User Blocked Me For Unknown Reasons, Which Interferes With Curation

Its a habit carried over from other social media, where blocking is the default method not to be annoyed or disagreed with in any way. And that, in my opinion, is a mistake, because it is (in my opinion) equivalent to taking out a restraining order by default when breaking up with someone. It cheapens and eventually discredits what was intended to protect personal safety.


I agree with this this up to a point:

I can see how getting blocked is emotionally jarring:

Where it can trigger such unpleasant thoughts and feelings:

  • Doubt: Am I really a good iNatter since I got blocked?
  • Shame: Did I really do something so bad to deserve getting blocked?
  • Safety: Getting blocked was so unpleasant, when will it happen again?
  • Annoyance: Does this person even know how iNat works?
  • Ostracism: Should I even be an iNatter since I’m getting blocked?
  • Injustice: Is it fair that I got blocked?

None of which can be resolved since communication is blocked. I’d feel the same way too but strive to look at it more like:

Because iNat is volunteer driven by generous users like you taking their time to help identify and confirm observations. Being voluntary, it’s hard to make the case that anyone owes anyone else communication. Blocking is an extreme case of this, where instead of volunteering, they’re witholding. So I agree that blocking is unjustified 9 out of 10 times per community guidelines, but would forcing the blocking users to interact with those they block be the right call?

Back to unplesant thoughts and feelings, I think all non-duress users contribute something valuable to iNat, so if someone blocks you, they’re also choosing to take away from their iNat experience. Lastly, as appealing as the idea that people like us for ourselves or what we do, I’m sure there’s also a case for people (dis-)liking us for no reason at all. Maybe your blocker is an example of the latter and it’s not worth trying to figure out why? There are obviously enough people on iNat who value you, so don’t let this rotten apple spoil the whole bunch!


Hi friends,

Blocking. Blocking is an extreme measure for situations where efforts to resolve differences through discussion have failed and the offending party refuses to stop contacting you. Blocking someone will prevent them from interacting with you on iNat, including through identifications and use of the DQA. You can block someone by editing your account settings and using the “Blocked Users” feature. Blocking is not a way to stop identifications from people you don’t like or trust.

I recently made a post about a user who mysteriously blocked me. I had identified a few observations for them without controversy or comment, but found myself on the receiving end of a block. Turns out, this user had done something similar to other users and these blocks were reversed upon my contacting iNaturalist. They had clearly violated the “rules” regarding when a block is warranted, and so justice was served.

Alas, the story does not end there…

I happened to stumble upon another user who has blocked me, again without any indication of why. As with the previous user, my only interaction was identifying some of their observations, so presumably the block is some sort of retaliation on their part. Again, this violates the “rules” listed by iNaturalist, but in this instance there is no justice being offered by the all-powerful iNaturalist mods. The explanation I was given is as follows…

I don’t know why that user blocked you but I don’t see the same pattern of the user blocking people for just IDs. Unless it’s pretty clear-cut, asking someone why they’re blocking another user is not something we usually do.

It is also noteworthy that the user who blocked me is a “curator” on iNaturalist.

My expertise is in marine invertebrates, particularly corals. This is a poorly studied group for which there are very few qualified identifiers on iNaturalist and for which misidentifications are rampant without attentive curation. I have logged thousands of hours on here to keep this group’s observations in good order. But I can’t curate observations if I am blocked… so this ultimately affects every other user of this site. Misidentifications may exist, but I can’t even see them if I’m logged in.

My question is this, why does any one user get to have this unilateral power on a community driven website like iNaturalist? Why is there absolutely no oversight when it comes to blocking? Shouldn’t this be a last resort that is directly administered by iNaturalist staff/mods in extraordinary circumstances for users who abuse this site?


Every community-based website has that option, the problem is clear here and it’s not that you’re blocked, but that you are one of the few who ids the corals on iNat, solution would be to invite more specialists for obscure groups, so even if person uses all three blocks on them, there would be still more to id their observations.


I am not a fan of the ‘blocking’ mechanic on social media sites in general.

In my experience the overwhelming majority of the time the person doing the blocking is the one who has been exhibiting poor behavior.

For iNat I’d advocate for the user based blocking system to be abolished entirely and have all requested blocks go through an admin based approval and arbitration process.


This is said with absolutely zero snark - one block is unfortunate, but two sounds like a pattern, the common factor being you. Are you 100% sure you’re not attracting these blocks through your own behaviour? We all have blind spots and biases. As I said, no snark intended. I know I am regularly a d***head online and often don’t realise it at the time (I guess that I just painted a target on my back :upside_down_face:)


Joe, help me understand here. As I understand the usage, a user blocked you and that prevents you from interacting with that one user. If that one user is a major source of observations of a group in your sphere of interest, then that is a potential problem. But are you overstating it when you phrase it thus, “why does any one user get to have this unilateral power on a community driven website?” They haven’t blocked you from working on the remaining world of observations and population of users, correct? An unexplained blockage (sounds like an unfortunate medical condition), especially by a “curator”, is certainly frustrating and you deserve further information.


In reality, they only get power over their own observations, and even then, it is limited to three people. Certainly the situation is frustrating, but I think the benefits of blocking someone when appropriate outweigh the cons of the occasional case where someone gets blocked inappropriately.


that’s not quite true. as I am often the only user contributing identifications in my area of interest (Anthozoa), when I get blocked, the curation of this taxon effectively gets blocked. any misidentifications can linger (and are in fact completely hidden from me!). that affects every other user who interacts with this taxon. it potentially affects the Computer Vision AI. it can introduce faulty biogeographic data to partner sites like GBIF.

again, there are significant ramifications for letting users pick and choose who gets to interact with their observations in this manner.


I agree that misidentifications can linger, and I think @fffffffff best addressed that with their comment. But I think it’s a bit of an overstatement to say your curation of the taxon gets blocked. Citizen science data is (almost by definition) imperfect. There are many types of inaccuracies on iNat that curators, or even the community as a whole, cannot fix without the observer’s cooperation.


I’m seeking clarification from staff: When you get blocked, it should only prevent you from addressing the observations of that one user. You should be able to continue your work on identifying all other observations by any other users. What am I missing?


In my experience, he’s been super helpful with coral misidentifications and all around generally nice. Never had a bad interaction with him.


Coming from blogging and FB (my list has exploded that tool!) - where blocking is useful against - any fool can - and they all do.

iNat is different. We don’t ‘own’ our posted obs in quite the same GerOFF MY Lawn way. We bring our obs in the hope of getting a confirming ID - if we start from I know what this is - do you agree? Or - no idea a WET Apiaceae?? - much hope and it is the 14th obs on iNat!

People come from other social media, and don’t play nicely with Community ID. I’m with @joe_fish. iNat needs to be kind to the skilled identifiers - they are the skeleton which supports iNat being a working useful tool for all of us. My example above, I pick thru the leaderboard to find my target to tag, and often I can only see one to target.

PS moderators could suggest rejecting Community ID, instead of blocking, in this case. That would be clearly visible to all identifiers and YMMD but I will next.


Blocking someone like joe_fish is suspicious. I have never experienced him anything other than helpful, friendly, always responds to questions and tags ect. He has done a lot for this site, and I’d like to emphasize that blocking someone like him decreases the data quality on iNat. Frankly, without him the mediterranean corrals would be a mess.

On iNat I am strictly against the blocking function because the odd abusive guy will get banned anyway, so the blocking function is mainly there to stop clever people from telling you that you IDed something wrong. Petty.


He might not be sure about it. After all we are modest people, aren’t we?
But I am. His behaviour is nice, friendly, helpful, modest, and (since this is an identification site) above all that, competent.


I have bumped into 2 obs, where Joe Fish was tagged in. Despite being provoked he was responsive and meticulously polite.

If we tag in identifiers, we owe them - clear pictures with info. I still cringe for that particular observer. Their only obs that I saw were blurry not quite sure WHAT we might be looking at. I wondered about that first impression, and went to look at their profile. Their other obs were beautifully clear and research grade species! Scraping the bottom of the barrel and then calling in help - that is rude. That observer is a marine biologist, but doesn’t pay it forward by helping to ID for others.

For my Unknowns marine biology is a huge gap for identifiers I can tag in. I often have no idea where to start. From is that algae red, or brown (= not even a plant!)

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I think that in spite of the opportunity to misuse blocking, and also the impact to the quality of data, we need to be really careful about limiting the ability or effectiveness of blocking. Blocking on social media can be a personal safety measure, and it occurs to me that information that is visible in an observation can be used to identify the place where a person is located, even if the observation location data itself is obscured. Some organisms can only be found in certain areas, and other information in photos might also identify where a person is.

As much as I agree that overzealous blocking causes damage, the site needs to be able to protect its users.

This is a general observation, not a specific one, and I say this as someone who has relied on Joe (a lot) for IDs and has never had even the slightest issue, even when there’s disagreements over IDs (where I’m usually in the wrong ;). I also understand that marine invertebrates are under-observed and under-identified, so any misidentifications can have an outsized influence.

PS - Thanks Joe for your hard and underappreciated work


Honestly, I’d take it as a badge of honor. Top identifiers are bound to ruffle some feathers when they make the tough calls and correct someone’s misidentifications. If truly unwarranted, and it seems you have only positive testimonies from forum users, then I think a block or two shows you take the time to really review the taxa and you don’t just click “agree” all day long.

Ultimately it is the blocker who suffers by missing out on the expertise and learning opportunities you and other top identifiers provide. They won’t get very far if they are unwilling to even consider they could be wrong about an ID.

I think it is wrong to use blocking this way, but I also see things from the iNat mods point of view; unless it’s a clear-cut and blatant violation, it’s just too messy to investigate every instance of blocking. Obviously, you are well appreciated by many users here on this thread, so I’d focus on the IDs you can improve rather than the select few you cannot.

I agree with @gcwarbler, it is a much more serious problem if the top observer blocks the top identifier. But otherwise, there are still 10s of thousands of observers posting observations of corals.


Same here. He’s helped with a variety of my marine observations in Asia.

Zero drama.


It sounds like you respect the way the blocking mechanic is supposed to be used and maybe the people who blocked you are not doing that. Or maybe don’t understand how the blocking mechanic is meant to be used to begin with.

There’s a lot of users on iNaturalist so it makes sense that staff can’t keep track of every instance of blocking and be able to determine when it’s appropriate and when it’s not. But if they could, I bet they would find that a lot of instances of blocking would probably not be for reasons that they indicate they’d like the blocking mechanism to be used for. It seems like a tricky thing to regulate. It’s a little bit like the honor system in my eyes, because we are trusted to use it correctly. You should do everything you can to work the problem out before resorting to blocking, but some people would rather just block somebody instead of doing that. Which is unfair and frustrating. Especially when the person being blocked is somebody who does respect how blocking is meant to be used.