Workarounds to iSpot problems


The browser is useless. if you for instance have a CIrsium and want to use the useful broswer to find the species how do you get there.

You can navigate from through over 10 difficult choices - waiting for the pages to upload, or you can try some short cuts.

  1. search for Cirsium in the search box: (beware the search is global choose an example from your community) Ideally search for a dictionary collection (with the url containing ~/communities/southern-africa/species-dictionary~) and click that.
  2. if you cannot find a dictionary collection, any observation at a species or genus level will do. Click to open it, and in the ID box, click on the Identification (the scientific name in blue)
  3. In the dictionary taxonomy tag go to the genus you are interested in and on its blue box click it. Check if it has a link to the surfer - a blue box marked “Switch to Cirsium in species browser” (due to some inexplicable reason most of these are disabled: I cannot fathom out why - it worked fine on the test site just before this was made live) . If it has a link click it. If it does not go one level up the taxonomy (but down the screen), in this case to “Cynareae” and click on the link to the surfer.

All this effort. In the old iSpot all you had to do was open the surfer and add “/Cirsium” to the url and the surfer opened at the genus. Took 10 seconds, and could be automatically coded into spreadsheets, word documents and in comments on iSpot as well.
But now you need to know the taxonomy code as it is part of the url.

So to get to the genus, you need the following workaround. Use any of the above to get to the genus. Copy the part of the taxonomy url that includes the dictionary number (taxonomic code) and the name (so in this case: “/129556/cirsium”

Now open the surfer, and in the url box add the above (remember the leading slash)
so: to ADD /129556/cirsium like so

Viola you can see all the species in the genus.

For UK communities this same technique should yield “/NHMSYS0000457339/cirsium” and so

(APOLOGIES: at this moment there is a bug: the surfer is displaying 1 less species than there is - so for lots of species the surfer states “At present there are no examples for this taxon group in your community.”, even though there is (often lots of) data on iSpot for those species. So the surfer looks rather peculiar and bare. Hopefully it will be fixed soon. I will inform you when.)
(There is a second bug, visible in the UK Cirsium. The different species are supposed to show in a carousel from the most recorded species on iSpot to the least recorded. But for some genera the species are listed one below the other: I have not been able to figure out what the bug is, but it is one of several major bugs with the surfer).

A useful tip in the meantime, is use the taxonomy navigation bar on the surfer to go one level up: often the view there is less buggy.
Unfortunately the new iSpot is SO SLOW… Not helped by the level above genus in the UK being the rather large family Asteraceae. For southern Africa we have tribes and subtribes, otherwise the family would take days to upload all the genera. Hopefully it will get faster. Whoops it hung after 10 minutes with less than a third the pictures uploaded. Rather use the southern African community to see how the surfer should work.

To see some cool uses of the surfer, why not look at Gladiolus or Heathers:
or the iconic: Protea Family and Capereed Family (sorry another loading dud)
(and sorry about the bugs - the surfer will be far more impressive when they are fixed).

and I have not yet figured out how to add two taxa together like one could on the old iSpot.
e.g. - a pity it was great for educative purposes: showing similar taxa - for instance, Sedges, Grasses, CapeReeds and Palms, or even urelated taxa: Daisies versus Vygies (Asteraceae vs Mesembryanthoidea)…

I can see what you’re saying Joe, but, speaking as someone new to the whole Ispot thing, is it worth our precious time spending hours scratching our heads over “workarounds”?
People on these forums (they know who they are) have invested effort into kindly providing “the Team” with a list of the major bugs currently in the system; things that need fixing. Until “the Team” - as they are the ones in the position of power, it can only be them - actually do this work and make the system usable again, is there any point in anyone contributing anything further to Ispot?
It is “the Team”, by their apparent failure to engage and communicate with Ispot users, who have created this “bitching” as you characterise it. If they would actually interact then we might all get on far better!

I think sharing ways of getting around current issues is invaluable - a couple of users told me a way of getting round the lack of ‘next’ when viewing observations which has made the difference between a broadly functioning system I can use to help people ID finds and something which was too time consuming to even begin to contemplate using.

No - the present situation is very far from ideal, but we do need to at least try to ensure that a valuable resource, i.e. regular users are able to continue to use iSpot on at least some level and do not drift off elsewhere whilst the ‘ISpot Team’ are trying to fix the issues and I think what @Joe_Fogey is trying to do is several steps in the right direction.


Quicker workaround.

Was informed of some new functionality.


Use the old iSpot dictionary to get into the new dictionary.*** So (replace taxon with whatever you are looking for: genus, family, order, etc. for species and subspecies, replace the space with the ascii for a space; viz. %20): for southern Africa or for UK or for global

iSpot will redirect the query to the current dictionary.


  1. If there is a link from the dictionary to the surfer, click it.
  2. if not, then copy the dictionary-id-number/taxon from the url box
    and join it to the surfer url like so: & dictionary-id-number/taxon

So for instance for south Africa for the genus Camponotus.
call the old dictionary:
click on “Switch to Camponotus in species browser” and there you are.*****

If there is no button (lots of instances) e.g. for the genus Polyrachis
call the old dictionary: (the url is not case sensitive)
then copy “/200870/polyrhachis” and add to the browser url as such
and there you are.*****

*** we need this because the new site needs the dictionary-ID-number which we dont know.
***** Dont forget the bugs interfering with a decent display (i.e. the vertical instead of horizontal display of thumbnails and the miscalculation that shows one less thumbnail than there should be). Hopefully these will be fixed
!!! And hopefully this will soon be redundant. All we need is a search box on the home page of the dictionary and the browser!!

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Sparkyglass, if we spent half the time we spend venting on sharing workarounds with other users it wouldn’t be a bad thing. I’m a bit addicted to iSpot as i suspect many of the regulars here are. It must be off-putting to new people who don’t have the same investment.

New comers dont know what they are missing. They will stay or leave based on their experience (or lack of it). Infrequent users dont know how to use the site anyway.
It is only the regulars who learn to understand and appreciate the site. What I am missing a lot is input and suggestions on improving the site!
It is only under such circumstances as now that people gripe - by then it is too late. We need to be proactive and improve the site all the time.

The workaround we need most now is how to get the site changed. To get a steering committee of interested and regular users (and esp. addicts) to actually manage the site and decide what must be done rather than a bunch of disinterested programmers who find taxa taxing, users usable and data daunting, and think that they site must pamper to their needs to brag with cute - but useless, frustrating and unfathomable - widgets.

So how to we take control of our own site and get it to reach its amazing potential? Is there an influential champion at the OU who is willing to hear and further our cause?

I think that you’re being too hard on the programmers (and that it’s not productive). It certainly looks like there’s a problem with how the relationships between the stakeholders are handled, but I’d suggest that problem is not with the programmers, but with how their objectives are set. Possibly the problem is that iSpot doesn’t have a champion since Professor Silvertown relocated, and no-one senior enough is paying sufficient attention to set clear directions. But without knowledge of what is happening within the OU I don’t think we can produce a firm diagnosis.

But certainly a means of communications between the various stakeholder communities would seem to be helpful.

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No: I think a steering committee of users is required long-term. How to tackle the situation right now is an issue.

Of course we have to attack the programmers: there is no one else to attack! We dont know who decided on the rebuild, on the platform and on the process. We dont know who wrote the specs. We dont know how the programmers were told to go about it and by whom. We dont know who is overseeing the process and what the criteria for “completion” are. There is only one scapegoat: the programmers.
It is not helpful I agree. But if we could only communicate with them, the antagonism would probably evaporate. After all I suspect that we have many ideas to bring to the table, many solutions, many shortcuts, and that working together would make a far superior product. And if we had been involved earlier, many of the problems currently experienced could have been avoided.
It is the not knowing what is happening, not knowing when it will happen, not knowing if it will happen, not knowing if we can help, that is breeding frustration. After years of our work, for free, will we like the result of a few paid professionals who did not take the trouble to find out how we used the site before they decided to redesign it, probably to tight schedules and inaccurate specs?

Was told about some more functionality.


The long and silly urls can be shortened by chopping off the end. The secret is to stop at the number and then add a “/”


PROJECTS can become

DICTIONARY can become
(but curiously this is redirected to the former and only the long url displays).

SURFER can become

Inconsistently this does not apply to USERS:
and adding the name results in a 404-page not found.

I am still fiddling with keys and filters but have had no luck finding short cuts for these yet.

DICTIONARY > OBSERVATIONS > LIST - you cannot get off page 1.

e.g. you want to look at observations of some species (or higher taxon) and you click on the name in the ID box, which opens up the dictionary, (and you curse and press that OBSERVATION tag, because what on earth do you want with the taxonomy tag): and you look a page 1, but what you want is not there and you press NEXT and the page refreshes and after keeping you waiting it opens up - wait for it - page 1 again (and you have to sit and wait for all the same pictures to download all again)

Workaround. Go to :
COMMUNITY > OBSERVATIONS > LIST and set the filter to the taxon that you want. Apply

Simple - sorry, but it loads just as slowly. I dont have a workaround for that.

I wonder when this will be fixed.

When editing projects the text offered has all HTML removed. A possible workround is to maintain a copy on one’s own computer, and cut and paste this into the project. Whether this works depends on how new HTML content is handled.

It doesn’t-as far as I can see. Probably one of the main security fixes.

The user profile still supports (a limited number of) HTML tags.

Amongst the most frustrating things about the new site is the inconsistency between pages and between boxes. What works in one thing does not work in another. What opens on one page does not open on another.

it is as if different people worked on different things and did not bother consulting one another to make sure that the site was uniform and easy to use. The old iSpot was well-designed: this is a crazy hodge-podge.