What should I do with old empty observations?

My apologies if this has been answered elsewhere, my search didn’t turn up any answers.

I like to go through iNat fairly randomly, putting very basic IDs (plant / fungi / beetle) on observations with no suggestions.

Today I discovered I could sort the date of upload by ascending rather than descending and it took me to the very bottom of the heap. Down here there are masses of “empty observations” (If that’s the right description). No photo, audio or placeholder. Just an empty entry.

E.g. This one

Should I tag the observer and ask them to update/delete it? (Although this may be a very dead end on posts from 2008) Is there a way I can flag it for curatorial housekeeping? What’s the procedure for proper cleanup?


You can’t do anything with them, those users are long gone and even with recent ones you rarely will hear answer if it was a come and gone user (but it worth trying!), curators can’t do anything with them too, only user can delete an observation. I proposed in one of close topics, that one day we should have iNat delete those entries, but no answer as of it yet.
For you to add ids you can choose in filters “with photo” to not see those.


Thanks Melodi,

That’s a shame. It seems very untidy to just leave them occupying server space forever for no good reason.


Those should be nearly 100% Casual grade, so they are effectively invisible to most people.

If you do want to id Casual observations, the best use of time is probably in the Captive subsection. This link is what have used to go through some lately. It has a few tweaks in it to get a listing of those that actually have a photo, a date and a land location (well, I did it as continents iirc) so that you can get past most of the malformed ones more easily.

I agree that it may be a little untidy, but for ones like the one linked with no photo or anything, server space isn’t really an issue for those. I downloaded the .json for that observation (just by adding .json onto the URL), and it was less than 2 kB. For reference that would make one uncropped iPhone photo equal to about a thousand of those.

There are about 3 million of these media-less observations (apparently searching that also finds observations that are mid-upload, so some of the first ones will show pictures because they’ve uploaded in the time that the page loads), which assuming each is only 2kB, make up a total of only 6 GB. Sounds like a lot but that’s basically nothing to a large photo-hosting server like iNat. Heck, users that have more than 5k observations definitely take that much up on their own.


It’s also a number problem, like it’s a problem for iders who id casual obs and it also means observation count for iNat should really be much less than what it is now, cause it’s kinda cheating if we count them as normal ones, I believe those with photo always have value, even without data and place, as well as casual ones with id and place, but those are just nothing.


True! I agree that they could use some cleaning up to make it easier for people to wade through the casual-grade IDs. I also think that they’re not counted in the 75 million (wow!) observations that iNat has, since they’re not considered verifiable.

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your link helps.
If only we could clear away - refuses Community ID from wasting identifiers time and effort …


Oh yeah, if I knew how to filter those out I definitely would!


There is no nearly; anything without a photo is Casual automatically, and won’t show up unless you search for it specifically.


What about observations that have 5-second sound recordings of nothing? I just saw two that appear to be “pocket-dialing” the app, just wind noise or nothing at all. Do I label them “human” or something? I too like to go through the “unknown” observations in my area and assign them at least to a kingdom, but not sure what to do with these. Thank you!

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You can vote “no evidence”, but make sure you’re in headphones, many things are too subtle and sometimes recording sounds completely different on different machines. Though with “unknown” it’s likely to actually be nothing.


Thank you, that is very helpful!

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