What to do about a user that consistently abuses the data quality annotations?

So there’s a user who I’ve encountered posting obviously cultivated plants (locations corresponding to gardens, plants that don’t naturally occur in that region) and when I flag their plants as captive, they respond by flagging them wild. I’ve commented a few times that this is an improper use of the data quality annotations, but they don’t respond and then continue to repeat this behavior.

Is there some recourse for this, or better way I should be handling it? Maybe it should require more than 1 dissent to knock an observation back out of “casual” status?


Inform a curator or someone in charge. They should not be abusing the system.


2 thumbs down from two users


That is a case for help at iNaturalist. You’ve done the - try - engaging with them.


Write to iNat help an email with info and links.


are you helping to supply identifications to the observations?

personally, I intentionally leave that field empty when I’m legitimately seeking ID help. I get really grumpy when people flag things as cultivated without offering any ID suggestions. There’s a particular curator in my area who has a tendency to do this, dooming observations to obscurity for eternity, because nobody gives “casual” obs any attention whatsoever.

I have also encountered some examples where the obs falls into a gray area of wild/cultivated and prefer not to make a determination, yet some people also have a tendency to flag things as cultivated if it might be cultivated.


You can tag iders when you need help, there’re at least a couple people iding cultivated plants who wrote on the forum, so probably more on the website, it’s better than leaving things unmarked.


but, when identifying, we need to start from - will it be something that grows there naturally. Or is it obviously commonorgarden. It gives us two very different places to start IDing from.


Keep flagging them as cultivated, and hopefully other identifiers will also do the same. If you leave a note each time, maybe the identifiers will notice. It can be as much of a challenge to get identifiers on board with flagging obviously cultivated plants as it is with observers.

I think for the most part it’s not willful disregard of the guidelines that causes observers and identifiers not to use the cultivated flags, but rather a lack of understanding. Many observers honestly not know the difference between cultivated and wild species. They need to have it explained to them in a note. Other observers simply want an ID for their plant and they don’t care about data quality. They need to have the importance of data quality explained to them, in multiple repeated notes, if necessary.

Some identifiers adamantly declare that it’s the observer’s responsibility, not theirs, to flag cultivated plants. They need an explanatory note. Perhaps if the top identifiers get flooded with such notes from many different observations, they might eventually change their practices. Or not. But with a note on each observation, other identifiers who haven’t made up their minds yet on whether they should flag cultivated plants might go along with the flagging idea, learn to see it as normal.

Some identifiers believe that flagging cultivated plants makes them and their data disappear, not accessible for mapping. Which isn’t true, since you can still pull out all the data for cultivated plants and even get maps of cultivated plants by filtering on casual observations (the default filter is verifiable, so you need to manually change the filter to see casual observations). If they get a note explaining that the data from casual observations is not lost, they can often be swayed to use the cultivated flag.

When I find observers who have a large collection of cultivated plants on iNaturalist, I always keep in mind that it takes a significant investment of time on the observer’s part to make the observations. So it is clearly important to them, and they are clearly connected to the plants. That’s terrific. The next step is to forge the connection to the data quality. As you noted, that can be challenging if the observer’s primary motivation is just getting identifications from experts. (Especially if the experts are willing to provide identifications without noting the data quality issues.) One idea I had would be to create a project called Ornamental Gardens, where only plants properly flagged as cultivated would be allowed. That could motivate observers to use the cultivated flag, as well as provide a space for experts to look at and identify all the cool exotic garden plants. But I am afraid it would also launch a deluge of additional cultivated plants, so I thought better of the idea.


I suspect what is at the root of this is a disconnect between intentions: The observer’s goal is to get an ID for their observations. I mean, why else would they post it to iNat? Marking things cultivated removes them from the Needs ID queue, which is directly at odds with the observer’s goal. Hence, they use whatever iNat tools they have discovered will get it back into the Needs ID pool. I would not classify this as abuse of the system, just a symptom of frustration with having their stuff removed from Needs ID.


This user seems to be mostly motivated by life listing. They don’t seem sincerely interested in correct IDs. They have another bad habit of giving extremely common organisms fanciful IDs and then invoking some unnamed authority who supposedly agrees with them when you disagree.


for me, I’m generally not submitting observations of nonnative, obviously cultivated things. I know some people do, but that’s not my use case. I’m oftentimes looking at some native organism that might happen to be cultivated or whose cultivated status is more difficult to determine, but it should (and oftentimes can) be found in that area growing in the wild.

when it gets tagged as cultivated by someone who doesn’t offer any kind of ID suggestion, it gets removed from “Needs ID” and goes to the “Casual” grouping. I’ve disagreed with this adamantly since I learned how it works on inat, because there are SO FEW identifiers working with Casual observations that things pushed into that bucket effectively get ignored. And I can’t blame them for ignoring stuff in there. The casual bucket might include otherwise good quality observations of things, but it also includes a lot of stuff with no image/audio for various reasons that identifiers have no reason to bother with. I have always thought that the “Casual” bucket is too big.

Personally, I think that even cultivated organisms that otherwise meet the data quality requirements should keep their “Needs ID” flag until they’re actually identified. That way, being flagged as cultivated doesn’t affect whether they’re in there or not.

By all means, continue to keep observations out of the “Needs ID” flag until they have all of the other requirements (evidence of organism, date, time, location, etc).


this is definitely a factor for me.

I feel that there’s a disconnect between inat and a lot of people who actually use it.


It’s not hard for iders to include cultivated and not include other casual obs, the thing is it’s much harder to id them as they can come from any part of the world and likely are hybrids nobody knows of what with what and most botanists see no upside in spending their time iding cultivated things. To your proposal there’s a feature request you can vote on.


In my experience, the most annoying incorrect “wild” votes are students using iNat for school. Maybe their teacher asked for verifiable obs, or maybe they just think the green RG label is cool, but sometimes they gang up to outvote me when I mark their stuff captive. Once or twice I’ve had success convincing them to remove the votes, but I usually I just message a few friends to put more votes.

Aside from that, new users who didn’t know any better generally either learn or leave the platform. Only once I have had a reoccurring problem with a person, and even he seems to be coming around slowly.


Once I wrote iNat help with a link to an observation, where there were 5 IDs and a person who blantly admitted all 5 accounts were theirs and they made the accounts just to sock puppet IDs. All staff did was make one polite comment asking them to remove the IDs. They didn’t, and the accounts were not suspended. So I’m not sure there’s really anything staff can do besides what paulexcoff has already done.


That’s weird, because they did blocked the account I wrote them about, in this case ofc all they would do is write to them.

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you assume that all examples are plants. some are. but some of my examples are not.

this issue is not as clean cut as inat staff wants to try to force it to be.

frankly, it doesn’t matter if an organism is cultivated or not. if it needs ID, then it should have a flag indicating as such regardless.

until there is a better system in place, I will continue to handle it as I have been and I don’t care if it irritates identifiers. and if someone flags my observation without offering any kinds of ID suggestions, I will counter it with a wild flag so it stays in the “Needs ID” so there’s a higher chance that someone will look at it, even years later.

because only one of my observations has received any ID suggestions/confirmations once it’s gone casual. and I still disagree that it’s not wild. but it’s a charismatic species in an important place so more likely to be noticed. other stuff? nothing.

You can always mention people who you know will help by marking it as captive.

If you don’t know anybody already: Hello, I’m Dallon. I’d be happy to help with it. If you come across something like this, feel free to mention me in the comments of those observations and I’d contribute to the DQA.

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It’s a topic about plants, so yeah, I answer about plants, it’s much easier with animals, where iNat just needs another category of escapees, but otherwise it’s pretty simple. If you disagree it’s captive and two people voted against – tag someone to vote for wild. I have little idea why expert ids of captive animals are needed as their names are most likely known where you photograph them or cv names them correctly, again, I’m strongly against unmarked things if they’re truly captive, and iders I talked to feel the same, you seem to fluctuate between not wild and wild called not wild, so it’s confusing.