Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Revealing personal locations--how do you feel about it?


Over the past two years we've been developing tools that showcase our users, and in so doing we've made more and more of the eBird data easily accessible to the public. One of the things we've struggled with is whether or not to show people's personal locations on a map. If you look at the eBird "High Counts" output tool, you'll see a mix of locations listed there. The "hotspots" are linked to a Google Map, whereas people's personal locations have no map link. We thought this would be fine, but it turns out that we're getting a lot of complaints about it.

If you look at "High Counts" for a region and see one that interests you, don't you want to know where the high count occurred? The problem is that for personal locations we do not enforce any kind of naming standards, so there's lots of places like "My backyard" or "Jim's Place". The problem with this is that when there is a record of interest to the public, they can't make sense of that location name, nor can they click on a link to find out more about where it actually is.

On our Google Rare Bird Gadget we display all locations on maps, personal and shared. We have had few complaints about this. I'm wondering how you all feel about creating links to personal locations in all the eBird output tools so that people can learn more about your data? We will still have the "hide this" option to hide checklists so users with sensitive data can keep their information private if they wish. We'd love to hear your thoughts, comments and concerns.


Brian Sullivan
Team eBird

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

eBird taxonomic revision


Has there ever been anything that you have wanted to enter in eBird but have been unable to? Something like "eider sp." or "booby sp.", a rare hybrid that you saw (like Glaucous x Great Black-backed Gull) or a subspecies group like "Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)" (we already have that one).

The reason we ask is that we are revising our taxonomy now. We plan to expand the list of birds you can enter significantly, and have a list of recommendations from other eBirders which we will incorporate. If you have any birds you'd like to see in eBird, send any ideas like this to Marshall (mji26@cornell.edu).

NOTE: Before you send recommendations, please check to make sure we don;t already have the bird you are recommending. There are two ways to do this:

1) Download the eBird taxonomy and search for it here: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about/ebird-taxonomy/eBird-taxonomy-1-049_28-Apr-2009.xls

2) Edit or submit a checklist, click "rare species" and type part of the bird name in the "Add a species" box. If you want to add a "sp.", just type "sp." and if you want to add a hybrid, just type hybrid, since you will get a list with all options containing that character string. Please remember, that we use a slash "/" for species pairs--thus, we use Short-billed/Long-billed Dowitcher rather than dowitcher sp. and Greater/Lesser Yellowlegs rather than yellowlegs sp.


-Marshall Iliff for Team eBird