant” and identifiers going in that direction. Then a non-observer says something to the effect that for their project they were really focusing on the insects. Both are in the photo. The observer seems to lose interest until someone in the project is able to get hold of them and ask them to change their ID. I find it hard to understand why someone making observations for an insect project would label their observation “plant,” but this seems common. They probably just assume their fellow project members will sort it out, which they try to do, but then identifiers are faced with having to counter the observer’s own ID.

  3. When using Identify, duplicate photos (one for one organism and one for another) do not stay together, with the result that if Life is chosen and identifiers go in one direction they don’t know that the organism they are choosing is the subject of the duplicate. I often go into the observer’s observations to check for a duplicate covering one of the organisms, but this is tedious and I can see why most identifiers wouldn’t want to slow the flow by doing that.

All three of these situations are frequent, and I don’t have any proposed solutions, but I wish there were some. Any thoughts?


Maybe if we were forced to choose a rough category when we put the obs up?


For 3 - I see comments that … the insect is here with a link.

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I’m still new and figuring out a lot of this, but what I tend to do when there are two species in the same photo is crop it differently for each. So for a plant an insect, I’ll post the whole photo for the plant and crop it for the insect.


I see these comments sometimes, but often I see observations without the link. Even with a link, another problem is that there seem to be many identifiers ignoring the comment or link, and I wonder whether that is because they are not seeing it on whatever screen they are looking at.

That’s a good idea. Sometimes identifiers will identify your plant photo as an insect anyway, so --to be sure your plant observation doesn’t go off track–adding a comment with a link to the insect observation would help, too, as @dianastuder suggested.

I suggested that some weeks ago and it was very unpopular. Evidently a lot of power users want to upload their observations as “unknown” for speed reasons, and then go back and add ID when they have time. Personally I think the decrease in new users leaving things in the unknown bin would be worth it.

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I just figure that we shouldn’t worry about it too much. If it’s not obvious, I will identify what I think the subject to be, and point out where in the image it is, then leave it to the observer to either agree or to tell me something like “no, it’s the yellow thing on the left”.

Not everything will be indentifiable. Sometimes image quality is to blame, sometimes it’s just that the observer hasn’t followed a process that will lead to a positive ID (including most of your scenarios). I just accept that and move on.

On setting a broad categorisation when you upload: Taking personal preference out of it, sometimes you can’t do better than “life” for your ID, ruling out a broad categorisation. There are probably other examples, but it’s reasonably common to not know whether something is a sea squirt/sponge (animals) or seaweed (plants)


For 3. I add a description as to which one it is I am trying to identify. It is easy enough to do with duplicates.


A temporary Unknown
with an automated reminder to add ID (specific or roughly) later?

In my mind, I imagine the observation creation form having the same row of category symbols as used for the ID search filter: plants, birds, etc, including the unknown category. I imagine the system requiring you to click one to select it. You would still be able to select unknown, but you would have to choose to do so.

As for the power users, I think what they actually want is a draft mode, wherein they can create observations which are not yet live (publically visisble) until after they review them and hit publish. You can sort of do this with the app by forbiding it from uploading your obs one by one (you have to hit “upload” later and then they all go as a batch) but if you want to do your final edits on the website rather than in the app, you have upload them first and they will be live while you’re touching them up.


The only way it would work is if the tagging requirement were after the draft mode and in that case things might just get stuck in draft mode.

Again, it’s not “just” about speed. It literally broke the app to do this.

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Maybe default to requiring a broad category at upload, but allow users to change that in their account-level settings. In practice, only power users would bother to dig into the settings to enable their large-upload workflows. The more-casual users who are actually causing extra work with unclassified observations would be extremely unlikely to find out such an option existed. (And if they did probe that deeply into the inner workings, then heck, I’d be happy to start calling them power users. :-) )


I think that’s a great idea, particularly since I don’t think the iNat admin team has committed to implementing a draft mode yet.

I already run into a lot of people who think the app is broken because of existing features that you can turn off. Making another one will just make it worse.

The app is an incredibly useful tool and continuing to remove functionality and efficiency because some people don’t know how to use it is really sad :(

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Good point, and especially so because the system is designed so that it really doesn’t matter if people don’t know how to use it. As a whole, iNat handles junk observations fairly well - you rarely see them, and when you do, they are rarely a problem.


I wouldn’t want that to happen, if it works well for most people. I don’t think I want to spend much time any more in the Unknowns or State of matter Life categories, though. Mainly I go in them periodically in case someone cares about their observation and needs help getting it unstuck. Probably a better solution for that would just be some way for those users to alert the community that they need and want help.


I was thinking that after reading the thread in which the “top idenifiers” discuss their feelings about being @tagged. Seems a shame how the the site displays a list of people who are in fact too busy/unwilling (edit: or just unable, for geographic or other reasons) to help, and it makes me wonder how else one might find help.

I was thinking more of an “I really want help on this observation because I’m not sure what is happening” type of “help” button, that could be filtered for. (I have gotten tagged for specific taxa in places I have never been to or studied, so I don’t think the tagging system works that well for this purpose.)

Right, I understand. That’s one of the flaws of the automatically generated leader board. As things are now, I think the only other option besides blindly tagging someone is to ask the forum. I like your idea. I wonder how many people would use such a button and what the response time would end up being.

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