Re: [Tweeters] eBird to remain free – good news and bad

Alexandra MacKenzie mizmak at
Sun Apr 1 07:10:11 PDT 2018

The key to a good April Fool's joke is making it at least plausible--and
sadly, in our current culture, this is darn close to being believable. You
certainly did a nice job of adding details! Well played, Matt.

Alex MacKenzie
mizmak at

On Sun, Apr 1, 2018 at 4:16 AM, Matt Bartels <mattxyz at> wrote:

> eBird announced Sunday that it would remain a free service. After years of

> considering moving to a paid subscription model to cover costs, eBird has

> partnered with Facebook to maintain the free access to its service.

> Beginning today, eBird will show begin showing ads to users and revenue

> generated by targeted advertising is expected to be sufficient to maintain

> eBird into the future.


> The partnership raises questions in the wake of the recent news about how

> Facebook has made user data available in questionable ways. Now eBird data

> from its users will be subject to the same analytics that allow for more

> targeted ad generation on Facebook. In the beginning, as the algorithms are

> learning, expect ads to mostly reflect demographic information (easily

> gleaned by cross-referencing with Facebook data). But before long, eBird

> users should begin to experience the power of the AI as their birding

> destinations reveal patterns and allow advertisers to accurately place ads

> for the most likely next destinations on your itinerary.


> Marshall Iliff of eBird enthusiastically noted: “Think of it. Before long,

> the ad software will be powerful enough to combine demographic info, bird

> checklist data, and news of recent sightings around the world to accurately

> predict where any birder is likely to go next and send helpful

> advertisements from that location. Advertising revenue will remain robust

> because of the ability to accurately target only those users likely to be

> in a region.”


> I can see how this might play out in Washington for better and for worse.

> Looking at this coming weekend, I might still be unsure whether to, say,

> head south to look for early spring migrants, or if it might be more fun to

> get a glimpse of shrub steppe birds in eastern Washington. A quick look at

> the ads served up to me on eBird could reveal that, in fact, I’m most

> likely to head to the San Juan Islands – decision made! Sure, it is a

> little creepy to know how much of our lives is revealed online, but it

> might be a price worth paying to have help selecting a destination!


> For those, like me, who don’t actually enter data into eBird, you aren’t

> spared: Searches for recent sightings are also tracked and incorporated

> into the overall snapshot that eBird now offers to advertisers. It has long

> been understood that Birder’s Dashboard also earned significant revenue

> through this model – now the two platforms will be more formally integrated

> for advertisers’ benefit.


> eBird’s Iliff notes that eventually this should result in a better

> experience for birders: “At first, the increased revenue will allow us to

> improve the quality of our offerings to our users, the advertisers. But

> down the road, we hope to use a portion of our profits to enhance the

> ability of birders, our product, to learn about and find birds.”




> Matt Bartels


> Seattle, WA

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> Tweeters mailing list

> Tweeters at



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