February 2009

Facebook for birders – an introduction

About a week ago I wrote a message to BirdChat email list asking about Social Media that birders use apart from Facebook and Twitter. Did not get any reply on this question, but I got another question instead.

“I’m new to facebook. How can I connect with birders in it?”

I prepared a (quite long) reply to explain how Facebook can be beneficial to birders and sent it off to BirdChat. Thinking about it, it does make a good topic for a blogpost.
First of all I must thank Wren for providing all the screen shots of for this article. She is one of the people behind Nature Blog Network. NBN will feature this manual in their blogging toolbox. I am overwhelmed for this offer. You find Wren’s fine blogging at Wrenaissance Reflections. I suggest you pay her visit!

Manual to Facebook for birdwatchers

I know there is a lot of people out there who are a bit wary of using the Facebook and have a hard time understanding what it is good for. The most frequent comment I get is: “Sounds like a complete waste of time to me!”

First of all, it must be said that Facebook can be used in many ways. You can keep in contact with your closest friends, but you can also use it in a broader sense to connect with other birders in your area, where you are going to spend your holiday etc. There are several groups you can belong to or you may start a group yourself. (There are several groups similar to birdchat within Facebook, to which you can also upload pictures, movies and suggest favourite web-pages).

Info how to set up a Facebook account in books – for free

If you have not yet set up a Facebook account there is great information on “how to” in these manuals available from Amazon. Click any of the two pics below and Look Inside

Facebook for dummiesFacebook the missing manual

UPDATE: Jan 13, 2010. The For Dummies title is surprisingly updated with edition from November 2009.
You can look inside the books on Amazon on the option on the left on top of the picture of the book. Read the index of each book and then “search” for the page you want to read. I am sure you shall find how to open a Facebook account and how to set your privacy levels. You shall find a lot of good tips in doing so, and it will help to get you started.

You can use this technique to look into a lot of books on Amazon without buying…!!  I posted a post on my blog about how to use Amazon.com to read all types of books about social media (a collective term for Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Flickr, etc).  DISCLAIMER: Just so you know…I have used affiliate links to Amazon through-out. If you do decide to buy, you will be supporting this blog with around 4% of your purchase for beer money ;-D

I also posted a blogpost regarding Google Books, which is another online service that makes it is also possible to read substantial parts of books online. There is a link to my collection of Social Media books on Google Books.

Enter www.facebook.com now and start signing up. It is easy.

What about privacy on Facebook?

Privacy issues are often the one thing that worries new users the most, and learning how to set  the settings help a lot. If you are to share with a lot of birders who are not your “real friends”, then you may be careful what you put on your facebook. In my case, having a birding related business, it is in my interest to connect with as many birders as possible (birders talk with birders and if the word “birds in Peru” comes up…there is good chance my name will be mentioned), and therefore on my account you shall find all types of contact info. This may not be your cup of tea, so you may want to set your privacy differently.
As a result – and I guess it is from my generous privacy settings –  the other day I got a mail from an old girlfriend that I have not heard from in 30 years!! (I have not decided if I should reply. I didn’t reply). It shows you, that there may be things you might want to leave in the past. On the other hand, I have connected with some friends I went to High School with…which I do enjoy a lot.

To connect with other birders on Facebook.

First of all use the Facebook feature that imports all your contacts.  This could be either contacts in your Outlook or similar, or your contacts on your email account in Gmail, Yahoo, Msn, Aol, etc.

You will have to give your email password in order for Facebook to import. There should be no risk in doing so, because it is an all automated encrypted process. However, if you feel uneasy anyway, enter your email account and temporarily change your password, and let Facebook upload your contacts with this new password and then set it back afterwards.

To start with connect only with those contacts that have a Facebook account. Later you can add invitations to those contacts that still lack Facebook and you will have to go through the same process you just did. But, you can opt out from this option to start with. Get used to Facebook, before you start sending invitations to join Facebook. When you do start sending invitations, do select each contact manually and don’t click on add all, because it is likely that you will be adding the email of many of the birding list servers you belong to. You can imagine what it would look like on your birdlist server if everyone was sending out such messages! Nobody likes spam.

You may use facebook’s search funtion to see of long lost friends are on facebook. You be surprised how many are.  You find the seach box in the upper right corner. If you search for such a rare name as Gunnar Engblom it is quite likely you will get few hits and can readily find the one you are looking for.

Facebook automatically suggests people you may know, as FB can see when you have “friends in common”. Add those you know. Others you may want to add if just because they are birders.Click on the picture and click on “add as friend”. Before you send off the friend request CLICK ON “Add a personal message…” and explain in a short note why you are inviting the person as a Facebook friend.

Chances are that he/she will accept your request if you just state that you want to get to know other birders.

In Facebook there are a number of groups.

Naturally, you can join up with as many groups as you like. These groups tend not to be as active as you average mailing groups, but are still nice to sign up to. You can scroll through the members in any group and check if there is anyone you know, share many friends with or anyone in your area you would like to become “Facebook friends” with. This often leads to more active interaction as the news from the people you are friends with show in your timeline, while the groups you will actually have to enter one by one to see the new posts.

What if you get Facebook invitations from people to become friends with people you don’t know?

I usually only accept from those I get a personal message from. If there is no message, I check the profile of the person and if it is obvious he/she is also a birder I usually accept. I usually don’t accept those that are not using their own names, and especially not those that instead of their real name use their business name. For all I know, that is just spamming.

I don’t want to be friends with you!

If you don’t want to be friends with someone, you just don’t answer, delete the message or better still, block the person in settings. The last is probably the best, and I would prefer people who do not want to become Facebook friends with me to use this option, as it assures them that they will not get a repetitive invitations. It is pretty harmless to ask someone to become your Facebook friend, but it can be annoying to get more than one invitation if you have already declined. The point is that the person asking will not get any notice message saying that you declined, and therefore will it be difficult for that person to know if he has made an invitation previously.

People will not get mad with you for not accepting them as friends. The original purpose of Facebook was to connect only with your true friends….though birders have found a wider use for it. You also have the option to write the person asking you to become Facebook friends, telling him/her that you use Facebook only for private use.

Thus, denying someone access as a friend is like saying …this network is only for my close friends and family…which obviously is a very good reason.

Don’t put anything on Facebook, you would not put on your friend’s fridge

Even with a selected number of friends, you may want to be careful exactly what you put on your Facebook. As a rule, don’t expose anything that you would not put on your friend’s fridge!  Also know that nobody is allowed to put up compromising pictures of anyone against their will. In fact, this could be a very good strategy to get rid of any pseudo-friends and a get-rich-quickly scheme. Join your pseudo-friends at a party and get completely drunk. Next day after seeing your drunken face on their Facebook – you sue them!

Applications on Facebook

There are a number of interesting applications on Facebook. There is even one for keeping your lifelist of birds called “Birds and Birdwatching”. This is a great little app, that will soon gain more and more followers.

There are also a lot of applications that are a complete waste of time….I am not on many of these…and I still don’t get it, why I should accept to receive virtual flowers to my virtual garden – in the “(Lil) Green Patch” application. Lots of my “Friends” do use this app, which supposedly saves rainforest. I have a hard time seing how! Please explain, anyone!

Update 1: Gwendolen Tee send me a link to an explaination by Beth Kanter regarding Lil Green Patch – a social gardeing game. Apparantly, through sponsors it does generate some money. Also, many worthy causes are being displayed while you play the game. The game donated 138.900 US$ dollars and recruited almost a 1000 members to Nature Conservancy. However, with over 500 000 players logging in daily and 6.8m user monthly worldwide users, my participation is a bucket in the sea.  I have 48 “(Lil) Green Patch” request with plants sent to me. Do I have to play this? Can I donate my plants to someone who needs them?

Update 2: Bora Zivkovic of Blog around the Clock (Coturnix in the commment below) suggests also to make a mention of perhaps the most useful of all features on Facebook. The Event application, which you can use to invite friends to special birding events, such as birding festivals, field trips and lectures. This is a very useful feature for the organizers of the events to both get in contact with attendees and get an idea as how many will attend, as there is a response button for the event invitation. Furthermore, for the participant in the event it provides a constant reminder as the upcoming events are featured on the right. Bora has a lot of experience of Facebook and has used it for many different purposes. I think you will find his blog post – the evolution of Facebook – very helpful.

Update 3: This one I actually found myself.  If you blog, you should definitely use the NetworkedBlogs application. Just click on the link above to sign up. Then search for blogs containing birding and subscribe to your favorites. In summery, you can use Facebook as a blog feeder and you can also rate the blogs you subscribe to.  It is easy to handle a large number of blogs this way.

Joining Facebook about 9 months ago has brought lots of joy. I have better contact than ever with my grown-up daughter. I have connected with friends from the past I lost contact with. And most importantly I am direct contact with hundreds of birders around the world. Some are potential clients – others are not. It is not important. It is interesting to get to know each and everyone – and it is a cool way to connect and interchange bird photos and good birding stories.

See you on Facebook then???
Gunnar Engblom
Lima, Peru

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Photo by David Fulmer from Flickr by creative commons lisence
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Ivory Gull – My first dip.

It was winter early 1985. I had been birding only 2 years. Most of my birding until then had been with the local bird club in Stockholm. Any weekend excursion organized and I wanted to go. I guess you could a say I was quite “keen” (or avid …to use a more American term), and the idea of seeing new birds on these excursions was ever so exciting. During the winter of 1984-1985 fewer birds were added as the birds disappeared to warmer latitudes. Then one cold morning  I hear of a bird I hardly knew anything about, less that it could actually appear near Stockholm as a very rare visitor. The Ivory Gull had been found at Landsort – an island south of Stockholm and relatively easy to get to. A check in the field guide showed an exquisite snow-white bird. After some double checking I did understand that this bird was not an adult, but a second year immature with a patchy black mask. Nevertheless, I wanted to see it. The first weekend I could not go for some reason, or maybe I heard too late, but the bird was being fed with hot dogs, so it was likely it would still be there the next weekend.

Weekend came, and I had been approached by some people who were interested in sharing costs of the boat to Landsort. All was coordinated and there were to be two trips to Landsort this Sunday. I happened to end up on the second boat and this made us miss the bird. Only some of the people from the first boat saw the boat. To hear it was seen just a few hours ago and not to be seen again was a feeling of deception that I had not yet gotten used to. It was almost like the same reason I gave up playing chess in my teens. Playing a game for around 5-6 hours only to loose in the end became a complete waste of time as girls were getting more and mote interesting.

Now, on a freezing day on Lansdort, I was thinking of all the other things I could have been doing instead of being wasting my time this way. Yes, I dipped! That great British birder slang for missing a bird you specifically came to see.

Mind you, my trip to Landsort that time was not totally in vain, as I saw my first Steller’s Eider on this trip, and maybe this is the art of dipping gracefully. Be happy seeing other wonderful birds and maybe will the new experiences add to the wholesome.

Ivory Gull in Massachusetts

24 years later I was checking out the listservers in the US and see that my nemesis bird Ivory Gull had been seen both in Gloucester and in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Not smudgy 2K birds this time, but beautifully white adults.

Had I not been going to Brazil, I could have gone on a twitch – again British birding slang for searching a specific bird. A Facebook birder friend, Sheridan Coffey, did a really long twitch. When she heard there was not only one, but two adult Ivory Gulls in Massachussetts, she packed her binoculars to fly 2530 km (1574 miles) to Newark and then drive 370km (231 miles) to Plymouth. It turned out to be quite a journey with lots of delays, but in the end, she and her friends saw the Ivory Gull. She made a very action filled Ivory Gull blog about the quest. Here is her video of the Ivory Gull eating chicken scraps on the ice.


But in spite of birders coming from near and far, the Gulls would not stay forever. Some people arrived just as the bird had left. The dippers!  Here is another blog account by Jim McCarthy about four birders from Cleveland, Ohio, who arrived just a trifle too late. But, just as I had enjoyed my Stellar’s Eiders on Landsort, they enjoyed a lot of other birds on their twitch.

A few years after the Landsort dip, I wrote a song about birding (in Swedish) called Meståg (translated to Birdparty). The song is about my ficitional friend Lasse (Lars). I am sure you are well aware that all the best birders in Sweden are called Lars (Lasse). Lars Jonsson, Lars Svenson and so on…

The third verse contains the story of the Landsort – Ivory Gull incident. I tried to upload to my facebook but apparantly only a few people could hear it as the Facebook mp3 app apparantly does not play in Internet Explorer.

So here it is is again, people….proudly presenting Guran Guran with the number one hit “Meståg”….

meståg – Guran Guran

Birdparty – meståg in English.

All this talk about Ivory Gulls inspired me to do a crude translation to English. Here is the relevant verse in English.

It is freezing cold and a hell of a weather.

He hasn’t seen a bird not even a feather.

So his checking the mails on the local bird server

He’s willing to go birding much further

So he’s packing up his binocs and his new snow shoe set

There’s an Ivory Gull in Massachussetts

He’s going to a bird party…..going to a bird party.

I am thinking of getting some people together to record the song again in English – just for the fun of it.

In the translation I took the liberty of changing Lasse’s name to Johnny. So many famous birders and ornithologists named John, right? Come to think of it, what is the most common English birder name. John, David, Bob or Michael? Please comment!

Ivory Gull picture by Will Smyth by Creative Commons license, Photo taken Jan 25, Plymouth, MA.


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Free reader also on Google Books

Birders, sorry to be remaining on the social media topic once again. I hope you shall find something useful here. I will later go through some of these apps and put them in a birders perspective in future blogs.

Yesterday’s blog post was about the amount of information one can find for free on Amazon.com in books on social media and web 2.0. I got a very useful comment from Charles Swift recommending the service from Google books. It is very similar – and it gives also buy options.  But has some advantages. You can keep a library of books.
I have set up a link to my Google Books Library with the books I mentioned in my blog.

So if you need social media books in one-stop – my library above is a good place to visit. You find a books on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Blogging and Search Engine Optimization that you can read in large parts for free. Many books are of the ….for Dummies series.
Actually Google is a more user friendly than Amazon.com with the ability to scroll and fast get larger size of font.

Again you will not be able to read the whole book. It is the publisher that limits how much you can actually view. The policy you can find here. In some cases there is a limited number of pages you will be able to read. When you reach the top, you can always switch back to Amazon to complete…or read the topics you are interested in, in another book treating the same topic.

I found a few differences. On Amazon you can usually read the latest edition. For instance Weller’s “Marketing to the Social web” shows with the 2009 edition on Amazon, while on Google Books shows 2007 edition. Considering, the fast changes on the net, it is needless to say – the later edition the better.

Other books you can’t find at all on Google Books. For instance “Problogger” by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett of Problogger you can only find to read on Amazon.

I really like the ProBlogger guys…and follow Darren Rowse on Twitter – twitter.com/problogger. He gives away a lot of good tips and share links. The guy has 38810 followers. Here is the Problogger website. The underscore ttitle of their book is “The Secrets for Blogging your Way to a Six-figure income”. I wished!
But that utopia apart, the book is full of common sense and great tips to keep your focused on providing stuff that can be useful to your readers. I think there is a big void of information to birders about the potential of Social Media – and this is what I aiming to provide some tips about on coming blogs. Naturally, I will also be blogging about the birding. Please consider following this blog by clicking the RSS feeder in the side bar of the blog.

Icon: from Flickr – creative commons lisence.  Tobias Eigen
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Amazon reader makes it possible to read for free.

In my last post – my top10 list of birding web-sites, I started out mentioning that the Web-gurus frequently use top lists on different subject, such as social media and web 2.0 subjects such as Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, blogging, Search Engine optimization etc, in order to catch attention and to provide something immediately useful. I list these lists examples here again as one of the links was broken, just to make the point.

Ending that blogpost I put 5 books on these subjects from Amazon.com. When checking out each book on Amazon, much to my surprise I could read substantial parts of the books.

This is how I was to read the most essential parts without paying a cent. Clicking any book you get a page that shows the book, price, reviews and naturally how to purchase it. On the left above the picture of the book it says “Look inside”.
Go ahead – click away, you have nothing to loose.

Open the table of contents and go through which part you would like to read. If you have a large screen it is a good idea to open yet another window, so you can have the index handy at all times. In your second window you enter the page number – just the number – in the search box. If the page is available for view it will be clickable. You can read a couple of pages of content by turning the pages on the left or right of the screen. Once you finished these pages, put in a new page number in search to continue reading.

I don’t know yet, if there is a limit of pages viewed per book per day, there may be, and Amazon would be able to track the users based on their IP. I suggest to go slow and only look at the pages you really want to read. Please comment, if you find any such time/page-limits.

It will not be possible to read the whole book, but after some initial testing it seems to me that between 60-80% of the book content is available in most cases, maybe more. In the end it is up to the publisher how much of the material he/she wants to be available this way. Why the hell would Amazon let the users be able to read such a major part of the book this way without paying? Behind this concept is much of the philosophy that you actually sell more books if the users are able to look inside them. That is why there still are bookstores around in spite of Amazon’s cheap prices. Looking inside the books this way, is Amazon’s way responding to the “real” bookstores advantage to let their clients see before they buy.
So what if the sections you really wanted to read are not available for view, does this mean you have to buy the book to find out? No, not at all, simply pick up another book on the same topic and search for the same stuff. In the search box you can also enter keywords to search for. Below follows some more books on Amazon in the carousel on the same or related subjects. Feel free to go click-crazy with no obligation of buying. Read, read, read! All for free.
Having said this, it would not surprise me if some of you guys end up buying anyway. If you do, please send me a pdf of the missing pages (hehehe!). Happy reading.

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Top 10 lists

Top 10 lists are popular
Top 10 lists are popular

I am listening to advice here. Catch attention to your site by doing a list! The social media gurus are drowning us with 15 useful tools for wordpress bloggers, 10 Best Strategies to Massively Increase Your Visibility Online, the 10 most egregious SEO mistakes etc. Lists is the way to go if you want visitors to your blog. So people tell everyone you know about this post and I shall let you know if we reach an all high number of visitors to this blog-post.
People just love lists. I second Sheridan’s Ivory Gull post, where she mentions a favorite movie of mine as well – High Fidelity – in which John Cusak and Jack Black turns the whole world around them into top 5 lists. And for birders lists are even more important….I guess you already knew that.

David Govoni – a friend on Twitter – asked today for birdwatching links to his delicious link bundle on birds and birding. I decided to send him my 10 favorite birding links. I later realized this makes a great blogging post, so there you have it. I had actually meant to blog about Ivory Gull, twitching and dipping today, but now I did this instead. Well, I have that blog up my sleef, as well as a series of coming postings with some juicy pics from my recent Brazil trip.

Here we go: Gunnar’s favorite birding web-sites.

Actually, I refuse to make them a proper top 10, because I cannot rank among them. So please don’t see their individual number as an actual preference on my part.

  1. Bird Forum: As the name inplies forum about birds. Lots of activity in here, and always someone on line to give you comments on your posts.  There is also a wiki with info and photos on birds around the world. Not surprisingly this part is being under construction.
  2. BirdLife International Data zone Here you find info on the threat status of all the birds in the world, as well as learning about endemic bird areas and Important Bird Areas.
  3. A birding blog: 10000birds.com. Corey, Charlie and Mike’s pioneering extremely popular blog. To me it is the best birding blog there is. And even better since today, when they are partnering with Birdlife International to raise money and awareness for threatened birds.     
  4. Worldtwitch.  John Wall’s pioneering world birding site. Even of the interface could do with some make-up, the content is the strong side here. Just loads of info and valueble links for the world birder.
  5. Fatbirder. Bo Beolens pioneering birding resource page. This is also a site I often come back to.
  6. Kenn and Kim Kaufman blog. Famous couple blogging together. Kingbird Highway and field guide author Kenn and his lovely Rock n Roll wife Kim entertain me immensly. And while they travel the world and blogging about it, they also have initiated some great local projects for kids to become interested in nature and birds.
  7. Avibase.  Need a checklist for any one country or region? Need to know what any species is called in Hebrew, Portuguese or Finnish? Avibase has it all.
  8. Travelling Birder. Two Danish brothers created the best trip report collection for birders. You can be sure to find loads of info here prior to your Peru trip.
  9. American Birding Association – ABA. This is not only a great organization to be part of to recieve the beautiful magazine birding. The web-site is packed with info.
  10. Surfbirds. Pioneering modern portal like birding web-site. And still the best of the lot. Here you find people uploading their bird pictures, place their life lists, write blogs, hang tripreports etc.

For avid birders most of these sites may well be known, but maybe you learnt something about promoting your web-sites by the introduction above…and I got yet a visitor to my blog..

Now check out the birding tours or learn about birding in Peru on my other web-sites (hehehe!)

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