What to write on your profile

There’s one situation where I do look for those kinds of credentials on profiles, although less in the context of “I’m right” and more as proof that someone has a vested interest in something because they’re doing research/writing books about it: Every time someone I don’t know messages me with a request to share obscured locations with them.This includes all the admins/curators on projects that I’ve joined. I like to know who I’m sharing with and why they might need to know that info.


I understood the original post to be suggesting that users might consider including something like this: "My research focuses on the genus Exemplum in the Palearctic, but I also provide global IDs for the families Exemplidae, Paraexemplidae, and Pseudoexemplidae" and possibly a link to their professional profile. Would you consider this claiming “I’m right because I’m an expert”? I see it as simply outlining the scope of one’s expertise.

I like it when users include a few sentences about their areas of interest and background because it helps contextualize their observations and IDs. It provides a sense of someone’s strengths – and limitations – regardless of whether they work as a biologist in some capacity or are an interested layperson who has acquired knowledge in a particular taxon. I mean this in a positive sense, not as encouragement to blindly trust someone’s authority, nor as a way of dismissing those without professional training. In fact, my impression is that a lot of the experts who do mention their bone fides on their profile also explicitly suggest that users should not agree with anything they do not know how to ID themselves, so they clearly aren’t including this information as a way to claim unquestioned authority.

So why does a profile help me? For example, if someone provides a species-level ID for a taxon that is usually left at genus, I can assess whether this is likely an overconfident beginner and I need to be asking “are you aware that there is a lookalike species in this region?” or whether it is a specialist in the taxon who might be willing to tell me how they distinguished the two species in this case. Or if a user IDs something at the level of family or order, I can get a sense of whether they entered a broad ID because they are not a specialist in this group, or because a more precise ID is likely not possible based on photos. And of course, sometimes the profile tells me that this person is someone I can turn to in the future for help with particular taxa.

Profile information also helps me assess whether an observer is an experienced naturalist who is already familiar with the fauna in the region or whether they are a new observer who is likely following the computer suggestions. The profile may give a hint about things like whether it is worth asking if they have additional photos for an observation, or, conversely, indicate that the user is still figuring out iNat and may need a little help sorting out how things work.

Of course all of these things can be resolved in other ways, but it makes it simpler and saves time if some very basic information is available from the outset, rather than having to ask or figure it out gradually through interactions with the user.

I find language information helpful for similar reasons. People will generally manage to make themselves understood one way or another, but not everyone is equally comfortable communicating in a language they don’t feel like they have mastered, or using google translate to communicate. A language barrier can have an inhibiting effect. Particularly for people coming from predominantly monolingual contexts, the unwritten sociolinguistic “rules” often discourage addressing someone in a language they don’t understand – so a user might stumble through in English or not write anything at all because they’re not sure if it is OK to use their native language or because they feel that they should use English but are embarrassed by their rusty skills. Knowing that a user speaks a particular language can ease communication and make all participants feel more comfortable. (Selfishly, as someone who works professionally in and between two languages, I also find it convenient when I can use whichever language or mixture thereof happens to be “on top” and don’t have to self-translate or sort out which one I am “supposed” to be using.)


I agree. It is nice if people are happy to share something about them. But if it is like 3 pages long, I will probably not read it and if there is some useful information in there it might be lost.

I tried to keep most useful information for others at the top of my profile and keep it as short as possible. The second half of my profile is mainly for myself, as I am quite sure nobody will actually be as interested as I am about my own stats… but I as a number-stats-driven person can very easy access and admire it from there :-D


Thank you for this post. Like some others here, at first I was a bit put off by someone telling me what I should include in my profile. But I recognized it as an invitation for discussion so I read every reply. As a result, I will be updating my profile!


As commented by @spiphany and @annkatrinrose, it’s useful to know what someone focuses on, and it often helps people to figure out how to communicate with them.

If someone agree with others’ IDs without having a good idea of what it is, it’s a completely different problem, which has been discussed in other threads.

Oh, adding a sentence that suggests new users not to agree with others’ IDs when they cannot distingish the organism from it’s closest relative on our profiles is a good idea too, as many users do.

Thank you for a lot of suggestions all:D

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Exactly. However the OP suggests that outlining your expertise is a way to stop people from just clicking agree. It’s not. In fact it invites the opposite.


It is possible to frame a question in a way that works equally well for both: “How did you distinguish it from XYZ?” both clues the novice in to the lookalike species and asks the expert for their explanation.

Or a third possibility: whether they know how to use identification materials.


Sure, and I’m not saying that one should assume that a user is ignorant just because they are new to iNat or don’t have formal training (or that they are knowledgeable just because they have a degree in biology). I’m not advocating that one should make snap judgments about who someone is or what they know or don’t know. I hope my post didn’t give that impression.

But a large part of communication is determining common ground – where the other person is coming from, what they hope to gain from an interaction. We tailor what we communicate and how to the person we are speaking to. We do this all the time in every single conversation, often unconsciously: whether to provide background information (who is that person I am referring to), how much detail to include (a friend gets told why I am having a bad day; an acquaintance does not), whether to use “insider speak”, etc. This isn’t being condescending: it is about determining relevance. An article on a new species for “National Geographic” is going to read very differently than the article in a specialist journal describing that species, because they have different purposes and different audiences.

A profile helps assess what is likely to be relevant when communicating with a user. Someone who has been observing nature since childhood is generally going to have a different basis for thinking about and understanding what they are observing than someone who only discovered an interest in nature a few weeks ago, and they are likely going to care about different things. Having a general sense of what a user’s background is helps me decide whether they would appreciate the technical terminology or would prefer that I use more common vocabulary. It helps me decide whether I can abbreviate my explanations or need to provide detail, helps me avoid telling the user things that are obvious to them or, conversely, making them feel intimidated because they don’t have the necessary basis for making sense of what I wrote. Obviously a profile doesn’t tell us everything and often we will still have to ask or find out things through interactions over time, but even a sentence or two (“lifelong nature lover with a particular interest in beetles”) provides a better starting point than no profile text at all.


I’m not sure if this was highlighted yet but I think this could be a very useful tidbit. I keep the iNaturalist-centric stuff at the top and then the “me” stuff at the bottom. I try to go in order of relevancy because hopefully that’ll lead to more people reading what I feel is most relevant.


A post was merged into an existing topic: Annotating museum specimens based on iNaturalist identifications