Monday, June 8, 2009

Should this blog be an open forum?


Concerning Dany's recent post that the eBird Blog is boring, well, the other option here is to open this up to the eBird community for posting messages, asking questions etc. of each other. We don't have a problem with that, but we also don't want this to turn into a discussion about how to ID birds, travel tips, etc, that are found elsewhere.

We really wanted to keep this related to eBird as much as possible, but I agree that this could quickly get stale if all we do is ask for help and then tell you "Oh yeah, we already thought of that--it's on the list". The reality is that we HAVE thought of lots of things to develop, but time, money, personnel and having to prioritize limit what we can get done quickly.

In any case, I put the question to the crowd: should this be a public blog for eBird users to post stories, insights, bird info etc?



  1. Keep it about eBird. There are plenty of other options out there for ID tips, stories, birding trips, etc.

  2. I agree; keep it about eBird. Better to post less often and keep it to the subject.

  3. Keep it about eBird. There are plenty of other bird blogs around if that is what someone wants.

  4. I'd rather read about eBird, though some guest posts on how people use the service might be interesting. One way to add some variety without going too far off the subject might be to do a periodic "Best of Birdshare" to highlight photos from your Flickr group.

  5. You will attract more peole to ebird -- and collect more data -- if you build a community. Community means blog, forums, sharing pictures, member discussions, etc. If ebird is the place you come for help with birds, ebird is the place that will collect the data.

    In other words, one way to increase the amount of ebird data collected is to make ebird part of a vibrant on-line community.

    Now, you don't need to start from scratch. As Johnsep said, there are plenty of other options for ID tips, stories, trips, photos, etc. Can you work with the owners/managers of those forums to integrate ebird relatively seamlessly into those forums?

    By relatively seamlessly, I mean more than just linked to each other. I mean shared logins -- or one login recognizes the other -- so ebird members can automatically move in and out of the forum areas, etc.

    If you can achieve this, then the ebird blog becomes just one more part of the integrated forum experience -- and maybe just one of many blogs in the experience. The ebird usage blog can stay focused on how to use the ebird section of the forum, how ebird data is used, etc.

    I can see this being beneficial for some of the bird forums out there because ebird members would become part of the audience. I can see this being beneficial to ebird because ebird gains visibility to within the forums.

    The issue is going to be neutrality. These various bird forums will compete with each other. Ebird wants to play neutral -- and because it is basically non-commercial it can -- and work with all of them. If only one is integrated, ebird shows favoritism. If more than one is integrated, then they become de-facto integrated with each other. Taking this route might be very good for ebird and for science, but I can see some real challenges in the path.

  6. Some people may remember a few years back when our friends at Team eBird started a Google group for the purpose of discussing eBird issues... which quickly degenerated into a general birding discussion group. At which point (so I remember, perhaps incorrectly) Team eBird leaders stopped reading the traffic because it was so general and not of any use to their primary purpose, which was to improve eBird.

    I would hate to have that happen here. It seems to me (just my opinion) that this is an "eBird Users Group" like there are user groups for software and so forth. It's primary purpose seems intended to focus on improving eBird, learning how to promote eBird to non-eBirders, and hopefully also, improve users' "eBird skills sets." (How well we contribute useful data.)

    Perhaps there is a need for different blogs for different audiences... Blog for eBird junkies, eBird blog for birders (general bird audience), eBird Hot News (see next paragraph), and uh.... other people may have other ideas.

    On eBird "hot news".... talk about trends.... not individual sightings..... I can see where either this blog (as is), a junkie blog, or even a general blog, might be useful vehicles for posts from Team eBird along these lines: "We're seeing a lot more submissions than normal for White Winged Crossbills in the northeast [name the species, name the location], be sure to keep your eye out for them if you're in the area." Or, "We haven't been seeing as many submissions for X species this month, please be sure to watch for them." Or, "If you happen to be in northeast Nebraska [whatever] this summer, please stop and make an observation." That kind of thing might lend the excitement some want. It would help all of us who can't monitor all the data from everywhere as it pours in, to learn about exciting, interesting, unusual things as they happen. But trends, not one individual of "x" species.

    I realize there are regional bird email lists that do this kind of thing --well, sort of -- but know that a lot of what's reported in that chatter isn't going into eBird, and it's impossible to subscribe to all the email lists there are without being overwhelmed.

  7. Oh god no! I don't even find the ebird blog boring, different strokes I guess. I find it entirely practical in regards to information relevant to ebird, which if you ask me is a rather unique site related to birding. There are other sites out there for more general birding info, I can think of some myself. The issue with those is that they quickly turn into tons of beginner questions that are usually repeated over and over daily, and the more complicated/detailed questions about birds get glossed over or lost in the shuffle on forums. I can also think of a forum which has a backyard/feeders subforum and where you could have interesting Q&As on that, it just turned into a "I hate _____ bird, how do I get rid of it from my yard?!" all down the entire forum page. Awful.

    As much as you could want to open it up to more relevant messages, it'd need to be moderated to keep the more general/beginners questions out, because those things are inevitable. With the limits you already have on resources, that would just be an added usage of resources.

    Plus people can set up their own public blogs. I did. :)

  8. I'm glad for what John, Kim, Claire, and Lindsey wrote; they sum up what I thought of (and probably more).

    Perhaps a wiki for eBird might be helpful (along with a good group of moderators to keep tabs on it).

  9. I completely agree with Kim and Claire.

    Though it is important to keep this blog neat and relevant to eBird, there is no reason why there shouldn't be eBird forums that include all birders, from beginners to experts.
    As Kim said, this will create an eBird on-line community which can discuss bird sightings and IDs, and right afterwards log in those birds into eBird.
    This will also make eBird a living community of people who work together for the future of birds, sharing their knowledge and expertise. Right now I feel eBird is seen more of as a tool, not a helpful and inviting community of fellow birders.

  10. An eBird Forum could be created elsewhere I suppose (a Yahoo or Google group), but this should be specific to the intricacies and workings of eBird. A place for the developers to inform users about what is going on or introducing updates and changes.

  11. I think this discussion is dancing around the real issue. The purpose of eBird is to collect data, and the challenge is to get more birders - good birders, not necessarily beginners - to submit their sightings to eBird. A story: a year after the fact, I was contacted by the WA state ebird gatekeeper who questioned a Yellow-billed Loon sighting. He asked if I had photos. I'm not a photographer, but I remember that the bird was well covered on the WA state list serve. So I went into the archives, copied many key posts and forwarded them to the person. The point is, there are many vibrant regional list serves with birders posting about birds - BUT, these folks are not entering their sightings into eBird. The key is to get the list serves to promote ebird. This blog won't do that. One place to start is to get an eBird link on "" The challenge for eBird is to inspire the birders on these list serves to join eBird. Many birders are either not aware of ebird; intimidated by computers or not willing to put the extra time into their sightings. And they're posting on their regional list serve.

  12. All

    These are excellent comments, and the vast majority think we should keep this blog 'as is' for now.

    We're actively engaged in making eBird a 'net community' without having the development budget to build a 'Facebook for birders'. Why do that when Facebook already exists?? The challenge for us is to interface with tools like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr in ways that make sense for eBirders. We'll be pursuing these goals in the coming months.

    I like the idea of an eBird Wiki, and we have software here at the Lab that will allow us to build one.

    Jack Siler has been a big supporter of eBird so far, and we could probably get a link permanently displayed on Birdingonthenet. That said, the real challenge IS getting more people to use eBird.

    It's kind of funny, when you look at the listserve posts by people who claim to not have the time to do eBird, they've spent a huge amount of time writing out all the bird names, given numbers, details etc. eBird can do all that for them in a matter of minutes. I think we need to make another concerted push at the listserves, and show people how eBird can format your bird report easily and quickly for a listserve post. The goal is to make posting to the listserve easier!

    In any case, great comments. We'll look into some more options for an eBird general blog, or the "Hot News" idea, which I like a lot.


  13. The one reason I would like to see a wiki would be to include a good way to list resources people use while birding, be it birding websites, state park sites, other identificaiton sites, whatever. I know one thing I would want to share is, which I use to determine distances walked. I don't recall it right now, but there's another site that will determine area. These would be useful, but aside from throwing them into the comments section, there's no way to share them.

    Another option woudl be to set up an eBird acocunt on so that people could share bookmarks with that account (which would
    require an admin to sort through of course).

  14. I'm a little late to the discussion, but I definitely do not find this blog boring. You should keep it focused on just eBird, IMHO.

  15. Re: Sean Et Cetera ...

    The web site for determining areas, is

  16. I vote to keep this blog as is, focused on eBird development. As far as developing an eBird community, I'd like to see a list by State of individuals blogs and a separate list by state for birding info website. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has all kinds of cool websites from The Great Backyard Bird Count to Celebrate Urban birds, but I haven't found any list of other links. I like the concept of BirdingPal too and perhaps a partnership could be worked out with him. All of these types of sites, and I think even the site to upload pictures should be related to eBird, but perhaps not on the main eBird site other than links.

  17. I was hoping for something different from this blog-- and maybe the chronological blog format isn't right for it.

    What I'd like to see is something like an FAQ page with user comments enabled. If I've got a question about registering a hotspot, or counting birds, or whether or not to check the "all birds seen" box, I'd like to be able to read the official eBird write-up on that topic; then, if that didn't answer my question, I could go on to read other people's questions and discussion of the subject. If even that wasn't enough information, I could then post my questions or observations.

  18. I will agree your point of issue,thanks for sharing this interesting information.

  19. Good luck getting people behind this one. Though you make some VERY fascinating points, youre going to have to do more than bring up a few things that may be different than what weve already heard.

  20. I have some questions on how to use eBird. Is this the proper place to ask questions or, if not, could you kindly suggest a place?