Conversations & Thankyou

Forgive me if I am labouring the point. I meant to send this some time ago but hesitated as we were promised that additional functionality would eventually be restored. 5 months later nothing has changed so as a family we now rarely use this site. Such a shame as iSpot really shone as an example of sharing and learning:

“iSpot is a website aimed at helping anyone identify anything in nature. People upload their observations of wildlife, help each other identify it, and share and discuss what they’ve seen – 19.4.10

As a family, we have loved iSpot since we first joined. We were able to upload photographs and receive useful support and advice. We rather hope that we have also helped other people too but this ability to share has been lost.

I would love to be able to give lots of positive feedback about this new iSpot format but having lost the ability to see and respond to feedback about added observations I have to ask what is the point. We used to receive feedback and actually have a conversation about posts left several years ago but no way of knowing now.
We keep hearing comments about “work in progress” but the premise of iSpot, at least in the early days was about sharing and supporting each other. Surely that should have been the start of the (new) design.

We have received amazing support from so many people on iSpot: That important piece of info that helped us solve our mushroom mystery, for info about our local mini-beasts or encouragement to spend a bit more time identifying seaweeds along our local shoreline. The learning curve was what we enjoyed, achieved through communication and relationships. ISpot has lost something special.

We just wanted to say thank you to people that helped us learn.



I know exactly how you feel. I don’t want to join the exodus from the site: I feel that I have gained more than I have contributed to it.
But the amateurish recoding, coupled with the lack of engagement with the “better” site users who were trying to systematically list the growing toll of problems was dreadfully disheartening.
The fact that some of the more skilfull users have persevered with it is, to some extent, gratifying. But we can’t expect their patience to last indefinitely.
Your posts have been one of the highlights of the site: a shame if you have had - as others clearly have - enough.

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The notification system could be better, but we do now have one back. If you go to Your iSpot, there’s a Changes Tracker tab. This shows you the feedback on observations you have contributed to in some way.

which functionality are you missing? As others have menitoned there is a way to track what others have said about your observations and a number of the bugs on the site have been fixed. There is still more work to do but it has been a huge task to rebuild everything from scratch on a tiny budget. There are many more plans for the future but it all comes down to money and that is very tight at present.

Have you had a go at ‘projects’, this is currently one area where the new site performs better than the old site.

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How are projects better in the new site? (Losing the ability to use HTML in the project description broke one of my projects. dejayM also had problems with broken projects.)

Is not quite true… Posting is easier than it was in the old site and Projects have never been as easy as now, this minute.
But there is huge change in the way people are interacting - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is with us and some have been affected more than others.
The loss of expertise and of people prepared to engage is highly visible.
No-one seems to be nurturing the newbies, hundreds of posts slip through without comment, many without agreements
But there is promise, isn’t there?. If you care to look hard, you will find commitment and expertise.
We won’t get the old site back for quite a while but we can nibble at the new one, make it work and gradually bring it back. Someone HAS to.
It now requires people like Andy (Reefpaths), whose posts are always excellent, demanding, full of interest, photos and support notes, to breathe easy and help make the site good again.
Look - click a few. It was hard to make such a link in the old site
We can do it - be inspired by the challenge…

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Your comment makes me want to say a few things that I have felt for a long time. Please understand they are not directed at you personally.

If, after all the feedback on this forum about communication, iSpot believes its problems are financial, then the penny has not even begun to drop.

Even so, I wish I had known money was in short supply and that disaster lurked around the corner. I would have done everything in my power to help, modest as it is.

If iSpot had asked for user testimonials to support your next grant application, I would have given you my version of the heartfelt and measured comments made by reefpaths; of how iSpot completely transformed and kickstarted my ability to engage with biodiversity and become an active recorder, a source of interest, learning, pleasure and maybe even some use that will be with me for the rest of my life. I guarantee you would have been swamped with similar endorsements.

If iSpot had asked for volunteer effort in applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund (just an example), I would have sent my CV the same day.

If iSpot had launched a Crowdfunder, my credit card would have been out in a flash. Speaking purely for myself, I owe iSpot, why didn’t you ask?

I could go on but personally I doubt that money is the main issue.

There has always been a problem with university-led projects like iSpot. To us they look like public service sites that will go on forever but, in reality, isn’t their primary purpose as online laboratories for the research interests of current staff members? Their longevity through staff transitions can never be assured. This is a potential reputational risk to the host institution that needs to be carefully managed. Maybe all of us disgruntled users should try to remember that, but, and it’s a very big but - when something becomes as good as iSpot was and so deliberately sets out to be a hub for and indeed to rely on huge voluntary effort, it’s easy to forget its origins.

I was brought up not to criticise unless I know all the facts. Clearly I don’t. I simply cannot comprehend, never mind explain the lack of high level communication that has bedevilled the last few months. So I shouldn’t criticise, maybe for some unknowable reason I would have been obliged to stay silent. But I am entitled to say that, in my mind and mine alone, it will take a while for the OU’s reputation to recover.

More importantly, the formal teaching of taxonomy lies in tatters in this country (UK). And now it looks like pollinator biomass is collapsing all around us. Citizen Science can play a vital role in gathering desperately needed data if properly organised and curated. To quote just 2 examples groups such as BWARS and The Hoverfly Recording Scheme are doing incredible work through their Facebook pages based on voluntary effort. Why has iSpot been allowed to go backwards? It could be a national asset.

We need what it has to offer more than ever.

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Hello there

I’d be sorry to see you go - you have made me look up Tunstall Hills and want to go there - but appreciate the clarity and passion with which you have put your case. I have no expert knowledge but share the value you place on learning through iSpot. Like others, I have begun to use an international site, especially for spots while on holiday - but ‘feel’ it is not quite the same in terms of community. At my level of knowledge and engagement, the conversation about and at an observation is what counts to me and that’s what iSpot did well. I now use the ‘new’ tracker function, but I expect it’s not as useful to the more prolific contributors as it can be to me. I have also enjoyed reading your posts, you add the detail that gives the posts life.

Needless to say, I share concerns expressed below about the state of nature: citizen science has never been more important and where the next generation of recorders is coming from is anyone’s guess. Above all, we need to hold on to the experts - and there are some who no longer post but call in to comment and ID - whose encouragement we need in order to retain and nurture learners and, who knows, the next generation of leaders in these fields. Maybe your family will contain some of those? With best wishes. Mags

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it is imperative that we all, those of us who engage here, stick with it for a while more. this site is still worth its weight in gold but it needs the older and experienced hands to stay and engage more than ever.
I am not writing about the Forum but the Site. Hundreds of Observations are slipping through without decent, supportive comments and in many cases without agreements.
We are still dreadfully hurt and jaded and I am really missing those who have left for good (I might mean bad).
Keep your password oiled and test it frequently on the Site please.

Don’t worry dejayM, I said nothing in my post about future intentions.

Now that the carousel is working again I will probably try a few posts here and there in the long winter months. But I’m afraid that I can’t promise to engage very much until I know that there is an identified individual at the OU with the credentials, authority and resources to secure a future for iSpot. If there is, he or she probably has a hell of a job on their plate and is welcome to contact me and call upon my support. I know that applies to lots of us.