Your thoughts on how the iNat team can best help the community grow and thrive

Hi iNaturalist community members,

I am excited to share that this week I joined the iNaturalist staff! I am thrilled to help this community continue to grow and connect more people to nature while enhancing our collective understanding of biodiversity.

Next week there will be an iNat staff retreat to plan future iNaturalist development. In preparation for that, I would love to hear your thoughts about how the core team can best support you in your efforts to grow participation in your area (be it geographic, taxonomic, or otherwise).

I would appreciate if we keep the focus of this thread on the generation of ideas, without extensively repeating discussion of previous feature requests or changes from the Google Group (I've also posted this same query there if you want to read that conversation), and without criticizing other people’s ideas.

Other ways to think about this prompt:

-How can we help you be a better, more effective multiplier of iNat activity?
-What can we do keep new, returning, or occasional users engaged?

Comments by the end of the day on Monday will be most helpful.

Thanks for all that you do to make iNaturalist an awesome, productive, and welcoming community.


הועלה ב-מרץ 2, 2018 04:32 לפנה"צ על ידי carrieseltzer carrieseltzer


A few additional comments and questions:
I acknowledge and agree that growth for the sake of growth is not desirable, and that growth that is too rapid can be disruptive to the community. In that vein, in what ways do you want iNaturalist to grow (or not)? What kinds of participation is most important to you in your use of iNaturalist? From the community-building perspective, what else do you want to do that you can't do right now?

פורסם על-ידי carrieseltzer לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

One place most people would agree that growth is always good is number of competent identifications.

Unfortunately that is tough. Continued improvements to the identification tool and active recruiting of experts are the only two things which come to mind.

פורסם על-ידי glmory לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

Absolutely agree with @glmory. Recruiting experts is a great way to improve the quality of identifications. It has the side benefit that many of these experts are academics who could recruit more people with an interest in a platform like iNaturalist through their classes. I have seen some journals posted that indicate some number of professors are using the platform to create projects for their students in field study courses.

פורסם על-ידי vermfly לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

I was going to suggest growth towards professionals able to confirm identifications. Maybe have the name of some competent and trusted people attached to some species so that the person can be tagged when in doubt?

The second point is to search by interactions. For instance species X is preyed on by species Y and Z, I would love to be able to make queries for these observations, or all interactions for that species. Interactions are not very straightforwards for people who don't know about them.

Another thing that would be cool is tags for ecological effects. For instance there is a boardwalk in a swamp, with a clear edge-effect. If it was possible to tag it, it would be great.

Enjoy the great new job, and the retreat!


פורסם על-ידי amarzee לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

As someone who is not a professional/academic/expert in anything, but who attempts to ID plants and birds and other taxa when I can, I would find it helpful if I could see how I am doing with identifications. I have a general impression, but numbers (or percent) right/wrong in different kingdoms, or ideally families, would let me know where my skills are weak. I would be happy to have that shown on my profile page for anyone to see; maybe others would not like that, but it would let someone judge how sound my contribution is toward an ID.

פורסם על-ידי milliebasden לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

I love seeing the featured observations on twitter and instagram ... could you do some challenges? For example, ask on twitter whether anyone has good photographs of a particular species (rare, endangered, newly discovered, or just cool) that is in the news. iNaturalist often is excited to share the "first X" observation, so these challenges could also be for filling in gaps that somehow still exist but shouldn't (each curator probably has a most-wanted list, I'd bet, if pressed). I suspect a lot iNaturalist users have large digital libraries but are too lazy (like me) to post everything they have ... but would be totally happy to post a specific pic if asked. But because it's on twitter, non-users might see the post and think, "hmm. I have that pic, perhaps I can join and post." So it would be a way to engage with current users and perhaps entice more biologists to join up. I'd also like to see more projects featured, such as tracking spread of an invasive or compiling pics of morphs for a given species.

פורסם על-ידי colinpurrington לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

@colinpurrington I love the "Missions" feature in the app. I would love to see that integrated into the website version so I could see what species I'm missing or what species I should be looking for in an area.

פורסם על-ידי vermfly לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

I liked the ability to share an observation to social media.

More: I like the idea of having observations collected as part of a class or other education project somehow distinguished. I think it would make them easier to find and comment upon. Some participants might enjoy working with students while others might not. Furthermore, if students know their work is going to be looked at by someone other than a teacher, they often put more care into it.

Also I created a project on lichens across the biomes. Before adding an observation to that project the participant has to identify its biome. However, as far as I can tell there is no way to organize the observations according to those required questions on the project page. As an educator that would be useful to me.

פורסם על-ידי anneclewis לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

I already posted in the google thread but posting here to get notified of these posts too.

פורסם על-ידי charlie לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

Sometimes I wish I could indicate more clearly which IDs I am absolutely certain of, and which I am only fairly confident about.

I do think it would be good, if possible, to encourage users to say in their profile which taxa they are most interested in, and which ones they know the most about, in terms of ID-ing. Many people do that already, but many do not.

I also wish there were some way that individuals who are in a school group that is "forced" to use iNat for a class could be marked with a small colored dot or whatever.

Our documentation is not always the easiest to understand. I think there are many people out there who are in their 60s or 70s or older still, who are retired with lots of time for a hobby, and who like nature, but who are a bit scared that they don't know how to use a platform like this, even though in reality it is very simple to use. I find that a lot of people that I talk to about iNat think they can't make observations unless they already know the ID of a species. And they are afraid of being made fun of if they don't know, or get it wrong. We need to counteract this impression.

פורסם על-ידי susanhewitt לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

It's a little hard to tell from iNat's website whether the app is a startup that could eventually be developed into something for-profit or if it is going to always be mission-oriented and not-for-profit. I'd be much more in support of the latter option. It's also unclear whether the app collects user data for third-party use. If so, I wouldn't be OK with that. I think it's really important that iNaturalist not profit off of its volunteers.

I would love for there to be a sort of almanac feature that reminds you in your dashboard of what you saw & documented on that day in previous years, which will help users think about phenology. Also, in general, looking at spatial info seems to be easier than temporal phenology info--the calendar is pretty clunky. Nevertheless, phenology changes seem like some of the most interesting data for long-term users to view.

It'd probably help recruit experts if there were better payoff for participating as an expert. At a time when most experts in natural history are underpaid and overworked, and constantly asked to volunteer for all sorts of outreach/education/research, it would be super progressive and inspiring to offer some sort of recognition, credibility, job prospects, or inclusion in scientific collaborations that comes with expert participation. I think you'd have to be careful in designing that, though--too much of a focus on metrics or "winners" is notorious for creating competition and toxicity rather than collaboration. One of the things that I have loved about participating in iNaturalist is that it has helped me meet other experts and reconnect with experts I had fallen out of touch with after leaving the science career. Leveraging that collaborative and community-oriented culture could do wonders for expert participation.

פורסם על-ידי kburke לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

Congrats @carrieseltzer !
Guides! From the intro how to get started guides to the more specific, such as how to best photo document different taxa. I would be glad to put the effort into writing a guide for the taxa that I am most familiar with, but haven't spent the effort if it is just going to sit buried as a journal post in my profile. If iNat were going to gather these and make them more available to all users then I'd be more inclined to make that happen.
I and others in the land trust community have been exploring ways to best utilize iNaturalist for our land conservation work. The potential for really supplementing and improving what we do is great. We have nature preserves and natural areas throughout the country and many thousands of visitors come to our lands. Equipping the public with iNaturalist allows us to gather more biological data about our lands that we don't have the time to collect. Materials that iNat provides for reaching and informing new users such as the guides mentioned above are of value to us. One of the most straight forward uses of iNat for landtrusts may be in building species lists and so continuing to improve the ways in which we can share those species lists will be of value. I have yet to make a guide downloadable because I don't want to overload the iNat system, but I think in the future that feature may be really nice to be able to offer to our preserve users. Anyways, this is a community to tap into and I am helping as I can!
@susanhewitt , I particularly like your point number 4, I have been trying to get members of the state botany club I am a part of involved and I think part of the reason this has been difficult is the fear that they don't know what it is they are seeing. It is also due to the fact that they have difficulty adding observations from their photos (I think mostly with the adding locations part). They are mostly of an older generation. I will be working with them again in May and will try to pin down more of what their barriers are.

פורסם על-ידי calloftheloon לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. I've combined these and responses from the Google Group into one document for my organizational purposes and will be further synthesizing them.

I want to ask another slightly different question: What should iNaturalist should be doing OUTSIDE OF the website and apps? No feature requests with this one, just outside-the-platform thinking about what the iNaturalist core team should be doing. @colinpurrington's social media challenge suggestion falls into this category, and I'd love to hear other ideas (and not just social media).

@kburke I wanted to respond to your questions/concerns: iNaturalist is part of a non-profit institution, does not share user data for profit with third parties (though does obviously share observations for scientific purposes, which includes usernames), and does not intend to become a for-profit entity (it was briefly an LLC before joining the California Academy of Sciences).

@calloftheloon I wanted to clarify: do you mean these Guides to taxa or "guides" to using iNaturalist more broadly?

פורסם על-ידי carrieseltzer לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

You might want to look at ways to get more states/ provinces to use iNat for their official wildlife surveys. I mention this because I’ve been really impressed with how the Ohio Odonata Survey (2017-2019) has fueled iNat growth in our state over the last year. There are a lot of new users who signed up specifically because they wanted to contribute to this survey. Maybe the iNat team can work on presentations for various state/ province wildlife agencies to show them how they can use iNat for targeted wildlife surveys.

פורסם על-ידי smwhite לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

I'd love some additional code on Observation Widget so that pics could be displayed large on a blog's side-bar, like is possible for Instagram pics. That might be an option with some fussing over code, but I can't figure it out.

פורסם על-ידי colinpurrington לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

Outside of the app and website:

I think facilitating community. I know I can't go to a lot of the gatherings and meetups being busy with a little one, but a lot of people value them and if I were younger I'd be going to more of them. Sometimes trying to force community can be too heavy handed but just facilitating can be really good: use social media to amplify meetups and bioblitzes when appropriate, using the blog to discuss going-ons in the community. I really like the blog - also the data visualizations you all make - and it isn't prominent enough. More neat blog posts with stats and events and iNat's plans for the future. i realy like those things and they seem to get a lot of attention on social media too. I know blog posts take time but... people share them.

Also expanding on what smwhite says, I think iNat should position themselves as an overall place for depositing sharable open data from different groups even when there aren't photos. Right now it isn't against the rules but it isnt actually encouraged either. I'd like to see organizations share data from biological surveys (i do some of that when appropriate, but would do so more if it were encouraged as part of the site's mission). Also things like pre-inat bioblitz species lists, species lists created by town or parks, etc. It's easy to filter out things without photos (and is in fact the default) so I don't see any reason for us not to fill out those range maps as long as the data is solid. It would be nice to get more places like parks populated with species lists for the Identotron and such, I haven't seen that done that much.

The mission of iNat is to connect people with nature but I think that can and should be interpreted more widely than it is now. That includes families, amateur nature enthusiasts, plant nerds, students, various people wondering 'what is this flower'. But part of connecting people with nature is connecting people who care about nature with each other! iNat does a great job in building community around nature! The next stem, I think, is extending this to policymakers, non profits, parks, fish and wildlife agencies, etc. get them connected with the amateurs and enthusiasts out there! Some are initially leery of new technology, but overall this is something those groups badly need and want, and it helps everyone involved. So like i said in one of the other threads.. .expanding approach to some of those more 'professional' uses actually helps everyoe else too by expanding the community.

I know i talk too much on the forum about things I want to be different, but the bottom like is I think iNat could potentially be one of the most important conservation entities in existence both in terms of gathering data and public engagement. I think that's even already happening. State and county level agencies are crucial but subject to the whim of nasty politics, and non-profits are constantly struggling for donors, volunteers, and publicity. Universities are out doing research but always need more data and info. iNat is apolitical (data is just data) and can also provide a pool of people who want to help gather data for conservation use. A natural component to those other groups.

So yeah.

פורסם על-ידי charlie לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

@carrieseltzer sorry, no not those Guides, I was thinking guides that show some one how to best photograph a taxon for someone to ID it. Say the plant genus Carex, what type of photos would be helpful and how to get them. But I was also thinking about newcomers and how to retain them. Just a reminder to keep how-to guides up to date as the layouts and features update and change. Thanks!

Maybe iNat could help co-sponsor or help facilitate, in another way, a graduate student that utilizes iNat data in a thesis research question. More peer reviewed research articles using iNat data might help reach those in the academy.

So many of your iNat users are super fans already helping to spread the word and help teach others how to use iNat. Finding ways to support and equip them might be a wise investment of staff time--volunteer management in a way and you already do this with the curators.

פורסם על-ידי calloftheloon לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

I'm late to this discussion, but I think identifying and empowering "super users" in communities where you are looking to grow iNaturalist is key. Perhaps you can provide mini-grants for them to do a training, meet-up, bioblitz, etc. I loved the graphs of cities that iNaturalist posted a few months back that showed which cities had fewer observations than expected based on population. That could easily guide your efforts. For example, I think iNaturalist has grown in Nashville since I've been able to sporadically help train and guide people. I can't take all the credit...but I like to take a little of it!

פורסם על-ידי catherineh לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

I'm pretty late to the party, but the things I'd most like are pretty much all related to the social/sharing side of things. A few:
--Another tab in the Dashboard, maybe like the News tab in the app. I often miss journal posts from people and projects I'm interested in, and knew it was a lot but until discovering the News tab in the app 2 days ago hadn't realized just how many. For example I had no idea Australasian Fishes had been posting at all, let alone on a regular basis. It'd also be nice if iNat site updates/blogs and @ mentions of me were included in this tab.

--Making it easier to attach observations to journal posts. Currently there's no search, only pagination, so if you want to attach observations added last month or of all the myco-hetereotrophs you've seen or whatever, you have to be inhumanly determined (or a very infrequent observer).

--Some kind of regional groups/announcing ability. There's a lot of events and hikes out there and despite all the time I spend on iNat often I don't learn about them until the last minute/too late/ever. Currently it looks like what people do is use search to find the power users in their area and then message them or tag them in a post, which seems not the ideal way to do things from both a human effort and an accuracy perspective (I've already been contacted about the City Nature Challenge by 4 places where I don't live, including rival LA). I'm not sure what this would look like-- an opt-out thing at signup and then events show up in your News tab, discussion forum with regional sections, calendar section in the iNat Updates email?
--A tab on each taxon page that goes to an iNat user-editable page for ID/how-to-find-this-species tips. I can't find the thread but someone brought up a similar idea in the Google Group and I've been dreaming about it ever since. It could be a tremendously useful & interesting resource and something unique to iNat, and would address the "lost knowledge" issue mentioned in Ken-ichi's journal post.
--Any stats or mapping features/blogs are always great, like the recent Your Year in Review. I'm one of those terrible people that can be motivated by gamification and achievements, and stats stuff scratches the same itch but is actually useful at getting me out to under-observed areas.
--If there could be a map toggle (default?) to turn off viewing Obscured observations that would be very nice, since power users obscuring stuff around their homes can pretty much destroy any useful view of an area. (e.g. Santa Clara County where I and 3 other prolific observers live/d). Newer users are also perpetually confused about the big blue boxes.

פורסם על-ידי sea-kangaroo לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

go ahead and help LA with the nature challenge. SF is overpowered :)

agree about making it easier to hide obscured observations, i figured out how to remove them from my own page but not other places. Another option would be to find a different way to display them, like just making the square itself turn green, darker for more observations, instead of all those points... but maybe too difficult to do.

פורסם על-ידי charlie לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

Thanks, everyone! We had a great retreat this week. We'll be synthesizing all of the discussions and sharing that next week. Stay tuned!

פורסם על-ידי carrieseltzer לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

Looking forward to it @carrieseltzer !

פורסם על-ידי charlie לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

It's too late I know, but I want to back up @sea-kangaroo with the paragraph copy-pasted below, and maybe @carrieseltzer you may have another retreat sometime soon :-)

--A tab on each taxon page that goes to an iNat user-editable page for ID/how-to-find-this-species tips. I can't find the thread but someone brought up a similar idea in the Google Group and I've been dreaming about it ever since. It could be a tremendously useful & interesting resource and something unique to iNat, and would address the "lost knowledge" issue mentioned in Ken-ichi's journal post.

פורסם על-ידי amarzee לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

@amarzee @sea-kangaroo ID tab w/ tips is at the top of my wish list.

פורסם על-ידי colinpurrington לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

@amarzee and @colinpurrington that's the kind of feature that could fit into the larger priorities we identified, but of course would take further thought and discussion about how exactly it could be implemented. Thanks!

פורסם על-ידי carrieseltzer לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

How about about a little Curator forum for ongoing longer term projects/areas that need specific curation attention? As it stands now curation is kind of at the whim of other people flagging taxon pages sporadically. Maybe we can harness Curator permissions in a more aimed fashion at problems? Could be specific taxon additions, developing atlases,....fixing student group submissions (hah)?

פורסם על-ידי mmulqueen לפני יותר מ 6 שנים

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