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 over 1 year ago (Flag)
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This is good. I just got a spam/phishing message today, for example.

Posted by raymie over 1 year ago (Flag)
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Totally reasonable and appropriate. Thanks.

Posted by lagoondon over 1 year ago (Flag)
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Very reasonable indeed except for the poor bat that gets the blame ;-)

Posted by jakob over 1 year ago (Flag)
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Sounds good to me

Posted by shauns over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year ago (Flag)
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Sounds great to me. Totally reasonable.

Posted by cthawley over 1 year 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 over 1 year ago (Flag)
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Thanks Ken-ichi -- I think these are really good ideas.

Posted by susanhewitt over 1 year ago (Flag)
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Excellent, thanks, Ken-ichi, very reasonable, well thought-out, well communicated.

Posted by mira_l_b over 1 year ago (Flag)
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Well done!

Posted by ellen5 over 1 year ago (Flag)
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Fully agree~! And, yes, 3 observations is a very low requirement indeed. Thank you!

Posted by katharinab over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year ago (Flag)
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Nice changes

Posted by finatic over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year ago (Flag)
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Is this really a zooniverse13?
AJ13

Posted by angelajoan13 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 over 1 year 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 about 1 year ago (Flag)
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Well, as someone that has successfully carried out two traditional projects and is now unable to create a new one, I'm a bit disappointed.

So, I added more observations to get to 50. What does the criteria "verified observation" mean? I'd like to set up this project ASAP for a lab course I teach.

Posted by umijin 1 day ago (Flag)
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Note that the requirement is verifiable observations, not verified. The definition of verifiable is in the blog post. It can take an hour or two for the system to recognize that you’ve met the requirement.

Posted by tiwane 1 day ago (Flag)
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Thank you.

Posted by umijin 1 day ago (Flag)
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I have found that using a custom crafted URL* works for me in my online classes in lieu of a project, especially when working with students operating on limited bandwidth with older phones that are often malfunctioning. Observations get posted without a location, without a date, without an image in some instances. And the students find sorting out cultivated versus wild to be challenging. Any project filter could be problematic. Just another option to a project.
*For example: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&subview=grid&verifiable=any&user_id=akenstyardos,austinyaimengtil,diosticka,donalyohry,elainysoram,elianson_manuel,elizabethnennis,evonairens,janiceboaz256,jeandre1,joseph600,loyloy,marston691,maryjane25,mia220,perkwaay,richinard,sasao_jr,sanda09,semihmasoram,sylvgap,sylvia177,twokeys,vin14
I should note that the class is comprised of students on three islands in the Western Pacific, an online ethnobotany course with a botanic component.

Posted by danaleeling about 14 hours ago (Flag)
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Dana - It's nice to hear from someone else in Micronesia. But I'm afraid I don't follow. It looks like you made a URL to track your students' submission using their usernames. So, now you can see their posts for the class (and they can see each others posts if they use it). Could you just do a collection or umbrella project? For the projects I have in mind, students will actually record data (other than species ID) on the focal organism. I've done this with coconut trees to assess coconut rhino beetle damage a few times. This time, students for a lab class will do something similar for banana spiders -

Posted by umijin about 3 hours ago (Flag)
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You could use a project. But if you want to collect structured data, then a traditional project with observation fields may be somewhat better. Just like you are planning with the spiders (https://www.inaturalist.org/project/guam-banana-spider-class-survey/terms) and did successfully with coconuts (https://www.inaturalist.org/project/retired-fa-15-uog-crb-damage-survey/terms).
The disadvantage of collections projects is that you cannot structure the data input, and traditional projects work beautifully at doing that using smartphones. So I would stick with what you are doing.
The disadvantage of using urls is that you dont have access to the journal, which allows you to communicate, give updates and reports (I would love to see a short report on the the coconut project please - just a summary of the results, and if anything was published a link to the articles).

A question: why do nearly half of your observations not have a location? (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&subview=table&user_id=umijin&verifiable=any). I guess you put them on in a hurry yesterday to get your observations up, but a little more work is needed please.
The plus side of your being unable to create your project is that now we have some great observations from you!

Posted by tonyrebelo about 2 hours ago (Flag)
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Tony,

Thanks for your comments. I cut off my previous message when a brown out hit our neighborhood. So, yes, we used the data collection features with the traditional project to pull information from several sections of a lab course with the CRB data. I downloaded the csv file and put the data in a form that students used for there semester lab report project. I also shared that data with our agriculture extension service folks - they were grateful, but not sure how they used it. It's a bit dated now.

As for why half my observations have no location - good question. I'll have to check. We did a handful of pilot observations yesterday to test the data form and do a screen recording to share with students. We won't roll this out for another week at least. I wanted to show the lab instructor and work out any bugs with her. I notice there is often a delay uploading observations. If the app gets closed before it finishes - maybe the location wasn't included? I remember we had lots of problems with geolocation in our previous CRB project. Students claimed records didn't upload or made duplicates when they weren't certain. Some students mobile phones wouldn't included geolocation, even when the permissions were set so. And there were some discrepancies in the Android vx iOS interface that confused them. At that time, I knew approximately where students were - each section was assigned to a particular location or place. This time, students will be on their own (we aren't holding face-to-face courses) around their homes or wherever they choose to collect data. We have decent cellular service on Guam, even a bit of 5G. So, I don't mobile service is necessarily limiting.

If you have tips on uploading observations from a phone - let me know. I have about 80 students who will be contributing data - am anticipating some headaches. I hoping things might have improved in the last 4-5 years. OK, my power is fully off - I have to finish. I look forward to any further suggestions.

Posted by umijin about 1 hour ago (Flag)
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Tony,

OK, I see - most of those observations you linked to are from uploaded photos (NOT this upcoming project). I uploaded from my Flickr account. I usually add geolocation to the exif of my photos (synch gps data). Perhaps some of them are missing geolocation. I'll see if i can fix that in the next day or two.

Posted by umijin about 1 hour ago (Flag)

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