Seeking guidance for creating personal projects

Years ago I created a personal project to document the biodiversity in my yard. At that time I set it up to add observations to the project manually so I could obscure my address. I played around with setting up a place, but ran into the privacy issue as well as the coordinate accuracy issue because it was such a small place.

What is the desired way to direct other new-ish users to create a yard project? Is manually adding the observations to a traditional project the simplest way? Or is it better to setup a place and then use a collection project? I’m not up to date on guidelines for setting up a personal place, so I thought I’d reach out for recommendations before I tell newer users my way.

I searched before posting, but didn’t see anything to answer my question. Feel free to direct me to a different post if it has already been covered.

Thanks!

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A few things to consider for each user wanting to make one (which will inform their project choice):

  1. Do they want their home address to be revealed? Personally, I don’t care that people know where I live, so the yard project I have set up is a collection one. However, this is of course a legitimate concern for many people, so if they are obscuring their records due to privacy, then certainly as you note, the project must be a traditional one.

  2. Are they likely to be observing threatened species that are auto-obscured?. I have mine set up to only collect inverts, so it doesn’t really affect me, but many people will probably have yard projects where they observe birds, mammals, etc., some of which may have a conservation status. Due to the small size of yards, these records will also get bounced out and not captured by collection projects, thus also entailing a need for a traditional project.

  3. Does/will the user use the app or the desktop? This is a small issue, but still something to consider. On the app, there is no way to batch upload observations. This means that every observation they upload will have to be individually manually added to a traditional project if that’s what they’re using. This could become tedious/annoying for a new user. Conversely, on desktop, if you’re uploading multiple observations from your yard at once, you can select them all and just click on the project name once to apply to all of them. A collection project wouldn’t have this issue.

Your point about coordinate accuracy issue with small places is a good one. What I did to resolve this was, when creating the place for my house/yard, I drew an arbitrary shape bigger than the yard to capture any observations where the GPS reading may have drifted a bit. So users shouldn’t create a shape that exactly delineates their yard, but rather shift the edges out.

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Personally I do not see the advantages of a personal project. I just use Tags instead. You can batch apply tags, you can search your observations for the tag, etc. etc. I group my microscopy observations with tags so they are grouped by observation session. Tags are much more flexible than a project. You can apply several tags, such as a general tag for your yard and other tags for things you planted, things that sprung up on their own, this season or that season or whatever strikes you as important. Then it’s easy to view subsets of your observations.

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I don’t thing tags is that easy to add when you add many observations, I use collection all projects for lots of places I visit and own property, yes, something will be lost due to threatening status, but maybe it’s good it’s not in a project where people will see it’s there and will try to trespass (it’s not a big issue here but in countries where people own huge land it is a problem).

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Thanks for your comments @thebeachcomber. You outlined it perfectly! I have a couple of projects similar to my yard but in public open spaces that I used the larger shapes to capture observations. It worked reasonably well, but I wonder how easy it will be for newer users to set up. Probably depends on their tech savvy since it’s not entirely intuitive and more iNat 201. Definitely worth giving both options since there aren’t any particular guidelines by iNat.

@shanesmicroscope I struggle with tags personally. I’ve used them and then can’t remember what I tagged something. I’m inconsistent, so I consider that a personal bottleneck that I know others use with great satisfaction, as you do. It’s worth mentioning as an option, too. I’ll look more into tags to see if I can utilize them better instead of just assuming I was doing it right. Thanks for the input!

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Here is the way I use it, for things found in my garden/backyard, without directly indicating where I live:

I live in a densely populated city and made a circle with a radius large enough (roughly 600m diameter) to cover my complete (little) garden, but the center of the circle does not necessary point directly to where I live. I then used the Pin function in the map view on the upload site and gave the location a specific name.

This is just an example:

Now, whenever I upload an observation from my backyard (no matter whether via App or Website), I can use the saved setting to quickly add the location:

This method comes along with certain aspects to be considered:

  • the circle can be made smaller in densly populated areas, but has to increase in rural places, to not give away too much information. Increasing uncertainty would however diminish the ‘value’ of the observation to a certain degree
  • the observation does not contain the exact location, not even for yourself (in constrast to obscured observations). So, if you want to keep track about in which corner of your area an observation was made, this method might not the the right one, or needs to be adjusted (e.g. with using tags as an additional description)
  • for other users, the spot might look wrong when just looking at the map and not taking the radius into account. (in my situation, the center of the circle lies in the middle of a street junction). Also (and that might be a desired effect), what appears to be a single observation on the map, actually contains many hidden observations - I have now more than 2,000 observations occupying the same spot on the map :upside_down_face:
  • using a circle or any other border that is larger than your actualy area of interest (private garden in most cases) will lead to the inclusion of observations made nearby, e.g in the streets around your home
  • while uploading from different devices is possible, using a filter (dismissing the possibility of Tags here) is more tricky. I bookmarked the URL for the filter search (containing lat and long coordinates and the radius) and can easily access it from my home computer. One workaround could be to make a journal post without publishing it, but keeping as a draft only, in which you copied the respective URL

This leads me to the difficulty with Tags: I am not using a lot of different ones, but I probably would lose track of some of the rarer used ones, so I made a journal draft where I enter each tag I used so far, occasionally with an accompanying description. That is my workaround to keep track of all my tags used.

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Oh that’s an interesting idea! I actually use pins too. Since I don’t put location info in the observation photos taken at my home, I just use a pin. I love that the pin can also obscure automatically so I don’t forget to do that. Thanks for sharing that idea!

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There is another approach one can take to surveying their personal yard observations without making it a project…at least it works satisfactorily for me. Go to Explore, select Your Observations under Show in the filters and then put your address into the Location and enter (not under Place in the filter) - Hey presto!

You get a bounding box that is likely somewhat larger than your property but probably close enough.

Bookmark that URL and check regularly.

You could do this with other addressed properties as well.

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