Taking stock

Posted on Nov 14, 2016 in Blog, Form Tools, Open Source Projects | 2 comments

Now that birdsearch.org is out the door and looking more solid by the day (maybe a week or two’s worth of bug fixes left, I think), I’ve tentatively pulled back the veil on Form Tools once again. Form Tools is a script I created well over 10 years ago, which grew and grew into something of a monster. But a good monster. Sure it lives under the stairs, drools a lot, and is pretty terrifying when you first meet it, but really it’s pretty great at heart. Honest.

Since departing the project a few years back, I’ve made two or three aborted attempts to return to the script. Question is: how? It’s so massive, each time I do, I get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of work required, something life-related comes up and I end up having to back off. But the bottom line is I think it’s a great script and well worth updating.

So anyway, I’m trying to come to terms with exactly how I can return it  - how I can split it up into smaller pieces to tame this creature. Let’s see how this goes.

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birdsearch.org 2.0.2

Posted on Nov 6, 2016 in Birding, birdsearch.org, Open Source Projects | 0 comments

Couple of small updates to birdsearch.org this last week:Map styles

  • Report Sightings link added to the top header
  • Incorporated feedback from a few people to improve the UI in the few places.
  • Settings tab updates to include a new “Map Styles” section that lets you customize the look of the map. There are now six styles, chosen to be either quite dark or light to ensure the map markers show up clearly.

Next version is going to be for bug fixes only. There are a few small things I’d like to patch before letting more people know about the site.

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It’s aliiive!

Posted on Oct 30, 2016 in Birding, birdsearch.org | 0 comments

Wbirdsearch1ell, for a project that was supposed to just take a few months, this sure took the cake. But it’s live at last: check it out! birdsearch.org.

I created the site 3 years ago, and even though very few people actually use it (I should probably have let people know it was there) I’ve found it invaluable for my own birding. This new version was a complete rewrite in React, Redux, react-intl with a Node backend. It’s still in beta – I’ve got a running list of bugs and enhancements to fix on github here. But as a first draft I’m very pleased.

I’ll write a separate post about the technology behind it all, but feature-wise there are lots of nice improvements:

  • Better UI / user experience. The site now welcomes you with two easy options: Search Nearby and Search Anywhere. 9 times out of 10, I found I used the site to keep track of what was being sighted in my neighbourhood. This let’s me get that info at the touch of a single button.
  • Simplified search. I moved all “advanced” features to a settings section. That’s where you find the option to search Notable Sightings,
  • Extra stuff removed. I removed the option to search for nearby hotspots. It didn’t add much, and the eBird website offers this functionality in a far better format.
  • Wikipedia links for all species. This is a rather nifty option. When you browse the sightings, each bird species shows a Wikipedia link. Clicking it takes you to a wikipedia article about the species. When I use the site to browse birds in far-off places I’m going to be visiting, I find this feature particularly useful.
  • Misc UI improvements. Sightings now link to the original checklist on eBird; all data is sortable (species name, location, sightings count, etc); you can filter locations and results by a search string to pinpoint exactly what species/location you’re interested in.

So yeah, check it out.

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