AlanS's picture

6 different people imagine a fungus [observation photo editing]

I draw your attention to observation:

One of iSpot's regular and competent members has identified the photograph as Ganoderma, a large and usually very obvious brown fungus (though the individual species are tricky). Five agreements have been added (plus two more separate, redundant revisions by the original poster).

Yet there is no Ganoderma, or any other macrofungus in the photograph! [at least not at 2.00am, Saturday 10th September].

How could six people, with quite a lot of reputation between them, all make such a mistake?

Were they all at the same and evidently rather alcoholic party? Or is there a completely invisible species in the genus?

Or, has the photograph been removed? This seems the most likely explanation.

A revision, once added, cannot be removed. This is sensible and right, embarrassing as it may be at times (though some limited facility to edit typos would be nice). But evidently, the photo that is the subject of the ID can be removed or changed! This is at best a disservice to those who provide IDs, and could constitute serious misrepresentation of their abilities.

I am a little uneasy about any editing to an observation once others have contributed to it, but removing or changing photographs after someone else has added a revision or comment should not be possible. I also suggest that if a further photo is added, as is sometimes useful, it should be clearly date-stamped to show it was not part of the original observation and may postdate IDs or other contributions.




miked's picture

Agree this is very strange

Agree this is very strange and indeed the most likely explanation is that the photo has been changed by the original author. Hopefully they will check back and see what has happened. So far this seems to be an extremely rare event.
Ideally we would keep the ability to edit some aspects of observations including changing the images once they have been uploaded. I have done this myself on more than one occasion after I realised I had uploaded the wrong image by mistake but in those cases it was done quickly before there was any chance for other people to comment.

Tony Rebelo's picture

When is an observation no longer yours ....

I agree with the above sentiments. An observation should not be editable the moment someone has added a comment or identification. Otherwise, it is possible to add a different species to the photo, or change the description, both of which are used by others to make an identification or comments. After such a change all these comments are inappropriate, wrong and potentially compromizing.
There is also a statement that at any time one can remove one's observation. This is not ethical once other people have commented on it: it is no longer purely yours to remove: all the others who have contributed are now also stakeholders in the observation, and the delete option should be disabled.
There is no issue with adding pictures, or adding comments. Its only deleting/replacing that is an issue. One cannot delete an identification, but one can delete the information on what that identification was based on: that cannot be logical!

Ray Turner's picture


Following on from another conversation I have just found out that you can delete an observation once agreed/commented on. I’m sure this has changed since I first started using iSpot, I seem to remember it even being written in the T&Cs at one point.

Assuming my memory is not failing me, which is always possible, when was this changed and why?

I too think it is not ethical to be able to do this. Apart from anything else if we all went away and deleted our observations at will there would not be an iSpot. How can iSpot be a resource for county recorders etc when they cannot rely on the permanency of a record let alone feed into mapping databases?



DavidHowdon's picture

Recorders and mapping

I'm not sure that a resource for county recorders was ever the intention of iSpot - at least not in the sense of something that directly provides records.

I've always seen it as being about helping one another with identification problems.

I think there would be a reluctance from a lot of users to make use of it if they had to permanently sign over their intellectual property in order to post an image. I could easily be wrong but I can see why the iSpot team (needing a critical density of users) decided not to take the risk.

David Howdon

BDeed's picture


I think an interesting and arising issue has been picked up here...

My use of iSpot has always been as an identification and community engagement resource. However, in order to entice experts and add value to engagement many schemes, societies and organisations have increasingly pushed to see information here 'captured' (myself included).

It seems the future of iSpot may be more in this direction. I for one have come to think of this as a bit of a shame. I will have to stop using iSpot and will be unable to recommend it to volunteers i work with who already provide information. As a community based resource it is excellent, for getting people into sharing their wildife sightings and learning about identifying them. With the added bonus of putting those people in touch with NSS experts, groups and vc recorders i can think of nothing better.

There is of course the point that 'at least that information is captured' but for me i would prefer my observation records weren't duplicated. I would also prefer my observation weren't taken as data without option.

For me iSpot is, and should remain, a tool for engagement, participation and awareness raising. Not a means of 'Online Biological Recording'. Controversial? probably.. Who's next for the soapbox?

gardener's picture

"... for me I would prefer my

Quote: "... for me I would prefer my observation records weren't duplicated. I would also prefer my observation weren't taken as data without option.
For me iSpot is, and should remain, a tool for engagement, participation and awareness raising. Not a means of 'Online Biological Recording'." End quote.

So glad someone agrees with my feelings on this issue - though I'm surprised there doesn't seem to have been any information from members of the iSpot as regards this

BDeed's picture


I have gone and got my rant on and feel this is due its own thread. Staff may then spot it and then be able to express an opinion! These types of discussions should never become one sided!

See: "The future direction of iSpot!"

miked's picture

I am not entirely sure what

I am not entirely sure what you are saying here. Records from ispot are starting to be passed to recording schemes who can always check back to the original observation on ispot.

AlanS's picture

or not ...

"Records from ispot are starting to be passed to recording schemes who can always check back to the original observation on ispot."

Really? Isn't this the point of my original post? The actual example I cited is a particularly remarkable one, but it illustrates the serious possibility we have here.

Member X posts an observation. Competent iSpot members with acknowledged expertise provide an identification or agreements. Member X decides he has a better photograph, removes the original and replaces it. Only it is not actually the same species.

Then organiser of the recording scheme checks back and finds that these expert identifications are apparently wrong. Organiser rejects the record but also concludes that the particular "experts" are not so expert after all.

In a herbarium, an individual sheet bearing a dried, pressed plant attracts determination slips (extra labels stuck on) from experts who have examined it. It may be an important voucher. The original collector does not then come along, remove the specimen from the sheet and replace it with another!

But on iSpot they can. The need is simple, once an identification has been made, it should not be possible to remove photographs from the observation. (If the original photographs prove to be a mixture, then selections can be reposted as a new observation.)

Incidentally, this is posted in the "Report Problems" forum, and it is 1 year and 34 weeks since I started the thread. While there have been responses from MikeD, no one from iSpot site management has yet had the courtesy to reply.

Alan S

John Bratton's picture

I agree. If i-Spot has

I agree. If i-Spot has ambitions to make a serious contribution to biological recording, it has to adopt the rules of biological recording.

John Bratton

miked's picture

I see, Alan/John. This issue

I see, Alan/John. This issue of not being able to change an observation once it has an identification has been debated in the team on more than one occasion since the beginning of ispot and sounds as though it needs to be discussed again. There are several different issues, one is the biological record rules as you have pointed out but there are also the issues about people being allowed to edit or remove their observations. In the early days it was felt that freedom in these latter aspects were more important but the situation may have changed now.

DavidHowdon's picture


You could lock everything in the entry (such as the photo uploaded) but still allow the deletion of the entire entry which would still allow people full control over their content whilst preserving the integrity of any record that gets submitted.

I think the logic of allowing people to delete their stuff remains. To my mind iSpot's primary purpose remains encouraging people to start learning how to ID, and making sure people feel comfortable about their intellectual property is a good part of that.

David Howdon

Tony Rebelo's picture

What are the rules of

What are the rules of "biological recording"?

iSpot ZA was started expressedly as a biological recording scheme with the ID and education as secondary spinoffs (although admittedly the reputation and Likely_ID system were key factors in the decision to go with iSpot). In fact, we are selling iSpot as a place to put a permanent record of an observation or event within the national database.

The locality was identified as a weakness: the accuracy of the centroid and the uncertainty about it were both issues of concern, although we were assured that iSpot did record uncertainty as the area on the map at time of capture: however, interpreting this is problematic (especially for GPS data time interpolated for photographs: which may go to dozens of "significant" figures), as is the validation of the locality. In ZA it is especially bad as the Googlemaps may snap to a street address over 100km away: this also overwrites any address entered by the user. However, more and more cellphones and cameras now have GPS. None of the locality accuracy is documented anywhere, nor are there any instructions to users on how to record accuracy. This is a major issue for recording: there is nothing wrong with vaguely located data, but the resolution should be explicit.

The deletion or replacement of photos should not be allowed. There is even the issue of an observation becoming "common property" once others have contributed to it and the ethics of then deleting it. From the viewpoint of biological recording this is an abomination, although allowance should be made for enthusiastic users who start off and then realize that they would rather not do postings on iSpot: but the window to make these realizations should not be more than a month.

lavateraguy's picture

iSpot and biological recording

In the case of plants the experts here are mostly VC recorders, so perhaps that problem is not so pressing as it might be.

I think that Graeme has picked up some of my observations from iSpot, but he knows who I am.

But there are several problems with using iSpot for recording.

1) status of observations - that is are plants wild or cultivated (or one of the intermediate statuses)?

2) lack of provenance - which means that there could be errors in location such as finger trouble with iSpot, or misrembering where a photograph, or imprecise records (if I was to go back to 10 year old photographs I would have some observations with rather imprecise locations - that is with uncertainties of several miles*), or even deliberate hoaxes.

*Now I'm using a GPS to record the location of photographs I mostly have stuff recorded to within 10 meters.