Tiny Little Questions

An observation that has been uploaded twice (same picture of the same organism)…

It can easily happen by accident and most frequent users will be happy to be made aware of this and delete one of those.


I’ve done this a few times where I submitted a photo, then weeks later submitted it again because I forgot I had already submitted it earlier. When I find those, I delete the second submission. The ones that annoy me is when the observer submits a whole series of the same subject at the same location and same time, each as a separate record (instead of one record with multiple photos). Technically, it’s not a duplicate as each photo is slightly different.


This is the first thread where I’ve heard of duplicates being a major issue; is it really that serious of a problem on the site? I get that it’s bad practice, but it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that’s going to ruin data quality. For example, if someone accidentally uploads the same organism as two different observations, is that really going to impact the assessment of how common the organism is any more than when a rare bird shows up and 1,000 “twitchers” report the same individual bird 1,000 times at the same location? I understand that by iNat’s policies, 1,000 people taking one picture each of an organism counts as 1,000 observations, while one person taking all 1,000 of the pictures of it themselves only counts as one observation. But at the end of the day it’s still one organism being reported hundreds of times, so from an ecological data-analysis perspective, it’s still creating the same challenge of “# of observations doesn’t equal # of organisms observed”. So while I don’t think duplicate observations are a good thing, I usually just ignore them and don’t pay them much mind as a serious problem. Maybe I’m missing some other way that they harm the system, beyond just being annoying.

Also on a personal note, I’m glad there’s no way to easily tag observations as duplicates, as I’ve had multiple IDers mistakenly tell me to “delete duplicates” when in fact the “duplicates” were different photos of different individuals of the same species that happened to look extremely similar. I wouldn’t want overzealous duplicate-deleters to be able to accidentally casual-grade my observations because they didn’t look at the pictures closely enough. I’m sure no harm was meant, but we all overlook things, and no one user should have that much power IMHO.

  1. let users do as they prefer.

  2. no, it is your right to know more abouts IDs. Anyway, be polite and, if possible, avoid to give the impression of questioning their ID, especially if the ID is robust.

  3. it is good as far as the narrower category is correct.

  4. it does not make sense but it could be useful since now it is not possible to flag them anymore.

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I agree that duplicates can be frustrating, especially from an identifier’s point of view, so IMO preventing them is probably the best course of action. I agree the data quality issues aren’t as important.

As I’ve said elsewhere, changes to the mobile app should greatly reduce the number of “duplicate” observations being made, as well as multi-species observations. I also just asked our designer if he had any thoughts about how to make the Combine and Duplicate buttons more prominent on the web uploader, as it seems like people miss those. Hopefully something like that let people know they can combine photos into one observation.

It sort of is, on the flag pop-up, but not in an FAQ. I thought we had one, but we don’t, so I’ll write one.


There is good text for responding to duplicate observations on the “Frequently Used Responses” page: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/responses#dupe
Also for photos split across multiple observations: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/responses#multipleobs
I usually keep that page open for easy cut & paste while identifying.


I have always found it amusing that you’re on of the top identifiers, yet complain alot.

I think some of the issues will get tackled after substantial funding. Which they will receive shortly. But I really hope the efforts don’t go towards dupes. Because it’s really not that big of an issue, besides some occasional irritance by identifiers. If this is the reason anyone wants to scale back the amount of ID’s they make… that’s on them. No-one is being forced to do this, we just do it for our love for nature.

I don’t think threatening the platform is a good way of handling the issues at hand though.

All we can do is provide the staff with useful ways the issues can be resolved. And then wait… have a little faith. These people care about this platform as much as you, or anyone else. If not more.

These are some very complicated issues, which require a lot of work. Work which has to be paid for. We can not forget that resolving an issue just takes a couple days… Because it takes way longer than that. Some issues were never thought of when creating the platform, and so are hard to implement.

No one is indispensable. Least of all my part of iNat. Don’t nobody care :rofl:

But I have tried, to spell out problems, and offer suggestions.
I did win one battle, ssp CID now goes usefully to species for the next identifier, instead of Plantae.

More identifiying, and my focus on the obs with probs, means I see the problems and not the two thirds that sail smoothly to RG harbour.


Duplicates can also drive you nuts.

I’ve found examples of a person uploading the same photo up to 8 or 9 times. Especially in the CNC where apparently it is quantity not quality that matters. One user did about 300 observations using less than 100 photos - IDing them was not at all fun. “6th duplicate of this observation”, “4th upload of this photo”, etc. What a pain.


In the past when I’ve come across a particularly egregious case of this (dozens of obs uploaded in dozens of identical copies over a few days), I’ve contacted help and they handled it from their side. It almost looked like a glitch in the app where maybe every time they turned on their phone it would upload another copy of everything again - certainly not the usual case of an occasional duplicate.


If you look at TOS, u can see that that’s not allowed, and so you can report that person. They will be dealt with.

It’s best to just comment and tell the person. Duplicates are discussed frequently on here and it’s been made apparent by staff repeatedly that they aren’t a big concern at this point. Duplicates happen and it’s unavoidable. We are discouraged from flagging them because it just clogs up the flags, when you could just leave a comment.

That specific example mentioned above seems more than just posting duplicates and like gaming the system unfairly and deliberately. I could understand reaching out to staff about that, but most of the time, duplicates are accidental or not that severe.

Yeah that’s exactly what I was talking ab lol, I’ve been preaching that they’re not a big deal. But if you spam this many dupes, then it’s most definitely a problem.

Thank you all, for all the answers and thoughts!

1 - General answer seems to be “because it pops up as a separate notification and thus makes it clearer that there is a comment.” Useful info, I will start doing it this way as well. (To the person who said “let people do what they want” I am unsure why you think I am doing otherwise?)

2-3 - General answer seems to be that it’s fine. Cool!

4 - General answer seems to be that it’s a good thing. I have had some people say things like “if you’re not going to be helpful then leave identifying to others” and I wasn’t sure if that was just people having bad days or if I actually need to stop

5 - General answer seems to be no, don’t do that. Thank you for the info, I will stop.


PS the separate notification can also swamp taxon specialists. But we should be getting closer to notification management!


One of two things may be happening here:

First, new users sometimes don’t realize why people add broad-level IDs and will sometimes post an irritated comment (e.g. “I know it’s a plant, I want to know what kind of plant”). You can check the Frequently Used Responses page for some ideas about how to respond to such comments.

Second, there are some expert users who are of the opinion that an ID at anything above family level is useless for their taxa and region of interest. This does not reflect the approach of the iNat community as a whole. Since these users do not seem to be motivated to change their behavior, people who do a lot of broad IDing often end up developing their own strategies for dealing with and/or avoiding confrontations with these users.

Edit: I do a fair amount of mid-level IDing of plants and arthropods (i.e. adding finer IDs for observations at order or family) in an area where the IDer-observation ratio is relatively good. For my workflow I generally only include “plantae” in my searches if I am looking at newish observations; for older observations, I usually start at “dicots” because otherwise the page is filled with mosses and other taxa which I lack the expertise to ID. So for me personally, someone moving an observation from “plants” to “dicots” is more likely to make a difference if the observation is older than a year or so. But I don’t see it as a problem or “useless”, and following the progress of subsequent IDs after you have added a general ID can be an excellent way to learn.


Can also be achieved by faving or following that obs.

Yes, of course there are other ways to follow an observation and I wouldn’t necessarily suggest adding an ID for the sole purpose of finding out what something is.

But it is a potentially useful side effect (for the IDer) of helping out by adding broad level IDs. In the context of the question of whether it makes sense to add an ID that only moves something from kingdom to order or order to suborder, it is worth considering that even such incremental improvements aren’t necessarily pointless from a variety of perspectives.

Occasionally incremental IDs can be a bit disconcerting for the observer, who may wonder whether their photos are so bad that a better ID isn’t possible, but it is also instructive about how scientific knowledge isn’t a set of facts that only expert have access to, but rather a process of figuring things out, with the observer and non-expert users as part of this process.

IDs serve a variety of purposes; it isn’t just about finding the quickest path to “research grade” (much as we all would like to reduce the number of wrong turns and unplanned detours).


It’s a sad day when we get so contentious that this feels like the best solution.

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