Why do some people get bent-out-of-shape about duplicates?

As I find in the community guidelines:

  • Duplicate observations. They’re not ideal, but they’re usually due to oversight or bugs. Politely ask people to remove them but if they don’t, it’s not a big deal unless it becomes a habit. Keep in mind that observations of the same individual by different people are not duplicates. Those are two unique observations and don’t merit any kind of curatorial action.

“If they don’t, it’s not a big deal unless it becomes a habit” would seem to suggest that one request to remove a duplicate is enough. Yet sometimes I see another person commenting seconding the first request to remove a duplicate, or even the same person coming back later and reiterating the request. Or even asking other IDers not to ID the duplicate. Based on some comment discussions, there even appear to be a few who believe that their region has a rule against duplicates that iNaturalist as a whole does not.

So, I’m trying to understand here. If iNaturalist community guidelines say that it is not a big deal unless it becomes a habit, why does it feel like a big deal to some users?


It’s funny what people can get offended by.


Why do people get bent out of shape by anything? Some things bother one person a lot more than they bother the rest of us. Reasons duplicates are a problem: they waste computer space and take up identifiers’ time for no gain in information. Real issues, though a small percentage of total computer space space and IDers’ time in this vast endeavor. I personally don’t get too upset about those, but I do request that people remove duplicates on the rare occasions when I realize that they are duplicates. I’ve even removed my own accidental duplicates when told about them.


The existence of duplicates doesn’t annoy me, but this does.


When I see the same picture uploaded up to 5 times (yes) then it’s wasting my time and I don’t see why you have a problem with me being annoyed by that.
When someone uploads multiple pictures at different angles (leg, abdomen, face, wing, thorax, side, top back, front…) each of which requires extra time studying because there is too limited information and then I find out that they are all the same thing and if they had been in the same observation would have supported each other. Then it’s very much wasting my time and I don’t see why you have a problem with me being annoyed by it.
When I find that and leave a note that says it’s a duplicate and the same person keeps doing it then yes it’s annoying.


Is that not a newbie misunderstanding? It’s not unusual for new users to misunderstand the iNat functions and practice, especially, given the low-level of onboarding training provided currently.

Surely that will improve down the line. But for now, I think such things should be handled with a level of tolerance.


Oh trust me, I treat new users gently when it comes to site usage, and have talked several through how to add photos to their observations (or delete photos or add dates or locations when rooting through the casual stuff). I’m not concerned about that. In this case it’s the people who have half their observations marked as duplicates by various identifiers and never fixed them, or students who uploaded duplicates but will never log back into site and their stuff will never be fixed.

There is a difference between being annoyed and lashing out. I am very capable of grinding my teeth while smiling. After all, I work in sales.


Because that is not how iNat should be used, why do we need to feel thr aame as what rules say? They also are ok with every random photo you can upload, doesn’t mean it’s normal ro uploas your family vacation on iNat ans expecting everybody like it.
Observation is a data point, if you upload something three rimes it means you saw three specimens at rhis spot, and oftwn spot is different on every duplicate! They take time, take place, hey shouldn’t exist. And yes, people would better id thw first one and not each duplicate, it’s silly they do that.
You better start a topic on why people ignore data falsification, for me it’s the sign they do it themselves.


Well, that would fall under the “unless it becomes a habit” clause.

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The worst is when a high school teacher takes all of their classes out for an iNat demo and the students all take the same pictures of the same individuals. Not individual species, but actual individual plants. I know I shouldn’t be complaining as it’s supporting younger folks potentially getting interested in the outdoors, but going through 30 photos of the same goldenrod with just a distant photo of the flowers was like a fever dream.


I agree it’s not good to get bent out of shape about things – but I confess I do find duplicates annoying, try to call them out politely, and try not to ID known duplicates. The reason is that if each observation should be one organism/time/place (and, I suppose, /observer). Having duplicates reach research grade inflates the observation count, which reduces the quality of the iNat data archive.


I am impressed you are so helpful to new users and share your functional expertise.

Well, okay. is that half of 100 observations or half of 1000? , what if these users are on iOS? IOS is like being blind.

It’s not even easy to read comments on iOS.
I worked in the iOS app only for the first year(ish) on iNat. There’s the most rudimentary introduction available on iOS. There is no real link to the website where one might learn more.

I recall people got a little annoyed with me because I did not Withdraw my mistaken intial ID. KThere’s no Withdraw function on IOS


There was a user with 500 observations, more than a half were dupliates, other part were cultivated plants.

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As long as the requests are reasonably polite, I see no issue with this. Duplicate observations are not the end of the world, but they are also not good from a data quality standpoint.

What really bends me out of shape is people uploading observations of their friends and family (and to a fractionally lesser extent, pets). Thankfully, no comment needed, I just mark them as “captive” and move on. I also get a bit annoyed when an experienced user (i.e., not someone who just joined iNat and is figuring out how it works) posts a bunch of observations of obviously cultivated plants and wastes other people’s time by not marking them “captive/cultivated”.

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Posting all those different views as different observations is frustrations and can make identification impossible, since the connection between them is lost. However, that probably results from not knowing how to make them all one observation. At least, that’s why I did it when I first started on iNaturalist.


I don’t ID known duplicates, but I also don’t request that others not ID duplicates. I do however ask that others not ID observations where photos documenting multiple species have been uploaded to a single observation. I put a polite comment that ID should not continue until each species is separated into its own observation.


If it’s a user who makes many observations, I usually assume it is an accident, so I say something. I do it by accident a lot, myself, so I appreciate being told by others. I hope my comments never seem like I am in a huff about it. Because I don’t think I ever have been.

There was one account that had many observations over the course of 3 or 4 years and had multiple angles of almost all of, if not truly all of, their observations, uploaded individually, so they had countless duplicates. That bothered me a little bit, but mostly because there was just so much of it and for so long. And I know people reached out (hopefully politely) but that didn’t make a difference. But I just left a singular comment on one of them, told staff (which I only did because of the extent of it, which was hundreds of observations) and that was that. Can’t do much else and it really isn’t a huge deal anyhow. I guess it mostly just ruffled my feathers because it seemed like it was really nailing the “it’s not a big deal unless it becomes a habit” bit, because it was a big ol’ habit, and I think nothing happened still.


Contrary to my previous vent, I really don’t stress too much about duplicates. When I’m with small groups (walks where generally 5 or less people use iNat), I’m sometimes asked if it’s OK for us to photograph and post to iNat the same individual. I respond with yes, because I don’t see it as a big issue.

I don’t understand how the data are used extremely well, so could anyone elaborate more on why multiple obs of the same individual messes with data integrity?

To me, it seems like iNat really only gives presence data. Observers aren’t documenting all species they see so absence data can only really be inferred. Counts aren’t made. So really, it seems all an observation is saying is this species was at this location at this time. Any additional observations do not impact that statement, and observations of the same individual at different times just confirm the species is still present at that location.


Likewise, if I’m on the “identify” tab, with filters set to order by random, I have no way to know if a given observation is a duplicate unless previous commentators have already commented it as such. Especially if the other instance of the observation is IDed at a different level than the level I am looking at.


Well, that is a lot. Again, makes me wonder if they were on iOS, since it is really difficult to learn how iNat works on iOS.

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