No Illusions about newcomers

It is actually quite intimidating doing your first observation, and I didn’t put in an identification on the first one. Although I was reasonably certain I knew what it was. The identification came quickly, and a friendly comment on helping to ID. However, with one observation it was easy to just check it up.

The tracker is the most useful tool, but when I saw the tab had no idea what was being tracked. When you realise that it is feedback on your observations, that makes all the difference. It would be useful if it were fired up automatically.

I don’t think in general people appreciate just how hard it is to identify something from a photograph. I often look at observations of things that I am familiar with, but can’t come to a conclusion because a key feature is not present on the image. I still go back and re-photo because I have missed the most important feature. It might help in comments if it were explained why something was hard to identify and what would help. That this does go on quite a lot, but maybe new users need extra nurturing.

One of the most positive aspects of the site is that mistakes in identification are not ridiculed, and it should be emphasised that it is a process, and that a final identification could take a few goes. I will probably come back to this later.


I agree wholeheartedly with everything Gulvain has said, particularly the intimidating bit. I guess the thing is, you don’t know what you don’t know, and often the seemingly obvious can be anything but. So again, as Gulvain has said, a bit of nurturing of new users would be good. I wondered if there was some way of automatically highlighting on the site if it’s someone’s first post so people can say hi or welcome etc even if they can’t help with the ID? (this possibly already exists but I’m just not aware of it - I’m not particularly IT savvy which doesn’t help!). Equally, it can be a bit disheartening if, for whatever reason, there is no interaction with your post. Although I’m not sure what can be done about this as it’s obviously resource intensive to check every post. I think a key thing is to try and nurture that sense of the site being a community and that we are there to help each other. So yes, people will help and engage with your posts, but in return you will be expected to do the same with theirs. Obviously with IDs this will depend on people’s level of knowledge but you can still be supportive in other ways, eg I’ll sometimes comment about someone’s photos even if I can’t help with the ID.
Lots more to say but this is turning onto war and peace :grin:! So I’ll just finish by saying that I adore ispot - the knowledge of some users is truly awe inspiring and I learn multiple new things every day - so thanks to everyone involved.

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I am now going to agree with Luisa. Even regular users need nurturing, and I generally try to reply to comments or acknowledge them, just to indicate I have read what they have gone to the trouble of writing. The agreements are also important indication that somebody has looked hard enough at your observation to agree.

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It would be helpful especially for new users if there was text that appears if you hover over the buttons.
I am not sure how easily it can be done based on the fact that the site has evolved around software that was originally written when the internet was much slower.

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This has been discussed before, and I went as far as a first draft of a “welcome” e-mail. It probably wasn’t very good, and it came to naught.
Even when it is working reasonably well, iSpot is daunting. I also realised, during a brief period of inactivity, how quickly one begins to feel like an “outsider”.

Oh yes, and not for the first time here in 2018
New year 'solutions? - #47 by dejayM item 18 (and others)

It should be said that most of the current newcomers are adding ID’s as part of a course and once completed they will disappear. User slippage has always been an issue. I have been active on iSpot for 11 years and so many users have come and gone. History dictates that the majority of users today will not be here in 12 months.

We must be very careful that iSpot does not become a clique

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It’s been said before, and I’ll say it again - the S295 course isn’t very successful at teaching the course participants how to use iSpot.


255 New Users registered in September
From 80430 to 80685
Anyone can chart their ‘progress’ using John Linden | User | iSpot Nature and changing the last digit.
Gary, for example, still does know about his tracker or has lost his password
Silvery Blob | Observation | UK and Ireland | iSpot Nature

Here’s the thing. There are many different people who come to iSpot.
Some of them are students paying to do modules with the OU (a Higher Education establishment) which provides this ispot free to us.
I remember being a student; there wasn’t time to do everything that seemed interesting. Have a look at the S295 to see what I mean.

Others could be working in (or retired from) the Biology/consevation sector. They often share their expertise but may have other committments.
Many could come as interested observers or to ask for particular help with an ID.
A welcome to new members on their early posts can be encouraging; some of us have an interest & time to do this, others of us don’t. Some “welcomes”
see newcomers stay while others don’t.
Luisa and Gulvain have given some excellent feedback here so let’s do what we can to help.

I enjoy iSpot; but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

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JoC, I think you are right it is a mixture of issues. The help/introduction could be better but when it comes down to it students have to do many different things and some simply tick the box of using ispot and move on. Students are given detailed instructions of how to use iSpot.

This was also the case on the precursor to iSpot which I ran for many years just for students, some thought it was the best part of the course and others just did the activity and moved on to other parts of the course which they preferred more.

In the past I have tried making sure every student got either a comment or an ID or both and reminded them repeatedly on their own course forum at the OU to check their iSpot tracker (as have course managers) and this has helped to some extent but still students have many other things on their mind.

Suspect any encouraging words they see on iSpot would help them to come back and use the site again.

I agree with a lot of the above. I think that a welcome message to new registrees (if that’s a word) in non in-house language should be the first step. We need to encourage people to try submitting observations and explain why it matters. I don’t think that all the (on-going) technical issues help. Yesterday I was still having trouble uploading quite small photos.
One of the big strengths of iSpot in my view is the non-judgemental attitude that prevails. When you get something wrong, you don’t get messages saying what a stupid mistake you’ve made - and as I make a lot, that is something I really appreciate.
I think that (in the UK at least) more effort could be made to get people to submit their sightings, once agreed, to iRecord (or equivalent) so that they end up on the national database. Then they really are contributing to conservation.
I’d like to see Amadan’s draft email. Perhaps a few of us could give some feedback on it. Perhaps another thread?!

Interesting seeing these words as yesterday one of the ispotters made a slight error and got into a panic. Can just imagine what would have happened if there had not been real people to deal with the issue and instead one of the impenetrable computer only systems. Would have caused loads more stress to that person and I suspect lots of the other users of the system. So being helpful and nice are some of the things humans can do especially when it is a new person joining.

On the submission to national database front, the iSpot data will hopefully get there fairly soon, it was delayed over the summer as I had found a small error in a test submission and it has been taking a long time to track down.

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Thanks, miked.
That’s interesting to hear. Will users have the option for their observations not to be submitted to the national database? I prefer to do my own submissions so that I can keep track of them.

Last time I spoke to NBN I think they were about to improve their methods of finding and dealing with duplicates etc. There is already some iSpot data on NBN which has arrived via many different routes, this is one of the reasons I was checking things over the summer.

Hi Mike,
Currently there are several posts by several students on the S925 course.
It would be useful for those of us welcoming and offering suggestions if we knew what criteria they have been given for their iSpot task(s).

Have asked course manager for a short summary of what they are asked to do.

That is good. I have become increasingly curious.

Louisa - so glad that you are also enjoying iSpot - many of us were newcomers and have learned from iSpot. I don’t think iSpot was ever meant to be for experts only -
BUT it is gratifying when one has commented that the comments are also heeded -
This observation from the SA Community shows what happens when there is interaction following a post

Jane has produced some amazing follow-up. There are ± 800 species of Erica in southern Africa, So finding a name by a non-expert, even if not newcomer, is quite daunting.
@dejayM Hope you’ll see this and the possible ID I have eventually chosen, but not added.
@miked wondering what the AI folk (boffins) would suggest?

First published in Contr. Bolus Herb. 19: 291 (2000)
Any suggestions/comments? Or must I keep searching one-by-one.