A Plea for Observation-sharing Functionality

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Christian Schwarz

Jul 17, 2018, 10:16:09 AM7/17/18
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** IF THE PROPOSAL BELOW SOUNDS APPEALING, ADD YOUR SIGNATURE (FWIW) HERE: A Plea for Observation Sharing Functionality ** We’ve all been there – out hiking with a group of other naturalists, all with slightly

different interests and taxonomic specialties and patterns of attention. We find organisms,

we point them out to one another, and we have a communal experience of biodiversity on that

day. All of us sharing a general desire to see creatures, and to have documentation of

those encounters represented on our iNat profiles.

… that latter point typically resulting in every one of those naturalists taking their own

photo of the same lily, the same mushroom, the same snake, and every one of those

naturalists then uploading separate observations of the exact same individuals.

The downsides of this state of affairs include:

1. That snake being held/detained for just a little bit longer so that everyone gets their photo.

2. That rare mushroom being uploaded 10 times, skewing the apparent abundance and phenology data for that species, however slightly (not so slight in the cumulative view after a decade…)

3. That lily being variably georeferenced to number of different points (especially if there’s a DSLR shooter amongst a bunch of phone-users), resulting in shotgun-scatter maps.

4. The general but not trivial frustration accompanying duplication of effort.

As a solution, we proposae: Functionality to enable single observations or batches of observations to be shared with lists of usernames.

The original user’s observation would be the “original”, and the shared “copies”

propagated to other user’s accounts wouldn’t show up on maps or in phenology charts

(which would address the currently data duplication issue).

Ideally, each copy would be reciprocally linked to all other “copies” in other user’s

accounts as well as the original – perhaps visible as a list following a link to “Twin

Observations” or some such phrasing.

The reason for the above reciprocal linking would be to help solve another problem – For

example, a user will find and upload an interesting mushroom, and then send a dried

specimen to someone more adept with microscopy. That person will take photos of the

mushrooms’ spores using a microscope, but would have to send those photos to the

original observer to have them added to the observation. That person would then have to

change the copyright info to be accurate, and might have to change licensing for that

individual photo as well.

The “copy” observation could retain the original user’s preferences for the shared photos,

but any new photos added by the second user would import the settings associated with the recipient user’s account.

eBird has a good infrastructure for sharing checklists with members of a

party, enabling multiple photos from different users to be associated with the same

records, and crucially, also enables individual users to remove species they didn’t see, as well as to add species that other members of the group did not see.

This last feature will be very desired by those obsessive-compulsive among us who want

to keep our personal lists as accurate as possible… “overly-educated Golden Retrievers”, to paraphrase Liam O’Brien.

It could be further improved by having a button to “Request Share” – a way of asking the original observer to share an observation with you, which would then show up in their notifications with a button to enable one-click sharing of the requested observation.

** SOUND GOOD TO YOU? PLEASE ADD YOUR SIGNATURE HERE: A Plea for Observation-Sharing Functionality**

Charlie Hohn

Jul 17, 2018, 11:55:05 AM7/17/18
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This has been discussed before (including maybe by you?) and is a good idea. I agree it would be great to get this sort of functionality.

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Charlie Hohn
Montpelier, Vermont

Chris Vynbos

Jul 17, 2018, 1:09:30 PM7/17/18
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We all have a list of features we'd like to have added to iNat, and you'll find many requests for them on this forum, often repeated. I've suggested before that we create a collaborative google spreadsheet which collates them,  with a method for users to add their vote to each request, thus making it clear to the developers which features are most wanted . They can then do a 'wanted vs ease of programming' arbitrage to decide which ones to run with. So I like your idea of signing a plea, but it would be great not to have to do this with every feature we'd like added, but rather combine them.

Christian Schwarz

Jul 17, 2018, 1:21:46 PM7/17/18
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Thanks for your comment, Chris - I think your voting system or something like it would be valuable.

You're very right to point out the needed "Ease of programming arbitrage".

Although I am terribly unqualified to judge which feature requests are more or less programmatically disruptive /  intensive, it doesn't take much expertise to to realize that this particular one may be a big ask.


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Mark McKnight

Jul 17, 2018, 1:28:07 PM7/17/18
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I'd like to see something like this Bronto ideas site where users get a single vote (for Bronto you have to be a customer to get a login, but here it would be any user) per issue, and can submit issues. Moderators help de-duplicate and combine issues. 


Jul 18, 2018, 6:43:27 PM7/18/18
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I agree that it would be nice to have a way to de-duplicate the posts, and moderators would be great. Or at least some better way to sum up the various posts, with an index so they can be found more easily.


Jul 24, 2018, 3:27:22 AM7/24/18
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I agree that this would be very helpful functionality if practical.

One clarifying question - would the media associated with the group observation be coming from only one member of the group?  Or would any member of the group be able to add their own "view(s)" of that organism to the shared observation?

I ask because I have identified several such "shared" observations of the same organism, and there is usually one user's photograph that has better identifying details visible than those of the other user(s), because of angle of view, sharpness and closeness of focus, etc.

From an identifier's perspective, the more photos the merrier, and better to be part of a single observation than each linked to a different user's observation of the same organism.

--Jim Morefield

bonifacio barrio hijosa

Jul 24, 2018, 6:50:15 AM7/24/18
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If you are a group walking together and making common observations, you are enough organized to share by yourselves a common Id of every individual species. I've also asked something like that not much time ago and a solution I'm adopting is to use this field ID: 'dwc:OrganismID' (dwc for sharing it with GBIF).
(This is the thread of discussion: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/inaturalist/DoylROY1-mY )

So, one of you can define this Id and then send it to the others in the group. And if you are in a popular trail, maybe next observers can get use of this Id. Maybe they recognize the same mushroom on that fallen tree, and see how it evolves year after year. Or the tree itself...

All of this, to be used in the meantime the new feature is developed, of after it's implemented, too. :)


Star Donovan

Jul 30, 2018, 1:32:32 PM7/30/18
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Great Suggestion!


Feb 21, 2019, 1:43:51 PM2/21/19
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