Posts from March, 2009

Introducing eBird Express – the Ultimate eBird Data Input Tool

Posted Mar 26th, 2009 at 1:14 am in Birding, Technology | Comments Off

Unless you’re a birder who’s been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard about eBird. It’s an amazing service that allows birders to enter their notes online and then query their records by species, date, or location. It’s also a great tool to learn about bird distributions, since you can explore the entire database. Scientists hope to benefit from the massive dataset as well.

While one can enter notes into eBird directly through any web browser, one of its better features is the ability to upload sightings straight from an Excel like file called CSV format1. I’ve found this method to be much faster when entering data, especially multiple checklists at a time.

My eBird Annoyances

As good as this is however, there were several things about eBird that bugged me. In the true festivus tradition2, here’s my airing of grievances.

  • Location names and GPS coordinates. Once you have a named location in the system, all future use of that location will inherit the original GPS coordinates, even if you add new coordinates. So “The Park” that’s given the coordinates 30.1234, -99.1234 will always have those coordinates, even if you try to upload another location called “The Park” with different coordinates.
  • When you look at locations on the eBird website, you can’t see their GPS coordinates.
  • eBird wants a start time and the duration, but I’m lazy and quickly became frustrated when trying to calculate the number of minutes between 7:37 am and 12:23 pm.

I further wanted an easy way to fill out a checklist in Excel without having to enter in the full names of the birds every time. And while eBird lets you download a file with your sightings, if I’m already entering them on my computer, it would be nice to create my backup locally so I’d never have to download anything and still have backups of all my checklists.

The Solution

To solve all these problems, I’ve created a little tool that I call eBird Express. I use an Excel template to get me a blank checklist with all the birds already on it. I just have to fill it out.

I’ve set up a section of the site just for eBird Express, where you can see more of it’s features and screenshots, download it, view video tutorials that explain how to use it, and send feedback.

1 comma separated value

2 If you don’t know what festivus is, you should. It’s hilarious.

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Pimping Microsoft Outlook

Posted Mar 18th, 2009 at 11:57 am in Technology | 26 Comments

Outlook Pimp Chain

I’m one of the odd people that actually like Outlook. It’s kind of a love hate relationship though. I like it for precisely the reason that many people hate it. It integrates email, calendar, and tasks all into one program. It can also be a beast, especially when you have to go into its settings to tweak things.

One thing I’ve wanted for a long time is the ability to do things with single keystrokes in Outlook. I wanted to hit the letter ‘a’ and have my currently selected email(s) get moved automatically into an archive folder. I wanted to hit ‘r’ to reply to the current email. Things like that.

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