Share observations between users

@bouteloua I’m just curious what’s up with re-opening a bunch of old closed feature requests last Friday morning? Some of them still seem to have a lot of votes attached, and I’m wondering how those are impacting vote counts for those users? Apologies if I missed an explanation for this somewhere else…

More info here:

Thanks, guess I am connecting the dots there…

Did notice that I had one more than my allotted number of votes (9 instead of 8) showing on my votes page after these were re-opened. Forced me to go through and re-evaluate/remove some old votes, at least :wink:

Feel free to move this little side-dialog to that voting system thread if you see fit…

OK, until Discourse is able to get back to me about the bug that is not returning votes to users after a topic has been changed categories, let’s use this to continue the conversation from “Observations shared between users”.

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I haven’t read everything so I’ll just drop my thoughts. Some of these things may have already been said or cleared up.

I’m imagining the following situations, maybe you can advise which ones are likely to be covered. Each has its own problems.

  1. A user sees something with other people: they all photograph it and have media to provide.
  2. A user sees something but they are the only person to take “evidence”, but they tag the other observers just as being present.
  3. A user sees the same individual as someone else, but at a different time (e.g. 5-10+ minutes later).

Case 1. Great – this is a stockpiling of evidence that can all be applied to support one observation. But would users lose the ability to have their own “copy” of the observation? For instance what if I only want to see my photos, or keep my notes? What if I disagree with the other “observers” on the location, time or date of sighting? How is that going to be covered?

Case 2. This would challenge how “evidence” works on iNaturalist because it means you can just point to someone else’s observation and say “yeah I definitely saw this”. Does that matter? How will that be treated for leaderboards that require observations with posted evidence by that user?

Case 3. How do we draw the line as to what consists as separate? Are we just leaving it to the common sense of the users? If I see something 5 minutes apart from someone else, is that a separate observation, or should it be combined? How about 10 minutes apart? How about 30 minutes apart, even if it is the same duck sitting on the same lake?

I think having separate versions of the observation per user is still beneficial, at the end of this. What I’d like to see is a dynamic system where you post something and can retroactively “tag it” to another observation, to represent that both are the same data point. But maybe the system can automatically flag different dates and locations, to prevent misuse (mostly accidental).


I can appreciate the issues and other people’s concerns for data quality when multiple people see the same thing and make multiple observations of it.

But I’m selfish. I want my account to have my observations with my photos and I want to keep track of my species that I have seen. Period. That’s why I use iNat. Yes, I love the citizen science aspect. Yes, I love all the data that is generated and how it’s used to better the world. And the bioblitzes I have been on with other iNatters have been some of the best times of my life.

Which users are making most of these shared observations? Which users would be most likely to modify their usage of iNaturalist if they lost their ability to “keep” their own observations if shared with other users? What would the resulting collateral damage be?

If I run into Greg Lasley at Hornsby Bend, and end up “losing” a certain number of my observations because both of us saw some of the same things, I’m going to get frustrated and find another hobby.

I worry that some people may see iNat as only data. That is not what I see iNat as, that is not what I use iNat for as a user, and that is not how I describe iNat when I present it to the public. It’s a great tool for individuals AND scientists, but sometimes the scientists forget that the people generating all this data for them won’t do it if their primary incentive is removed. For me (and a lot of people), one of the most addicting factors of iNat is the whole “catch 'em all” mindset. I want to see all the species in X genus in my continent, etc. If users are arbitrarily disallowed from including some of their observations in their own observations, they have no reason to continue using the site.

User-generated data is messy. That’s just what happens. Your alternative is to not have the data at all. Choose wisely.

Apologies for the semi-rant. Remind me to not do TWO talks in a week again O_o


seems to me the shared observations would always be optional and you’d still be able to do your own if you wanted. I don’t think anyone is proposing the ability of someone to remove someone else’s observations via linking them. Unless I am misunderstanding and i wouldn’t support that anyway. Who chooses who gets to ‘keep’ it? No, what i would want was the ability to do it optionally, and if so still have it show up in my daily count or at least my life list. otherwise i wouldn’t do it.


I got the sense that some people were against shared observations from what I’ve read in other threads, and that there should only be one “master” observation that everybody else just links to. I’m all for adding features, but taking them away… not a good idea!


This would be really useful. My wife, my daughter and I commonly observe the same things when travelling together (but we aren’t always travelling together - so we maintain separate accounts). It would be really useful to be able to share observations, rather than wasting time, repeatedly uploading the same info.

Also - if you were trying to work with these data, it wouldn’t make statistical sense to have one observation recorded multiple times. It might, however, be useful (add confidence that the record is accurate) if more than one person was noted as an observer.

Also - I can’t figure out how the voting thing works. I clicked on vote. Afterwards it said I voted, but I have no idea whether it recorded “yay” or “nay”.

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There is no “nay” vote, only a “yay” vote.

okay - interesting voting system.

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From another topic:

I don’t remember reading that. Is that the case?

I know for sure I read it, because it disappointed me to see it, I just can’t find the topic. I’m wondering now if i saw it in a flag on the site rather than the forum though.

The lack of a shared observation feature has really been one of the major things that has kept me from using iNaturalist more, especially as an avid eBird user. Coming from that platform, the inability to share iNat observations feels really clunky. My wife and I often end up dividing up the photography of various species that we see in the field together and as it stands there is no way for one of us to submit our observations and then share to the other. I think eBird has clearly demonstrated both a model for implementing this and a strong desire on the part of the community to use such a feature! Would make iNat SO much more valuable to users as a way to track what they have seen. Having observations flagged as shared in the database would also greatly help researchers using data output, as previously mentioned.


It is allowable to put up the same photos on each of your accounts. iNat is about encouraging people to observe and value the wildlife they encounter, to share and converse about that wildlife, and build community around those values. The collection of data for science is a secondary (though highly important) goal. The iNat “method” doesn’t capture absence or quantity very well, but it doesn’t need to! Users of “big data” can do impressive things to factor in most of these types of inadequacies in the datasets, especially when you start comparing one dataset like iNat to another like eBird. Smaller but extremely robust surveys in sample areas can then be used to determine how such precise measurement correlates to the imprecise pictures that the big data might present. At the very least, patterns shown in the big data might give valuable insight into where more detailed investigation is warranted.

In other words, your use case would fit the iNat guidelines even if you were doubling up on the observations between your wife and yourself.

It’s not strictly what is at play here, but the following video on “wisdom of the crowd” kind of illustrates “big data” analysis effects:

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Why can’t you vote? I just joined a few days ago and I can vote.

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That comment was from February last year. Recently a change was made to allow a much higher number of votes.


Thank you for answering!


This would be so incredibly useful! I’ve been taking out younger relatives with me to get observations and I am the only one with a “real” camera while they use phone cams. It would be great to be able to tag them on observations so they get to add the species I could get with my telephoto lens without having to upload the same observation multiple times.

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