iNaturalist Community Guidelines

Hello all. As I'm sure you're aware, iNat is growing. As you may not be aware, the bigger we get, the more unpleasant behavior we see. Site admins like me deal with more of it than most because we get asked to step in and mediate. It's not a huge problem yet, but it does get more prevalent as we attract more people. To help keep iNat the fun and friendly place it has been for years, we'd like to adopt a set of community guidelines like most other social media platforms do. These are guidelines for how we all expect each other to behave on iNaturalist and on iNat-related forums like the Google Group. However, we, the site admins, don't want to simply impose them on everyone by fiat. Instead, we're publishing them here as a draft for you to review and comment on:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1G89KdkrhCZKKh_aMFGbPxgoMW6usWQ5lV8zuWfNsw98/edit?usp=sharing

Please let us know what you think! You should be able to comment on that Google doc (I'm not sure that's the best way to solicit a lot of feedback, but let's see) and you can also comment on this blog post. I've written this original draft with input from the admin team, but I definitely want to hear about other ideas. Also, please note that the Guidelines refer to some functionality that hasn't been released yet, like Blocking and Muting. These proved to be somewhat controversial when we broached the subject in the Google Group, so we wanted to release them with these guidelines so everyone knows how to use (and not abuse) them.

Posted by kueda kueda, October 10, 2017 12:55 AM

Comments

Thumb

I think this is a really nicely written set of guidelines. I might consider adding a line under "Good Form" along the lines of: "We encourage users to be polite when disagreeing with someone’s identification. A lot of potential confrontations can be avoided by simply being friendly." There is a similar line under "Tone & Attitude," but I think it's worth reiterating specifically within the context of ID disagreement. Under the thoughtful and lengthy comment about not being dismissive, it might also be useful to specifically discourage users from sounding pedantic, which is I think closely related but distinct from citing one's credentials.

I might also consider moving the "Good Form" section higher in the document, perhaps even first, so that it's more prominent. "Things That Are OK" could I think be moved further down.

Thank you for your hard work on this.

Posted by birdizlife about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

I agree with ^birdizlife. I appreciate the work you and other admins put into writing this up. Overall, it looks great. I particularly like the emphasis on talking out problems and disagreements. However, I have a few comments:

1. One of the sentiments of "Tone & Attitude" about discriminating others on attributes outside of their control echoes the first item under "Suspendable Offenses". I agree that it is very important but it seems a little redundant to essentially say the same thing twice, so it may be better to consolidate the sentiment to solely be under "Suspendable Offenses".

2. I may more explicitly state the importance of respecting one another on the site, regardless of different opinions. (EDIT: I originally stated that the banner for "Hate Speech" should be extended, but that was inappropriate. Taking serious offense with someone else's lifestyle is not an offense on par with racism or sexism, but I still think it is something of note to be discouraged). For example, I can see a situation where someone who is a legally-registered hunter or fisherman potentially being harassed by someone who does not appreciate said individual hunting deer or bears even if they do so legally. This is not a problem on iNaturalist, as far as I am aware, but I have seen it on Instagram, and it would be a shame to see it arise here as well.

3. Under "Things That Are OK", you mention that captive / cultivated organisms are okay as along as they are appropriately attributed as captive, but I think you can be a little more clear on what a "captive" organism is. For many, it is self-explanatory. However, I have seen people mark observations as "captive" incorrectly because the photos depict domesticated animals that have been feral, or animals that have been introduced to a new continent but are self-sustaining. I don't think it's a huge problem, but I think it's worth making it more clear (unless it is explained in "Terms of Service". In that case, retraction). Also, I recall having seen you specifically, @kueda, take issue with someone who seemed to predominantly be using iNaturalist to document his visits to museums and overwhelming uploaded images of dinosaurs and Pleistocene mammals. The "Community Guidelines" could be a good place to clarify that that is not alright, for while it is apparent to most that gnomes are not examples of organisms, the line between zoo animal / pet and historical museum specimen may be lost on some users.

4. The idea of "muting" someone is an appreciated feature. "Blocking" conceptually is also a good idea, but I'm not entirely sure whether it's *right* for identifications to be completed blocked by other users. I feel like it conflicts with some of the principles of this site - everyone should have a voice and be open to discord. However, I also believe it is important for others to feel they are safe and welcomed in the iNat community. If possible, wouldn't it be just as effect if the user identities were obscured on both ends? What if the location of the victim's observations always appear "Private" to the offender and their previous observations could not be viewed by the offender? (Assuming this can be done with how iNaturalist is constructed and coded. If not, retraction.)

Cheers.

Posted by bobby23 about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

I greatly appreciate the guidelines!

The only thing I would point out is similar to ^bobby23 point 4: I do not think it's a good idea to put in everyone hands the power of "blocking" someone else identifications on his observations (but I think it's ok for private messages). Blocking should, in my mind, remain a tool for admins.
Maybe a "temporary block"? For example, if I feel that someone is harassing me through ids and comments, I can choose to "temporary block" that user's ids, comments, etc... from my observations: they will be hidden for, say, two days, in order to allow admins to evaluate the situation.
Or, also, instead of temporary blocking only a user's ids, comments, etc... one user could temporary "hide" one of his observation that he feels is theatre of harassment, in order to cool down the situation, and allow admins to judge if there were violations of guidelines.

Posted by fornaeffe about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

many thanks: nicest of all it is short and sweet and makes perfect sense.

I would add under "Tone and Attitude"
- please check the history behind statement that offends: you may be coming in late on a conversation and miss the context, or the observer may have accommodated the comments and thus they appear irrelevant or overbearing, when in fact they were useful at the time. This may not be obvious where a discussion between two users has taken place over several observations with the same problem, or the users have developed a particular repartee.
- discussion about things about which one is passionate can become heated. Stick to the topic and issues and do not become personal.

I also strongly feel that blocks (even temporary) on identifications should never be allowed. Even the "opting out of the Community IDs" is radical. The site should be about learning and teaching (both: not one or the other), not about obstinately taking a standpoint.

Posted by tonyrebelo about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

I agree with every point listed in the draft.
I appreciate the listing of the email address in the case an iNaturalist member may request help.
I regard iNaturalist a role model for other web projects to follow, when it comes to the tone in which online conversation on the internet should be held.

Posted by aganse about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

"I may extend what qualifies as "Hate Speech" to also include things like personal life choices. For example, I can see a situation where someone who is a legally-registered hunter or fisherman potentially being harassed by someone who does not appreciate said individual hunting deer or bears even if they do so legally."
I don't think we need a rule explicitly for this; harassing is already not allowed no matter the reason, but I think people should be allowed to post their opinions on this stuff. It's good to remember that someone posting pictures of shot bears or fished-up sharks is causing someone like me more pain than I could ever cause them if I called them all the names in the world. Personally, I don't think a nature site that claims to be a conservation tool should allow these kinds of observations at all. Being legal doesn't make something right. Now, I realize this is another discussion, but my point is I'm diametrically opposed to the guidelines explicitly forbidding this sort of discussion.

Posted by stanvrem about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

Thanks for a nice set of guidelines.
Can you clarify "Be wary of how and why you @ mention people"? I haven't been able to find anything in the help or user info about how to use this feature. The "Be wary" wording makes it sound like it is impolite, like ALL CAPS. When is it appropriate and helpful?
I like @birdizlife 's comment about being friendly with ID critiques in "Good form," but warning people not to be pedantic is probably not useful. Even people who know what that means can't recognize when they are doing it.
Again, good work and I appreciate your keeping it short.

Posted by janetwright about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

So rather than pedantic, which, I agree, is likely not to register with some, why not emphasize the site's educational value for users? (The example of the magical aquatic plant expert is wonderful.) Perhaps explain that an abrasive tone negates the "teachable moment"? As a teacher, I like to emphasize the positive, and that's one way to spin this issue, so that people see value in less pedantic replies. I personally value the time some experts take to explain things to me because I learn from them. It's what keeps me on the site. I often speak to people daily in my own field, but I would never find a lepidopterist or herpetologist or biologist to ask a question in "real" life.

I realize the hunting and fishing photos cause pain. Moreover, I sometimes worry about whether a dead animal might have been killed for a photo-op, but I don't think there's anything to be done about it. I think the hunting and fishing photos are valid because the activities are legal, and I do think hunters and fishermen are in a position to share some important observations. I hope the "photo-op theory" is pure fiction on my part.

I could use clarity on the @ section as well. I use @ sparingly, but it seems to me that occasionally it's a nice way to ask for more information, and sometimes I use it for other people's observations. For example, someone new wanted me to provide more specific info. about an ID, which I was hopelessly unqualified to do. I explained that, and I asked people I knew were far more qualified and generally kind about giving information to take a look. (They did respond.) I don't think it's about getting research grade so much for most people as it is about just learning and curiosity. Anyway, that's my two cents. Thank you for the guidelines.

Posted by octobertraveler about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

Excellent! I think these guidelines nicely sum up the spirit of this site.

I might comment that in the past year there seems to have been a large number of older, well-known experts in various fields signing up for iNaturalist. This is excellent news for this site. Many of these users write in a tone typical of scientific and academic discussion. It's a tone that many of us are accustomed to using when writing papers or discussing with other experts, but could be interpreted as "negative" by some users since it can come off as impersonal or even arrogant. In rare cases, I've seen this develop into conflicts where there should be none. All users should make an effort to consider the background of those they are interacting with and how their language might be interpreted or mis-interpreted.

Posted by wdvanhem about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

Overall I find the guidelines excellent and appropriate. I think the use of @user is perfectly fine in context and wording should be added about using it in moderation. There is nothing impolite or spammy about recognizing another user's expertise. Its use should not become a habitual crutch to IDing observations, but moderation means just that. I would not keep the wording concerning reaching RG in its current form, it tends to downplay the importance of RG observations. For one thing, the more RG observations, the better the identity tool becomes.

Posted by sanguinaria33 about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

I disagree that speaking out about hunting is a form of hate speech and should not be considered a suspendable offense on its face in comparison to, say, racist remarks. Those instances can be handled on a case-by-case basis as forms of harassment or personal difference and hopefully solved under the muting and blocking features.

Under "A Lot of Identifications," you may want to point people to the "Notify me about confirming identifications" option that they can uncheck in their account settings.

Can other grounds for suspension besides the (!) items be detailed more clearly for curators somewhere? For example, if someone posts 50 copyrighted images, is warned not to do so by multiple people, and then continues to upload copyrighted images, should they be suspended? Not an "occasional" mistake, but any of several purposeful misuses of iNat despite nudging toward appropriate use or warnings?

I'm definitely guilty of just @ing people without context because it's usually clear what the intention is... Are a lot of people complaining about the use of @s? Good to know since I have never interpreted that as rude. If someone @s me and I don't know how to ID the species or answer to whatever they're asking, I just unfollow the observation so no excessive notifications ensue. Maybe you should mention that you can unfollow an observation or journal post to avoid excessive notifications?

I'm also a little confused about the notion of "just" wanting to achieve research grade. Isn't RG valued, such as to feed GBIF or to help rarer/underrepresented taxa feed the Computer Vision/AI?

One item that does not appear possible nor appropriate by muting or blocking:
There are many users whose observations I would prefer not to show up in Identify--usually because of the low quality of their observations (e.g. an account that 50 middle school children are sharing, uploading 100s of blurry observations) and tedium of working through them or repeatedly searching for only the observations by that user and marking all as reviewed. But also at least one user who dislikes the community aspect of iNaturalist (!!!), and specifically asked that I don't add identifications to their observations. I would love to be able to auto-hide their observations, but maybe the onus will be put on them once they have the mute and block features?

Although somewhat tangential to community guidelines and etiquette, can you clarify somewhere whether photos of human children are allowed? They are frequently flagged as "inappropriate" and I'm not familiar with various international regulations to know how to resolve these issues.

thanks for your work on this!

Posted by bouteloua about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

I think the draft guidelines are reasonable. My only comment is that I hope they are more easily accessible than some of the other "Help" materials are at present. Could there be an additional menu item added to the right of "People" on the top bar for these guidelines and the user guidelines etc.?

Posted by milliebasden about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

I like the tone and content of these Guidelines. I've always felt that this is a site where people come to both share expertise, and to learn. No one knows everything about a subject, and we should all recognize that we can be wrong. The only thing I would add (and it is sort of covered in the 'Good Form' section) is that we should show our work, so to speak. This is especially important for ID changes - if someone changes my moth ID without any rationale I will ask them for their reasoning. I'm quite willing to be wrong, but it would be good manners if they at least supplied a link and a short explanation about why the initial ID is questionable.

There are some excellent points made above, especially regarding activities like hunting. I don't hunt, and the taxa I am mainly interested in are unlikely to be hunted, but castigating someone for it is not good form. Just make the ID and leave the moral issues alone!

Posted by mamestraconfigurata about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

Thorough and well-written. The overriding message: be open-minded, fair and respectful.

Even though this draft has been somewhat refined, I'm wondering if it might be visually abbreviated. Many people like to scan such guidelines; they tend to read more willingly when there's more "white space". Wondering if you might be able to set up the guidelines in a format such as that used in, say, book reviews, in which the primary statement is followed by a highlighted, click-on, 'Read more...'.

Thanks for your hard work to create and maintain a site that is both educational and respectful.

Posted by judywelna about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

Excellent draft, and I don't have much to add. I'd support moving 'Good Form' higher in the document. If muting or blocking other users should become an option, I also support that this must not extend to IDs, otherwise the whole concept of Community IDs is flawed.

The important point re hunting & fishing raised by @bobby23 is worth including in some form. It's certainly a very contentious subject, but I agree that folks take different choices. I propose that insults and aggressive attacks on someone who is hunting or fishing shouldn't be tolerated (while fact-based arguing with someone over a specific observation should be ok).

Finally, I think the captive/cultivated vs wild flag needs an overhaul (hopefully with more than just 2 categories, and better guidelines what these categories are), but I would expand this in the Help pages rather than the Community Guidelines.

Posted by jakob about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

One additional suggestion as a follow-up to @milliebasden: what about sending this text to every new user together with a welcome message?

Posted by jakob about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

The proposed guidelines are helpful, readable, and concise.

I feel 'hate speech' might be a bit narrower than what should be prohibited. I'd prohibit any ad hominem criticism, which would include attacks based on characteristics or motives that perhaps the person actually could change, but still aren't appropriate. (e.g. 'your spelling is poor and your hair looks funny.')

Also, I agree with janetwright that the phrase "Be wary of how and why you @ mention people" is perhaps a bit harsh sounding. Maybe "Be sensitive and discrete in your use of @ mentions, as some may find them intrusive or unwelcome."

Please pardon me if my next comment might be a bit of mission creep, in that it deals with a subject that isn't currently in the guidelines. What's the appropriate way to manage uncertainty in species IDs?

There's a "certain/uncertain" tag, but when I used "uncertain" I was told I shouldn't ID something if I'm not certain because it might mislead other users. So I went through my postings and deleted any tagged 'uncertain'. I want to be a good citizen, but I'm more interested in observations where I'm not entirely sure of the ID. There's no way to post an observation privately on iNaturalist. That would eliminate the risk of misleading others but perhaps would be antithetical to the purpose of iNaturalist, and would exclude expert researchers who might find the observation useful. Can this be addressed somehow?

Posted by martinlucas about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

These exact two arguments I see cropping up: 'Hunting is legal' and 'Everyone makes their own choices that should be respected.' can also be made for verbally attacking someone: There is nothing illegal about calling a hunter an asshole, and you should respect my lifestyle choice of calling hunters assholes... yet you are asking for rules preventing people from doing so. There is no reason for a rule that protects hunters and fishers specifically. The normal rules of no harassment etc. should suffice. Including 'lifestyle choices' in the hate speech rule could be misused. For example, if someone asks me for the exact coordinates of an obscured observation of a bear and I tell them 'I won't tell you, because you're a hunter.' that is something completely different from telling them 'I won't tell you, because you're a woman.' But they could use this rule to get me suspended from the site because I'm discriminating against them for being a hunter.

"but castigating someone for it is not good form. Just make the ID and leave the moral issues alone!"
It is always a moral issue. You are taking a moral stance here by castigating people who castigate people for hunting. Any site that has any rules whatsoever cannot steer clear of moral issues, because every rule is based on how we think ourselves and others should behave. Which is a moral issue.

Posted by stanvrem about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

Very well done, it's awfully hard to improve upon this, and i appreciate very much the thought that went into it.
I have to say i don't like the idea of blocking, as it takes iNat to a place where aggression is the norm, and where factions form up. Does anyone see value in having a mediation or arbitration board, as an alternative to blocking or suspension? I think some mature and cautious judgment is called for under circumstances where people from different cultures are coming into contact.
One more point: characterizing a behavior (or sequence of behaviors) as Harassment characterizes it as a crime in some nations. Let's not take it lightly, but let's not support frivolous accusations either. Lives can be destroyed by an accusation of crime.

Posted by ellen5 about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

@stanvrem, my hunting example was just that, an example. Let me be clear, I do not believe there should be any rule about explicitly protecting hunters on iNaturalist. Rather, I think all people should be protected about being harassed for aspects of their lives that they could change, but don't. @martinlucas best captures what I was trying to say above about "Hate Speech" being too narrow and through his examples, 'your spelling is poor and your hair looks funny.' Maybe those kinds of incidents should not qualify for a ban, but at least a warning of some sort.

There's a saying at my college that would work here: "Respect is nonnegotiable."

Posted by bobby23 about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

I like ellen5's idea of a mediation or arbitration board as opposed to blocking. In some ways, wouldn't such a board hold users more accountable for their behavior?

Also, if labeling something harassment could constitute a crime, perhaps a less legally-loaded term would be just as effective?

Posted by octobertraveler about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

Hi Folks: The guidelines as written are excellent. The proposed "Mute" and "Block" functions are a very necessary addition to the site, and I would be in favor of adding those ASAP.

Two suggestions:

1. The guidelines do not address the issue of privacy settings on observations. The guidelines should remind everyone that each user has the right to choose the privacy level for their own observations (excluding the level assigned automatically for rare/endangered species), and that a user is not obliged to justify privacy settings to a third party. By definition, any setting allowed by the site configuration and privacy policy is acceptable. Pressuring a user to lower the privacy setting on a personal observation should be a contravention of the guidelines.

And... 2: A related point: project curators and admins should be required to re-read and agree to the guidelines. That should happen each time a user takes on a new curator/admin role. If a user agrees to become a curator or admin, that user should be held to a more stringent standard.

Just my .02 worth, thanks for listening!

Posted by ursus_arctos about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

Agreeing with stanvrem's points: Along with the hunting issue goes the animal abuse issue. Displaying road kill is one thing and important, and one thing it usually is is tragedy, but seeing an observation of a live animal in one photo and another photo showing a tire track through mud implying a snake was killed puts it into another category. The category is one of destruction of an offending animal. I'm sure this one comes up a lot with snakes - especially. I have seen an observation of a rattlesnake dealt with in such a manner, and commented that the human species is the most deadly of all. But what about that? While an offending animal might be a theoretical danger, eliminating it and portraying it - should that be allowed? And what kind of comments about an event like that would be allowed? Also, what about nuisance critters like rats, mice, ants, bees, wasps, etc. that a person's photo reveal to be first living, then sprayed dead with insecticide or removed (such as just happened on an national park here in town which had been one of my more than three year observations). Institutional and individual acts of violence against nature happen every day. When they appear on this site, are we just to shrug our shoulders and not comment for fear of offense?

Related to the question of behavior, from my personal experience in my short time here, let me admit I have been curt when in a dispute about a small number of my IDs. When I feel my ID should stay and was wrong about species, I'll let it stand corrected. But if I don't agree and don't want the species changed from my own ID, I will just delete the ID - perhaps reposting it at a later date, because for me the species in question needs to be in the data base; it is a true observation of a species for this location. I believe that is important to the iNaturalist mission. Perhaps suggesting this louder is a way to handle many of the disputes that arises?

Finally, I am amazed and impressed with the huge amount of effort and work has gone into creating, maintaining and operating this site. Curators of projects obviously have their hands full and the amount of time dealing with us humans must feel overwhelming at times. So this is a shout out to all of you who have a hand in making this program work at all levels.

Posted by billarbon about 2 months ago (Flag)
Thumb

Idea: On a Saturday, you never can get an ID except when you use mentions. I suggest we suspend the mention rule on Saturday, because if you add an obs of something rare on Saturday when hundreds of obs are pouring in , how else are you going to attract attention to your sighting? If you don't, your rare gull gets buried in the listings.

Posted by dannym about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

A spam comment in this thread is kind of funny!

Posted by jakob about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

In russian!

Posted by dannym about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Spammer suspended and comment deleted. Oi. Back to reading through these comments...

Posted by kueda about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

My reading of the guidelines left me with the impression of a discussion of bad behavior. In reality that is needed, but it brings forth a question of balance. I would like to see 90% of the guidance addressing of what is good and positive about iNaturalist and how to promote those values. I value iNaturalist for what I can learn from other's observations, both new species for which I have no experience and species that I have known for many years that I can see in a new way as a result of new clarity and observation. I see iNaturalist as a means of sharing insights into the natural world. The guidelines should promote the posting of images that are clear and concise for the features that identify the observations. There can be no dispute with clear images that demonstrate key features. We all take photographs that lack clarity at some level. iNaturalist is structured to enable comments. Encourage the use of the comments field. This is a way of supporting an identification that lacks the necessary detail in the photo. Encourage the documentation of comments when posting an alternative taxon.

Bad behavior happens and some rules for addressing antisocial behavior are needed. The reality of iNaturalist is that it is a minor issue with people that respect themselves and nature. Make the guidelines a framework for a discussion of sharing-and-respect.

Posted by carexobnupta about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Ok! Many thanks for the insightful comments and discussion! Lots to consider. Here are some responses to threads I'm seeing here:

** Evidence of Death of or Injury to Other Organisms / Protecting Lifestyle Choices Like Hunting **

This is (obviously) a contentious area and I'm not sure how to address it in the Guidelines in a satsifactory manner. I think my preference would be to state that posting evidence of these kinds of scenes is ok, but we neither encourage nor discourage people from causing such scenes to occur. Violence is a part of both human and non-human existence, and the line between appropriate violence (e.g. eating) and innappropriate violence (e.g. hunting rhinos) is not always clear. I am, however, hestitant to explicitly protect choices in lifestyle like hunting in the same way that we explicitly protect attributes like religion. Sometimes hunting and fishing is just as culturally ingrained as religion, and sometimes religious choice isn't so culturally ingrained, and it's not always trivial to get that kind of context from a photo. Personally I think a lot of this falls under "Understand that the people who use iNat may not be like you," but I'll think about how to ammend it a bit.

** Blocking **

As I wrote, we discussed this at length in the Google Group and I'm not particularly interested in re-opening the discussion about the hypothetical risks. The way it's implemented (though not released) is that you only get 3 blocks. I'm hoping that will limit the abuse of blocking, and I personally think the fear of that abuse is overblown, but we will monitor the situation after we release. We could reduce the number of blocks you get, or we could adopt something like Ellen's suggestion and make blocking something you request and must have considered by someone else. I'd just like to point out, though, that blocking is basically intended to deal with stalkers. Almost everyone who has expressed fears about blocking ruining the Community ID has been a man, and almost every woman I've talked to about has agreed the identificaiton issue is problematic but that it's more important to enable a complete block of communication to deal with stalkers. We're going to try it in its strong form and see if it becomes a problem. I doubt it will, but time will tell.

** @ Mentions **

I was almost certainly expressing my personal biases in this section and I am happy to tone it down if others don't share my dislike for @ mentions without context or obsesssion with green labels. I have what I think are rational reasons for what I wrote, but I admit I am probably in a small minority on both fronts.

** Being Pedantic **

I support adding something about trying to keep language accessible, but there's a lot of subjectivity here. For example, there's a Facebook group for California native plants where sometimes people get offended when others use scientific names, presumably b/c they view it as elitist or pedantic when in fact it's just precise. That seems too far to me and I don't want to encourage those kinds of values here on iNat. Sometimes arcane technical terminology is the best way to communicate.

Posted by kueda about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

"Almost everyone who has expressed fears about blocking ruining the Community ID has been a man, and almost every woman I've talked to about has agreed the identification issue is problematic but that it's more important to enable a complete block of communication to deal with stalkers."
That's an important distinction. Men usually do not have to deal with such pressure or harassment, so while it's great that everyone supplied their own 2 cents on whether blocking is a good idea, many of us (as in, us men) do not know the difficulties experienced by women and probably should have considered that prior to commenting. I, for one, apologize. Hopefully blocking won't become as abused as some people fear (and it probably wont).

But again, thank you for working on this. You're doing a great job!

Posted by bobby23 about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@kueda I agree with your and others' points and expansion of my "being pedantic" comment. You're doing a great job!

Posted by birdizlife about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

"I think my preference would be to state that posting evidence of these kinds of scenes is ok, but we neither encourage nor discourage people from causing such scenes to occur." So you are a conservation tool that is not even willing to state you discourage people from destroying wildlife and happily post the evidence on your platform. That's disappointing, to say the least.

This is not only an animal welfare issue, but very much a conservation issue as well. Almost all hunting is carried out without any science-backed conservation purpose. The vast majority of hunting is carried out without any science-backed purpose at all. Legal hunting of prey species invariably leads to illegal persecution of protected predators. Hunting leads to unnatural animal behavior and unnaturally low densities - if not outright disappearance - of some species, leading to unnaturally high densities of others, which can unbalance whole ecosystems. Even hunting for meat is indefensible in the modern world, a world with 7 billion people. If every person on Earth started living off of hunted meat again, how long do you think it would be before every single animal the size of a rabbit up would become extinct? A couple of years, at the most. Hunting in and of itself is fine, hunting in a developed country in 2017 is an archaic hobby that threatens our biodiversity. And don't even get me started on industrial fishing. iNaturalist has the potential to reach a worldwide audience of millions of people who spend time in nature and become a part of their daily routine. You could do more for conservation by taking a stance and not condoning the wanton killing of wildlife than your entire database of observations could ever do. Or you could 'neither encourage nor discourage' people to post their photos of trophy-hunted lions that they legally killed in Africa. Now you could say it is not your place to do so, but if everyone keeps saying that, nothing's ever going to change. Until we go extinct because we fucked our planet up that is.

Frankly, I'm sick and tired of even conservation organizations never criticizing hunting and fishing, just because they're afraid of the hunting lobby or too darn polite to wish to cause any offense. By staying neutral you are contributing to the normalization of environmental destruction.

Posted by stanvrem about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Discussion hijacked by the anti-hunting and fishing fraternity. We live in a world of double standards and differing viewpoints. In many parts of the world conservation is funded by hunting and fishing: in a few the only reason we have any conservation is because of hunting and fishing.
We hear your viewpoint. But there are other equally valid viewpoints. Please respect them.
Especially here where data on animals that are hunted and fished (and what about the plants poached and used for medicine? - do plants count for nothing? - they are living too!) have scientific merit. And heavens if you want you can use than same data to map and summarize hunting to your own ends. Data are data!

Posted by tonyrebelo about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@stanvrem I agree. Hunting is not conservation and is in fact one of the most dangerous pressures on populations. Nearly all wildlife populations are now limited to pockets of their former ranges or live in habitat soon to be coveted by industrial/mining operations. Add to it the population pressure posed by just the sheer number of humans and it's apparent we need a new approach (and probably a good number of them) to conservation. While there may be a few taxa that benefit from human activities, overall the picture is dire in both short and long term. Hunting for putting food on the table is one thing, and only a fraction of what we're talking about here. Shooting for fun and pleasure does, as stanvrem says, leads to persecution of predators that play vital roles in the health of ecosystems. Time and time again, hunting becomes the focus of state wildlife efforts and great sums of money are spent with taxpayer money to advocate for sport killing. In the meantime great expenses are made by taxpayers to eliminate predators that could help keep numbers of overpopulated target species under control. Inevitably, hunters are allowed to shoot 'game' predators at the same time as legal managed hunt seasons for 'big game' (you can include squirrels in that category in many states). What that basically says is money is targeted to hunting instead of conservation, hence, conservation and preservation of species becomes harder and harder over time, from my perspective. I could go on, but I'm sure this is supposed to be about behavior on iNat, and how to behave. To be truthful, I have not seen a single observation from a hunter standing proudly next to the carcass of his chosen prey, but I could see that. All I can say besides this is off topic is as far as the data is concerned on iNat, a killed animal should be taken out of the data set, not added in. Isn't that partly what iNat functions to do?

Posted by billarbon about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Wow, so much about hunting in this comment section. While I myself don't take any interest in hunting, I think that pictures of animals one has killed should be allowed. Now, if it is evident that said person is killing the animal for the sole purpose of making observations, that may be something to be scolded. There have been several times that I've killed a biting fly, etc. and photographed it for inclusion on iNat. I don't think it's wrong to include hunted animals as long as it's legal to hunt said animal in the territory. Many animals, like white-tailed deer, etc. are overpopulated in many areas, and need to be hunted to bring balance to ecosystems.

(P.S. I absolutely love the proposed rules)

Posted by jfox16 about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

And how come they're overpopulated? Might it have anything to do with hunters killing off all the wolves and other top predators in the past? Guess who are the ones most opposed to bringing top predators back to carry out their role in the ecosystem? Right, because then they could no longer spout the overpopulation non-argument. The only cases in which hunting has been scientifically proven to be beneficial to ecosystems is in eradication programs of non-native species.

Anyway, it might be better to take the hunting discussion to private messages to avoid derailing the topic any further.

Posted by stanvrem about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Earlier this year I had a few issues with some folks on hear, I wish, I could have blocked on here, But as I have matured as a observer and now a identifier, what I thought,
I knew was wrong or tainted by misconceptions, I haven’t really had any issues with anyone on here as of late, that I thought I would have,
I’m not a big fan of the block button ...
in many ways as a scientific or simi scientific site it’s important that critiqueing
Our observations should come first,
As far as who gets and uses my data @kueda . Explained to me earlier this year the mission goals in a way that I now fully understand. I don’t have any issues with how my data is used as long as it’s for the greater good, and as someone stated above animal abuse or just plain morbid behavior should never be tolerated here or anywhere else. Someone posting photos on Instagram recently of them torturing a Gila monster native to my neck of the desert, was recently arrested by game and fish here in Arizona, thanks to socal media. that should never be tolerated,
And as far as tagging someone for ID help or to get a second opinion, I’ve done that plenty of times, and I’ve never had a issue with someone doing it to my observations
I had no idea that this was a issue on here, it would seem having our peers come up with the right ID is better then the wrong one any day of the week,
The document looks good, I hope we don’t turn this into a another Facebook
that instead we stick with the mission here to observe, document, and identify and discuss...
that’s all form me
This is more important then people playing high school games

Posted by ck2az about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

iNaturalist is a beacon for valuing biodiversity and knowledge about the living world. Keep that up. You don't need to take a stand on hunting.

Posted by janetwright about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

One more thing, www.observation.org , which is more or less the European version of this site, does have this in their code of conduct:
6. Be sure not to collect plant, insect, fish or other species which have a protected status and do not collect anything else unless absolutely necessary for further studies or scientific research.

That's a far cry from the 'We don't care if you shoot anything that comes into sight, as long as it's legal' that seems to be iNaturalist's stance.

Posted by stanvrem about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Regarding this part of Things That Are OK:
"A lot of identifications. If someone adds a ton of identifications to your observations, don’t just assume it represents undue attention to you personally. They’re probably adding lots of identifications to everyone’s observations."

I am new to iNaturalist, and thought it was fun going to the Identify page and identifying what I could. I filter for my state, and so I usually see the same people's observations. I also regularly suggest IDs that are more specific than what the original poster has. Is this bad etiquette on iNaturalist? I love this website and want to follow the rules, I hope I have not offended anyone!

Posted by meyervk about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

I think the guidelines look excellent, and I appreciate the open way in which you have solicited comment from the community. This is a model for me of how a citizen science initiative should be operated.

The document is primarily concerned with how people interact with the site and other users, but the hunting discussion raises the question of whether some points should be included on how people interact with the species they've observed.

First, it might be an appropriate place to mention that many countries have laws restricting disturbance to listed species. This can include the disturbance caused by photographing birds at the nest (e.g. http://www.rarebirdalert.co.uk/v2/Content/BAWC_Photographing_Schedule_1_birds.aspx?s_id=332510323), never mind killing anything. There are also restrictions on collecting (e.g. http://www.featherfolio.com/blog/guide-to-legal-and-illegal-feathers-in-the-usa). Observers should make themselves aware of such laws, where they exist.

Second, I agree with other commenters that we should discourage observers from causing any harm *solely for the purposes of adding an observation to the site*. I have seen observations of reptiles posted with missing tails because they'd been handled roughly, for example. I don't think that's acceptable when tail shedding under stress is completely predictable, and it's often possible to get a good photo without handling the animal at all. I would support including a statement aimed at promoting a cultural norm of respect and care towards other species and their habitats.

It would be good to see something to encourage users to minimize harm and disturbance as far as they can. This includes harm to species' habitats (e.g. turning over logs and rocks and not replacing them), and as with the observation.org code of conduct, not collecting unless it's well-planned and necessary for research. There are taxa (many insects, for example) where lethal collecting is still necessary. The important thing is to do it responsibly, taking no more specimens than are needed, and ensuring that they are well-documented and preserved, ideally in a permanent collection.

Hunting and fishing are complex issues, and I don't think it is up to iNaturalist to police whether or not they are acceptable. Nevertheless, we could add something to the effect that photos of animals killed as trophies generate strong emotions, and that while we recognize that there is sometimes a need to kill animals for scientific or other purposes, we would prefer to encourage photographic safaris. To me, that would be consistent with a "do no harm" ethos, while still not freezing out hunters.

Posted by deboas about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

I should just add - my comments above might be better used to start another discussion on a code of conduct in the field or suchlike, rather than needing to be added to this document

Posted by deboas about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Thanks tabling the hunting discussion. To re-iterate, I don't think we will ever be able to please everyone since there are such strong feelings on both sides of the debate, but that's just one of the issues here and I'm not sure consensus is possible on this particular topic. We'll do our best, but I can guarantee some will not be happy with the result.

Also, again, to re-iterate, for the most part these are *not* rules that will trigger punishment if broken. They're guidelines, suggestions for how we want people to behave on iNat. That's kind of mushy and vague, I know, but human behavior is mushy and vague as well. Too many restrictions and you get an unpleasant place to hang out for different reasons.

Regarding the "a lot of identifications" thing, suggesting helpful IDs is totally good etiquette and strongly encouraged. I've barely handled any complaints on this topic over the years, but I have seen a few, so I just wanted to state it plainly that IDs are good.

Again, thanks for all the great comments and support.

Posted by kueda about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Personally, i like getting @-tagged. Makes me feel useful. Most of the folks i interact with are pretty cheerful about being called in; but i don't see it overused much, either. Sorry to hear that some others get annoyed. Perhaps this could be an account setting?

Posted by ellen5 about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Generally pretty good, I added a couple of suggestions, but nothing much. I've never noticed anything bad going on on iNat, so I don't know what changes should be made.

Posted by jason_m about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Great set of guidelines with many useful comments by the community.

Posted by mrfish33 about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Another item I noticed on the list is duplicate posting, I seriously don’t think anybody does that intentionally, I’ve done it a few times because I loses track.
Thankfully other member have been kind enough to alert me when I’ve done it
And I clean it up

Posted by ck2az about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Well done. It might be worth pointing out that not everyone who comments on an ID or blog post is necessarily writing in their first language, so keep that in mind when reading and especially when responding.

This is outside the realm of the guidelines themselves, but having a way to tag duplicates would be good—and not just when the duplicates are posted by the same person. For example, if I observed a tree in the spring of 2013, you observed it in the fall of 2013, and a third person posts an observation of it today, wouldn't it be great for the whole community to be able to see those data points connected?

Posted by baldeagle about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

In general I am glad these were kept minimal. I know when I started with bug guide one of the things which discouraged me was there always seemed to be a minor rule I was breaking.

To beat a few dead horses:

I like including the identifications are good statement. Anyone who has done a lot of identifications has sooner or later encountered someone who seemingly doesn't want their observations touched.

If you are including identifications in a block, rather than just blocking associated text, I strongly suggest pulling observations from users who blocked you from the identify search at a minimum, and preferably all searches. It would be annoying to run through identifications only to get a you have been blocked by the user message.

No change in policy on the hunting, fishing, collecting policy makes sense to me at this moment. I just don't see that we have a problem today and I think it is unlikely to be a serious problem in the future.

Posted by glmory about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Very clear and useful ... I was worry about something " terrible " going-on and putting iNat on risk ! I'm glad problems are simple !
Saludos from México..

jC

Posted by juancarlosgarciam... about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

I like these guidelines. Thank you for putting this together!

Posted by kathawk about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

A query: under 'Suspendable offences', I'm assuming this is a 'one strike and out' policy? Might be worth clarifying and I didn't see it mentioned in the comments above (though I confess to skimming eventually).

Otherwise I think it's clear and sensible. I have to say I've not noticed any rancour on iNat - I've been promoting it locally as an excellent example of harmonious social media use. Hope I've not just been living in a backwater section of the site!

Posted by jeremybarker about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Awesome! A few things (i may have more to add later):

Really trying not to get involved in the hunting discussion... must... resist.... ok i will say this: I don't think harassment against hunters should be considered under hate crimes, but if you want to go on a crusade against hunters (or for hunters), please do so somewhere else. It's not about free speech because this isn't a public space, it's a website to share biodiversity data. Keep that stuff on Twitter. (https://xkcd.com/1357/) . If you are super bothered by photos of dead animals, iNat may not be for you, or you could just filter to only see plant observations. (Though I agree there is a line beyond which is not ok, like before and after pictures of killing a snake mentioned above).

On another note that I didn't see above... I'd like to see at least a casual mention of a couple of the 'students under duress' issues. In particular, i think it needs to be mentioned - and maybe even a bannable offense - that agreeing with observations of friends or classmates for credit without actually knowing the ID is not OK. I know it's super hard to draw the line because everyone makes mistakes and accidentally agrees with a wrong ID sometimes. But when it's chronic, it needs to be stopped. I also would like to see peripheral issues addressed such as teachers not curating their students' observations and students spam-adding garbage observations like all adding the same potted plant in their classroom - but that may be beyond the scope of this all. But i think more broadly, maybe a note that this data *matters* and is used by people, and it's important to be respectful of that when you add odd observations, or when you don't bother to map things correctly or reasonably precisely. I know some people don't care so much about the mapping, but its crucial for all I use iNat for and I think it's worth consideration. I still struggle with what to do about super imprecisely mapped things that mess up the plant range maps.

And lastly, perhaps arguing about taxonomy needs to be mentioned directly because it seems to be one of the main arguments that recur.

Ok that's all for now before I start a new argument :)

Posted by charlie about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Although I disagree with @stanvrem on a couple of points re hunting, I think he has every right to express his views here as long as this isn't dominating the overall discussion. Maybe you want to remove that link, @charlie, I don't think it's appropriate here.

Posted by jakob about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Very solid guidelines. I think if people always err on the side of "don't be a dick" then most conflicts can be avoided. There are reasons and ways to disagree without being a disrecpectful jerk.

If you see examples of animal cruelty or poaching report it and flag the observation. I'm not talking about legal hunting. There's no reason to get in a debate with someone who does that sort of thing intentionally. They are likely not someone who can be reasoned with. Best to leave it and move on.

Posted by vermfly about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

A classic case of "Understand that the people who use iNat may not be like you. iNat is an international community... It is not safe to assume everyone shares your politics or your sense of humor..." ; )

Posted by bouteloua about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Or the relevance of the 1st Amendment for an international community, for that matter.

Posted by jakob about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

um... ok? i don't think the link violates any form of the guidelines, so not sure why you want me to delete it.

No i don't think calling hunters 'stinky diaper faces' as was proposed above is an appropriate use of the site. if people think that's important and I'm overruled so be it. I'll be using the new mute feature. I'm not trying to say no one should be allowed to criticize hunting, especially since it varies so widely in its impacts and cultural significance across the globe. And Stanvrem was certainly dominating the conversation for a while! Ken-Ichi asked to stop debating hunting here which is why I didn't say more.

I think you are the first person to mention the first amendment, @jakob .

Not trying to argue here! Not sure what is happening.

Posted by charlie about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

About not killing organisms for an observation, Look at this textbook example: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/8361215
An example just in time for the discussion! Really, using a fork to kill a wasp!?

Posted by dannym about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Have a look at the cartoon you linked to, @charlie. And I don't think that anyone here has said something for which (s)he should be shown the door, hence my request.

Posted by jakob about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

You didn't get my point. I was saying that the exact same arguments that were used to defend hunting (and the proposal to protect hunters from people who take offense with their hobby with specific rules) could be used to defend calling hunters assholes. My point was if you're going to prohibit one thing and not the other I'd like to see a better argument on why. I never said calling anyone an asshole is an appropriate use of this site.

Posted by stanvrem about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

I think it's worth having a note in the document saying that iNat is a global community and no one country has any particular priority. However, I think it's pretty absurd to demand someone take down a link that has a cartoon that references the laws of a country. If you don't like it, don't click on it again!

It seriously looks like you just want something to argue about here, but I'm sure you can find someone else to argue with if you look harder.
@stanvrem I see what you are saying and I agree that people who hunt or fish shouldn't have additional protection over the normal iNat terms of service. I misread that post while trying to skim the comments... sorry.

Posted by charlie about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Getting a bit off topic here folks. Please resist the urge to curse (again, act like you're among strangers, because you are) or make references to idiomatic or localized humor (even XKCD, which is still pretty anglophonic and US-centric). If you don't feel like someone is understanding you, that's fine. If you've said your piece others can interpret what everyone wrote as they will. To re-re-re-iterate I feel like most sides of the hunting issue have been adequately expressed, so unless you have something novel to contribute on that topic, let's discuss everything else. No need for everyone to have the last word. If you like these guidelines as most of you seem to, please actually read and abide by them in this conversation.

Posted by kueda about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

I feel like the draft is excellent and a few of the earlier comments had some nice ideas. Thank you all for being proactive! It's a shame though that this is necessary, but that is evident just in reading this blog...

Posted by bosqueaaron about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@baldeagle
Have you tried just pasting urls for the pages in comments with a brief explanation (if you are lazy or efficient, just put all the observations in a single explanation and copy-paste it on all the observations).

Note that linking observations has a special case, that I should like iNat to adopt and that is interactions. I see thousands of observations that have two species in the observation: a pollinator and its food plant, an insect and its good plant, a parasite and its host, a bird with a larder (eating) in a plant (associated with). One could argue, that one could add a field "interaction" and list 'visiting Protea nitida', but the truth is that many birders would not be able to ID the plant, many entomologists would not be able to ID the host plant , and many botanists would not be able to ID the insect feeding on his leaf. So an interaction module would be supercool, where some could post an unknown goggo, eating an unknown herb, and get three lots of information (two names and a relationship between them). At present in most cases all one can do is say 'visiting a plant'.
Note that these interactions are not the same as your sequential observations (which may be more structured: eg. showing leaf bud in spring, flowers in summer, leaf colours in fall, and bare plants with mistletoes visible (a nice interaction!) in winter; or even bud burst in spring of 2016 vs bud burst .in spring of 2016 two days later.)

But how does this issue relate to community guidelines?

Posted by tonyrebelo about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Not community guidelines. But:
What happened to the spam? It just vanished. While I do not encourage spam, would it not be good site etiquette to at least add a curatorial note "spam removed" as a placeholder, especially where such span elicits comments, which are not also removed, leaving the reader puzzled as to what part of the discussion was about.
Not that I would want to buy my household contents from a town in Russia, and I definitely dont want it on the site. Whereas I am certain that the curators can determine what items were blocked and when and why, what might the negative consequences of having a curatorial note "spam removed" visible as placeholders be?

But my curiosity is piqued: what did i miss that elicited "The spambots have arrived" - or is that just spam?

Posted by tonyrebelo about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

There were 2 spam comments in Russian on this thread, that's all ellen's spambot comment referred to. Ken-ichi deleted one and I deleted the other. Curators cannot see when or why a comment, observation, journal post, or something else was deleted. Perhaps a placeholder would be good, though the placeholders themselves could get spammy (I'm not sure how prevalent spam comments are).

Posted by bouteloua about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

My first input, is that it would be nice to place the request in Spanish. We can translate it...

Carlos

Posted by carlos2 about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Thanks, Carlos. I know it's not entirely fair but I wanted to perform as much discussion about this draft here in English so a) I didn't have to ask you or anyone else to translate a ton of different revisions to this draft, and b) so we don't splinter the conversation about the Guidelines into different languages. If Spanish speakers or anyone else who doesn't speak English as their first language has input I hope they will comment here in English (perhaps using Google Translate or something). That way we can all speak with one another and not come to separate language-specific conclusions about how we want to behave on iNat. Maybe I'm being overly optimistic / idealistic.

Posted by kueda about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

All looks good to me.

@meyervk said earlier (about 30 or so posts up):
"I also regularly suggest IDs that are more specific than what the original poster has. Is this bad etiquette on iNaturalist? "

I've not read every response in detail so not sure if anyone's responded to this already, but: Yes, please do suggest IDs that are more specific than what the original poster has - that is what iNat is all about; it is good etiquette.

Posted by nutcracker about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Looks Ok to me.

Posted by crayonsss about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

It might be helpful to explicitly bar the creation of sockpuppet accounts.

Posted by dsacer about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Wow, I think you guys did a great job with this. I’m sorry that some of you have to deal with all of the “mess”, so that the rest of us can enjoy the site. THANK YOU for continuing to ensure that the site remains safe and respectful! It is by far my favorite use of the internet.

Posted by rcurtis about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@dsacer what exactly is a sockpuppet account here on INat????

Next question is for
@nutcracker please don’t stop the way you ID my observations I’m completely fine with the facts and the info you and your friend have enlightened me to

Posted by ck2az about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@ck2az will do! Worth adding a '@' tag if there's anything you'd like me to look at, as I don't see everything new automatically - I tend to work by selecting a genus or a species and then review every sighting of that genus or species. I do occasionally get side-tracked into looking through all observations from a contributor, but it isn't how I usually work through here.

Posted by nutcracker about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

I am really grateful when commenters add identification hints, and think it would be good to encourage that (per @mamestraconfigurata). In this same vein, would be nice for the observation owner to say a little about why they think it is a particular species. E.g., "ID based on visual match online" or "ID from online key at URL." It can be really helpful to have such information, for those who want to learn more.

Posted by colinpurrington about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

I'd like to echo @ck2az re: duplicate observations. Can upload AI detect that a previously submitted image has exact same EXIF data? Seems like there could be a way to flag that automatically, either during upload process or via a message from backend processor.

Posted by colinpurrington about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

One thing that I think is also useful to consider with guidelines being guidelines is that people working with different taxonomic groups do tend to have different mores. So, something that might seem odd among herp observers might be perfectly normal among insect observers.

For the @ tagging guideline, maybe something like: Be respectful with @ mentioning people. If there's any question as to why you're @ mentioning someone, it's best to include an explanation. Some people may not mind being @ mentioned a lot while other people may find this to be rather spammy. Remember to treat people like the humans they are and try to accommodate their feelings about being mentioned. Similarly, consider that @ mentioning a lot of people in a comment can come off as spammy, especially if there's no clear reason for doing so.

I think there'a also a bit of overlap between Assume people mean well and Don't… dismissive comments (and other Good Form notes, really). I know speaking for myself, I often go through lots of observations at a time to add identifications and dialogue (as a note on volume, I've sometimes seen upwards of 60 notifications overnight from a day's worth of IDs). So, sometimes, a mass-identifier might be a bit terse and accidentally sound dismissive when that isn't the intention. (As a note, something that can help here is creating a single mass-info message if it involves the same type of information on multiple observations and use copy-paste to include the full explanation with slight modifications per ID of the same species).

@ck2az A sockpuppet basically means a throwaway account used by a spammer to bypass a ban on an initial account. It's common jargon around Wiki type projects though apparently goes back to the days of Usenet.

I know a number of forums, as well as certain Wiki platforms, will include some form of -this message has been deleted by an admin- type message, and it usually doesn't get too spammy unless there's a targeted spam attack. As the platform isn't a live chat à la IIRC, I wouldn't think that such a system message would become too much.

Posted by jonathan142 about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

As a person who does a lot of IDs - sometimes 100s in a day (plants), I've noticed some people really appreciate and respond to comments, and others are no longer active or don't care either way. I usually leave a comment if I disagree with ID, but often I don't with confirming or improving IDs. otherwise I'd be doing a lot less of them. But if someone shows interest or asks questions, I'll spend a lot more time writing up reasons for my IDs or even specifically prioritize their observations for ID help (assuming they are observing taxa I know in locations I know). A lot of this comes down to the above mentioned issue with students assigned to use the site - after their class is over, most leave, so writing a bunch of comments to them feels empty. There have also been proposals for marking or upvoting helpful comments, which might motivate me to leave more of them. But I guess my overall point is - it goes both ways. I try to leave comments when they will be helpful, though it's hard to say sometimes. But it would also be good to encourage other people to ask. If I disagree and don't say why it's probably because i think you're not an active user - if you ask i'll take more time because I know you care!
Not sure exactly how to fit that all in, but it seems important.

In terms of sock puppets, I think the unique issue here on iNat is for sock puppets to 'agree' with the same user's account to get research grade (again only really happens with the students assigned to get research grade). Having different accounts for the same user for different purposes shouldn't be forbidden though, it's really important for those who represent conservation organizations, etc.

Posted by charlie about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

One other thing, since it keeps coming up:

Can we make it officially clear that users can choose to obscure observations for personal reasons not related to conservation (IE i obscure location of common species or even invasives when they are on my property)? Certain users keep prodding people to un-obscure things that aren't a conservation risk, and while that might be a valid discussion for auto-obscure (should Monarch really be auto-obscured in Ontario etc), if someone chooses to obscure a monarch on their own observations, that's fine and you shouldn't ask them not to

Posted by charlie about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@ charlie Users with a valid reason for hiding data should do everyone the courtesy of saying why. Then they will not be bugged. I have seen quite a lot of data hidden that need not be and in many cases is made available when requested.
What bothers me as a conservation biologist, is the small fraction of localities that are hidden to obscure bad mapwork or lazy documentation. So long as obscured/hidden localities never make research grade, that is not an issue.
I have already uncovered several cases near Cape Town. I must say most users have been most cooperative and both fixed and unhidden their localities, and where better resolution was not possible, have agreed to adjust their resolutions. I am most impressed with how keen iNatters are to improve their data.

Posted by tonyrebelo about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

I'm coming away from all this with the impression that identification will now be freighted with so much peril and so much risk that i don't want to do it anymore.

Posted by ellen5 about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@charlie @tonyrebelo Yes, there are nice ways to prompt folks to unobscure their data if it seems like they're doing it accidentally. And then there are brusque and insensitive ways, where certain users will repeatedly badger others that don't fit the mold of scientific data that they think iNaturalist should be forming. I think charlie is really referring to the latter.

Posted by bouteloua about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@tonyrebelo ... i'm not going to post an explanation every time I obscure something. As always these are some of the reasons I obscure:

-On my land
-On someone else's private property (with permission) and I don't know if they want iNat observations on their land.
-normally no collection risk but something special about this situation
-a place with special characteristics i want to keep secret.

Being able to obscure for any or no reason is one of the core features of iNat. Some people don't like it, but I don't see it changing. If there were more restrictive requirements as to what I could obscure, I'd have to delete all those many hundreds of observations, or wouldn't have posted them in the first place. Most of them have locations shared with conservation organizations through projects, too, so they'd lose the data.

If people are obscuring because of uncertaint as where they saw something, they are not using the site correctly. That's what the locational uncertainty buffer is for. So if that's happening it's fine to let them know how to use locational uncertainty mapping instead, of course.

You could also start a project for conservation in South Africa and invite people to share their locations with your project. Most people say yes.

Posted by charlie about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@ellen5 For what it's worth, I was starting to feel the same way, as if a heavy dark cloud was settling over this community that I like so much. Then I thought, I just want to identify non-human life, I believe I treat folks with respect, no one has ever been mad at me, I don't think I've ever been complained about or blocked (I didn't even know it was possible to block someone). I've met some wonderful folks, learned a lot of stuff, made a small contribution to science, and so I'll just go on doing what I've been doing until someone tells me to stop.

Posted by mamestraconfigurata about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Actually, until this discussion, I didn't realize posting an observation could be fraught with so much anxiety or potential missteps. I am glad for the discussion, I guess. It clarifies for me some points of view. But, yes, I think we all have to carry on doing what we're doing unless some issue arises. My experiences on this site have been positive, and even when I might question the way someone addresses me, I generally chalk it up to me misinterpreting someone's intention. It might be nice, if you find something personally annoying, if you give people a heads-up in your profile. I do pay attention to profiles, especially if I run across certain users a lot, and I will respect any request in any profile I see. For example, I won't contact someone who does not want to be contacted. Just a suggestion.

As for obscuring locations, I do obscure when it's my home or someone else's home. It's just for personal privacy and *safety.* If someone genuinely needs the exact location for an observation I make, I would be happy to share the info. privately if indeed my find is so important, but honestly I can't see me making the find of a lifetime, so . . ..

Posted by octobertraveler about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@tonyrebelo, thanks for your thoughtful response. As I noted, this discussion is outside the realm of the guidelines themselves, but at least one comment before mine dealt with the proper way to respond to duplicate posts was mentioned, and one of those comments included the suggestion of a button or link for tagging a duplicate. You and I have expanded on the topic. In fact, we have added a couple of interesting new perspectives. Maybe we should use those concepts to start another thread dedicated to that topic. We could share ideas for how to use features currently available to flag duplicates, suggest other scenarios in which relating two observations would be useful, and consider whether adding such a tool would add significant value to this site. Even if the tool weren't developed, the ideas shared would help other participants add more value to the observations posted here.

On another note, if I may be so bold as to suggest this, except in a self-effacing way I avoid using words like "lazy" in projects that call for community participation. Some of us do this as our job and must budget time accordingly, others are doing it as a hobby with no time constraints at all, and still others find stray minutes in our day to participate because it adds value to work we do through other volunteer activities. In two of those three scenarios, a process that requires one extra thought, let alone one extra keystroke, might not be achievable within the time constraints faced by that participant. It isn't about a lack of dedication or self discipline. Improvements to usability help everyone. :-)

Posted by baldeagle about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Thank you to all on the 411 of what a sock puppet was s here
We have a term for it to in the Army also neither are good

Posted by ck2az about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

It looks good to me. This would have helped me when I first started with iNaturalist. On one occasion I got irritated with a young persons way off ID. This doc would have made me understand the social aspect of the site...

Posted by sarka about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@ck2az
A sockpuppet account is where somebody creates additional accounts to comment/harass people. The idea is that they're creating fake support for their position and/or harassment. They're unfortunately common on any platform where people aren't forced to use their real name, and where there is enough personal interaction that harassment starts happening. It means that banning a single account isn't particularly useful... there need to be additional measures taken to keep people from just creating more accounts to continue harassment from.

Posted by dsacer about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Hello all,
A huge thank you for making iNat the wonderful site it is today! I appreciate all of the comments regarding the guidelines and most of my thoughts have been discussed here already. I would like to share two more viewpoints:
First, I concur with @charlie regarding the data quality of observations. Emphasizing relatively good photos because this data is ultimately used by scientists and other researchers is a great point. Related to this, I noticed a discussion about obscuring data and I wanted to share my thoughts on this. Knowing my observations can/will help other researchers is always on my mind and I rarely post observations as obscured or private. However, I am involved in one project in which I survey my own property on a monthly basis and was encouraged to obscure those observations for obvious reasons. Is there a better method for handling situations like this?

Again, my many thanks for a job well done.

Posted by scubabruin about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@scubabruin if you trust the people who run that project, just obscure them but give the project permission to see your true location of your observations. Then the curators/admins of that project can see it but no one else can.

Posted by charlie about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

[admins: I've just deleted a spam comment from here]

Posted by nutcracker about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@ charlie - but you say that you obscure on your profile. That is good enough for me.
But if you were in my region, and the record was exciting (sorry - we have lots of exciting species) I would still ask you to please remove the obfuscation, until such time as I realize that you wont cooperate/budge/compromise your principles, or we reach some sort of understanding as to what you you will reveal and what you wont. And that would be despite the fact that I can access all the detailed data anyway.

"You could also start a project for conservation in South Africa" - No - sorry: think big: I intend starting a Network! Watch this spot ...

Posted by tonyrebelo about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@baldeagle Apropo duplication/interactions/sequences. (I really want a threads view!)

Cool. I am new here and dont know what has been discussed. I am happy to join a discussion on these topics, but I come in cold and dont know the background and what has been discussed. So please feel free to initiate a discussion, but if you can provide links to previous topics dealing with these, I should really appreciate it.

Posted by tonyrebelo about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

I only mention the project because you can set up a project where people grant you permission to see their obscured observations. For instance, I share the location of my obscured observations with the Vermont Atlas of Life, and thus the Vermont Center for Ecostudies and Vermont Natural Heritage Inventory, two great local conservation groups, can see the true locations, because they have people who are curators.

Posted by charlie about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@charlie I feel we are hijacking this forum. Sorry. all
Thanks. Yes, I am aware of this, and already using it. And it applies to Networks too.

Posted by tonyrebelo about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@tonyrebelo, I was referring to prior comments in this thread. No big deal—we're in agreement; I was just explaining how it wound up here. Kind of like the discussion of making obscured locations visible. :-)

At some point I will start another discussion on duplicates, etc., and link to it, unless someone else beats me to it.

About your Network, go for it! But a project might still be the best approach for at least some species. You can control membership in your project, and therefore keep obscured locations visible only to known participants in your network.

Posted by baldeagle about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

(Nearly) simultaneous posts. Enough said!

Posted by baldeagle about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

I think these are really great and it says a lot that you all put in the effort to both create them and put them out there for public comment. Thanks for what you do!

Posted by petekleinhenz about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Spam
It’s always Russian to ^^^^

Posted by ck2az about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@ck2az I just deleted it ;-)

Posted by nutcracker about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Ok, I've tried to incorporate your feedback and accepted most of the editorial suggestions people made to the doc itself, all of which I appreciate (even the ones I didn't accept; see "Second Draft" in the change history if you want to see the changes). I think it's looking a lot better thanks to all of your help. Specifically,

* I added a note about the fact that these are guidelines for behavior on iNaturalist, with the implication being that we do not make expectations about how you behave in the physical world. As I said before, I realize that will displease the people who want us to explicitly say that our organization (and our community) are for or against hunting and related legal activities, but I remain unconvinced that such a statement is necessary.

* I added an item to "Things That Are OK" stating that images of dead or dismembered animals are ok, but that we don't endorse inflicting such harm just for the sake of an iNat observation. Again, this will not please everyone but I see no issue with the act of posting such images and my sense is that most members of the community see the potential educational, scientific, and conservation value of such images even if they find them unsettling.

* I added a note about accessible language. I tried to strike a balance between encouraging accessible language and using technical terminology when necessary. Still sort of on the fence here, since I often use technical terms myself because that's often just the terminology I'm most familiar with.

* I just removed the stuff about @ mentions. I think that was just me expressing some of my personal frustrations and it turned out most other people didn't share them. My apologies.

Regarding sockpuppet accounts: obviously we are opposed to this practice but does this even happen? I can think of maybe 2 instances where someone made another account to confirm their own identifications, and zero where they made one to avoid a suspension so they could harass someone.

Regarding coordinate obscuration: is this really a big enough problem to address here? Were we to do so of course we would say it's totally ok, and if you want access to those private coordinates you should set up a project and ask the observer to add their observation to it. That said, I have no problem with polite requests to unobscure as long they come with the understanding that there are numerous legitimate reasons to obscure coordinates. I realize the participants here think it's worth addressing, but I've personally never noticed anyone badgering others to unobscure coordinates. Maybe that's just my bubble?

Regarding the dark cloud effect, I get that, but again, these are not rules, just guidelines, and on the whole, iNat is, in fact, the cool, friendly place most of us know it to be. My hope is that these guidelines help us keep it that way by articulating some of the reasons it is so friendly so that everyone can be aware of them. None of us wants iNat to devolve to the state of, say, YouTube comment threads, so I hope these guidelines will be helpful to some folks, particularly those of us who use iNat *a lot*, but the majority of the iNat community should just keep doing what they're doing.

Posted by kueda about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@kueda I don't think sockpuppets are common now, but that's probably an artifact of the size and age of the community. They're unfortunately really common on basically every other platform like this. I'm mostly concerned about heading off a really toxic behavior that's very likely to be an issue in the future.

Posted by dsacer about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Thank you for the guidelines and the chance to discuss them. Having chaired a few committees, I know how hard it can be to take all suggestions under consideration and accomplish anything, so it's impressive that you could reflect upon and respond to the ideas of a global community and achieve such clarity and thoughtfulness.

Posted by octobertraveler about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Ok, I added a bit about sockpuppet accounts. Curious if there are other opinions on the obscured coordinates thing (i.e. opinions from people who have not already expressed opinions on the issue). Again, I'm ok with including that, just a question of whether or not it's important enough to include.

Posted by kueda about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Perhaps the hate speech section should also include [sexual] orientation?

On a related matter, there is a problem with some vernacular names which include racist or ethnic slurs or are otherwise objectionable or controversial; see e.g. this article: Racist Relics: An Ugly Blight On Our Botanical Nomenclature. In some cases, people from one part of the world might not realise that a name they find inoffensive can be very offensive to others in other parts of the world. Since people may still look for organisms by these names without realising they are offensive, deleting them altogether would not be a good idea, but I think it would be a good idea if such names could be conspicuously tagged as deprecated, and locked in some way to prevent them from being set as default names or preferred regional names.

Posted by nutcracker about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

During my time on iNat I have been all over the board on obscured records. As sort of a datamonger in my profession, I used to be frustrated by those who would hide locations. Although I am still often frustrated by this habit, as well as the automatically obscured rare species, I have developed a high regard for the way the developers have balanced the fact the the records and associated data belong to the user, while allowing users to share their data with those they choose. In the end, if the user does not have the ultimate control of their data they will not participate and that benefits no one. So my vote is to keep it the way it is - no user should feel pressured to divulge private information about their own records.

Posted by rcurtis about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Can't believe I forgot sexual orientation, good catch. Derogatory species names are a whole other can of worms but I think they would be better dealt with in the Curator's Guide. These guidelines are meant to guide us in how we interact with each other, not establish policies for how we manage data on the site. I certainly agree that names that derogatory should be preserved but downplayed, though.

Posted by kueda about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@kueda - thanks! Could a second discussion be started to cover that aspect of the Curator's Guide? I don't know how to do it.

Posted by nutcracker about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Somewhat reluctantly, I think I'll add my two cents worth on obscured coordinates. Perhaps it's a reflection of the taxa that I gravitate to, but rough coordinates have never been an obstacle for any identifications. I think I've only ever asked one person (who had no location displayed at all ) for a place of collection. It didn't need to be specific, the name of the province would do. So I also feel that things should stay the way they are. Perhaps people who need really specific locations could message the observer so the location stays private.

Posted by mamestraconfigurata about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

in terms of racist common names, etc, i remember this came up with a plant many years ago and we ended up leaving the name there but marking as not an accepted name. That worked well at the time, because iirc at the time the name showed as crossed off. Which sends a pretty solid message while also leaving the name there for valid reasons like not trying to hide from malicious history. But I see now that the name isn't crossed off any more.

https://www.inaturalist.org/taxon_names/519117/edit

Posted by charlie about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@charlie - I tried that out myself too (marking a name as not accepted), but it only works with scientific names, not with vernacular names. It would also help to be able to show the reasons why a name is marked as deprecated too, including things like 'ethnic slur', 'offensive', 'misleading', 'improper renaming', and so on. With that ability, iNat could become a valuable educational resource.

Posted by nutcracker about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@nutcracker Vernacular names are "common". They should be documented not categorized or evaluated. Many "sensitive" names are in the mind of the beholder, and were never intended as racial or offensive. Often they refer to historical regions (e.g. Kaffraria) or were created when the words were not offensive to some. And many are not an issue only because sensitive users do not know the translations or innuendos. Is iNaturalist really the place to ban or censor words that other communities may be using? Should not the most widely or frequently used names be the word of choice, whether some people find them offensive or not? And is depracating a historical name no longer in frequent current use really important. Who polices the police?
What would you do if I said that I found "nutcracker" an offensive word on sexual grounds?

Posted by tonyrebelo about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@mamestraconfigurata "two cents worth on obscured coordinates". But is iNat a site purely for ID or also a repository of scientific data? If the data are of conservation or other value, then unobscured localities. Users who hide their houses or sensitive nest sites or collectable species are one thing, but many users hide their localities because they are not bothered to do the mapwork adequately and therefore just hide them. This is a problem I have encountered across several sites when requesting data for scientific purposes. Often it is an indication of an observer who is uncomfortable with maps, who is genuinely interested in providing good data but who does not know how, and for whom no one spent a few hours investment helping to provide years of good data.
iNaturalist (and almost all CS systems I have looked at) encourage sloppy mapwork by users (by relying so heavily on external systems such as GPS and Googlemaps), but worse, it does not providing a way of verifying the coordinates. I dont know what would work to create a culture of appreciating location more, but I am tempted to suggest that the Details should be a compulsory field and that Google should not be allowed to fill in the field. But then the data I need typically have to be accurate to less than 1km, preferably 100m. Even participants trained to provide detailed localities tend to get sloppy on these easy to use sites. I appreciate that sometimes the locality is not important, especially if all one wants is a quick ID. But just a little more appreciation of the power of Citizen Science data when accompanied by accurate localities (whether hidden or not) will go a long way to encouraging users to be a little more careful about where they were. And hiding data (over and above that of sensitive species) should always be accompanied by a reason.
It is quite amazing how drastically one's perspective changes, when one is at the receiving end of data, compared to when one is putting it in. It is heartbreaking to have to discard large amounts of data because the locality is potentially suspect. ((This is not purely a CS issue: even professionally, large proportions of locality data pre 1950 are too course to be of use for most current needs).

Posted by tonyrebelo about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

I wrote a long post but deleted it because everyone's sick of my long posts, ,So instead, my brief thoughts this time:

- racist names should be marked inactive and then we move on. We debate the 'grey area' names if they come up but err on the side of not being racist even if it annoys some people. The alternative is erring on the side of being racist. Remember the issue isn't whether the name bothers *you* but if it alienates underrepresented groups we want and need on iNat - as well as people viewing data in the future.

-People can obscure for whatever reason they want. It's a foundation of the site and should not change. More filters could be created for excluding those observations. You can politely ask people for more info if you want but that's it. they don't have to answer.

-location accuracy is important but i haven't seen people obscuring for any reason except wanting privacy or protection of species. If you see other examples post them here. They are rare in the circle of iNat i frequent.

Posted by charlie about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Hate speech is a slippery slope. As a heterosexual, Christian, white, man in the US, I am in a class singled out by many in the US as one of "privilege" and with no standing to be offended. Although this may seem unfair to some (and the irony is indeed astounding), it offers me a perspective that I feel should be shared and perhaps embraced by others if we all want to get along. In essence my verbal freedoms are severely restricted yet it forces me to deal with the most hateful and offensive comments from others. The bottom line is that we are all unique and have such differing beliefs and backgrounds that it is in fact impossible to be free of offense in our speech. So while this is a noble goal for which we should all strive, it cannot and should not be strictly policed. That is why some of the greatest minds in history refused to restrict speech at all. If we would all strive primarily to not be offended, 90% of the problem would disappear and we would all be better off. On the flip side, I agree that intentional offense should be curbed and disciplined as appropriate and necessary.

Posted by rcurtis about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

" In essence my verbal freedoms are severely restricted yet it forces me to deal with the most hateful and offensive comments from others. "

How do these guidelines specifically restrict your verbal freedoms, but not of those others?

Posted by stanvrem about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

i think, instead of worrying about how the non-marginalized groups also suffer sometimes, we'd be best in working on ways to reduce the impact of everyone's suffering. Plant names like 'squ*w root' aren't protecting you from ill treatment, and they harm others. This stuff harms everyone. Let's worry about slippery slopes when we actually find one and in the mean time not use unnecessary racist language.

Posted by charlie about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

By the way, here's an example of a racist name targeted at white people: the Bald Uakari ( https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/43654-Cacajao-calvus ) is often called 'English Monkey' because the local people thought they looked like sunburned Englishmen. Now, I had to laugh when I first heard about this, but it's good to realize the reason I laughed was probably that I'm never discriminated against for my skin color. If I faced prejudice every day and was regularly compared to monkeys I don't think I'd have found it very funny.

Posted by stanvrem about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

I would appreciate not using common names containing slurs on iNaturalist.

There's no need to perpetuate labels which hurt historically and currently oppressed people.

These common names are, after all, not the official Latin names, so they can be easily changed to less offensive and more descriptive terms.

Posted by kathawk about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

I don't think this is an appropriate discussion for the Community Guidelines. This is chiefly a problem for curators and site-users to think about. I think the majority of casual iNaturalist users solely use the phone app, where one cannot edit taxonomy and names anyways. Speaking of which, back to the topic at hand, will the Community Guidelines be accessible on the iNat phone app?

Posted by bobby23 about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Hello all,
Once again, I express my many thanks to the admin and curators for creating this terrific site. I also am thankful that I have not ever witnessed some of the harsh interactions discussed here. Having said that, I am in agreement with the guidelines as they are being written, reviewed, amended here and greatly appreciate the awesome discussion and thoughtfulness.

I am not a scientist using the site for research and cannot address the data quality concerns. I do, however, come at this from a lay persons perspective of how iNat has transformed the way I interact with my outside world in big and little ways. I don't just sit in the yard any longer, I watch the butterflies and recognize each species, I see the spiders as magnificent creatures and not pests to be if of, I get super excited when the rare lizards poke their heads out for some sun, and so much more. Similarly, a hike isn't just about exercise any longer, I am on a search for new and interesting species as well as to help document what I see in case some researcher needs data from the area I am in. Moreover, every iNat user (not researcher) who I have met, expresses similar views of how using this site/app has changed the way they interact with the world around.

In my opinion, the more people we can get hooked on iNat the better. More avid users will only help us increase the numbers of folks who see and care and want to protect nature's bounty. Bottom line for me is that I think the guidelines are great, and are one part of making the site user friendly and social, but we need to find a way to really teach new users how to use the site/app in the best way possible both for research purposes and ease of use for the casual observer.

Keep up the fabulous work!!

Posted by scubabruin about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@charlie's point "Remember the issue isn't whether the name bothers *you* but if it alienates underrepresented groups we want and need on iNat" I think is very much the important one. I feel I represent two such underrepresented groups here:

First, autistic and Asperger's people, who very often have a strong interest in and aptitude for plant & animal ID, but also need order and structure in their lives for security. I remember seeing (unfortunately not where; I can't find the citation) that 'disorder' in vernacular names can be a big block to involvement in botany and zoology; they need a single defined correct name in each language to avoid confusion and distress. For them, the scientific process of naming plants & animals is ideal, but also needs to include vernacular names: they should be treated with the same scientific rigour as the latin names. This is something that has been followed by many; e.g. in USA by the American Joint Committee on Horticultural Nomenclature (AJCHN) in Standardized plant names (see e.g. page 72, a principle I strongly agree with (and I know @erwin_pteridophilos also) and believe we should follow here), and in Europe by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) and many other national official lists.

Second; in Europe, we have an agreed naming authority (BSBI) for English names of European native plants. Their standard English names are universally followed in publications here. However, in the USA, the group ITIS, a naming authority and an agency of the US Government, rejects BSBI's standard names and has renamed many of our native species for us, and then proceed to spam their renamings across global usage in order to try and force us to conform to their renamings. Why they reject our names I don't know for certain, but it appears they consider that people in Europe are such ignorant backward savages that we can't be allowed to name our own native plants, but have to have Americans to do it for them. Maybe I am doing ITIS an injustice, but that is very much how it comes over to English speakers in Europe, and it is deeply resented as unwarranted cultural imperialism. It is very much a truism, that America suffers from unwelcome invasive European plants, while Europe suffers from unwelcome invasive American plant names.

So when European plant species on iNat have ITIS's unauthorised renamings set as the default names, it comes across as heavy-handed American imperialism, and discourages people here from contributing to iNat as they feel it does not represent them. I would therefore suggest that for Europe's native flora, the BSBI official standard names should be set as the default English names, and ITIS's renamings tagged as disliked nonstandard names, so as to help educate for future transatlantic agreement over international use.

In summary, I think we should follow two principles in setting the default vernacular names; (1) that they should as far as possible be taxonomically accurate, and as AJCHN and BSBI do, avoiding misleading names, and (2), subject to conforming to (1), should respect native usage by giving preference to names in use where a taxon is native, over those in use where it is invasive.

Sorry to go on for so long (!), but it's something that I hope might help to improve iNat's international acceptance and coverage.

Posted by nutcracker about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@nutcracker
Bingo....... well stated and so true

Posted by ck2az about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Folks, as I tired to point out and others have pointed out after me, these naming concerns are the subject for another discussion. They concern the management of data and infrastructure here at iNat, not how we speak to one another. FWIW the lack of strikekout styling for "invalid" common names was a bug which has been fixed.

Regarding policing hate speech, I think the language in the Guidelines clearly protects white male Christians as much as it does black female Buddhists, half-white-half-Asian male atheists like myself, or any other combination of protected traits. I agree that it's a slippery slope, but it's the slope we all live on all the time in a global community of strangers like iNat. We're all going to make mistakes from time to time, but hopefully we're all trying to get along and be good to one another. If you feel you're being attacked because of the traits laid out in the Guidelines, by all means follow the advice in the Guidelines and contact us and we'll investigate.

Regarding coordinate obscuration and hiding, I would have thought the fact that the system supports that functionality makes it pretty obvious that the people who manage the system (me and the other site admins) approve of using that functionality. We have an established way for researchers to get access to those coordinates if they want them (make a project, invite the user to contribute to the project). My remaining question here is whether or not misunderstanding about this is so widespread that we need to address it explicitly in the Guidelines. One person in this discussion was very helpful and messaged me a few cases in which a user was badgering other users about private coordinates in an aggressive and rude manner. That's unfortunate and does push me toward addressing the issue, but if folks could cite a few more that would help convince me that we need to address this explicitly.

Posted by kueda about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@kueda - thanks! If you'd like to move the naming concerns to a separate discussion, please do; being a bit of a 'newbie' on the site, I don't know the ins and outs of starting a separate discussion.

Posted by nutcracker about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

I apparently did not make my point clear. I am not personally offended, nor do I feel that I have a right to curb someones speech based on an offense. Although I know there are users who do not have the same feedoms or beliefs as in the US, I personally believe that we are all entitled to our own beliefs and speech. Furthermore, curbing someones speech may prevent me from learning another perspective, like why hunting may be unnecessary. So SPEECH is the protected trait that I feel is under attack.

Again, while I think the document is pretty solid, I also feel the Hate Speech section is redundant and should be removed. Your Insults and Threats sectiong gets to the point without needing to identify every possible protected trait or combination. For example, you left out religion; however, you do not need to add religion because any targeted insult or attack on someones religion is covered under Insults and Threats. Why not just leave it there?

Posted by rcurtis about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

I'm also white, male and so I do not have to deal with much in the way of online abuse. But I don't see anything in the hate speech section that would limit any speech other than hate speech. In any case, the only speech necessary on iNaturalist is that required to identify organisms. It's not a platform for people to set out their views on any topic. The section would not prevent a calm discussion of whether hunting is necessary, although there are better platforms than iNaturalist for such discussions.

For those who *do* have to deal with hate speech on a daily basis, we should do everything we can to make sure that iNaturalist is a welcoming and pleasant environment. So I support having a clear policy that hate speech is unacceptable. As I interpret it, the insults/threats section is referring to insults directed at individuals (e.g. "you are a..."), while hate speech would be directed at groups of people defined by protected characteristics (e.g. "men/women/Christians/atheists are such..."). Religious affiliation (or lack of it) should be included in the list of protected characteristics, I think.

Posted by deboas about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Religious affiliation is fundamentally different from all the other characteristics listed though, because unlike the others it is a choice. It doesn't really matter for practical purposes since I can't think of a scenario where attacking people for their beliefs is an appropriate use of this site, but I do feel a bit uneasy when it's placed in the same category as race, sex etc.

Posted by stanvrem about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

I agree with the distinction you make, @stanvrem, but religion is regarded as a protected characteristic by law in the US, UK and elsewhere, so my suggestion to include it is just so we're consistent with other sources.

Posted by deboas about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

For what it's worth, I'm kind of puzzled about the religion/sexual orientation, even race, debate. Unless I'm missing something, there is no way on iNat that anyone could tell any of those things about me (possibly race if I use myself as an avatar). I don't post those details on my profile, because that knowledge is unnecessary for the identification of non-human life forms. What is important is my experience and how accurate my identifications are. And that I treat others with respect - in a sense, this is a professional workplace, and everyone here is equal unless they demonstrate aggressive behaviour (which I have never encountered). We all have something to contribute, and an awful lot to learn.

Posted by mamestraconfigurata about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@mamestraconfigurata sometimes it isn't targeted at a specific person - racist comments might be posted on an observation for instance. I've seen it once or twice, it's rare, let's hope it stays that way. I can't understand why anyone would be opposed to a policy banning hate speech. It's a huge problem all over the internet. Again, there is nothing that gives you the right to come on this website and spew hate speech. It's really standard and basic wording and i wouldn't be too excited about being part of a community that didn't follow those basic policies. I could say a lot more but in honoring Ken-Ichi's request i will leave it at that for now.

Posted by charlie about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

@kueda — "FWIW the lack of strikekout styling for "invalid" common names was a bug which has been fixed" — Thanks! I've checked; it works now, and I've so marked the worse ones I was aware of. Doubt I've got them all though.

Posted by nutcracker about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Alright everyone, I published the official version of this to https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/community+guidelines and linked to it in the footer, from the help section, and in the email you get when you sign up. A million thanks again for all your input. While the Guidelines are not set in stone, let's try and live with them for at least a month before we start debating them again, since I suspect we could all debate them endlessly.

Posted by kueda about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

A big thank you to you, @kueda, I think they are very timely. Also great to hear that the guidelines will be circulated with the welcome email.

Posted by jakob about 1 month ago (Flag)
Thumb

Thanks for all the hard work, and listening to us gripe. One final addition of mine is grammatical:
"Images of dead or dismembered animals. While we do not endorse killing or fatally injuring animals just for the sake of contributing to iNaturalist, as naturalists we all encounter such scenes in our explorations. Examples come in the form of road kill and recent predation events (including predation by humans). "
Minor point, but it gets rid of a run-on sentence.

Posted by mamestraconfigurata about 1 month ago (Flag)

Add a comment

Sign in or Sign up to add comments

Is this inappropriate, spam, or offensive? Add a flag