Tech Tip Tuesday: Using the Forum

Oh, hello winter. This morning I woke up, looked outside, and thought for a brief, hopeful instance that maybe it was actually January. It only took one glance at the mound of toilet paper rolls in my living room (just kidding, it was actually the New York Times in my inbox) to snap back to present.

Hi everyone, I hope you’re all hanging in there. If there’s one phrase I’ve heard repeated over and over during this past week and a half, it’s “weird times”. That seems to be the best description I or anyone else can come up with to summarize what’s going on. They certainly are unprecedented and are actively reshaping the very fabric of our societies. Understandably, we’re all feeling stressed out and constantly on edge. It’s definitely exhausting, so I hope that you’re all finding healthy ways to take care of yourselves.

With all this chaos, fear, and uncertainty, it’s easy to become glued to the news. I’ll admit that at one-point last week I found myself refreshing my email every 5 minutes to see if there were any updates. Now, obviously, this is unhealthy, and I’ve since tried to substitute obsessively checking for updates with stepping outside, even for just a 10 minute walk up my road. On these walks, I try to remain focused on what’s around me, instead of spinning a story about the world’s events. Intentionally sharpening my focus has allowed me to notice so much more than I might otherwise. So far, two of my coolest sightings were a mink running along a streambank and the mating calls of a Barred Owl pair. These small moments remind me that there is still beauty and wonder in the world. You just need to look for it!

This Week on Tech Tip Tuesday

At this time, social distancing is one of the best tools we have for slowing the virus’s spread and “flattening the curve”. I don't know how everyone else is managing the relative isolation, however my impression is that the lack of human interaction is challenging even for those of us who aren’t extroverts. Thankfully, in this technology-dominant age, there are still plenty of ways to connect.

If you’re looking to connect with other naturalists, then iNaturalist is the place to do it! The way many people connect with others on iNaturalist is either through direct messaging or over a species identification. However, there’s one place in particular that’s great for getting feedback on your questions and ideas, and for joining a conversation between multiple people—the iNaturalist forum.

If you were unaware that this platform existed, or have never used it, now is a great time to check it out. I personally use it to find tips and tricks for using iNaturalist better. Besides tutorials, it’s also a great place to find general information about iNaturalist, report bugs, request new features, and discuss different topics in nature, such as weird animal names.

To get started, go to “Community” in the menu bar across the top of your page and click on “Forum”. Once on the forum, you will see a list of categories. On the left, you will see the category name with a description of the types of conversations hosted there. In the middle, you will see the number of topics posted per week. On the right, you will see the three most recent posts under that category. You can also sort posts by “latest” or “top”. When you see a post that interests you, click on it.

Once you click on a post, you can see the original and all the comments other users added below with their own thoughts. If you scroll to the bottom, you will notice that the forum prompts you to sign up. You can read all the comments without signing up, however in order to use the site more fully, you do need to create an account. You can create a brand-new account, or simply connect using your existing iNaturalist account. To sign up, click the “sign up” button at the bottom of the page and follow their instructions. If you want to use your iNaturalist account, click on the option in the right hand side of the dialogue box.

Once you’ve signed up, many more options will appear and be available. Returning to the bottom of the post, you will now notice that you can bookmark the post, share it, flag it, or reply. To add your own comments or questions, click on the “reply” button and type in the dialogue box. Remember, keep your comments and questions appropriate—community rules apply.

One important thing to know about the forum before continuing is that it operates on trust levels. By interacting with certain aspects of the forum in positive ways, you earn trust levels which allow you to access different features. Trust levels essentially provide a cushion for new users learning how the site operates and provides benefits to established users which help them better support the community. To learn more about how trust levels work, check out this article. Ultimately, you likely won’t notice your trust level affecting your ability to participate too much, especially if you’re just using basic forum features, however knowing that this system is in place is important for understanding how the community operates.

For now, those are the important basics to know for understanding the forum. If you’re interested in learning more, I may cover more advanced forum uses in the future.

TTT Task of the Week

This week, I want you to engage with iNaturalist’s online community through the forum. Visit it and read some posts that interest you. I also encourage you to make an account and contribute to discussions.

That’s all for this week! Thank you for helping us map Vermont’s biodiversity, stay safe, and happy observing!

Posted by emilyanderson2 emilyanderson2, March 24, 2020 18:40

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Physical distancing, social connecting!

Posted by tsn 2 months ago (Flag)

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