Sunday, September 14, 2008

About BirdPost

There have been a number of posts recently on other birding blogs about a new web service called BirdPost. It bills itself as a way for birders to keep track of their own sightings and find other people's sightings within a given area. It also provides social networking tools.

As a listkeeping application, it leaves a lot to be desired. It appears that sightings have to be added one by one via the web interface, with no checklist option. That means that if you see 50 species at a single location, each one needs to be entered individually. (A file upload option remedies some of those problems.) Sightings are also apparently not reviewed, meaning that the service's potential as a citizen science application is limited. It is also not clear whether one can keep any kind of list other than a lifelist (no year list? no state list?).

As a social networking application, it may have some potential. There does not seem to be much competition for social networking specifically geared towards birders. However, here too, Birdpost offers little more than the basic functions of creating profiles and "friends." It seems to lack many of the communication tools that make other social neworking sites so successful.

A word of warning: read the Terms of Service carefully before depending too much on Birdpost:


BirdPost™ reserves the right at any time and from time to time to modify or discontinue, temporarily or permanently, the Service (or any part thereof) with or without notice. You agree that BirdPost™ shall not be liable to you or to any third party for any modification, suspension or discontinuance of the Service. BirdPost™ reserves the right to convert its service or website or any portion of its service or website to a fee-based or subscription model, at any time, and without prior notice. BirdPost™ reserves the right to amend its pricing structure, at any time and without prior notice, as it sees fit.
That should give some reason for caution, especially as the site's owners apparently want to move to a $50/year subscription once there are enough users. (The reference is to a video on Techcrunch, which I cannot watch at present as my speakers are not connected.) Language in the TOS is also unclear about the ownership of user-generated content, and what Birdpost might choose to do with it. (Sell it to advertisers?)

There are already two good internet listkeeping services: eBird and Birdstack. EBird provides birders with a simple portal to contribute their sightings for bird conservation via the Avian Knowledge Network and Global Biodiversity Information Facility. It is a true citizen science service, and its developers are constantly improving the site's listkeeping tools. Birdstack is a flexible listkeeping service with a worldwide scope. It allows users to define their own lists and share them with other users. It also provides gadgets for adding those lists to other websites, such as blogs. While Birdstack is not itself a citizen science application, data entered there can be exported into spreadsheets that one can upload to eBird, without further modification. Like Mike McDowell, I am not sure that Birdpost offers anything significantly better than those two services. My hope is that one of those services would eventually add the social media aspects of Birdpost, while maintaining their already-superior listkeeping applications.