Taxonomy Strike

Friends, if you're wondering where I'm at... I am on a taxonomy strike.

This stems from a very particular poorly implemented policy from iNaturalist that I am fighting against. Did you know that users have the ability to block up to 3 of their fellow users on here, and doing so prevents a blocked user from adding any identifications onto their observations. When this happens to a de facto curator such as myself, it effectively prevents me from curating those taxa. How do I know... because this is precisely what happened when a fellow user blocked me for no perceptible reason.
[edit: this observation has since been deleted and reuploaded by the user]

That brief exchange is the only time that I've spoken with @old-bean-adams [edit: AKA @j_stauffer, AKA @j__stauffer, the user has repeatedly changed names in response to this post] on here, but despite the dozens of identifications that I've provided this user, they felt the need to violate site policy ( and block me. When this was pointed out to iNat staff (specifically, @tiwane, the Outreach and Community Coordinator), the response was to ignore it.

"I don't know why that user blocked you but I don't see the same pattern of the user blocking people for just IDs. Unless it's pretty clear-cut, asking someone why they're blocking another user is not something we usually do."

Why is this important? Why is this worth fighting about? Because this stretches far beyond whatever grievance @old-bean-adams might have felt they had with me. When I am blocked from interacting with that user's observations, they are essentially un-curatable, at least on my end. And seeing as I am often the only user curating coral observations, that means that any misidentifications linger on, visible to every other user. Thus the actions of this one user have a direct effect on everyone else here, and potentially on the larger scientific community, who might encounter this user's potentially erroneous data on sites like GBIF.

iNaturalist asks a lot of its experts. The workload involved with curating a taxon is daunting and continues to grow as the site does. From my perspective, there are a number of policy decisions made that actively inhibit the desire of experts from contributing their time here. For instance, allowing an AI-generated identification to count as the equal of a human-generated ID is a profoundly bad policy, especially since many of the users who select those IDs are ephemeral and never bother to update their IDs. This, in effect, wastes the time of an expert. Allowing users to opt-out of community IDs has a similarly negative effect, but at least those can be pushed to Casual Grade. Allowing users to opt-out of taxonomy updates is an even stranger policy... and did you know that when you combine a community opt-out with a taxon swap, the former takes precedence. Look, here's one...

The latter point was something that I tried to raise on the forums (multiple times, in fact), but my posts were never approved by @tiwane. The community mods there are bizarrely strict in what they deem to be acceptable discourse and will not hesitate to stifle speech if they feel that it's just griping. They might tell you to post it as a Feature Request, at which point it'll be denied for not really being a Feature Request. There is, in fact, very little recourse for providing feedback, and essentially none for providing feedback that might be construed as negative, but that's a gripe for a different day. BTW, if you're wondering why I am writing this as a Journal Post and not posting it to the forums (where it would have more visibility with the community), it's because it would be immediately deleted by a mod. In fact, I'm curious to see if it'll get deleted from my own Journal.

As it stands, I am not willing to let iNaturalist have it both ways. They don't get to ask of me to freely share my expertise (thousands and thousands of hours of uncompensated labor, from someone with irreplicable taxonomic expertise) and then in the same breath deny me the ability to properly curate, all because some random user decides it's their right to block me, in clear violation of site policy and with zero administrative oversight. That is a bridge too far, and I am on a taxonomy strike until that is rectified.

While I had initially requested from @tiwane that I simply be unblocked from @old-bean-adams, I no longer consider that adequate. I am fighting this stupid fight on behalf of all of my fellow experts on here, who may not even be aware that they are blocked. There is, of course, no notification alerting a blocked user when this happens. I only figured this out when observations from @old-bean-adams lingered in my search results (but only as red dots on the map) after I had gone through and added identifications to all available observations. Only by clicking on the red dots can I reach those forbidden observations, revealing that they are from a user that has blocked me. If you are a prolific identifier on here, odds are that you have your own @old-bean-adams. Frustrating, right?

I will return when iNaturalist has realized the error of their ways and has improved upon their process for blocking users. The most logical way to solve this is to simply make blocking apply to comments and messages, NOT identifications.


PS Noteworthy that the user renamed their profile and deleted/reuploaded the observation in question. Here's the new one, sans identifications.

PS Noteworthy that this user renamed their profile a 2nd time and once again deleted-reuploaded the observation in question... [edit: once again, deleted]

Posted on January 21, 2023 03:37 PM by joe_fish joe_fish


@joe_fish Very sorry this has happened. I wouldn't be surprised if I were blocked by someone as well. It would be handy if one's profile listed users that he or she was blocked by.

Posted by huttonia 8 months ago

@joe_fish That is very odd that blocking can apply to IDs. I perfectly understand blocking a user from messaging you or something, even if it's not for harassment and they just don't want to talk to you.

The argument for blocking people from IDing coming down to protecting people vs. protecting the work seems fatuous. People have to work with people they don't like all the time. That's part of being an adult. This is like the difference between telling an employee they can't harass another employee or just outright firing them for actual misconduct, and telling an employee they can no longer use the break room because another employee doesn't like them and keeps their lunch there.

Most of the hypotheticals people were using in that thread didn't apply to you in the slightest (and some seemed to be implicitly accusing you of wrongdoing, which I am very not okay with) and appear to be cases of advocating for overreaction because somewhere, sometime actual problems happened. But these issues could be easily separated mechanically by simply removing blocks for IDs or outright banning actual harassers, which I'm sure already happens.

This seems to have happened months ago and I had no idea. tiwane did say in the thread he messaged the user and resolved the issue, however, so I'm not sure why this blew up now, unless you remained blocked or something else occurred The user in question doesn't even appear to exist anymore.

Posted by blue_lotus 8 months ago

I've already made my thoughts clear on the issue of blocking generally (, but you make a valid point. I hope things can be sorted out in a way that satisfies you, or that you'll reconsider your decision. I'm already missing having your assistance :)

If any staff are paying attention to this, I would add the following. If I visit iNaturalist as an anonymous user (not logged in), I can:
-search for a user by their full name if they've provided it

-view that user's entire profile

-filter observations by username

-view the date, time, location and all other relevant details in the observation

So if I'm blocked, all I need to do is log out to be able to see all this info.

This means blocking has very little real impact. All it would seem to do is eliminate direct abuse via messaging/comments, or nuisance IDs. How about refining blocking so that the blocked person can interact with the user/observation in the same way as an anonymous user, but in addition, provide the ability to ID, but without comment? This ability to ID could be further limited to curators if you're concerned about nuisance IDs (I think curators would/should be naturally averse to giving nuisance IDs).

PS, I haven't been blocked (that I know of), so I'm making some assumptions about how it works exactly.

Hope to see you back soon. Matt.

Posted by mtank 8 months ago

I appreciate everyone's support. I've been inundated with kind messages from my fellow iNaturalists. Glad to know that my curatorial efforts here have not gone unnoticed.

To answer your question @blue_lotus, I had actually had 2 users that had blocked me... one of these was reversed without much drama, as that user had apparently been misusing this feature to block people without cause. But the other user cited in this journal post is a "Curator" who apparently has specifically taken issue with me, for reasons beyond my comprehension. iNat staff have refused to intervene, claiming that they don't see a pattern of misuse.

Curious that the user has renamed their profile twice [edit: 3X] since I published this, and also twice deleted/reuploaded the observation that sparked this nonsense. But apparently none of that raises any red flags for iNat staff.

sigh taxonomy strike continues...

Posted by joe_fish 8 months ago

I agree wholeheartedly (again). Blocking comments or mails or even profile sight ect. .... is very understandable.
But blocking IDs is effectively tempering with the dataset. It is 100% unscientific behavior, and then iNat should decide wether it wants to be taken seriously by scientific communitiy or not.
Changing names and reuploading just to avoid being corrected needs to be flagged and adressed seriously by curators.

Posted by stefadrian 7 months ago

Hi @stefadrian,
I'm comforted that I'm not the only user engaged to fixing the taxonomy who has problems with incorrect users. :)

About blocks according to iNaturalist's indications it isn't allowed to block a user just because they don't like the IDs but I'm not surprised that in fact this rule is ignored by iNaturalist.

In general, however, blocks are useful to me, in fact some particularly obtuse and aggressive users which they didn't like my IDs (which later turned out to be correct), they have started to attack me personally.
For example an user started attacking me on every my Aplysia ID while another entered my profile and deliberately disagreed with my taxa on several of my G. incognitus IDs, just to spite me.
I had to defend myself with the user block, in fact I'm using all 3 blocks.

I have also been threatened by an iNaturalist moderator with suspending my membership because I thought that a bad photo in which no living beings were visible I had flagged that no living beings could be seen and I had to give explanations because the user complained about this.... and it didn't matter that I had more than 36.000 IDs or that one photo was so bad that you couldn't see anything.

I understood and accepted that the logic of iNaturalst is to be able to manage an enormous amount of records with a minimal commitment in terms of moderation so the rules are very generic, moderation almost non-existent and the logic is based on not giving rise to any conflict rather than making the reasons of those who work correctly. This approach has its advantages and disadvantages, iNaturalist doesn't seem like a place where there can be "an always fair and positive environment" but without this logic such a large site would probably be unmanageable.

I think it is important to use iNaturalist in a light and serene way, we not pretending that it is an "optimal" or "right" site, but only a particular site managed by algorithms and poorly moderated which in concrete terms can lead to interesting and positive situations but even in dull situations.
If a user blocks me it's not a problem for me, this means that iNaturalista will receive 60,000,100 wrong IDs instead of 60,000,000, the important thing is that the iNaturalst logic can manage another 70,000,000 photos with correct IDs, even better than well-moderated and ethically correct sites (such as Naturamediterraneo).

I therefore hope that you will soon resume having fun with iNaturalist and giving intelligent users the possibility of appreciating your always useful and interesting interventions, not asking iNaturalist for the "justice" it cannot give.

Posted by rpillon 7 months ago

I have nothing to add, just that I agree.
Blocking on comments or private issues, oke.
Blocking ID's and data is a no-go for me.
Thank you @joe_fish for explaining this problem here very well.
Thank you @stefadrian for pointing us out here.
I hope this will get resolved quickly and gets the attention that is needed.

Edit: @rpillon got a point there as well yes.
Good to have this topic open for discussion.

Posted by dennisthediver 7 months ago

I fully agree with the the comments made by @rpillon!

Posted by manavgio 7 months ago

Personally, I don't how to feel about this topic, and, to be completely honest, I didn't even know that it was possible to block users here in iNat prior to reading this post.
I agree with all the points made so far, especially since I know very well how even a single incorrectly-identified observation can have a large negative impact on the website's dataset, when not properly curated.
However, I'm not sure that removing the effect of blocking on identifications is the right solution to the problem.
Before adding any more comments, I'd like to ask a few questions regarding this blocking feature, as I don't know very well how it works.
*When a user gets blocked, are they also automatically reported to an iNaturalist's moderator?
*When blocking a user, are you given the opportunity to elaborate on why you are blocking them?
*I'm assuming the effect of a block on a user extends to identifications in order to prevent nuisance/retaliation IDs. Are there other simple ways to prevent this issue that don't necessarily involve a user-block?

Thank you @joe_fish for bringing this problem to light, I hope you will soon be back to help the community, whatever the solution to this issue may be.
Also, thank you @stefadrian for sharing this journal post with me and other identifiers. It's very nice to have as many different views as possible on this topic.

Posted by esant 7 months ago

When a user is blocked, are they also automatically reported to the iNaturalist moderator?

When you block a user, are you given the opportunity to dig deeper into why you're blocking them?

I assume the effect of a block on a user extends to IDs in order to prevent ID harassment/retaliation. Are there any other easy ways to prevent this problem that don't necessarily result in a user lockout?
The effect of blocking a user is that neither you nor he can intervene or identify each other's records and they do not appear in your searches. As far as I know the only way to stop an inappropriate user is to block him or contact the moderators but the latter are not very present and not very lucid. So the only effective and autonomously managed way is blocking.

In my opinion the distortions due to reciprocal blocks, such as those of ID system by the majority, such as IDs of photos with insufficient quality, etc... are typical mechanisms of iNaturalist logic and in the very bige number of records managed by the site they have a few relevant effect. Moreover even if 1 user is blocked there are always another 100,000 users who, if they think so, can intervene and make IDs. I understand that they can be unpleasant mechanisms but these are also the basis of iNaturalist, they are functional to its logic in which the site must self-manage.

iNaturalist is a site that should be taken with great serenity and patience ;)

Posted by rpillon 7 months ago

Thank you all for leaving your thoughts. I admit this is a topic I am invested in more than I would like. Since I entered iNat I felt an enormous wave of gratitude for this possibility, being a biologist myself. I am especially grateful to those expert or knowledgeable identifiers who step in where I have no clue, therefore likewise improving my data and my knowledge. So, my opinion may be lopsided when it comes to people blocking expert IDs.
Thank you @rpillon for your insightful words, bordering at wisdom. Helped me relax a little bit. ;)

Posted by stefadrian 7 months ago

hey @joe_fish
I'm very sorry to hear about what happened. I hope the administrators wake up and change these strange rules..
I am grateful for all the identifications that have helped me. don't go anywhere.. :)

Posted by rafi1 7 months ago

I am very sorry that you feel you have to go that way... but I do understand. It is frustrating. I really hope that a solution can be found that will motivate you to come back... I don´t know where all my red-sea-cnidaria would be without you!

Posted by ajott 7 months ago

Hello Joe,

I’m so sorry to hear that you feel forced to go on strike to make yourself heard. Your work is appreciated so much, by myself and I’m sure by many members of the community. Without people like you INaturalist would be an empty shell. I think the matter can be solved quite easily by disabling the blocking of ID’s done by curators. @tiwane : Hello Tony, would this be an acceptable solution and is it technically possible? Many thanks for your help in this 🙏.

I hope that you return soon Joe. Don’t forget that you’re not doing all the work for INaturalist, but for all the people that use it and that benefit from your great knowledge. Because of you I look at corals in a completely different way and I’m sure that there are many people like me in the community. I’m truly very grateful for the way you helped me to connect to the underwater nature.

Best regards,

Posted by jeanpaulboerekamps 7 months ago

@jeanpaulboerekamps I appreciate your support and kind words in this. I would say that your suggestion (to disable the blocking of IDs from Curators, but not the IDs from non-Curators) is an imperfect solution. For instance, I'm not a Curator on iNaturalist, even though I have provided much of the actual curation for corals (and several other difficult groups). I think a more holistic approach to resolving this is needed.

I don't know how extensively used the blocking feature is on here, but perhaps this is something that should be directly administered by iNaturalist staff or the Curators. The onus should be on the Blocker to provide convincing evidence that a user warrants being blocked (versus some other remedial action, such as account suspension or deleting a comment, etc). Allowing blocking without any oversight is ripe for abuse, as I feel has happened here, and was simply a lazy design descision on the part of iNaturalist.

In my brief conversations with @tiwane and @loarie, the impression I got was that they regard this site more as social media than a serious research tool, and so heavy-handed tools like Blocking fit their viewpoint. But there is a fundamental difference with how iNaturalist functions from Twitter, Facebook, etc. If I block a user on Twitter, it effects nobody else but myself. If I block a user on iNaturalist, it indirectly effects every other user, and can trickle down to the broader scientific community through Research Grade observations that get exported to GBIF.

Science should never take a backseat to Social Media here.

Posted by joe_fish 7 months ago

Hi Joe,

I completely understand that it’s an imperfect solution, but I guess in a multi-purpose platform like iNaturalist (it’s both a way to connect people to nature and a great research tool) perfect solutions are hard to find. I guess it would be very logical to make you curator (like all other specialists that are clearly having knowledge of a certain family or order) and then the solution would already be a bit less imperfect. If a specialist like you gets blocked, it’s bad for the whole community. If a layman like me gets blocked, the effect is nihil. I think the most important thing is that we realize that we all need each other. There’s no great research tool without people that upload observations and there’s no connecting with nature without the knowledge of specialists.

Best regards,

Posted by jeanpaulboerekamps 7 months ago

@joe_fish Lol I wasn't a curator forever either. But I got tired of having to keep asking for a curator to add new sponge taxa as it came up too frequently. I often forget you're not a curator, though I'm not sure why you never applied since you easily dominate the Cnidarians. While I personally agree that blocking shouldn't work here the same as on basic social media and that the data on a site that provides scientific information shouldn't be controllable by personal opinion (outside of taxonomic disagreement - and that's enough drama all by itself lol), I can understand the admins attempts to find some kind of balance. Personally, I favor the science and I've always felt the admins play up the social media aspect a bit more than is warranted. I've actually included iNaturalist in my public talks educating the public on tracking species for conservation purposes, but the thought of doing this for facebook or instagram-like purposes never entered my mind.

Posted by blue_lotus 7 months ago

My thanks for all of the identifications you have done out here in Micronesia, you have been important to identifications in this region and your identifications helped spark my son's interest in marine photography, observations, and identifications. Again, my thanks for the positive impact you have had out here and on my children.

Posted by danaleeling 7 months ago

Throughout history, strikes have been effective ways to bring about change: Gandhi and Suffragists come to mind. Currently, you can be compared to 'Tank Man' who stood up to the Chinese communists in Tienanmen Square. Hopefully the power of the individual will gain momentum through the contribution of millions of citizen scientists demanding change.

During your absence, your ID assistance will be sorely missed. iNat will not be the same without you.

Posted by fiftygrit 6 months ago

I just found out today, that you are on a strike,(me beeing focused the last days uploading Cnidarians on iNat)....I am so sorry on how this developed. I fully understand your point and accept it, but am really sad about your abscence. Thank you very much for your past support as it was a milestone on my journey of understanding the ID of stony corals....I really hope that this strange policy of blocking identifiers will be changed and you will return. iNat would not be the same without you...

Posted by ingorogalla 6 months ago

This issue -- in general, not your case specifically -- is currently under discussion on the Forum.

Posted by jasonhernandez74 6 months ago

I just saw this post today, and agree with most of the opinions expressed. Responding to one point, I agree with others about the forum administration. Anyway, as a compromise for the issue being discussed, what about updating the website so that if a user blocks you their username and icon will display as anonymous, you can't view their profile, and their observation location and date display as obscure or private? Also, the point people made that you can already simply log out and see all the observations is relevant, since a majority of bad actors may be outside of the website, which is a problem in it's own right, unless there's evidence otherwise that I'm unaware of. In summary, the location and username could in principle be hidden with a website update, which would protect users as our first concern, so why hide the observations?

Posted by bdagley 6 months ago

I'm glad to see the community discussing this issue.
I'm disappointed (but not surprised) to see that no meaningful change has come about.
To wit, any harassment stemming from misuse of identifications should be dealt with via account suspensions.
Allowing users to block identifications fundamentally breaks the community ethos of this site and spits in the face of the experts working to improve data quality here.

Posted by joe_fish 6 months ago

"there are a number of policy decisions made that actively inhibit the desire of experts from contributing their time here"


Two big ones for me are 1) lack of provisions to safeguard the work we put in (at present, those who do not make substantial positive contributions can delete or unhelpfully modify content with impunity) and 2) lack of effort to promote the idea that contributors should be acknowledged for large-scale efforts, properly credited and, if appropriate, consulted and directly included when users (sometimes data miners and rival colleagues) monetize the resource.

It is also unacceptable that when conflicts do arise dedicated experts may be assumed a priori to be in the wrong, whereas those blocking or complaining may be assumed to have a legitimate grievance, even if the latter have made near-zero contributions to the site and likely do not understand its functionality or culture. It seems at times that maximizing participation (even by those making little or no positive contribution) is a higher priority than is retaining the most dedicated experts.

Posted by johnascher 6 months ago

I am glad to see you identifying again.
You left a large gap.

I admired your kind and tactful response to - what's the blue thing? And the stone? Given the daunting picture quality for those 2 obs.

Posted by dianastuder 6 months ago

@johnascher hit the nail on the head. agree with all of this.

Posted by nomolosx 6 months ago

It's important for all of us to ask for the staff to both be fair to scientists as well as to seriously consider experts concerns and suggestions for the website and for staff to treat us fairly in how they moderate the website. I was previously and recently mistreated by certain staff members and certain curators, and today they announced they're taking away my curator status on false charges. If anyone wants to look into this or potentially express support for me and my innocence ( Thank you in the event that anyone does see my side of how they've been unfair to me, and not only me, many others including many great identifiers as well.

I'm essentially the only person who has currently been carrying out all of the curation for bees and wasps. Including old flag requests that no other curators completed. Without me, bees and to some extent wasps will have no active curators, which is a loss to the whole community including the observers. I've also been one of the only curators brave enough to help resolve difficult conflicts between users, in flags between users having disagreements, and many people have thanked me for being a fair moderator on those flags as well, including for many flags the staff declined to ever comment on. And I've been one of the few brave users and curators willing to state when the staff themselves have been unfair and that we expect better of them. Now you see the price of speaking honestly about their unfairness, they unfairly remove people's curator status. I'm willing to pay this price to stand up against their misconduct, but also believe that my curator status should be restored.

Posted by bdagley 5 months ago

I understand the issues, I too have the feeling that if we try too job hard and we have too many expectations we end up being hindered and disappointed in this site.
My advice is to use iNaturalist with a light mind, to take it as entertainment, a sort of game that can often give an excellent scientific result but is sometimes hindered by the logic of the site.
It is not a site that pays much attention to correctness or to the gratification of experts but if taken in the right way it can lead to very interesting scientific results and it can to be a space where meet several nice, interesting and intelligent users.

Posted by rpillon 5 months ago

Sad. If we lose identifiers then iNat is simply Pretty Pictures. Another Instagram or Flickr.

Posted by dianastuder 5 months ago

What is going on on this site lately? I didn't even know ID'ing the first image when different species were present was even frowned upon. It seems like only recently a lot of long-time experts are getting targeted for stupid things.

Posted by blue_lotus 5 months ago

I missed when people decided to ID the first image.

There has been discussion in the forum. It is confusing and unhelpful if taxon images include random other species. If the first species goes to RG that wobbly data gets exported. If we can catch observers before they leave, we can hope that they will resolve the multiples for us.

Posted by dianastuder 5 months ago

There really needs to be some kind of control of drive-by users, but it seems like a lot of the policies are being tailored to them, oddly. I feel like admins don't want to alter people's uploads in any way, which I understand, but that really should be done in the case of deleting duplicate observations, since about 99 times out of 100 people refuse to delete their dupes, or people who've posted twice then disappeared for 5 years and have obs that are screwing up data, especially when they have a group of friends that do the same and now there are 3 bad ID's for something which sometimes can never be rectified, or as in this case, when a user uploads a bunch of clearly different, identifiable species and refuses to break up the obs. These are things which could easily be done by mods of some sort. And the types of users that do this sort of thing aren't likely to cause long-term issues with the site anyway, since they're almost always drive-by users.

I don't mind papers using our data. My own ID's have shown up in papers. I feel like that's kind of the point of doing what we do. It does seem like a lot of experts are being punished lately in order to satisfy odd personal feelings though. I think the admins are seeing a trend and coming to the conclusion that experts are just assholes, rather than perhaps that there could be improvements in site policies.

Posted by blue_lotus 5 months ago

Supporting the recommendation to allow users to link or unlink the photos in observers observations, I once did an experiment with observations that were made casual due to the location or date being missing, where I identified the photos and reminded the observers to correct the observation. Essentially 100% of the observers who responded complied and were grateful for the reminder, indicating that observers, for one, by and large respect and appreciate extensive identifiers.

Posted by bdagley 5 months ago

It really depends on the error. Wrong dates or locations missing typically are actual error and I've seen regular users do that and yeah they do tend to correct them. But the sorts of people that don't understand how the site works and upload a bunch of images of different species, then go silent and do nothing when corrected for literally years is pretty high.

Posted by blue_lotus 5 months ago

I've made recommendations for that as well, such as to provide more guidance upfront when user join, or require them to complete a training module, to avoid problems occurring downstream. Many new users who make mistakes aren't aware that they are doing so. But in general, observers overall still seem mostly to be receptive to help and advice, especially since we're volunteering to more precisely identify their photos.

Posted by bdagley 5 months ago

"As demonstrated for many years at Bugguide."

A lot of these issues have already been solved by other sites.

"when it was proposed to ban further agreeing identifications"

I'm not aware of this, like to ban further agreeing IDs beyond those that bring something to RG? That would be terrible.

"The point of an academic scientist identifying all observations for a taxon-area combination is for the same records to be extracted without serious credit if any, and often without a simple thank you, by other (rival) academic colleagues to be used as fodder for their academic output?"

I mean I expect this information to be used by the scientific community. Don't you? There are many ID's I've made that have expanded ranges of a great number of species. I would very much like to see the scientific community use this data. Personally, I'm not that concerned with credit for ID's, although it would be nice to see if it was relevant to the paper. Now having said that, I would like greater respect shown by this site to its major contributors/specialists.

Here's the crux of the issue: you can't have the data on your site used for scientific purposes, while also not wanting that data curated in a scientific way. You don't get both. At some point, the admins of this site are going to have to make a choice whether they want this to be Twitter 2.0, with all the toxicity that entails and none of the virtues (because Twitter doesn't have any) or whether they want this to be a serious citizen science site. The two are not compatible, because the twitter crowd will always produce an endless stream of imagined complaints with ever greater demands regarding "solving" these non-issues - like totally imagined "harassment", which is why we're all here to begin with.

Posted by blue_lotus 5 months ago

The forum has a 'paid nanny' who says, too many likes, come back tomorrow. With privileges that you earn, slowly. iNat has almost nothing reserved for people who have learned to use the site properly. No motivation to learn how to iNat.

I would like iNat itself to encourage identifying. I am daunted by a user who has been on iNat for one month only. And has over 1K obs. Mostly trees ... with no IDs for others. Observers should be encouraged to engage and to give back. Broad IDs so the taxon specialists can filter for them.

We are just days away from this years' City Nature Challenge

Posted by dianastuder 5 months ago

"Scientists, experts, who needs them anyway? They are gatekeepers and killjoys who are only happy when they can dunk on us. About time to give them the boot so we can have a liberated (insert your favorite institution here), where at last everybody is respected for his personal opinion without being corrected by a weird set of rules we don't understand in the first place!"

... nope, I don't think it is a specific iNaturalist problem. It is a Zeitgeist problem.

"Help, help, they are oppressing my wishful thinking by facts!!!"

People tend to feel harrassed just by being corrected. Shame that iNat is supporting this notion.

"Experts think they are so clever. What do they think I am?? Stupid???"

Scientists are perceived as gatekeepers of a cashcow ideology due to an utter lack of comprehension of natural sciences by most people. A notion that is hyped by Graham Hancock et al., promoted by Netflix or History Channel. We can see it in every part of society.

"I don´t need science, I use my common sense instead."


Posted by stefadrian 5 months ago

It's unfortunate that the iNat staff are more concerned with the site being essentially another social media platform as opposed to 130 million observations. It's kind of ridiculous that they brag about the scientific contributions of this site, but when scientists ask for changes to improve the science, then all the sudden it's just about the observers.

I really wish that they'd realize that the main users of this site aren't the observers, it's the identifiers. We spend significantly more time on the site and are the much bigger users of the site. But identifiers needs seem to get marginalized.

Posted by neylon 5 months ago

One improvement we fought for. And won.
Plant + var or ssp used to UNhelpfully = plant. Not, thank you.
Plant + var or ssp = species. Which fits human logic, and is filterable for taxon specialists.

I am struggling with, encouraging newbies to just add any ID - pick one at random from the Pretty Sure list.
Followed by fighting the CID algorithm. Must. Find. MORE. Identifiers.
Undermined by Ancestor Disagreement. Must. Find. EVEN. More. Identifiers.
Give me honest Unknowns!

I guess that all worked for a small group in California when they started?

Posted by dianastuder 5 months ago

Thanks for helping with that.

Posted by bdagley 5 months ago

One general note here, was that yesterday a curator made a strong argument here in my defense that I was unfairly treated and unfairly punished to lose my curator status, and I agree with that assessment whether or not the comment will be restored.

Posted by bdagley 5 months ago

hesitant to post here, but I'd like to express my support for some (albeit not all) of these thoughts.

without getting too much into the nitty gritty and specifics, I do believe that iNat has a cultural issue when it comes to how experts are treated on the site and the say we have in certain situations. if experts and identifiers are so valuable to the site, why is it that they are so limited? I agree with the points made by @stefadrian and many others—experts on here are often treated as "elitist" and this is a viewpoint encouraged by some of the function of the site in the name of making user's individual observations more important than broader science. there are instances where no matter how incorrect a user is, they are still able to be right and an expert must move on. when I've made complaints to staff, there is always a reiteration that the priority of iNaturalist is not to be a scientific site, but more of a social media platform for sharing a love of nature. it's incredibly frustrating when these priorities become apparent.

I believe that this site offers quite a lot to the scientific world, but it has a far greater potential that is frustratingly being ignored. Making this site more scientifically accessible would not sacrifice the over all user base and it's frustrating that there is the concept that making such changes is of detriment to equity of site users. It is a flawed notion. I don't believe that this is just some other complaint and that there are always things to complain about—I hope the staff see and understand that experts on this site need to be treated with more value, especially for the time and resources we've dedicated. It's not transactional, but we should have more of a voice.

Posted by nomolosx 5 months ago

And frankly non-scientists (me too) who come to iNat from other social media, are hoping for an informed ID. If that function is not supported and encouraged - there are plenty of other places to get WOW great picture!! and who cares what it is, it's wow end of. It is identification that makes a niche for iNat on social media.

Posted by dianastuder 5 months ago

There are Facebook groups for posting pretty pictures of nature. And some of those Facebook groups are good about identifying, too. The question is, what sets iNat apart?

Posted by jasonhernandez74 5 months ago

"It is not a science platform, it is a social media platform."
I always found that notion to be far out on the weird side tbh.
It is a social media platform for biologic observations and taxonomic biology. This is not at all mutually exclusive! Like a chess site is a sm-platform for chess players. It doesn't matter if you are a champ or a newbie, but in order for this specific platform to work, everybody has to attend to the rules of chess. Wanna play checkers instead? Sorry, dude, wrong social media-platform here.

Uttering this notion about the social media platform seems to be a parrot reflex by staff/curators, a "portcullus-answer" to almost every idea of enhancing the scientific output of the site. I fully acknowledge that some staff members really put an effort into it, answering to questions, discussing those ideas and so on, but in the end ... always "portcullus", it seems ... ;)

Posted by stefadrian 5 months ago

Back to basics. From iNat's own About

iNaturalist helps you identify the plants and animals around you. Get connected with a community of over a million scientists and naturalists who can help you learn more about nature! What’s more, by recording and sharing your observations, you’ll create research quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature.

Posted by dianastuder 5 months ago

BTW - out of all observations, what percentage of observations is this discussion about?
Is the percentage meaningful enough to require data cleansing?
Can one easily data cleanse the miscreants observations?
Could a tag be added to mark such observations?

Posted by fiftygrit 5 months ago

@fiftygrit this discussion has expanded to cover a few different grievances with iNat's administration

1) observations where an expert has been blocked from identifying
2) observations where an AI-suggested ID has obviated an expert's ID
3) observations where an expert hasn't IDed, due to them not participating in this platform

all of these are serious issues and difficult/impossible to quantify, but #3 is the biggest problem that this site faces.
how many experts simply avoid iNaturalist due to its toxic attitude towards them?
how many experts avoid iNaturalist due to the proliferation of bad data?
this is a feedback loop that increasingly disincentives participation from the users whose participation is most needed.

here's a relevant thread that I saw yesterday...

Posted by joe_fish 5 months ago

I think that iNaturalist doesn't want to change, it doesn't want to be a predominantly scientific site and therefore it will not be. I think it's instinctive to try to suggest changes towards what we want it to be but it's not what the admins want.

I think that having expert users with more weight in the IDs would be a choice that brings with it not only advantages but also new problems. Who will spend time and energy selecting and monitoring experts? How do you decide who is an expert? For example, if there is a user with more than 1,000,000 identifications on all Phylum (of which 99.99% has only copied the previous ID even if it is wrong and has never argued for a single ID) he should be considered an expert (genius?) or a mythomaniac? If there is a very experienced user who has ID only 100 records but for very hard and rare species how do we understand it? If a well-known university professor accustomed to examining dead specimens makes many misidentifications in identifying live specimens, is he an expert?

I think iNaturalist will have many problems in the future, I don't think the main ones will be those of the semi-automatic logic for the IDs and for the (very little and very bad) moderation but for having an ever larger database (continuously growing) with too high a percentage of bad photos qualities (often unidentifiable) with too few experts willing to dig through bad photos to find one interesting photo.

I think an expert must take iNaturalist with its strengths and weaknesses, understand that it is not a scientific site (it pretends to be one just to distinguish itself), and certainly it isn't a site for protect nature (it pretends to be one but photos that required harm to a living organism are welcome), must it is a site that to need to have patience and the right spirit. With its strengths and weaknesses, it is still a particular site that can be very useful and interesting, if not taken too seriously.

Personally, it would be enough that the site moderators in the event of conflicts to have the intelligence and education to understand if one of the parties in conflict should be protected more for having demonstrated over the years that he is a serious and expert user that he is acting for the good of the site or not.

Posted by rpillon 5 months ago

"it is not a scientific site (it pretends to be one just to distinguish itself)" -- honestly, I think that from the beginning I sensed this. In hindsight, I think that's why I never was on the same with the eager people on the forums encouraging, "document everything." I never saw the point. If I was doing a scientific biodiversity survey, the iNat methodology is not how I would do it.

To me, uploading pictures here feels more like philatelists showing each other their stamp collections. I do it for the same reason a philatelist shows the stamp collection to another philatelist instead of to their family members gathered for the holidays.

Posted by jasonhernandez74 5 months ago

@joe_fish I enjoy submitting to citizen science and hope that my observations could provide some contribution to this.

If however, there is a better site, I am happy to transfer my observations there and close this account.

Thought#1: it appears that the moderators are ignoring the issues in this forum. Whilst having a whinge-fest may be cathartic, one has a choice as to whether or not to use the data. If you chose to use the data, given items 1, 2 and 3, data will need to be cleansed.

Thought: Could a tag or project be created and applied by an expert/ curator that would inform users that specific observations (your list 1, 2 or 3) needs to be cleansed?

Posted by fiftygrit 5 months ago

In general, all experts need to consider that not only are they contributing to the dataset of iNat, but experts as well as uploaders contribute to the research of numerous private projects around the planet. I have a private project going on, which frankly would not be possible without the observations of all the other people in my area, and without the input of our experts and semi-experts. So, while the whole iNat dataset might be flawed, the observations aren't, the experts IDs aren't. Still we are contributing to science, just not on the level iNat is advertising.

@fiftygrit Please don't close the accout, even if you move on and delete all of your observations. Because if you delete the account, all of your identifications would be gone, too. This would be a punishment of users for the flaws of the site ...

Posted by stefadrian 5 months ago

iNaturalist can certainly have a scientific utility, in these years I have been able to make 3 peer-reviewed scientific publications using it: one on the distribution of two species (but I had to personally identify the 1100 records used and in any case discard a hundred of them) and two for the just by having met other experts on this site.
iNaturalist is only a tool, if used in the right way it is useful (for me mainly to relate to many kind and intelligent users and to find little known species), if instead we dedicate ourselves entirely to the site we risk disappointments. There are many spaces in iNaturalist that cannot be fixed but it has also managed to create niches of excellence.
Getting angry with iNaturalist is like getting angry with a toaster, in my opinion it makes little sense, we need to accept it for what it is and try to use it for what it can do.

Posted by rpillon 5 months ago

If you are a scientist and can see the flaws, we iNatters NEED you to help. We need taxon specialists.

Especially the kind ones who leave brief comments. It is species A because ... Not species B because ...
Remember the Pareto principle on social media. One person, the observer posts an obs. 9 more visibly engage, ID comment fave. But always remember the silent majority, another 90 - who are not 'lurking'. They are reading along, looking and learning, and your knowledge ripples out. I rely on @joe_fish which is why I landed on this post. And I remember he once asked for help with a taxonomy muddle on the forum - which was resolved almost overnight.

Or not. Ivory tower? Publicly funded and giving back to society? There are so many kind and helpful scientists on iNat. And so many taxon gaps. CNC23 started today. Please help to ID for us?

Posted by dianastuder 5 months ago

I really like and support @rpillion s take.
I get frustratetd sometimes .. especially when moderators and admins seem to lightheartedly take the risk to drive prolific IDers such as @joefish or @bdagely away.. think that will harm the site an it´s goals on the long run.
It is for sure a good thing to try to change thing that can be improved.

However, in the end it will cause problems if you try to use the site in a way it is not really built for. It is a compromise and yeah, one needs to think about what is the most important goal and what are maybe site goals.
I think the most important goal is to connect people with nature, motivate them to spend their time with it. I feel the science aspect is somewhat secondary.. which is ok. However, it is also important to keep the balance. I don´t know how many people will continue to want to connect with nature via this site, if their observations will not be evaluated anymore, because the IDers feel unhappy and leave. Uplaoding your observations and not getting any feedback might not be very motivating for many users.

And I am rather opposed against the idea of experts getting another status... it is really hard to impossible to easily evaluate what an expert is. A degree does not really need to mean anything compared to personal interest and experience...

Posted by ajott 5 months ago

@joe_fish, I have not posted observations for a while, therefore I did not noticed that you were on ID strike. I am sorry to know that inat has been so frustrating for you this year. I am very grateful for your many IDs and the knowledge you shared so generously with me.

Posted by clairegoiran 5 months ago

If we calm down and refrain from grandstanding this may help iNat admin to find more bandwidth to improve the site

Posted by johnascher 5 months ago

@johnascher I guess you named the problem there. It is frustrating for experts to have to point out their expertise and why it obviously matters for iNat, just to be called grandstanding (or gatekeeping or elitist or similar phrases, I read 'em all). It is exactly "why we are here". Some of us would love the administration to show more interest in improving the site (in a scientific way, that is).

I agree that calming down is always a good thing. But do people in this post really give the impression of an aggressive and irrational mob to you?

Posted by stefadrian 5 months ago

Not an 'expert' but having googled, the others on this thread are not 'grandstanding'

Posted by dianastuder 5 months ago

How would you characterize stirring up of so much drama based on deficiency of a particular site tool (when there are very many shortcomings of the site, both technical and in terms of site culture)? @dianastuder

I also wish the admin would place a much higher priority on supporting experts, for exampling taking steps to ensure that our efforts are properly credited when iNat data are mined en masse by rival academics. I also wish that various site tools could be improved, especially through implementation of a means to efficiently flag duplicated posts and also cases where multiple taxa are unhelpfully and accidentally confounded.

I was not intending to comment on all "people in this post" and certainly was not intending to characterize them as aggressive or irrational @stefadrian. I do, however, think that threatening to go on strike due to shortcomings in a single tool is overly dramatic and not especially helpful.

Posted by johnascher 5 months ago

@johnascher "taking steps to ensure that our efforts are properly credited when iNat data are mined en masse by rival academics"

I'm curious how you would implement that request?
My curation of anemone observations has been used in another researcher's comparative study...
I wasn't acknowledged in any way by those authors (despite having communicated at length with one of them), but I also wasn't the only user to provide IDs on the observations.
Who deserves to be "properly credited" for iNaturalist data, and what does that entail?
Are you looking for a brief acknowledgement or coauthorship?

Posted by joe_fish 5 months ago

@johnascher I agree. the conversation also ends up becoming rather circular—if change is desired I am not sure this is the best way to achieve it. the feature requests channel in the iNat forum may be a good start as well as other options for discourse there. I used this thread myself to echo some thoughts and even air some adjacent grievances, but in the end I do not believe a taxonomy strike is the best course of action. that said, I empathize with the frustrations and share many of them.

Posted by nomolosx 5 months ago

"I'm curious how you would implement that request?"

I suggest that site admin and others connected to iNat make public statements to the effect that 1) these are valuable scientific data that are being used for high impact research and policy and that therefore 2) data quality is important and 3) any large-scale, sustained, and thorough efforts by experts to render datasets publication quality should receive due credit. Then there need to be improved site tools, much more reliable data sharing and use agreements (esp. involving GBIF, which has its own issues!), and greater emphasis going forward on the scientific merits of the site in addition to its participatory aspects (which are also very important).

Many additional ideas are presented here

"I also wasn't the only user to provide IDs on the observations"

In some cases IDs (and observations) are truly crowd-sourced and it is not feasible to separate major vs. minor contributors, but in many cases there are obvious outliers among identifiers in terms of volume and/or originality and reliability of identifications who certainly merit particular mention (esp. if working as a team in a coordinated way as we do for bees, e.g., @neylon, @bdagley, and I and others have worked together to upgrade North American Bombus whereas @azhagu and I upgrade Asian images; the problem is that major Bombus projects to date have not fairly credited major identifiers of specimens or images). In such cases it should be quite clear simply by checking ID statistics who is doing large-scale work with intent to upgrade the dataset as a whole to publication quality. It seems disingenuous for colleagues who know who we are and who even solicit ID help from us and who routinely apply advanced statistics in their papers on a large scale to claim to be unable to determine who is and who isn't a major contributor. How is it that sophisticated scientists cannot apply basic statistical thresholds when determining if and how to individually credit data owners/providers/upgraders/validators? Why should it be difficult for quantitative ecologists or conservationists to notice when someone has contributed an order of magnitude more IDs than others? Several colleagues focus on detecting subtle shifts in populations (e.g., of bumble bees) but then claim to be unable to detect extreme outliers in ID effort even when iNat conveniently provides summary totals (at least in Explore mode).

"Are you looking for a brief acknowledgement or coauthorship?"

Of course this entirely depends on whether iNat data was central to the paper (or other research product) or supplemental and whether there had been coordinated effort by an identifiable set of identifiers working as a team (this is frequent in the bees) or if ID effort has been dispersed (truly crowd-sourced as seems to be the default assumption). The main reason to include the most important identifiers as authors is that they surely have unique insights into the data that could improve the study. Failing to include identifiers leads to suboptimal and potentially misleading use of recordsets. see

I am not myself very interested in perfunctory thank yous (especially as part of an undifferentiated collective) but I am very interested in seeing some recognition, even if not in the preferred currency of Academia, of the strenuous efforts of non-academic scientists and especially of emerging experts (often students, including those from under-resourced institutions and countries). @joe_fish

Here is an example of a paper that mined all iNat records of Euglossini for the USA but did not credit or even thank those of us who collectively (and in one case individually) checked identifications of 100% of these records (vs. 0% by the authors).

Even though this species ID is "obvious" there was much need to clean up records confounded with Augochlorini, to reject unverifiable reports of this species from Mesoamerica, and to otherwise ensure that these data were fit for use.

Many changes are surely desirable but I think we need to be patient and not get too fixated on certain local issues such as individual tools that are lacking or are counterproductive. These can be dealt with in time. I think there are some big questions to answer regarding whether iNat is or should be a serious scientific resource or whether it should value participation and collectivism above all else?

Posted by johnascher 5 months ago

There is one idea regarding this situation. Why not prohibit the blocking of curators? And allow curators to mark a user (e.g. after correspondence through messages) who makes correct identifications, so that their definitions have "more weight" than those of other users.
In my opinion this would solve the current problem.

Incidentally, I recently found myself in the same situation as one of the few bumblebee identifiers in Eurasia.
Thanks @johnascher for inviting me into the discussion.

Posted by sibnaturalist 5 months ago

... has been proposed before (in fact, by me as well). In the past there have been a lot of reasonable ideas to fix this issue, proposed on various occasions by various people (in the forum and via pm to admins/curators). It is why I support this move by Joe, because all that happened in response to this specific issue was polite variations of the staff comment "We hear you, but we are not gonna change anything concerning your ideas."

If there is an issue, it should be brought to attention so it can be adressed properly and maybe even fixed. But yeah, I guess you could also call it "stirring up drama". ;) I don't think that this problem is just like any minor deficiency of the site, I think it is a main issue. I think it is scaring off specialists (academic scientists who would spend their time and expertise on iNat for free) both from continuing to participate as well as joining iNat in the first place.

I agree it is a circular discussion. But only the argument is, not the users involved, some of whom hear about this issue for the first time. It was not that Joe jumped on a strike the very second he was denied a request. This has been an ongoing issue for a while now (longer than I am part of iNat, it seems), with ample feature requests by different persons, discussions with staff, discussions on the forum .... but as I said above, the answer of choice always seems to be something like "We hear you, but we are not gonna change anything concerning your ideas."

Posted by stefadrian 5 months ago

Strange and illogical.
The platform should evolve, especially as this change will only benefit everyone.

Posted by sibnaturalist 5 months ago

I sympathise with @joe_fish - it may not, be the best response, but it is his despairing one.

I am neither a scientist nor employed, so I'm free to express my own opinions - but various threads make me realise that use of iNat is very different for working scientists @johnascher Those 'cautious comments', but not committing to an actual ID for example (not you!)

Chewing over iNat is social media first with the deliberate lack of support for identifiers in favour of observers. I wonder if iNat targets vanity metrics for A Word from Our Sponsors? Easy to explain and justify rising obs and observer and species numbers. Not so easy to to justify to NON-scientist funders ID to taxon and taxonomy convolutions. (Disclaimer - my camera case is National Geographic - but I paid - to advertise for them)

Not acknowledging people's data from iNat lurches down to - I found it on Google and now it is MINE. People scrape text and images (even slicing off the watermark) and are DEEPLY offended when I whine about theft of intellectual property. Copyright? What, is that?

Posted by dianastuder 5 months ago

"Not acknowledging people's data from iNat lurches down to - I found it on Google and now it is MINE"

A problem here is that for some the relevant people to be acknowledged are only the observer(s) but for others it could be the identifiers too. This is one of many "main issues" that I think need to be duly considered before we can move forward harmoniously.

Just today I found out that my PhD adviser's lab (which is not heavily involved in iNat bees as far as I know) has recently initiated a community science project focused on mapping (and ultimately conserving) aggregations of ground-nesting bees using the iNaturalist platform. They are advertising this as their work on the US Bees Listserve (documenting bee nests is an obvious thing to do with the aggregated image data).

Here is the website:

This seems like an attempt to leverage the extremely strenuous work of major iNat contributors, including identifiers, for the benefit of a PI who does not fit to respectfully engage with the site's leading identifiers from the outset (leading to questions about whether they can expect to be credited).

Here is the iNaturalist project:

I added this Flag, "Seems like rebranding (as a project) by a lab not contributing much to iNaturalist of strenuous long-term, large-scale work (e.g., identifying the nesting bees) done by other academics who are major contributors to this site." @jordan_kue

@dianastuder I hope you can see that there is something of a "land grab" for iNat data at this time, and those most aggressively seeking to monetize this work may have done little or nothing to build the community resource. Surely this is an issue requiring further discussion.

Posted by johnascher 4 months ago

Somewhat curious how this new project was even able to be created. Isn't there a 50 observation requirement before you can create traditional projects? The creator in this case has: 1.

Also interesting, 1000 observations in the project already that they presumably want to use for research, and in the identification department, has placed: 1.

It does kind of look like the plan is to take no part in this community, add nothing to it, but reap the benefits of the work we've done. If the project owner(s) does become an active identifier and spends time finding and improving observations, then great! That's wonderful, we need more experts on here placing ID's, and I wouldn't in that case have a problem with the data being used. But right now, it looks like that's not what we're going to get, we're going to get a project that collects our work and leaves when it has sufficient data for a publication for someone else.

Posted by neylon 4 months ago

I would flag that project to help at iNat @johnascher and @neylon. A form of plagiarism?

A nastier attack, than simply scraping photos for a field guide. Somewhere between social media naivety (they will never know) and professional malice?

Posted by dianastuder 4 months ago

A more charitable interpretation @dianastuder is that an overly enthusiastic student (and lab) may rightly perceive the value of the resource (as fodder for research publications and as a way to increase outreach) and wish to advance an ambitious project without duly considering the existing participants and their existing efforts (e.g., the existing project on meeting bees). Since none of the people involved seem to have engaged much in the site in any capacity (see above comment by it seems very plausible that naivety is a big part of this. Also, being charitable @neylon, there may be a plan to take part, but it would be better practice to actually engage with the existing community in a serious way before launching an ambitious project branded to a particular lab.

I suggest that we have a serious discussion about these issues in general, such as ongoing industrial scale scraping of biodiversity data by some prominent research labs worldwide, as opposed to focusing too much on this particular example (which after all hasn't achieved much yet).

Posted by johnascher 4 months ago

Regarding the potential for professional malice, some people may think that this cannot happen in the case of an "amateur" crowd-sourced site because the data are amassed by the public and should be fodder for anyone to use as they see fit, but in reality much of the content has been validated (rendered publication quality) by certain credentialed experts in direct competition with ambitious data mining academics. The site and others (e.g., GBIF) had better come up with better means to enforce existing agreements (e.g., GBIF data use agreement) and to expand these to include new stakeholders such as large-scale identifiers and content curators (in addition to observers, who already have in theory some minimal protections).

Posted by johnascher 4 months ago

Uncharitable on my side, since I'm not a working scientist. How do you deal with plagiarism? Avoid being plagiarised? Away from iNat.

The amount of data now available on iNat moves to generation 2 level, where fresh guidelines need to be established. Within iNat as well. Some barriers and rewards - my focus is on encouraging people to work thru the ID backlog. Instead of the iNat default - bring us - thousands of obs - the identifiers are waiting eagerly!

Posted by dianastuder 4 months ago

I prefer to err on the side of sharing data, identifications, and expertise with the public, and am not too worried about how non-academics cite or fail to cite my work. However, I pay close attention to what rival academics may be attempting to do with recordsets they did not build and may not understand and am in no mood to see colleagues rebranding datasets or leveraging them for non-inclusive publications.

New guidelines are certainly needed! We are in uncharted territory.

Regarding the ID backlog, I wish there were more enthusiasm for making obvious identifications at high volume to higher taxonomic levels from this backlog. Instead, many identifiers seem more keen to attempt highly speculative species IDs for a seemingly arbitrary set of selected records. Why not look harder in the backlog for 1) high value records (I find diamonds in the rough in the backlog all the time) and 2) low hanging fruit such as honey bees, bumble bees, etc. among the "bees" backlog.

Posted by johnascher 4 months ago

I agree there are gems to be found. And a lot of low hanging fruits also.
That is not the problem. The problem is that there is no motivation for users to become identifiers, no reason for identifiers to strive for expert status, and absolutely no reason for experts to join iNat ... besides maybe from personal reasons like being interested in IDing difficult species to a speculative subspecies level (which is then frowned upon) ...
Basically I am annoyed when after another night shift of reviewing and identifying Bivalve species I keep on reading how identifiers should do better ... ;) no, not really annoyed .... but yes, I think the identifiers are doing a great job, they are singlehandedly keeping this website alive and thriving. No, not the observers are, the identifiers are. I think the next step is up to iNat administration to recognise this and react accordingly. But instead I perceive this friendly condescending attitude of "oh, we are doing fine here, weirdos complaining is part of the game, nothing to phone home about." In the meantime, unidentified Anthozoans are piling ...

Posted by stefadrian 4 months ago

"No, not the observers are, the identifiers are."

Was this inspired, in part, by the "lazy observers" thread? Because I agree with you that much of the current ethos of iNaturalist is for observers to think, at best, that it is enough for them just to photograph and upload, photograph and upload, and this will somehow magically result in a useful dataset.

Posted by jasonhernandez74 4 months ago

I chose not to login for 3 weeks, and will continue to reduce my identifying (and curation) somewhat until the issue over my curator status is corrected. Anyway, one thing I noticed while I was away is that Joe is shown as being suspended on the forum, which I don't know the details of, but that the staff later said on the forum that he could come back if he wants. Which would seem to suggest that sometimes users are punished too harshly or unjustifiably, and without the review or agreement of the greater user community or oversight groups. Although to be clear, I do approve if punished users are given second chances, and especially if the original punishment was unfair. I also noticed two sections of the curator guide and terms of use that I didn't remember, which may explain a lot about how some identifiers often feel ignored by the staff.

Which essentially state that any decisions made against users are only made at their own discretion, and that any user can even be suspended or have their account deleted on inat or the forum, with or without cause, with or without notice. This was surprising to read. I also noticed that once on the forum the staff publicly commented that sometimes they do or will make mistakes. But the solution they offered was just to tell them if you think they made a mistake. My main point being, if someone can punish users in any way at their own discretion but also says they'll sometimes make mistakes, is there sufficient accountability to protect the rights of contributors? Ideally, I'd prefer those terms of use and curator guide to be updated to ensure fairness toward curators and all users. Feel free to share if anyone has feedback on these topics.

Curator guide: If you demonstrate by your behavior on the site, forum, or other communication that you are unwilling to abide by these curatorial policies, abusive to us or members of our community, or otherwise unreasonable, the staff will revoke your curator status, or just not grant it in the first place. What constitutes abusive or unreasonable behavior is at the discretion of the site staff.

Terms of use:Termination. iNaturalist may terminate Your access to all or any part of the Platform or Services at any time, with or without cause, with or without notice, effective immediately. If You wish to terminate this Agreement or Your iNaturalist account, You may simply discontinue using the Platform and delete Your account. All provisions of this Agreement which by their nature should survive termination shall survive termination, including, without limitation, ownership provisions, warranty disclaimers, indemnity, and limitations of liability.

Posted by bdagley 4 months ago

I presume Joe Fish is not interested in fighting to be readmitted to the Forum.
But I remain glad to see him back to identifying. Marine life is where I need ALL the help I can get.

Posted by dianastuder 4 months ago

"With or without cause" is a huge red flag for me, because by definition, it encompasses "because I felt like it" or any other capricious, bigoted, or biased reason. If I see that proviso, it is safest to assume that there is no accountability.

Posted by jasonhernandez74 4 months ago


Posted by bdagley 4 months ago

I was also just told that there are no plans to reinstate my curator status, supposedly because I've been flagged "19 or more times." Yet, all of the recent flags were proven to be invalid, and on many of them curators or even Tony and Scott themselves actually resolved the flag as that I didn't violate site policy. So in other words, it's preposterous to tally up flags when almost all of them were invalid and dishonest, which was conceded by the staff themselves. This is a kangaroo court, no pun intended.

Posted by bdagley 4 months ago

Disappointing to hear that.

Taxon curators, and 'resolving flags' curators should run separately since the responsibilities and skills are different.

Posted by dianastuder 4 months ago

Thanks. Well, the idea to separate those two functions in the future is actually already planned by them, although I don't think it would be good. Because it basically just takes away powers from only certain existing curators, which could make curator flag resolutions less fair. I also remember on the forum it was once suggested to remove the curator status from all curators who hadn't completed any or many curation tasks. People pointed out in response then, that doing so would be unfair because some curators focus all their time on ID, but if that suggestion had been taken many of them would have lost curator status.

So, there has been a history of powers being removed from some or all curators over time. An even earlier example from before I joined, was that users were once granted curator status more readily, and curators could on their own make other users become curators, which was an option that was taken away later. Currently, it can be hard for many users to get approved to become a curator, but not everyone has the same chances as others.

For example, when I first applied a year before the second time I applied (which was when I became a curator), staff said that I had a communication issue with "user." I responded that this was false, to which they apologized and corrected themselves. Still, they didn't make a curator at that time and stopped replying. Similarly, recently another Hymenoptera identifier applied to become a curator, and staff even said he was accepted, but then didn't update his account and stopped replying. It's things like that, and how the terms of use say that anything can be done to any user with or without cause, that make me concerned about honesty, fairness, and accountability. As someone said above, the ability to block expert IDs, and as I'm adding to demote or suspend them without cause, does seem to be tinkering with the dataset. However, I'm not intending to just complain, but would like these things to be improved in a constructive manner.

Posted by bdagley 4 months ago

One relevant fact related to our discussion here is that, among the staff/admin-related issues raised here, multiple people have independently noticed or experienced and noted the same admin-related issues, which counts as corroborative evidence. For example, forum moderation issues were also raised here by others as well as me, such as feature requests being blocked, unfair standards of flagging, and the use some of the time of invalid "off topic comment" claims to users, which sometimes splits their comment onto a new page, topics being closed extremely quickly or de-listed/hidden, etc. All or nearly all of these issues were also documented in 2019, a year before I joined, as demonstrated when reading the full threads in the links below. And, unfair admin practices on the forum also indicates unfair inat admin practices, and vice versa, even for people who don't use the forum. So, the unfair conduct is not necessarily specific to any one of us, although has been specific to a few of us.

Posted by bdagley 4 months ago


Nothing that I received let me know why my post was flagged and removed. And no, I don’t want to know who complained about it. The language of the post may have been a bit vague, but I was talking about a blurred photo that a person was kind enough to reply to in a constructive manner. I didn’t insult anyone, or mention names. Or even links. One of your guidelines says ‘Assume people mean not harm’. I’m seriously ticked off by this.

That does surprise me. Flagging one of the kindest and most helpful people on iNat. RIP

Posted by dianastuder 4 months ago

I would like to share some facts about @bdagley's contribution which should be considered when evaluating the potential loss to iNaturalist should he be further marginalized.

He is the 2nd most prolific identifier of Hymenoptera on the site with a very impressive 325,936 IDs:

He is the most prolific identifier of some very important taxa on the site such as Vespidae:

He provided a unique service among curators by promptly resolving difficult taxonomic problems for aculeate wasps.

He has shared with me and others valuable insights into identifications and tips on how best to employ site tools.

It is to be expected that someone working at such a high volume as both an identifier and curator while also advocating for improvements of site tools and culture (see followup message below) should run afoul of certain curators, esp. those demonstrably prone to spiteful flagging, sarcastic retorts, and unearned claims of authority.

Posted by johnascher 4 months ago

It seems that @bdagley was demonized by some curators for preferring to identify the first image in a series precisely, but why should our valuable ID work (on the primary image) be rendered least common denominator (rendering it inaccessible for downstream use) just because 1) the observer is unable or unwilling to achieve timely deletion of off-topic extra images in accordance with site rules (even after being notified explicitly of the problem) and 2) the site lacks continues to lack the tools and culture to address the problem efficiently and harmoniously?

There is a genuine problem here, but the identifiers are not to blame, especially those who have worked tirelessly to annotate erroneously linked images (too often a thankless task having no effect since observers rarely seem to make prompt corrections to their submissions) while also sharing constructive ideas for how to improve the site.

It is the responsibility of the observer to delete/repost erroneously mixed images yet few do this. The site needs new mechanisms to address the problem that do not entail loss of identifier effort. Why should expert contributions such as species identifications including novel records of biogeographic and conservation importance be assigned near-zero value as seems to be the case when a lowest-common denominator solution is mandated? Why should identifiers be blamed for downstream problems caused by the chimeric records when it is the observer who is supposed to delete off topic images, especially when explicitly instructed to do so?

Posted by johnascher 4 months ago

Coupled by the fact that it is very difficult to delete pictures. Many, many times, I have asked users to delete an image, they respond later that they did, but when I check, the image is still there, or they deleted the wrong image. Meaning I have to spell out step by step how to remove an image. I know how to remove images and have done it myself occasionally, but it took me quite a while to figure it out too. Considering how many times I have had users willing but unable to remove images, it can only be concluded that it is one of the least user friendly aspects of the site.

In this situation, we have a sizable amount of identifiers who are trying to work around a part of the site that's unworkable. I really don't think we should be punished for that.

Posted by neylon 4 months ago

I created a petition-like excel file vote for anyone who'd support me regaining my curator status, feel free to pass it on to others. For clarification, I also learned that there is no third party or employer to speak to if disagreeing/appealing punishments like having curator status removed. To vote, just add your username or name under the first one in the shared document (link), or you can publicly or privately tell me and I'll add it. Thanks very much in advance, hopefully this will be effective and my issue can be settled soon, allowing us to resume discussing the other community needs and requests. I'll also publicly defend any other users this happens to in the future, and although I do make website suggestions or feedback at times, will be careful not to even potentially be flagged in the future, hoping that there will be no more conflicts.

Posted by bdagley 4 months ago

I'm not a curator and I don't even want to become one because I immediately saw the great potential of iNaturalist but also the great limitations and incoherence.
As a very active user trying to improve IDs I'm totally agree with what @johnascher @neylon writes. I console myself reading their observations because that's what happens to me every day too. On iNaturalist working to improve the site is a task full of hurdles, site management and some rules of operation sometimes make the task very hard and if someone try to work hardly to improve the site it is easier to end up being prosecuted instead of supported by iNaturalst.

For these reasons I preferred to give precedence to my serenity and I prefer not to commit myself excessively to iNaturalist, to use it only for what is useful to me and as a tool to improve other truly scientific sites, however I admire and understand your choice to try to improve iNaturalst, even if I have serious doubts that it wants to be "improved ".
I think it is clear that iNaturalist, even if for reasons of image it proposes itself as a scientific, democratic site that aims at the quality of IDs, is actually a site that has different targets as to have many users, achieving notoriety and managing the complexity of the database without committing too many resources. I think it is achieving his targets and doesn't want to be "improved". For many of us it is important if iN has 90% or 60% of right and significant IDs but for iN's targets I suspect it is not very relevant.

I am pleased to endorse bdagley. 😊

Posted by rpillon 4 months ago

Thanks very much @rpillon and others who endorsed me, the votes are now over 70 although I'm still waiting to find out if my curator status will been reinstated.

By the way, I just learned that a taxonomist was flagged multiple times at once, which was similar to what previously happened to me. In case you want to comment on the flags:

Posted by bdagley about 2 months ago

I mentioned this discussion to Bug Guide identifiers, in a somewhat similar discussion that may be of interest to read: ("a word of warning"...). I like BG forum because it has no moderators, although it's somewhat less active and the way comments are organized can make it difficult to read in long discussions. One of my comments is currently shown below the forum topic text, although the discussion began with earlier-dated comments and was written by the author of the forum topic. Bonus if anyone happens to have or make a BG account (focus: North American insects and bugs), then they could also comment there if they want.

Posted by bdagley about 1 month ago

In case you missed this

25% of IDs made by 130 users (top 0.06%)

50% of IDs made by 545 users (top 0.3%)

That is a blunt quantity tool - my insect equal to your taxon specialist ID. I am torn between gratitude to identifiers. And horror that it rests on so very few shoulders!

Posted by dianastuder about 1 month ago

This is another very strong argument that iNat should treat our "specialists" - and identifiers in general - with care and respect.

Posted by stefadrian about 1 month ago

Also - tool built for us by an active iNatter. With yesterday's shiny new added feature!
If you install it, you can see
3 IDs by Diana - ignore
3K IDs from bdagley - either he is VERY active, or he knows whereof he speaks - and we quickly learn which it is.

If 3 more use it, we will be another elite band of 300 ;~)

Posted by dianastuder about 1 month ago

There is a further problem, unfortunately making many IDs is not synonymous with being an expert. I hope it is often but for sure there is those who have the record of the IDs but in the area in which I am an expert (fish) he is certainly doing only damage: randomly quotes only the previous IDs, never argues and never modifies IDs (even if explicitly requested), does not reply to private messages, etc. I don't understand the logic for which a user makes IDs on all Phylums, in quantities impossible even for an expert, mostly at random to have record numbers but in iN there is also this. It is one of the many distortions of this site, which has its strengths but also its weaknesses.

Posted by rpillon about 1 month ago

'Many IDs' is a tool to use. If an identifier is unknown to me - I try their profile - working on the taxonomy of ... okay.
What do they observe?
What do they identify? Where?

For example
166 for tonyr who wrote the book on proteas and can tease the hybrids apart. He calls them Frankenflora
11 for nigel - interested in protea species
3 for me
That puts a number on what I know. Ask tony, but not too often - he is swamped in notifications, as he curates protea obs across iNat.

I have heard of, but haven't yet tripped over, someone who IDs to rack up to the top of a leaderboard.

Posted by dianastuder about 1 month ago

I don't know if someone who piles up a lot of IDs on all Phylums, randomly repeat the previous ID, without ever to fix them, without to argue, sometimes even if there are already 2 wrong IDs he feel the need to repeat them, etc... is doing it to get to the top of a leaderboard, or because that way they feel useful, or whatever, but judging by your link I'm not sure if you've never stumbled upon someone with these characteristics...

For me it's not a problem, each user can do and to be happy what he wants, but being at the top of the global ranking doesn't necessarily mean being an expert... it's probably more significant if you look at the top of the ranking on a specific species or species group as in your example.

Posted by rpillon about 1 month ago

I am not disagreeing with you. If I would come across that behaviour, I would flag it for iNat staff.
(And Tony is forthright but polite, about knocking optimistic protea identifiers back in line!)

Looked at a few of yours (and will be aware of who to be cautious of in future, one is already on my maybe not list) - What about amestwooceans ? Lately I have been asking her for our marine life.
This shows 376 for you - WAY ahead of every one else!
I will pick 'fish' out of Unknowns. That is my limit.

Posted by dianastuder about 1 month ago

Thanks for sharing the first links for the Chrome extension, it's interesting and I wasn't aware of it. It reminds me somewhat of an idea I or others raised in the past, if there could be something like a user ID score, which would be based on a few different ID related factors. Although, overall I've found most observers or identifiers to be reasonable and to improve their IDs over time, so I consider many suggestions to improve the website to be helping identifiers and observers, especially since most identifiers also observe. And I haven't checked the other observation links above, but if there ever is a case of guessing too many species IDs that can be dealt with by commenting or sending them a message, or by emailing the website if nothing else works.

Posted by bdagley about 1 month ago

I don't have a great opinion of the efficiency of the moderation done by the iN staff (and judging from this post I'm not the only one), furthermore if a user doesn't explicitly violate the rules and I hope he makes also useful IDs, so I have nothing to report.

However, even though I haven't reported anything to the iN staff, all the fuss I've made to fix many hundreds of randomly made IDs blocked by users who don't care about the right IDs hasn't escaped the attention of the iN staff. In fact, the iN staff intervened by scolding the user who according to them behaved incorrectly: they therefore scolded me because I asked other users ignorant about fish to help me support my IDs based on links to scientific publications. The providential intervention of the staff has angered the supporters of the IDs argued by me (who disliked being called arbitrarily ignorant of fish) and convinced me to suspend my deleterious task to fix South Africa's fish species.

If you want to live peacefully and use iN (which also has many positive things) the important thing is to take things lightly and with a lot of patience...

Posted by rpillon about 1 month ago

Any reactions, re: extensive identifiers doing most of the website work?

I have a feeling they're going to invest in identifiers.

Posted by bdagley 6 days ago

I hope you are right. Perhaps we should make a wish list for Santa?

Ancestor Disagreement
(vanishing) Placeholder text
Notification Management
Prevent global Opting Out

Posted by dianastuder 6 days ago

Those are interesting suggestions. My comment may have been vague but was intended to express uncertainty over whether identifier-related corrections, suggestions, or other needs would receive more focus. I'd rephrase my above discussion topic as that, and also including any general reactions to the news over the website receiving more money. It's also a good idea to list identifier-related ideas or suggestions. I have an excel spreadsheet where I've been listing various ideas from me or others over time.

Posted by bdagley 5 days ago

I raised some identifier-based ideas in the currently most recent comment on this journal post today:, in case anyone wants to read or consider commenting.

Posted by bdagley about 4 hours ago

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