New Requirements to Sending Messages, Making Projects, and Making Places

We've just made the following changes

1) To send a message you must have 3 verifiable observations or 3 identifications added for others. New users who haven't met this requirement will still be able to reply to messages.
2) To make a traditional project or a place you must have 50 verifiable observations. New users who haven't met this requirement can still make new collection and umbrella projects.

A verifiable observation is an observation that has a date, a location, media evidence (image or sound), and has not been voted captive/cultivated.

There are a few reasons we're doing this, but first and foremost is to emphasize that iNat is about observations and identifications. Everything else is secondary, if not tertiary, and folks who want to use iNat's other features should always understand the iNat experience from the perspective of an observer and/or an identifier. We see a lot of people signing up for iNat and trying to make a project right off the bat, which often leads to some confusion on the project creator's part about the behavior of their participants or what all the various settings mean. I would have preferred to apply this restriction to collection and umbrella projects as well, but that seemed to get a lot of pushback. Places have similar problems, largely because of people creating place records for places that already exist.

There are also some technical reasons for doing this, particularly regarding places. Making new places that encompass lots of observations kicks off automated background jobs that can take a really, really long time, and sometimes that affects site performance for everyone. One could argue that no one should have the ability to do this, but we feel pretty strongly that new users definitely should not be able to do this.

Regarding messages, recent phishing campaigns have convinced us that we need to make it a *little* harder for new users to send messages. We don't think three observations or three identifications is a very high bar, but hopefully it will dissuade some bad actors.

As with everything else on the site, this is all subject to change, so if we need to raise these barriers higher, or remove them again, we'll reconsider.

Posted by kueda kueda, May 16, 2019 19:11

Comments

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This seems very sensible. Thanks for explaining it clearly.

Posted by sullivanribbit 5 months ago (Flag)
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This is good. I just got a spam/phishing message today, for example.

Posted by raymie 5 months ago (Flag)
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Totally reasonable and appropriate. Thanks.

Posted by lagoondon 5 months ago (Flag)
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Very reasonable indeed except for the poor bat that gets the blame ;-)

Posted by jakob 5 months ago (Flag)
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Sounds good to me

Posted by shauns 5 months ago (Flag)
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I now fully support this. In the brief month and half that I have used iNat I have already seen two users with no observations, no identifications, who tried as their very first act to set up a project. When the project did not work as expected, in at least one case that same day, they posted to the forum. In both cases a lack of familiarity with iNat was the underlying problem. Despite pushback, I think the rule should be expanded to all projects.

Posted by danaleeling 5 months ago (Flag)
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Very reasonable, although I think requiring three Research Grade observations should be the threshold. I understand why the bar wasn't set that high though.

Posted by sandboa 5 months ago (Flag)
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Sounds great to me. Totally reasonable.

Posted by cthawley 5 months ago (Flag)
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Yes new users should not be able to create places and project. Exception can be handled on a case by case basis.

Posted by gancw1 5 months ago (Flag)
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Thanks Ken-ichi -- I think these are really good ideas.

Posted by susanhewitt 5 months ago (Flag)
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Excellent, thanks, Ken-ichi, very reasonable, well thought-out, well communicated.

Posted by mira_l_b 5 months ago (Flag)
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Well done!

Posted by ellen5 5 months ago (Flag)
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Fully agree~! And, yes, 3 observations is a very low requirement indeed. Thank you!

Posted by katharinab 5 months ago (Flag)
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I think 3 observations is very low and I would make it five at research grade or 10 observations total. I don't think people who use the site for spam or phishing will have any trouble entering three observations, but they will just throw anything up, so you will end up with a lot of wasted observations and wasted time identifying them or trying to teach people how to use the site who have no intention of becoming useful members.

Posted by juliereid 5 months ago (Flag)
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Well done Ken-ichi, thanks for striving to keep this forum true to what it was meant to be!

Posted by zabbey 5 months ago (Flag)
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Nice changes

Posted by finatic 5 months ago (Flag)
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Perhaps it can be made clearer to beginners, that almost everything that you can do with projects can also be done with filters on the Explore menu. Commonly used filters can be bookmarked.
Projects should only be used if you are prepared to actively promote the project, coordinate users and activities, actively make and verify identifications, and are prepared to give regular feedback in the journals.

Posted by tonyrebelo 5 months ago (Flag)
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The more I think about this, the more value I see in mandating the observations be research grade (or at least reviewed). This way any potential spammer has to pass the test of other iNat users "approving" their full membership. This should make it a little harder to just throw up three pictures of animals/plants from the internet and getting access to pollute the project.

Posted by sandboa 5 months ago (Flag)
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Thanks for your continuing efforts to keep iNat a useful and reliable tool for sharing and learning and especially for keeping the fun in it.

Posted by connlindajo 5 months ago (Flag)
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thank you. I have been an iNaturalist contributor for over a year now and I have kept learning from the site and from the generous Identifiers for all that time. iNaturalist is a very rich and layered resources and You have established reasonable measures. I agree with those who recommend three Research Grade observations.

Posted by lissamartinez 5 months ago (Flag)
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These are great improvements! Like others have said I think the observations bar could probably go a little higher like 5 research grade or 10 total observations.

Posted by rogerbirkhead 5 months ago (Flag)
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These are intelligent changes. The bar may need to be raised even higher in the future.

Posted by argyl 5 months ago (Flag)
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Is this really a zooniverse13?
AJ13

Posted by angelajoan13 5 months ago (Flag)
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I'll agree as well -- these are logical requirements, and I'm happy to see these changes. Many times I've tried to convince people to not create a project, especially one that is just taxa and place based. As always, many thanks.

Posted by sambiology 5 months ago (Flag)
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I'm a new user and 100% agree !! It's going to take me a while to get proficient . If anything I would raise the requirements .!

Posted by paulinerosen 5 months ago (Flag)
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Yeah, I would also say it's a good idea to raise the requirements even more. I don't think anyone will object.

Posted by susanhewitt 5 months ago (Flag)
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I run advanced courses for beginners (I know - I am full of contradictions, but others do beginners courses for beginners) to iNaturalist for CREW. Within the first hour of the course total novices are expected to upload 10 observations. If ever there is a need to raise the bar substantially higher, there should be no hesitation in doing so.

Posted by tonyrebelo 5 months ago (Flag)
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Hello, Thank you for all the comments. I understand the restrictions on projects. I created a project for a small community of people in my town that would all like to join our observations together through a project. Unfortunately, the 50 verifiable observations will take a lot of time. While iNaturalist allows me to create a project, it does not warn of whether it us usable... I just cannot attach any of my verified observations to it, and there is no explanation. I think it would be helpful if the site communicated these types of things more clearly.. Bryce

Posted by bbarnes01 3 months ago (Flag)
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@bbarnes01 - How do you come to the conclusion that you can create a project that you cannot use?
Is your project https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/closter-biodiversity-survey ?
Then try relaxing some of the restrictions. Why for instance do you only want "casual" observations: why not "needs ID" an "Research Grade"? (as a consequence, none of your observations qualify).
Why must it be annotated with the "Life Stage"? (you have only done so for one of your observations, so all the others will not qualify)
Why dont you want spiders and snails and lizards and fish - I agree that they are creepy and scaly, but are they not also indicators about the health of our environment?

Posted by tonyrebelo 3 months ago (Flag)
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Hey Tony, thank you for the questions. I am trying to understand the platform. I agree with all you are saying. I didn't perceive my restrictions as restrictions.. if that makes sense. I would like to be in the most unrestrictive state to start. I am not sure I can even answer your questions to be honest because I am learning and new at this. I truly believe that biodiversity is about all life forms, I am a bee-liever. :-). So then, if i relieve these restrictions, is there still a limiting factor of I need to make 50 personal observations before I can use a project? That was my original question because the guidelines which took me a while to find seem to suggest that... Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Bryce

Posted by bbarnes01 3 months ago (Flag)
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From the help pages:
Any iNaturalist user can create a collection project, however you need to have 50 verifiable observations to create a traditional project.
You created a collection project, and so there are no restrictions. If you fix the filters restricting the observations from joining the project, then it will work. But it will give you exactly what you ask it for, nothing more or less.
I see you have not yet revised the filters.

Posted by tonyrebelo 3 months ago (Flag)
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@bbarnes01 - The problems in your project settings will make it unlikely to collect any data because as Tony said you are restricting it to "Casual" quality grade records. "Casual" is a bit of a euphemism in iNat since it is a label for "bad" records that have some sort of shortfall preventing them from becoming authenticated (i.e. - research grade). This can be for a variety of reasons, including things like photos of people's pets, photos of house plants indoors, records with no documentation, unidentifiable photos, etc.. You should lift that restriction.
Furthermore, you shouldn't specify which type of groups you think belong in the group unless you have a reason, i.e. you are only interested in bird records for your area. Leave that at "Any".
Lastly, it is unusual that you have restricted the project to entries by three people. There are 16 people who already have contributed 170 observations from the county in iNat already. (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=138797&subview=table)

Is there a particular reason to exclude other people's data? If you are just interested in two other people's data for that area, a well designed search would achieve the same goals.

But if you want to make it a broader project, then compare your project requirements to this project - https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/aransas-national-wildlife-refuge
You will see that by keeping many of the requirements open, you can generate data in your project quickly.

As for the idea that it would take some time to make 50 personal observations, many people add that many in a morning walking in a local park. Just photograph native plants, bugs, etc. as you go on a walk and you will get 50 verifiable observations very quickly.

Chris

Posted by sandboa 3 months ago (Flag)
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@ bbarnes01 -- if you need help in creating 50 verifiable iNaturalist observations, please let me know, so I can help explain and make suggestions as to how to do this.

Ordinary weeds growing in lawns and sidewalks are good subjects for observations, and a total of 50 certainly does not imply that it needs to be 50 different species! Just 50 different individuals. "Verifiable" simply means you need to take a photo.

Posted by susanhewitt 3 months ago (Flag)
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Verifiable also means that it cannot be an urban tree or any plant in an urban area deemed "planted". So focus on weeds and not your street trees, otherwise you wont get "research grade" observations.

Posted by tonyrebelo 3 months ago (Flag)
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@tonyrebelo Thanks Tony for your comments, and also thank you Susan Hewitt. I travel a lot, so my responses are slow but over time I will figure the system out here. Everyone's comments are so helpful.. so thank you. Tony, going to make the changes you recommended.. and then I am sure I'll have more questions!!! I want to explain more about my motives in the project.. I will post another comment to share my goals and desires with this amazing on-line resource. Cheers Bryce

Posted by bbarnes01 3 months ago (Flag)
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@sandboa Hey Chris, great questions! Well, you know when trying to figure out a system, you fill in the blanks with your mind on how you think it works. Your points indicate to me that I was trying to create a project for the community and my assumption was that I had to invite people in order to contribute to it. I created a KML file and uploaded it to define my project which is my community, Closter. It is now apparent to me that based on the KML file, which creates a bounded geography, any observation made by anyone could be captured by my collection which is for an area defined by that KML file. My motive is to start making observations myself, because I have become deeply interested in the health of the environment in my community, but more importantly encourage a community of people (whom I thought I had to invite to participate) to create a growing body of observations. Once I have the site figured out and people are active.. then I would like to promote the idea of bio bilitzes where people get together for a weekend, a day, a month and we once a year where we aggressively survey. I want to incourage community participation, and I want to use the results that iNaturalist.org captures as information and research that can be used to promote change in the community. More importantly use the data gathered for the project to present findings to the City council, and take a community based science approach to advocating for protecting green space, or what impact is neonictoids having on pollinators, or to encourage the city to create spaces for milkweed to support monarch's.. etc etc. I see this site, not only as a powerful tool to contribute observations and educate myself, but as a tool for driving change at the community level..

Posted by bbarnes01 3 months ago (Flag)
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@tonyrebelo @sandboa @susanhewitt Tony, Chris, Susan, thanks.. I opened up some of the criteria and now I have the first 3 observations flowing in. I am not sure I have it right yet, but that is a start. I tried not to be restrictive. But only 3. I know there are many observations being made in Closter.. so I will have to tweak some more. Finally, I think I cannot add my own observations just yet because I have not achieved the 50 number.. which I will work on. Bryce

Posted by bbarnes01 3 months ago (Flag)
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Bryce,
@bbarnes01 The reason you only have three records in there so far is because you have the mandatory stipulation of needing to have the Annotation for "Life Stage". Therefore, the only records that have qualified so far are insect records for which the person entered life stage data. Your other observations will add automatically when you remove that stipulation.
I think you should also remove the stipulation about whose records can be included. Projects aren't really intended to be "private".
Chris

Posted by sandboa 3 months ago (Flag)
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@kellyfuerstenberg it's best to use our Forum (https://forum.inaturalist.org/) or to email help@inaturalist.org if you have questions, comments on a journal post isn't a great way to have a discussion.

Posted by tiwane 3 months ago (Flag)

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