Why was this reply by questagame flagged?

I wanted to communicate directly with CAS leadership but they only provide a generic ‘press’ inbox. Some of the c-level folks had twitter handles, but not everyone is on twitter. I left a public comment on their most recent Instagram post directing them to this thread as I felt that had more chance of being seen as opposed to a press email box that is overrun with spam.

I read the hidden comment. The allegations of iNaturalist staff complaining Questagame is ruining iNaturalist plus their thoughts on what changes iNat could make to improve access in communities who do not follow the eurocentric way of doing science (individual contributors, no anonymity, no communal participation) are very compelling and I feel they deserve a public airing. If questagame has receipts (proof) for the negative comments from staff I would expect them to bring them, otherwise retract the statement.

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do you even know what questagame is and how they operate? if you really want to go to bat for questagame, i suggest that you first read through some of the other threads that questagame has participated in here, and read their website, and see if you think think they are being transparent with their actions and statements. ask yourself what is their goal with their product, how are they making money from the product, and why are they so interested in linking to iNaturalist? then compare that to how iNaturalist operates.

anyway, i think that’s enough of a tangent. (sorry.) we really should return to the core topic.

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I’m not going to bat for them specifically, I’m going to bat for the ideas they raise as being worthy of discussion on how iNaturalist can expand their impact and expand to include science that’s not necessarily eurocentric. I really don’t know much about them personally other than they are/were trying to bring game theory more to the forefront of ecology.

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There was a post last year about how QuestaGame weren’t following the iNaturalist Terms of Service, were asked to comply, and eventually replied back (after their proposed deadline) that they were unable to comply with the request. https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/v-quick-question-questagame-users/3383/3

They outsourced identifications to iNaturalist through dummy accounts and then through a group account so the skeptic in me wonders about their motivation in promoting the idea of allowing group accounts as a means of supporting BIPOC on iNaturalist.

There’s no requirement to mention one’s culture, appearance, gender, or age when using iNaturalist - which QuestaGame explicity calls out as justification for group accounts in their comment - so I don’t understand the statement that it is required and makes users “feel like they must comply to iNaturalist’s existing online culture.”

Much of the language in their comment (the above, “exclude communities”, “Different cultures. Different outlooks. Different needs.”) is ambiguous enough where I am unsure if it’s meant to be about supporting BIPOC on iNaturalist or making iNaturalist more amenable to QuestaGame’s needs.

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Well that’s unfortunate that their past actions have eroded trust. Their post still needs to be addressed by iNaturalist for transparency’s sake.

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Moved this discussion to Forum Feedback so that it didn’t derail the other topic. If you have concerns about the forum and forum moderation, please post in this category.

Most of the iNat staff, like myself, are based in California, and this was flagged overnight here. It was flagged by a forum moderator for being off-topic and I completely agree with that decision. The reply in question has been pasted to the bottom of, below this post, if you would like to peruse it.

The first half is about QG and iNaturalist’s relationship (which we’ve spoken of elsewhere, and Andrew has an open line of communication between himself and our staff) and the second half contains a suggestion for iNat to allow group accounts but without laying out specific reasons why that would improve things, and then a statement that they have more suggestions but won’t share them now.

The very first post of the relevant thread says “we ask that contributions be constructive and on-topic” and I don’t think @questagame’s comment met that standard. A constructive comment would be something along the lines of:

In the past, iNaturalist has not been accepting of group accounts like Questagame’s, but I think that policy is detrimental to iNaturalist’s goals and is preventing people of color from participating, as I’ve discussed before. I think accepting such accounts would beneficial in supporting users of color because [reasons x, y, and z], so please reconsider your stance on this. I also have a few other suggestions, which are [suggestions a, b, and c].

If anyone wants to be critical of iNat, that’s fine, but they should follow the rules of the forum and the topic at hand.

For what it’s worth, I totally think a discussion of whether iNat’s approach is too western or eurocentric and what might be done about that is an important and interesting one. I’m of mixed ethnic heritage and grew up in Hawaii (although I’m not native Hawaiian), and I majored in Anthropology. I often think about the differences between iNat’s approach and the many other approaches people have to nature and would love to see if/how they could be integrated.


questagame: I believe the problem is a deep cultural one within iNat (and within its current tech design).

When we began working with iNat three years ago, I raised some structural issues about its technology that I felt were discriminatory in nature and would exclude communities with different perspectives.

None of my suggestions was considered. One iNat staff member told me they personally “hated” my organisation’s work because it had upset their community’s normal way of doing things; even though we were just using the open APIs, had no intention of interfering, or causing problems, and did our best to immediately correct any issue once it was brought to our attention.

Our organisation was banned from iNaturalist. It still is.

I don’t blame anyone. Looking back, it was a conversation that was very difficult to have. My wife and I founded our organisation 5 years ago. She’s a PhD in Citizen Science and Computer Systems. I have 25 years research experience studying how digital technology can create colonial/discriminatory power structures. I’ve written and spoken about this for over a decade. (e.g. medium.com/questanotes ).

But it was extremely hard to explain to iNat staff that, hey, we’re really keen to work with your system (use your APIs etc), but we want to try doing things a bit differently than the way you’re used to doing them. Because our communities are different. Different cultures. Different outlooks. Different needs.

I suspect I’m not doing my organisation any favours with this post - but that’s the thing. We should be able to speak freely without it being perceived as an affront or a threat. I don’t mean it as an affront; never have.

So let me give a very concrete, very feasible engineering suggestion to increase diversity, something which we proposed to iNaturalist two years ago, and numerous times since. It has yet to receive a reasonable explanation of why it’s not possible.

ALLOW GROUP ACCOUNTS

And allow people, in their settings, to say “Include group accounts in my feed?” yes/no

That’s it.

This way, iNaturalist people who want open, direct one-to-one chats with other iNaturalist people can do so (we understand this is integral to iNat’s culture, which is fine; nothing changes). But people who want to engage in nature based on their own ways of collecting data or knowledge about nature - and not any socially defining characteristic (culture, appearance, gender, age, etc) can also participate through their own systems, with their own cultural identities, contributing valuable data and knowledge, WITHOUT having to feel like they must comply to iNaturalist’s existing online culture.

This relatively simple change would go a long way to increasing diversity across the system. Rather than saying, we need more people of colour in our “group,” you’re expanding the service so it’s equally accessible to more diverse communities.

We could suggest quite a few CONCRETE changes iNat could enact to increase diversity and break down colonial structures, but let’s start with that one and see how we go.

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I agree. I think it would have just been better to move it to its own topic in the first place. I have never understood what Questagame is really, so I like the idea of clarifying how it works in a separate topic, especially since Questagame observations are still on iNaturalist and they seem different from other observations.

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A couple comments 1) you are treading dangerously close to tone policing and enforcing rules that have a colonial and white supremacist history at their root. Be careful. Do the homework on the origins in western culture of being ‘nice’ at the expense of hard discussions. If you are willing to refuse to hear someone’s point of view because you don’t like how they asked the question, that’s wrong, full stop. 2) you moved the thread to a new place with no comment and then took several hours to explain what happened. To prevent misunderstanding, you should have explained your reasoning for moving the thread at the moment you moved it.

Thank you for addressing what I felt was the takeaway from the hidden post - that there are real ways iNaturalist can work to expand their influence into non-eurocentric ways of doing things. I ask you pull out that particular quote from the hidden thread and re-start a discussion in the original thread based on that.

Finally, I did not see you address the assertion that an iNat staffer gave unprofessional feedback to a member of the community.

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But can someone explain how group accounts have anything with ethnicity? Problems with questagame seem to be the same as it would be for an app in any other region with any different users (though those problems have nothing to do with users themselves).
And I also have some questions since CNC about a group account from UK, if questagame users are getting notifications, what about all contributors to that single iNat-based account? Can they get notifications and do that in time? I don’t see how I or anyone else can tell people it’s better to create an account for their friend’s photos while at the same time we have group accounts with thousands of observations. I belive there’re only a very few situations where a group account can’t be avoided and it’s not one of them.

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8 posts were merged into an existing topic: What can iNaturalist do to better support people of color?

Are you referring to topics on this forum? If so, I will try to find them.

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It’s been posted twice in this thread now, but folks should probably read Loarie’s comment here in its entirety if there are questions about the Questagame situation: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/v-quick-question-questagame-users/3383/3

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Thanks. I have read that. I just misunderstood and thought there was also a reference to some issues about group accounts apart from QuestaGame, since no one is discussing it in the “Support” topic. Sorry for any derailment on my part.

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I think there have been general issues with group accounts, but Questagame has been the focal point of most of those discussions.
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/group-accounts/2494
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/is-it-acceptable-to-create-a-second-account-for-things-that-i-did-not-observe-myself/5558

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As was previously stated, the flag was related to subject relevance, not tone. Regardless, I firmly believe that a hard discussion is actually improved if the participants are civil, and I think it’s important to uphold that standard. I spent four years of my life counseling children who’ve lived through some of the worst experiences imaginable and did what I could to help them through some very dark moments, so I’ve had plenty of difficult discussions.

The original topic was split and there was a link to the new topic in the original topic - I think it was pretty clear what happened, and I think it’s better to split off a conversation before it derails the original topic even further. And yes, these replies do take time, lots of time.

As for a staff member saying they “hated” QG - no one remembers saying this and it’s not coming up in our email searches. One staff member says they discussed some user feedback about QG observations in person with Andrew and relayed that a user said they “hated” it, but that’s all we could come up with. But as I said before, Andrew has a direct line of communication with us and we’ve always responded.

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Thanks for the reply, I appreciate it.

iNaturalist is not a data aggregator. that’s the function of ALA and GBIF.

nobody has ever said that by joining iNaturalist, you can’t also join Questagame, if you like.

questagame obviously will never give anyone here a straight answer about why it cares so much about pushing its data into iNaturalist. so i’m going to fill in the gaps.

the real reason questagame is interested in linking to iNaturalist is because the QG identifier community is not as strong as the iNat identifier community. plain and simple. one of the really neat things about iNaturalist is that you can post an observation, and an expert from half a world away will make an ID. most people who have used iNat will have experienced this small sense of awe at some point. when questagame says that “these experts should be sharing knowledge”, what they really mean is that they want access to the power of the iNat identifier community.

isn’t one of the unique points of QG that they pay people to identify? if you look at the fine print, questagame actually allow people identifying on their platform to nominate an organization to which questagame is supposed to make a distribution at some point. do those other organizations actually ever get a check? who knows?

and where does the money to “pay” for identification effort come from? the app is free to download and use, but QG may charge you to start a “clan” or to start a “bioquest”. in iNaturalist, you will never be charged to start a project or bioblitz. iNaturalist is interested in creating a community. questagame’s desire to build a community is mixed in with its revenue model. that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but just think about that next time questagame talks vaguely about some sort of fancy ideal like freeing certain groups of people from the shackles of the western science establishment.

so let’s put this all together. if you’re a questgame user paying $X a year, but none of your observations are getting identified very quickly, would you be happy? if there’s another platform that you could use for free and which offers access to a larger community and where your observations are more likely to be identified, would you be tempted to drop questagame altogether?

does questagame really offer anything unique that really supports BIPOC?

once again, we’re talking about what’s good for QG, and not what’s actually good for BIPOC. so time to get back to the original topic.

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How about this pisum - when the planes start flying again, you’re invited to come stay with us in Cairns! Yidinji country! I think you might surprised that we’re not the sort of terrible ogres you seem to assume. :-)

I did a 3 week orchid (and one talk on California native plants at RBG Sydney) speaking tour in Australia back about 12 years ago - Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne and absolutely loved Australia. I would jump at a chance to revisit any part of Australia!

You’ve got to come see us in Cairns eric_hunt, soon as this dreadful Covid is over!