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
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.