The vanishing of a fellow iNatter

For me I am not so much impacted by someone’s numbers than by their kindness and humor, which is why if iNaturalist disappeared tomorrow I would still until the end of time find myself attempting to photograph flies’ jaunty bits, thanks entirely to @zdanko and @phycus.


Yeah, i think it would be nice at least to get a list of IDs by that observer when they leave, like a table or something, so you could go back and put them in with a note, etc. I don’t agree with IDs of species i don’t know, because i don’t want false research grade, but if the other person had left i might choose to re-add that ID rather than leaving to languish at high taxonomic levels.


Your examples strike me as specific examples of a more general problem. For example, I review all the RG observations for my taxa of interest in my province (and when time allows, for adjacent provinces where my expertise is applicable). Because of time constraints, I can’t individually agree with every single observation. Instead, I mark them as “reviewed” if I am happy with them. If something about these observations changes in the future (species, location, date), regardless of the cause, I won’t be notified. There’s a big AFAIK attached to this - I’m still blissfully unaware of many nuances of how iNat works. There are probably other similar “missing notification” scenarios that have nothing to do with account deletion. Maybe the shortcomings in the notification system need to be addressed, and many of these issues could be resolved in one fell swoop.

Right off the top of my head, I can imagine 2 changes that could help for the scenario I just described:

  1. if there’s a material change to an observation, it gets marked as “unreviewed” for all instances where it was previously reviewed. Perhaps this could be optional - each user could have a box they check in their profile that says “mark observations I’ve reviewed as unreviewed when changes are made”
  2. we are given different options for ordering observations on the identify/observation screens eg. by observation date, by submission date, by most recent update (plus ascending vs descending order).

Like I said, this is just off the top of my head. Maybe my suggestions are unworkable. Maybe there’s an even better solution (again, one that addresses multiple scenarios, not just the one where an account is deleted).

As far as the sadness at the departure of a prolific IDer goes, does preserving their contributions (possibly against their will) really fix that? Would it not be better to address their reasons for leaving before they are driven away? Or at least, attempt to so? Note that in some cases, a good faith attempt to address someone’s concern may be enough to get them down off the ledge. I would bet that a fair percentage of those who leave do so because they feel that they’re banging their head against a brick wall, and nobody is even acknowledging their concerns.


That is exactly what you already have in identify filters.

The “unreview” part aas discussed once, but as I remember wasn’t popular, there’re tons of things we mark as reviewed we don’t want to see no matter what changes they get, e.g. if it’s a group you can’t id at all.

I agree 100%. Every time an ID is made on one of my observations, I add a keyword to my photo (hierarchical organization in Lightroom). I back up my photos. I keep albums of the best photo of each species & export them to my devices, so if I’ve seen it before, I have a copy with me. I export my data periodically to Excel. Platforms lose funding and/or popularity and I would never trust any platform to keep my data safe. Period.

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Don’t those filters only affect which observations are displayed, rather than the order in which they are displayed? And as far as I can tell, they do nothing to inform you that something in an observation has changed.

In my scenario, I have a large number of unreviewed observations that meet my standard search criteria - maybe hundreds. These are all observations that I’m not sure about, and for the most part, I ignore them. I treat the identify screen like a queue. Normally, I only want to look at observations that have been added to the front of the queue since the last time I reviewed observations. As far as I know, they are always ordered by submission date, and I can usually find where I left off pretty easily, as long as I haven’t been away from iNat for too long.

The problem is that if something changes with an observation that I marked as reviewed (but didn’t ID), I don’t get any kind of notification. I don’t necessarily want a notification per se. Like I said, if I was given the option to, I might choose to have my reviewed observations revert to “unreviewed” if they are altered in some substantive way. But that alone would not be enough. If it’s an old observation that suddenly switched from reviewed to unreviewed, it would be buried way back with a bunch of other observations that I left in the unreviewed state. I would need to have the altered observation flip from reviewed to unreviewed, and then move to the front of the queue. If I could change the order of the observations on the identify screen so that, for instance, they are displayed based on how recently they were altered/updated, then an old observation that was recently changed would appear closer to the front of my queue, and I would stand a better chance of seeing it. Right now, marking an observation as “reviewed” seems to consign it to oblivion. Sure, I can see it, but I have 10’s of thousands of observations that I’ve marked as reviewed. I have to cross my fingers and hope that nobody makes any changes to them that I need to know about. There’s no easy way for me to see that something has changed in these observations from the moment I clicked “reviewed”.

Admittedly, mine is a very specific (possibly pathological) use case. Like I said, it’s just one of several possible scenarios where somebody might not be notified of a change in the status of an observation that is of interest to them. carnifex mentioned a couple of others. Maybe there are other possible solutions. My use case could be addressed by a bulk agree/subscribe button beside the bulk mark reviewed button. As long as it is reasonably fast that would work for me. But that might not address other people’s problems (like those described by carnifex). That’s why I’m suggesting that perhaps we need to evaluate all the shortcomings with the notification system - list all the problematic scenarios - and try to see if there’s a simple way to address a reasonable number of them. Or maybe there are existing solutions which I’m unaware of. Sure, I can download a snapshot of the taxa that interest me today, compare it to a snapshot I take at some point in the future and spot any changes that I need to be aware of (in fact, I did something very much like that recently). With the software I have on hand, that would be doable, but rather clunky. Most other people wouldn’t have that option.

Have you explored the Search URL parameters at all? For at least some of your requirements you may get some benefit. For example &order_by=updated_at would (I imagine though I haven’t tried it) get any updated obs to the front of your list.


Regarding the issue of observations that had been research grade going to “needs ID” after an account deletion, and that most people don’t add further ID’s after an observation becomes research grade, so that account deletions can take a large number of formerly research grade ID’s to “needs ID”:

I have mostly chosen to use my identification time either giving the first ID of that species, or genus, etc., or taking an ID, that I agree with, to research grade. That said, if I have already opened an observation to look at it, and it is already “research grade” with no additional confirming ID’s, and I agree with the community ID, I will usually add my confirming ID. I decided I don’t especially want to add a further confirming ID to be the 4th one to make the same ID. So when all species ID’s already agree, I usually won’t add the 4th same species ID. I don’t need to beef up my ID count, and I don’t need more notices that another person as added another one of the same identifications to an easily identified species. I also may add my agreeing ID after a conflicted ID has just made it to research grade, but has no additional agreeing ID’s. I would think most iNaturalist users, seeing the observation would like to see if 3 people agreed on the only ID, but wouldn’t care if so much if 4, or more, people did. I also expect most observers, and identifiers, would want that additional confirmation of their ID beyond taking it to research grade, but wouldn’t care so much if a larger number of people showed their agreement with them.

What if we had an additional category of something like “Research Grade +” , indicating that an observation has one, or more, confirming ID’s beyond research grade? This would invite identifiers to add one confirming ID if the observation ID wasn’t already “Research Grade +”. We would then add a search category. In addition to “needs ID”, we might have “just research grade”, and “research grade +”. It would also make a small step towards overcoming the problem of having observers, who don’t know the species, then agreeing with the following identifier, not because they have now seen how to get to the ID the following identifier made, but because they either want to give their observation the right species ID, or they want to “support” the person who gave the following ID, who they expect knows what species it is. These observers, just copying the following ID, would no longer be taking that ID to the highest level of confirmation. With the possibility of making an observation “Research Grade +”, I would add many more of my supporting ID’s to observation ID’s that were “ just Research Grade”, than those that are currently “research grade ”.

No, they change the order you see them, plus there’re tons of additional parameters you can change using url.

I proposed an additional level of RG in one of topics dedicated to changing RG, as did some other users, it seems it’s one of those ideas people know about for years, but we will be surprised when/if it’s added.

While I think that discussions of notifications/reviewed status/different levels of RG are definitely valuable, I wanted to throw in a reminder to keep the thread focused on the main ideas/questions of the OP dealing with issues tied to iNatters whose accounts are deleted.

There are other threads and feature requests where conversations about these implications would be valuable (or new posts/feature requests can also be made!). I’m happy to move posts here or open up relevant older threads if needed.


I’ve been on two busy sites that folded.

Google Plus gave us a long warning. I had time to read again each of my posts, before I deleted them. Copypasta a few comments I still have on my laptop. All my engagement there over the years that we were guinea pigs is gone.

If, I were to choose to leave iNat, I would delete my posts one by one. Pictures are on my blog and laptop. If I could chose I would leave my IDs as withdrawn and anonymous. And delete all comments, because I would no longer be in a conversation to respond.

That point was more directed at users considering to delete their contributions :smirk:

Thank you Marina. I suspected as much. Do you know if the issue of deleted accounts was included as support for the idea?

Yes, I use the search URL parameters quite a bit - my bookmarked ID URL is already quite long.

I didn’t know about the order_by=updated_at option, but that would only be useful to me IF those updated observations were flipped from “reviewed” to “unreviewed”. I’ll have to ponder it. Maybe I could do periodic checks on my reviewed observations that have been submitted before a certain date, but updated after a certain date (if that’s possible via URL parameters). I’d also have to review what types of changes cause updated_at to change. Thanks for the suggestion. Again, what I’m trying to catch are instances of observations that I clicked “reviewed”, and have been subsequently changed.

To understand these motivations, it would be useful for iNat to offer a text box to anyone deleting their account, asking something like “Please feel free to use this text box to let us know why you are leaving iNat and what might have been done to avoid this.” And then also offer a range of " less-than-nuclear" options such as deactivation, as well as outright deletion. Or an option: “would you like us to keep a backup of your account that can be restored if you change your mind?”


That’s funny. I had originally included a more tongue-in-cheek version of your suggestion in my post, but I removed it because I was afraid it might ruffle a few feathers (I know, I know, why stop now?).


Somehow there has to be a way to save the identification as well as the observations of deleted users. I was always under the impression that iNaturalist was a digital “museum collection” of observations and that these observations could not just disappear because someone wanted to erase themselves from the internet.


There are so many posts here that I couldn’t verify for sure no one has said this, so apologies if this is a duplicate.

I speculate that one reason for account deletion is that on someone’s death, the spouse, or other party, takes it upon themselves to delete all their online accounts, and is unaware that this is deleting a lot of the person’s life work.

This could be solved by having a check box in each profile that the iNat person wishes to have all their identifications, comments, observations, etc. preserved at iNat even if their account is later deleted.


Hope that’s a rare occurrence, but maybe. Even better than a checkbox would be for those who wish to to include a simple provision in their will transferring ownership of the account to iNaturalist upon their death.