Recently getting more into iNaturalist and Seek and enjoying the experience, I find myself tantalized by what it feels like the two platforms could be. Namely, having both the gamification of Seek and the long-term careful tracking of iNat seem within reason, and it seems like there is some low-hanging fruit in order to bridge that gap. For instance, allowing prior Seek captures to be uploaded to iNat (a request here), or finding some way to backup Seek on phone changes (e.g. here), or iNat grabbing some of the gamification ideas of Seek… these things I feel like are sort of make-or-break considerations for broader buy-in, but it doesn’t seem like they get much traction (and indeed some such feature requests are swiftly closed here).
So I guess I’m just curious where iNat’s long-term focus and plan is on these items? Is the idea that iNat is trying to keep the gamification of Seek from “polluting” the core platform in some way? Or perhaps Seek isn’t nearly as well funded? I of course understand the different originating goals of the platforms, but I also feel like there is a sort of missed opportunity for more public adoption (and even personal enjoyment!). And then selfishly knowing iNat’s direction is useful as it helps me understand how much time I want to invest in it. :)
The whole gamification thing seems to be an odd topic among the iNat staff, especially for mobile. It seems like some team, at some point, said “hey, let’s make this like a mobile game, so we get data from the general public!” So they implemented stuff like Missions and made Seek. Then, they quickly decided they hate gamification and started immediately shutting down any quality of life requests for mobile. Which wouldn’t be a big deal by itself, but it just leaves me wondering why they even bother keeping Seek running at all
I made three unique “scavenger hunts” on iNat over the course of 5 days, and I had to jump through major hoops and do a lot of tedious work to get it the way I wanted, even though Seek’s main purpose IS being a scavenger hunt and iNat itself has a list function, so I should have theoretically been able to easily make a digital scavenger hunt that automatically checked off observed organisms, but Seek has no custom mode and iNat has no mobile lists because the staff hates gamification (which, again, is fine, just make it make sense why Seek and Missions are even a thing)
Yeah what you’re saying is generally the way I’ve understood the history also. It’s also typically what I’ve read as the response to “why not XYZ” on feature requests. What I can’t square in my own head though is, even if that was the original use case, it still feels like we could have our cake (the original intents) and eat it to (some improvements that bridge the best of both worlds). What’s also sort of odd is @squidtk 's note of “make a mobile game, so we can get [more] data from the general public” also makes tons of sense and would feel like a natural next evolution (regardless of the originations). But I guess that really depends on what the team’s general view towards gamification is.
I wondered this initially too. From talking with various people, the more you officially make it like a game, the more people will have an incentive to “win” or “cheat”, which ultimately means a major increase in bad data because many people will do whatever it takes to “win”. There is already way more data than the identifiers can handle and the reality is that iNat is already very much like a game if you treat it as such. How many new species can I get this year? How many of these unknowns from greater than 5 years ago can I ID? How many new species can I find for this park? Can I learn to ID all the species in this genus or this park? I’ve never seen this and there are observations here, can I find it? You make it whatever game you want it to be. Badges and all that kind of stuff are totally unnecessary. If you need a badge or certificate, make your own and put it on your fridge and Instagram. If you want to make a quest, make a quest, ideally with a group of other people and collect a bunch of good data. Be an iNat dungeon master.
For example next on my list is the ignored African Unknowns - which are mostly going to be difficult dicots - we. NEED. Identifiers.
We need every observer to identify at the level they are comfortable. Ideally to make about two and half times as many IDs as obs - since that would cover what an observer ‘expects’ from identifiers. (PS that is my hope and wish, and is NOT required by iNat!!)
Must. Have. More. Data. Is not necessarily a good thing.
Gamification for me = hours online every day. Working thru Unobserved sp from my Cape Peninsula Life list (776 and a long way to go to hit a thousand - not because I ‘haven’t seen them’ but I need to remember to observe those)
I ID for CNC and now we have just finished GSB. And others have backlogs from previous challenges to clear too. (Hint?!)
Leaving aside whether this is a Good Idea, it’s been my experience that there is often some back end design or workflow that front end users have no clue about that makes implementing a Clearly Obvious Good Idea impossible or even just prohibitively expensive in terms of time, money and/or resources.
Saying that the iNat staff hate gamification is a big conclusion to draw from limited evidence.
I am of the opinion that iNat is big enough that gamifying it for all users would not be well received across all sectors and might even gnarl up the experience for some, like the identifier community. Personally, I’m meh on the idea. if there is gamification to be done, I’d like it to be focused on the Data Quality Assessments rather than observation challenges. But that’s just me.
I don’t know much about the iNat community on Discord but I’m thinking that would be your first stop to see what sorts of gamification has been done around iNat.
I certainly am not suggesting iNat hates gamification at least. But they might not prefer it or they might not simply be inclined to invest in it. But it definitely takes resources to develop features, so it’s a question of how much value ad is perceived. For me that value ad is quite big (even the silly things like badges and challenges being in an app, they’re an actual motivator hah).
I find it to be a real motivator to watch my number of IDs grow (I’m in the top 200 identifiers world-wide!!). I also like seeing the number of species I’ve seen grow, but with over 4,000 so far, I’d have to do a lot of flying or driving to increase that number very fast and I’m unwilling to emit that much carbon at this point, without a serious reason to do so that goes beyond just boosting my numbers. So what’s motivating to you may not be motivating to me (or to the iNat staff, for that matter).
In general we haven’t wanted to add gamification to iNat for two main reasons:
it provides a lot of incentives for bad behavior (whether malicious or not) and can reduce data quality - sometimes significantly. This happens often, especially when things like grades are attached to numbers.
we hope that people see their encounters with non-human organisms as intrinsically special and not related to extrinsic rewards or competition.
As a few others have menteioned here, there are plenty of stats iNat provides (both all the time and Year in Review) that one can use for motivation - I certainly do. I try, for example, to get at least one new-to-me species each month for the Year in Review, which makes sometimes take a closer look at things, or do some research to get an ID for something I’m not familiar with.
All that being said I do understand how motivational rewards like badges can be, especially for someone just getting into observing nature, and it’s one reason we added them to Seek. Since it’s pretty difficult to add a ton of observations via Seek, we felt it would have a fairly minimal negative impact on iNat data quality.
What would be interesting is to see whether, once someon is really into Seek and wants to start using iNat, we could help them make that conversion, where it hopefully becomes a more intrinsically rewarding experience. Some sort of one-time-post-old-Seek-obs-to-iNat functionality might be cool for that, but would take some development and would also be confusing.
Thanks @tiwane, that’s a very useful perspective and makes a lot of sense! I also think some of those quality-of-life improvements to Seek are likely exactly the kinds of things that would help that conversion. I imagine the iNat community naturally skews towards those already prepped on the intrinsic motivation side to do this kind of work, while getting more of the typical mobile user would require some hefty servings of the extrinsic/gamification. I have not though deeply on how one might counter the sort of “bad” gamification incentives, but while I personally feel like that’d be quite worth it, I also can only imagine that’s quite the rabbit hole and war of attrition hah.