What would you like added to the site? Tell us and we will see what can be done.

Locality Security

At present hitting "Hide precise location" does not work. This needs to be fixed to protect species threatened by commercial collecting or harvesting.
This is available in the UK version, and will be implemented soon in our version.

See the forum topic: "Sensitive Localities" for more details.

This feature is now implemented

Implemented Sept 2011

This feature required the National List of Sensitive Species maintained by SANBI. This was incorporated into iSpot in Sept 2011 and this feature automatically became operative. Ispot thus complies with the National Guidelines on access to data for Sensitive Species.

More news on site status

Where can we see the site statistics? How much has been done and where?

We will post milestones as the happen in the iSpot News section of the home page. Tell us what additional information you would like us to keep you informed of.

For Admin use only

For Admin use only (you know who you are), you can see these at http://za.ispot.org.uk/reports/custom/userstats

For everybody

The request was for a small box somewhere giving some basic statistics:
* Number of users
* Number of observations
(also by group)
* Number of images

I would suggest that we do

I would suggest that we do not do this till the numbers are impressive.

Notify Experts

Is there a way of notifying the experts that we have a species for identification?
Sometimes we cannot wait too long, or find something exciting. It would be nice to know that the experts are aware that the postings have occurred.

At the moment, no.

At the moment, no.

A suggestion as to how this could be done

Ideally experts should register on the site. Another way would be for taxonomists to register their interests on iSpot and get a weekly update of new entries. For example, I would love to get a weekly update on all new Fabaceae that I could trawl through. Actual this would apply to any member.

As the number of observations increase it will be a nightmare to update and review because as far as I see one has to click the "Who already agrees with this" button to find out if you have agreed or not. Wastes time.

I would also like to be able to search all the pictures that I have not seen without having to trawl through everything.

This has been requested

This has been requested and I hope is in the pipeline. In theory one can select based on:

* order or family or genus or scientific name
* that has (or not) a valid ID linked to the taxonomy
* that has been commented on (or not) by any observer (e.g. me!).

more complicated but still doable:
* that has been identified or "I agreed" (or not) by any observer (e.g. me!).

I believe the option of daily/weekly/or monthly updates based on such filters is being developed.
There is certainly a huge need for it!

request by rudivs

The Changes feature of My Spot is great, but I would like to receive an email when someone comments on one of my observations (rather than having to periodically check). This would also be useful for forum posts (where it's easy to forget that you've posted something). Is this possible?
See http://za.ispot.org.uk/node/132539#comment-37353 for more.

Tag users

I'd like to see this functionality also. I imagine it working something like Facebook tagging, where you would 'add' iSpot users to a particular sighting. These might be known experts or just someone you'd like to share the observation with. Users could be added by the person who adds the observation or by moderators.

Search by Family or Subgroup

Is there a way to search for records by taxonomic groups?
Such as Antelope (Tribe Antilopini), or Peas (Family Fabaceae), or Scarabs (SuperFamily Scarabaeoidae), or Grasshoppers (Order Orthoptera).
Obviously searching by genus will work, but often one wants several genera and then the formal classification system is the way to go. But does it work on iSpot?

doing this will depend upon

doing this will depend upon having a good species dictionary that has all that taxonomic info in it for SA species. We have it for the UK, but do not use it fully yet. If you can develop an all-species dictionary for SA with the right fields in it, then you can have your wish (eventually!).

Species dictionary

This is doable for plants, and possibly vertebrates. But insects are especially problematic. Will try and have a full species dictionary ready by end June.
What fields are needed?

Species dictionary update

We now have a species dictionary for all classes and orders and many families of lifeforms for southern Africa. We need to tie these to genus though, which I hope we can do from official lists of species for the region. All these groups also have common names.

Next step is to put in the synonyms and common names to species. This is doable for plants, but at this stage I dont know that it is possible apart from vertebrates and a few other groups (butterflies, dragonfiles, etc.). At this stage most of our invertebrates are "unknown" except to a few experts. The aim of iSpot is to change this!

What a heroic task!

What a heroic task!

Dictionary now implemented

The dictionary has been implemented. (Sept 2011)

Some 77 000 scientific names have been compiled for the Dictionary, including most vertebrates and plants. All national "sensitive" species (those needing localities to be filtered to prevent their destruction) are included. This is phase 1 - fungi and more common invertebrates and Common Names will follow in the future.

The dictionary is now loaded onto iSpot. For more on how it works see: Using the Species Dictionary

Locality Certainty

A failing with iSpot at present is that it treats localities as all the same. Just like species identifications are not all perfect, so too locality details.

What is needed is a "certainty" box for locality.
* I know exactly where it was
* This is about where it was
* It was somewhere near here, but I am not certain where.

Although this wont have the same implications as for species certainties, it will allow a more precise determination of localities.

'Wish' noted.

'Wish' noted.

Search by locality or map

We also need a search for a locality (e.g. Tokai, Agulhas National Park, Harkerville). At pesent the 'search' function only looks at the notes fields, and not the locality names. It would be nice to have this facility, but of course it will only work for those records with proper localities (and not those just tied to street addresses or not including nature reserve names).

One way around this naming problem is a search of locality determined by selecting an area on a map. For instance, using Googlemaps to draw a square and then obtaining all records from that square (except sensitive species, unless the square is big enough). That would be awesome. Then all we need is records from such squares: come on guys ....

Search results to display in dynamic tabs

After a search the "Content" tab may yield no hits, but it is not obvious if the other tabs have yielded hits. Some way of showing which tabs have hits needs to be explored: possibly by having tabs with hits displayed on top.

Alternatively, an interim solution is to put the "Identifications" tab on top, as most people will search this most often.

See: http://za.ispot.org.uk/node/126835

Good idea.

Good idea.

"Current Feature: Help with confirming observations"

On the iSpot Home page there are currently two strips of images titled "Lateset Observations" and "Current Feature: Help with confirming observations". It would be useful if the images with uncertain identities can be displayed in the "Help with confirming observations" strip, and that "experts" can be encouraged to view those images and help identify uncertain observations, and images with confirmed identifications can be viewed under the "Latest Observations" banner.

But that is how it works!

The upper Carousel displays the latest submitted records.
The lower Carousel displays observations that are still unresolved after a certain time. Unfortunately, if you edit your observation after someone has positively agreed, it seems to reset to "unidentified", until someone else agrees. This is why some of your observations have unexpectedly appeared on the lower Carousel.
If anyone agrees with or posts a new identification for any of your observations, it will appear in your MySpot>changes. If you want to be informed of identifications of species that you have not "agreed" with, then add them to your favourites.
At this stage there are not enough observations to justify getting many experts involved, although we have alerted experts to - and obtained identifications of - some groups, such as spiders.
However, at this stage it is not easy to flag records. When the species dictionary is loaded, we can easily search for a specific group (e.g. Bottleflies, Darkling Beetles, Harpactorinae, Antilopini, etc.), which will make it much more convenient for experts to home in on their specialities.


Obviously the "Current feature: help with confirming observations" Carousel is not working quite like it should! Will ask the boffs why.


That will help - it'll be good to be able to go directly to the uncertain identifications - this also adds to the fun part of iSpot in challenging your own ability to identify something

Tony is right about this,

Tony is right about this, with the additional complication that iSpot uses reputation to determine whether a determination is a 'likely ID'. The 2nd carousel picks out observations that lack this.

This works well when there are sufficient experts for a group, but if there is a group with no expert (or no active expert), what you know to be good determinations will not attract a high enough reputation score via agreements (experts' agreements carry the greatest weight) for iSpot to tag a name as a 'likely id'. It will then show up in the 2nd carousel when it really doesn't belong there.

The solution to this problem for your site is to designate (more?) experts for the groups that currently lack them. You will know which these are.

We now seem to have enough experts ...

We now seem to have enough knowledgeable people and experts for the lower carousel to work. It will take a while though for the backlog to be worked through: the early data were identified by the really keen people when they were novices and their identifications did not count much, and before many properly understood about using the "I agree" button.
Currently many people seem to work with the last 30 species that are shown in the carousels and don't seem to visit the entire database.

Reportback on system updates

It would be nice as one of the administrators to know what updates have been done (and why) via some blog or report. It just helps to know what great new features are available and for communicating these to users.

While at it, why not also a list of what is being worked on, and what is being contemplated for future consideration, and what other administrators are wishing for? Or is this a step too far?

I would imagine that a report like this already exists as part of the system workflow. So it might just be a matter of access to this or part of it?

Hope to give you access to

Hope to give you access to this shortly, Tony.


Implemented Sept 2011.

hiding localities

This is still not working. You can still go to the locality that you entered. Had to be fixed before launch

will be fixed by launch!

It will be fixed before launching. It depends on the dictionary, which is only completed now. Will take a week or two to fix bugs.

Remember though that you may see you own localities even with the filter on.

Implemented Sept 2011

Sensitive localites now hidden.

With the loading of the dictionary in September 2011 this feature now works. Hidden localities are displayed with a box 10kmX10km. Detailed data are shown as iSpot flags.

Picture compression

Can we add a tool that compresses pictures that are loaded? Concerned that we might run out of space in the future if every user is loading high res pics.

A good idea, for the wrong reason

This is a brilliant idea because it will speed up uploading times. Will find out more.

But dont forget that *.jpeg files are already heavily compressed (just look at a *.bmp or *.raw version of the same file).

Running out of space is not so much of an issue: electronic storage is increasing so fast that we will have a hard time keeping up. South Africans will have to submit thousands of observations per day before this is a major issue. Are we up to the challenge?

jpegs cannot be compressed

*.jpegs cannot be compressed further. Sorry.
If your files are taking a long time to send try:
* cropping the pictures down to the subject, to remove unneeded background.
* making the pictures a smaller size by reducing the image quality (not recommended).
* considering a faster connection.

Please don't compress/shrink.... you can't UN-SHRINK

and the image loses it's ID value for someone wanting to compare their sighting.
I too was concerned about the space, as well as back-up of the system.
The value of having high-resolution images is being able to check things like "hairs on stems" as Tony did recently...and my search for translucent dots.
* I have found that if one opens the image in Microsoft PAINT and then clicks SAVE the image size in MB is reduced - I'm not sure about the quality. Any ideas?
* Cropping as an option. Maybe one could shrink the overall view - available in my version of PAINT, and then crop the image to present a "close-up" of the identifying features.

Flagging observations

How do we flag sensitive collections. Is there a way of using red list to flag species that are threatened so that the precise locality can be hidden.

Sensitive Species

There are two ways that localities can be hidden.

1. All species on the National Sensitive List will automatically be hidden. These are all species that are seriously threatened by collecting (by collectors, or for medicine and charms).

2. You can choose to hide your own record if you think it is sensitive. This is usually unnecessary and the only time a user should hide a locality is if they dont want people to visit their garden or holiday cottage. Many people get paranoid about locality data, but in fact any data troller can easily get detailed locality data from publications, journals, herbarium data, and lots of other sources.
The truth is that if a species really needs protection of its locality (and habitat) data, "hiding" your record wont help at all - you need to inform the red list committee of the threat and the species dire status and get the species on the "sensitive list."

How does iSpot hide sensitive species's localities?
Data are summarized to the nearest 0.1 degree - i.e. only plotted on a 11km X 11 km grid using the top left hand point of the 10th degree square. If you need detailed localities for a legitimate purpose you can make a request to SANBI.

Please see FAQ: Locality safety?

Sensitive Species are now automatically hidden

Implemented Sept 2011.
Sensitive Species are now automatically hidden with the tolerance required (10kmX10km) by iSpot based on the Sensitive Species list maintained by SANBI for access to all its data holdings.

Multiple collections

We need to be able to load more than one species observation per site. It is very time consuming to re enter all the locality information

This is very simple.

Feature already exists

If you are clever about your locality names, you can effectively eliminate duplication of mapwork.

Say you have a locality on top of Table Mountain where you recorded 10 observations. Do your mapwork, save the map and give the locality a unique name: say "Table Mountain, Skeleton Gorge summit east Woodhead reservoir" (you can put other information like "Back Table section of Table Mountain National Park, on Jan Smuts track to Aquaduct" under the details section and its will be saved with the map locality). On all subsequent observations all you need to do is type "Ta" and iSpot will load all your old locations starting with 'Ta" in the autocomplete menu: click on the correct locality and all the infomation (the mapwork, the coordinate, the further details) will all automatically be loaded.

Thus you can in 3-4 keystrokes do all your mapwork for subsequent records.

Be careful never to give two localities the same name, or to confuse your old localities, as then one always seems to get the "other" locality.

It also means that your locality name must be adequate: "Table Mountain" will not do as you wont know if it is for Plattekloof, the Aquaduct, Maclears Beacon or whereever. Plan your names cleverly - e.g. so that Table Mountain localities group together (simple start them with "Table Mountain"; ditto Silvermine, Cape Point and Red Hill, etc.). That way you can reuse your favourite localities for years.

Of course, if your camera or cell phone has GPS, then your locality data will be automatically done for you by iSpot when you load the picture.

For more on locations see

For more on locations see http://ispot.org.za/locality101

No need to re-enter locality information

The first time you enter locality information, using the map you must give that locality a specific name. Next observation you enter your name for the locality without using the map, and the autocomplete feature should kick in. You then are given the choice to retain only the name, or all the locality information. I have been using this for the Bioblitz

Search to include Taxonomy

Please put a new tab in the “Search” results for [taxonomy].

• So that someone can Search ‘Afrotheria’ and access it via the taxonomy. This will make the taxonomy searchable, which it is not at present.

Implemented 30 September 2011.

Implemented 30 September 2011.
Works a treat!

But, of course, it can only find species that are identified. This means that if you have an observation that might be a Scarab Beetle, it is better to label it as a Scarabidae (It might be this) than to not identify it at all. Remember a wrong ID may be picked up and fixed, but an unidentified specimen will not come to the attention of any visiting expert using a taxonomic search.

Works great, but...

I think this feature (great as it is already), would be exponentially improved with two additions:

1) The results should be grouped by the next child level in taxonomy. So if the search is for Fabales, the results should be Fabaceae (x), Polygalaceae(x), Quillajaceae(x), Surianaceae (x) (where x>0). If the search is for Indigofera, then all recorded taxa should be listed.

2) Each result should have a carousel of matching observations to the right of it. So if the search was for Fabales, then a selection of Fabaceae pictures should appear next to that result, a selection of Polygalaceae should appear there, etc.

By clicking on each child link, you would then refine the search, so that with each click you progressively get nearer to what you are looking for. If it worked in this way, then iSpot would be much more valuable to me as an identification tool.

Most of the functionality is already available on the site, it's just a question of packaging it (which is not to suggest that it is trivial).


I will copy you in on some of my ideas: very similar.

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