Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada

Frass and Editors

Bug Guide needs more editorial control over its editors use of the "Frass" options and other actions. Do the editors take time to read the notes section?! I think NOT. Why should anyone do more than look at the photo and the insect name (this is sarcasm). The just might be more to the picture. Also, some editors have lumped together photos of different individual insects; they happened to be the same species but had very different appearances. Is there any editorial control here?!

By the way...
I just went back and looked at your recent submissions. I went through 10 pages of images and found only three frassed images, representing 2 specimens total. So it doesn't seem to be a systemic problem with your personal images. Honestly a lot of your images look great to me!

One of your frassed pics I can understand. The editor said the image wasn't necessary but I can maybe explain why. It's a blurry pic of Anthrenus scrophulariae, a species with a known nearly-cosmopolitan distribution. The editor probably thought because 1) the image was kinda dark and blurry, 2) the beetle is common, and 3) it's commonly photographed, that it probably was not needed for the Guide. Honestly I probably would have frassed this pic too, and for those reasons I mentioned.

The other two frassed pics were the same specimen of a fly. I don't know why they were frassed, the editor did not indicate why. Personally I think they looked fine, but maybe the editor saw something I didn't (since flies are not my specialty).

I'm getting a bit
perturbed about this topic. I have been quite sick the last two months and have been off-line, and, after slogging through past e-mails that have piled up, I took a quick look here and found the FRASS controversy once again at the top of the list. Frankly, I don't personally understand why anyone would get hyper about editing here. Those who fancy themselves the new Ansel Adams should try working with picture editors or art directors of magazines or newspapers, or, even worse, shoot wedding photography. I have had people literally throw my work out of the office or in my face when it didn't come up to snuff in their eyes. And the language coming out of the mouths of bridezillas unhappy with how they look, Oy vey!!! I have been seriously into photography for the past 45+ years and I still come up with crappy images, too. Mostly, I only submit them to get some idea of what I shot and am only too glad to have it frassed. I just don't get the idea of saving sub-par images, especially of fairly common species already overloading the website. I point to my series of Brachycertus sp. wasp as an example of why some crappy images are kept. Somewhat blurry, not posed very well, etc., nevertheless they were kept since they were the only example extant otherwise even I would have frassed them myself and still will do so when and if another example for this state and month is submitted. Personally, I don't need explaining why my image is frassed. It simply didn't meet the criteria for the Guide and that is that. Grow up and realize that the purpose of the Guide's imagery is to impart clear and visible visual information about a fascinating subject not to stroke someone's vanity. End of rant. (Error: the wasp I was pointing out is Brachycytrus sp., sorry for confusion)

Lose-Lose proposition
What you propose is lose-lose. BG loses potentially valuable future submissions that will not be made since some snowflake melted when his image was frassed. The snowflake loses because his ego is deflated. I suggest reading the Home tab. The mission of BG is about more than to "impart clear and visible visual information". It is about Natural History too. That mission is (for now) in conflict with the more limited one you recognize due to inadequate data management. With categories expanded beyond "representative" to include "data value only" and "other", and image tab filtering thereof, you need never be distracted by the fact that there are many reports of cockroaches in New York. This is not National Geographic. All the submissions currently on BG can fit on a single hard disk. As for bandwidth, few will click "data" and "other" filter boxes. Those posts will be primarily of use as compiled for the Data tab. There is a truism in computer science that if storage space were free, nothing would ever be deleted. We are close enough to that now in terms for BG's purposes.

Thanks, that's an important point
"BG loses potentially valuable future submissions that will not be made since some snowflake melted when his image was frassed." I'm so glad you said this, although referring to beginners as snowflakes with fragile egos is unfortunate. I was already thinking the same thing, and maybe the people in charge will listen to you if not to me.

Most of my earliest submissions are substandard, on the cusp of terrible. I had an entry-level camera and little experience using it; many shots were too blurry; I didn't know what views were needed (dorsal, etc.) for each creature; I was so new to postprocessing that I couldn't even reduce an image to 560 px. Nevertheless, those early submissions were treated respectfully by BG editors. I kept on and learned and got better. I've contributed several life-cycle series, the first live images of some species on the Web, and several images that have since appeared in databases and guidebooks. These would have been lost to BG–and to the compilers of databases and guidebooks–had my first attempts been IDed and immediately sent to the trash pile (whatever its name) with no explanation.

Many images have no value to BG. I understand that. People who take an interest in doing citizen science, however, do have value. I believe it's unwise to discourage them.

I have no problem with frassing of my photos
Just wanted to add my comments to this ongoing discussion. I have never had any problem with anyone frassing my photos if they are of no use to the guide. I'll even frass my own if after posting them it seems not possible to have the insect identified because of an unclear photo, etc. And...I have no problem with the word "frass".

I like you Jon :-)

Frass Facetiousness
Me again! I wish the editors would realize the effort that went into some of the photos. And, often times we often really tried to identify the bug ourselves. And the response is: "frass." I hope you don't mind if our response is: frasser, frass-hole, frass-head, frass for brains. It's all frass and giggles, until your photo is frassed!

Just one more comment. I hope I didn't offend anyone with my list of F-words. Humor was my aim here. I would never say such things! Also, sometimes an editor will add a kind word or additional information. This always is greatly appreciated.

I am a frass-hole and proud of it...
and I have personally used that term for years now! haha.

I am here to make BG a better reference for everyone, and if that means frassing some substandard images so be it. My pics have been frassed and I've never complained. Heck, I have gone back and frassed some of my earlier submissions when better images of the same organisms get uploaded!

You can't please everyone all the time. No matter how you frass or reclassify images, or you can change the name 'Frass' to 'Backlog' or the 'Recycle Bin' or 'Happy Unicorns and Rainbows' and someone will get offended, start a forum topic, and we'll be back hearing these same arguments beat to death ad nauseum.

The fact that this topic
has been debated so many times before goes to show that it is a sensitive one and that it should be discussed. Although true that "You can't please everyone all the time.", it doesn't mean that we shouldn't strive to be more inclusive and respectful of others. Systems can always be improved upon and not one person holds the ultimate truth. In my opinion, collaboration and respect should be cornerstones of the BugGuide building.

I agree 100%
but I was just pointing out, this issue is probably never going to go away.
I have tried my best to explain more why I frass an image when I do, to help the submitter understand why and maybe strive to improve. But sometimes time doesn't allow me to, esp with the sheer volume of images I ID on a regular basis.

Agree, it won't go away
. . . but doesn't frassing an image take more time than not frassing it?

Wait for BG2
Sorry for getting carried away. I was on a roll. As understand things, if your submissions are identifiable to species (or a higher level for problematic taxa like mites) and have good locality and collection date data, they may be returned from Frass when BG2 comes out. Other natural history data (like host plant and such) is valuable too. They can be appropriately ranked then for its data value and kept separable from the images most useful for identification purposes. Frass is not being deleted until then.

I propose that BugGuide 2.0 frass the name FRASS entirely ...
and instead move those questionable posts to the nicer named folder BACKLOG (subtitled "For Future Expert Resolution"). While in Backlog nothing is permanently deleted without the consent of the submitter. Our BugGuide leader has assured us in the past that available memory space is almost limitless. This way an expert could communicate the reasons for "backlogging" a posted image rather using the emotional term "frassing". I expect that over time some startling and useful discoveries will be made by experts/researchers venturing into the land of "Backlog".

Retire Frass tab entirely
There is no reason to require stonefly experts have to find hidden treasures in a general purpose "Backlog", which will eventually include hundreds of thousands of entries. If nothing is being deleted, then all you need to do is to rank it accordingly. As long as it is identifiable as an arthropod, it can be placed in the lowest level taxon that it can be identified as. Three ranks can be:

Guide - Helpful for identification
Data - contains locality, date, or natural history remarks
Other - Not recognized as being of Guide or Data value

"Other" can even include out-of-range insects, but kept at a level that BG already includes. If it is not even identifiable as an arthropod, then "Other" it can made a category of its own at the highest level alongside other "No Taxon" categories like "Glossary". Maybe that one can have a time limit. It will eventually include things like cats playing the piano and plastic spiders.

I hope your good proposals
are noticed by the developers of BugGuide 2.0.

I like Edward's proposals too
I can just see it being cumbersome if you have BG's vast taxonomic breakdowns for each of these three categories. Otherwise, you'd have to have some king of filter in place to only select what you want to see.

Just a minor tweak needed
John VanDyk said there would be a ranking system to separate guide worthy vs. data value only posts. Only others would be frassed. The simplest way to implement this within the current data structure would be to include these ranks in the check boxes on the edit form. Currently, there are boxes for Representative, Male, Female, Adult, and Immature. "Representative" would be equivalent to what I called "Guide". A box for "Data value only" might be added. It could be the default if locality and date have been entered on the form. I suggest the option of manually checking it anyway if the Remarks contains such information, or other valuable data such as host, associates, or other natural history information is included. It just won't be represented in the Data tab. I suggested here that a third category of "Other" be added and Frass be replaced with a no-taxon "Other" category at the highest level. The latter would not rate an entire tab since it would rarely be used. It would be a place for things like tiny specks picked off the skin of people suffering from delusional parasitosis. They only visit a few times a year. I would also not associate the categories with numerical "Ranks" of 1 and 2 [and 3] since this adds no information and suggests relative importance. It will just cause snowflakes to melt (sorry, I couldn't resist) if they get a low rank.

Now to be useful, these same boxes should appear at the top of the Image tab. If you check only the "Representative" box, for example, you will only have to look at guide-worth images. Frass-holes (I could have resisted, but didn't) would change from moving things to Frass to deselecting (or just not selecting) the "Representative" box. That's fewer mouse clicks. It's beyond me why the existing category boxes aren't already available to filter the images shown. It would be helpful to only have to look through male fairyfly images, for example, since they are most important for ID.

I bet that BugGuide 2.0
has been more anticipated, by its users, than the most desirable newest cell phone or fanciest of vehicles. Your discussion only whets our appetite. My most frustrating difficulty while using BugGuide is not being able to see all the needed taxa as an image gallery at once. In other words, it is not currently possible to see representative images of all moth families (for instance), first I need to guess which superfamily is likely to contain the moth I need to identify. Then I have to figure out the subfamily, tribe, genus, and subgenus. If at any point, I chose the wrong branch, I am forced to go back and explore all other possible turns. Very time-consuming. It would be so much simpler if a "view all" button could be clicked, similar to the one already at the bottom of the "taxonomy" pages.

Frass and Editors
Sorry I get so frustrated. But, is it too much to ask that the editors read the notes section? Sometimes the main point is information in the notes! For example, in the case at hand, the insect was the result of a rearing experiment; does that not add useful information? And, I wish Bug Guide would attempt to be more encouraging in its tone. I still think that "frass" is an unfortunate choice of words. "Frass" is crass!

In regards to "frassing"
I am OK with the status quo. However, after seeing time and time again that this topic is a sore point for many contributors, I have concluded that the act of moving somebody's work/contribution to the trash bin and labeling "frass" is adding insult to injury. Maybe the tab titled "frass" needs "rephrasing"...

Image Heaven?
"Frass" has been used here so long as a technical term that its dictionary meaning rarely enters the thoughts of editors when they frass something. There is no insult intended. Nonetheless, when some take offense to a term due to its etymological origins, one is often obliged to replace it with something more sensitive and non-judgmental sounding. The new term usually has many more syllables and can even be an entire phrase, like "handicapped" (from cap-in-hand, as with a beggar) being replaced with "societally challenged". How about "Image Heaven"?

F.R.A.S.S. =
For Reasonable And Sensible Sacrifice.

Doublespeak usually works
There's no better way to preempt offense triggered by a term than to replace it with one that expressly denies the implication. How about "Finely Regarded Arthropod Submission Sendoff"?

Yes, your euphemistic acronym is more postive
than something like "Failing Respectable Arthropod Submission Standard" or "Failing Reasonable Arthropod Submission Standard".

We are to blame!
Yes, your examples are judgmental, blaming the contributor. We must take full responsibility for not having AI controlled 3-D point spread function deconvolution algorithms to digitally transform images to what society deems to be "in focus" for differently composed photographs. Making such reasonable accommodations to the photographically challenged is only fair after years of oppression by discriminatory frassing. I'm surprised no one has been thrown in jail for not even implementing automatic light balancing. I suggest, "Failed Regrettably Assessing Submission Significance".

it has nothing to do with the verbeage
people are getting upset because their images are getting moved to a place where they will eventually be purged or deleted. You can use the softest and most politically-correct term you want, and you are still going to have complaints.

so let’s give every photo a gold star, whether it’s a cat playing a piano or a blurry image of a plastic spider, everyone wins and is perfecty overjoyed with the results.

Meant as humor
to lighten up.

For Reasonable And Sensible Sacrifice
Is the best idea I've heard so far. Although it is a long name, renaming the "frass" tab this way might not hurt people's feelings as much. It communicates the reason for deleting images while conveying respect. Then the acronym would become an inside joke. Fabulous!

You might be right
But do you think Jerry McCormick is not referring to the term "frass" when he writes: "I wish Bug Guide would attempt to be more encouraging in its tone. I still think that "frass" is an unfortunate choice of words. "Frass" is crass!"?
I agree with you that people will not be thrilled when their contributions are moved to the rubbish bin, but couldn't we call those images subpar or less-than-extraordinary? :-)

Encouraging tone
If it were possible to simultaneously comment and move images, I know I for one would be more likely to leave a kind explanatory comment when frassing things, and when moving images in general. Hopefully that's on the radar for "BG 2.0" planning.

We move the images then click on 'edit your comment'
to leave a comment. Not quite as handy as simultaneous, but not too much trouble

Did you attempt to contact...
...the editor responsible for the frassing? Most have email addresses on their profile pages--and those who don't can often be reached by commenting on the image(s) in question. As the Balabans noted, we try to do our best, but we're faced with a daunting number of images and have only a limited amount of time. Inevitably, mistakes will be made. The big questions (e.g., Guide vs Data) are going to be with us for some time; however, specific issues can often be fixed in short order by simply reaching out to the editor involved.

Do contact the editor if you have a question about why your photo was moved or frassed.

As a wise philosopher of our times is fond of saying, "Asking questions is a good way of finding things out."

Guide vs. Data
This has been discussed many times. Search "frass" in forum topics for the complete history. I'll just give my take the situation and planned resolution here. There is a recognized inherent conflict between the "guide" function of BG and the "data" function. The former emphasizes a minimal number of the best posts to conserve the time of those who seek an ID (less is better). The latter emphasizes inclusion of as much natural history documentation as possible, especially in regard to distribution and season (more is better). Since it is easier to destroy than it is to create, editors emphasizing the guide function have had the greater impact on what is retained to date.

The planned solution is to retain Frass until BG2 comes out, where the conflict will hopefully be resolved by a ranking system where those interested in ID only will be able to view only guide-worthy images. Frass has not been deleted for over a year. Much frass will then be returned to the guide in a less intrusive manner with a "data value only" rank. As is stands now, though, INaturalist is set up better for archiving more comprehensive natural history information. Bugguide remains superior as an arthropod guide.

food for thought
.. in regard to data function. I find that as editor, I personally move images of poor quality to the genus or species pages based on the necessity to document a sighting within counties of each state when lacking in the month, rather than the overall number of sightings because of the value as a "data point". This practice uses data space. I would like to see that the data point may be collected by posting an image without necessarily saving a blurry image (some of which are my own).

well said Edward
and the thing is, I don't think BugGuide has a formal definition of what it actually is. Some seeing it as a 'Guide' (which is my personal take) and others see it as 'Data Collection' (for which I don't; and I agree iNat is better for data collection the way it's designed, but iNat has a lot of its own problems, not to be discussed here).

For me, BG is more of an online field guide to North American insects, and so when deciding whether to keep or Frass images, I look at the quality of the image and the specimen.

Often I will look at an image and ask myself, can someone who is not as experienced as I identify this beetle (my focus area)? Is the image well-cropped? Is it in focus? Was the image taken with adequate lighting? Are diagnostic features visible? Is the specimen in good condition? If any of these are 'no' I am likely to Frass the image.

I rarely take data points into consideration when Frassing. I might only do that for 1) very rarely images insects, 2) significant expansion of known (i.e. published) ranges, and sometimes 3) expansion of an exotic introduction. I feel some people look at the map on BG as a jigsaw puzzle that needs every piece filled in. Honestly, many of the state records on BugGuide are published in the literature, if one were to actually take the time to do a little research into the subject. I use the map more for sorting or jogging my memory (e.g., this beetle looks familiar, but I can't remember what it's called - what else in this family/taxon occurs in that state?)

I have often thought about cleaning up the beetles, mainly frassing images that are not necessary (for example, do you need 5 images of a beetle sitting on a leaf?). But that's low priority for now.

Feedback from a layperson
Often I will look at an image and ask myself, can someone who is not as experienced as I identify this beetle (my focus area)? Is the image well-cropped? Is it in focus? Was the image taken with adequate lighting? Are diagnostic features visible? Is the specimen in good condition? If any of these are 'no' I am likely to Frass the image.

Thus excluding many, if not most, contributions from people who lack professional-grade photographic skills and equipment.

Honestly, many of the state records on BugGuide are published in the literature, if one were to actually take the time to do a little research into the subject.

We aren't all entomologists or graduate students who have knowledge about and access to the literature.

I used to submit a lot of images . . .

It's not an excuse, but it is a reality,
that editors have many, many images that they have to handle here with whatever free volunteer time they can squeeze out of their busy lives. But we would point out that you are actually some of the editorial control that you seek. You are free to tag your image and move it out of frass back to where you want it if you feel it deserves it. That is, unfortunately, a little extra work for you, but it does help solve the problem of an occasional rush to judgment or difference of opinion on the part of an editor. We editors do the best we can curating the images here, though it may not always be what you had intended, but you can help fix that. Thanks

Frassing can also be an educational point
Frassing is often due to image or specimen quality (see what criteria I use, above), and maybe frassing images should encourage a submitter to improve photography/editing techniques, play closer attention to distance, getting the right angle, making sure lighting is appropriate, etc.
If we don't frass substandard images/specimens, we are going to keep getting substandard images/specimens.

Education without teaching?
A submitter of a frassed image won't know what kind of improvement is wanted unless the frassing editor says something. If the reason is that you routinely discard an image if the taxon is already represented by a photographically better one (on the basis of your comments in this thread, I suspect that that's what happened with my weevils, incidentally making the animal seem rare rather than common), it isn't a reason that submitters will readily intuit.