Updates to collection and umbrella projects

Today we are releasing a couple updates to the newest types of projects - collection and umbrella projects. We first launched these new project types in April, shortly before the City Nature Challenge, to address a few common feature requests for traditional projects.

The most significant difference of collection and umbrella projects compared to traditional projects is the new types do not require observations to be added to a project, rather they automatically feature observations matching the criteria of the project. One downside of the automatic nature of these projects is there is nothing stored in our database saying which projects an observation belongs to. So, since launch, observation details pages have not shown which collection or umbrella projects include an observation. This has been one of the most requested features since the launch of these projects, and starting today you will now be able to see collection and umbrella projects that include an observation from the observation detail page.

Another difference in collection and umbrella projects is they were only able to be “followed” and not “joined” like traditional projects. There were a few reasons for this - mainly that membership to traditional projects only provides a few benefits, most of which don’t apply to collections and umbrellas. For example there is no observation submission for new projects, so obviously the membership-based submission rule of traditional projects does not apply. New projects also do not allow access to private and obscured coordinates, which traditional projects allow via settings on a users’ membership settings.

The second change we are making is a move from the “following” model to a “membership” model just like traditional projects. Membership to new projects still does not allow for the same features as traditional projects (no rules for observation submission, and no access to private or obscured coordinates). But membership sets us up to enable new features in the future, and makes new projects more consistent with traditional projects. One feature consistent across all projects is members can choose to receive updates from the project or not. Essentially a user can now be a “member” of a new project without “following” the project.

These two changes (observation pages show new projects, and projects have members not just followers) are complementary. Since anyone can create a collection project to include any observations they want, it's possible a user’s observations are included in a project they aren’t involved with. So we are limiting the new projects shown on the observation details page to only the projects the observer has joined. This makes the project shown more relevant to the observer, and prevents the observation details page from being “spammed” by undesirable or mis-configured projects.

These changes came out of user feedback on the new project types released in April. We are continuing to improve projects based on your feedback, and will notify you as changes are released. Thanks for your patience and please let us know if you encounter any bugs (of the software kind).

Posted by pleary pleary, August 22, 2018 23:16



I am very happy about these changes. The one exception is that I would like to see all of the projects that my observations go into, even if I haven't joined the project. This is the main way that I become aware of projects that I might want to join.

Posted by dlbowls over 2 years ago (Flag)

I'm having issues with observations that meet the collection project requirements NOT being included in the project. This is actually easier for me to see now that the projects show on the observation page. For example THIS observation should be in THIS project, but it's not.

(I posted about another project, same issue in the Google Group.)


Sorry... I didn't get the notification on your response to the Google Group post @tiwane. I'll take a look at your reply. THANKS!

Posted by kimberlietx over 2 years ago (Flag)

Good to know that I can now see some of the projects my observation is in.
However I would also like to know if my observation is in other projects I did not join (I do not yet know about).
I understand that "spam" would be a problem. Could this be circumvented by hiding them by default and having a "show all projects" link of option?

Posted by paul_luap over 2 years ago (Flag)

Great update! Thanks for only showing the ones I'm affiliated with/interested in.

Posted by bouteloua over 2 years ago (Flag)

The new "Collection and Umbrella Projects" seem like the Dark Web to me in the sense that I don't know how to find or search for relevant ones. It seems you've got to know about a project (with a specific name or URL) to be able to reach it, join it, or do anything else. This is related to the Search functionality on the basal "projects" page. For example, I can search for "birds" (and get a zillion projects) or "Texas" (and get a zillion) but when I search for "birds Texas" as if they are keywords, I get nothing. The search function for finding projects is too simple and too literal.

Posted by gcwarbler over 2 years ago (Flag)

@gcwarbler, try clicking View All, then the Projects tab, which brings you to:

Posted by bouteloua over 2 years ago (Flag)

@bouteloua, same problem as @gcwarbler. Tried to follow the above suggestion: where is View All?

Posted by catherineklatt over 2 years ago (Flag)

Main header search, type something in, very end of the search results, next to big magnifying glass.

Posted by bouteloua over 2 years ago (Flag)

With these latest changes I am now inclined to convert some of my remaining traditional projects to the new collection project type. However unlike when the new collection projects were initially launched, I can no longer find a link to covert existing traditional projects. Can this conversion service be available once again?

Posted by friel over 2 years ago (Flag)

@friel, they should appear on the project's edit page if the project's rules align with what's possible in Collection projects. Can you share an example of a project where it's not appearing?

Posted by tiwane over 2 years ago (Flag)

@tiwane I figured out what the issue was. I just needed to to toggle off the auto aggregation option on my traditional project, once that was done I got a link to convert to a collection project when editing the project.

Posted by friel over 2 years ago (Flag)

Those are handy updates. Thanks @pleary

I know I'm in the minority here but my main use of projects was, and still is, to guide project members to fill in appropriate observation fields (is a plant flowering or fruiting?, what plant was an insect eating?, what life-stage was an insect?, etc.). I've not found much use for the new Collection Projects yet (that's personally—I've certainly recommended them to other folk).

Are there any plans to add observation fields to Collection Projects? I can see that as a neat way to automatically pull together all flowering phenology observations from an area, or all roadkill observations from an area, or all herbivory observations from an area. Techie people can do that at the moment by manually editing search URL strings but I can see value in having those more accessible in the filtering of Collection Projects.

Posted by jon_sullivan over 2 years ago (Flag)

Loving the new updates and the new project types! I made a new Collection project today (I'm recruiting a bunch of people from tumblr to join iNat--so far so good!: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/inatters-of-tumblr). It really lowers the learning curve having all their observations automatically added to the project. One question: Is there a limit to how many users a group can have? Could I theoretically have observations from hundreds of people in a collection project?

Posted by nanofishology over 2 years ago (Flag)

I have a project that collects observations of dead animals on the roads: I think it cannot be converted to a collection project since it doesn't collect all the observations in the place of my interest but only those of the animals crushed by cars, the coordinates are fundamental because I need to exactly know the point where the animal was killed to understand if something makes that point more dangerous and I have many additional fields. If you phase out traditional projects, I will have to look for another website... :-).
Anyway, I have other projects that can benefit of the collection format.
I love that people can join the projects and add their observations to a specific project because by that way they are more aware of what they are contributing to. and not only passive collectors.

Posted by carlacorazza over 2 years ago (Flag)

Here's a project for which I don't see a way to convert it to a new project. https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/strawberry-creek-watershed
I just became one of the curators and added a new iNat "place" Strawberry Creek Watershed, updating the project. But neither myself nor the administrator could find a way to retroactively turn it into a new project.

Posted by hydrocycler almost 2 years ago (Flag)

@hydrocycler the project admin should be able to convert it to a collection project. As iNaturalist staff member, when I go to Edit project I see the yellow banner at the top of the page.

Posted by tiwane almost 2 years ago (Flag)

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