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Platform update

 11 July 2020

Hi All,

Thanks for your patience while we have essentially re-written the entire 6 and a half year old platform in the background while trying to keep the lights on, this has been a tricky task but a huge achievement by the technical team, also considering the year that 2020 has been.

Yesterday the technical/platform team met and discussed next steps and a fresh plan of attack for going forward and growing of the platform and the number of projects that we support.

We've made a number of important but subtle improvements recently, one of which is zero second deployments.

  • Our deployments are now "zero downtime" meaning we can deploy updates to NatureMapr without the website or mobile app going down for even 1 second

The mobile app continues to be enhanced and improved. In addition to the recently added ability to record Points of interest via the mobile app, the following new features will be rolled out shortly:

  • The mobile app will automatically prompt you if you are no longer running the latest version of the app. This will help users avoid any pain from old versions of the ap not being compatible with the latest changes at the NatureMapr back end and provide a smooth way for you to update the app before continuning
  • The mobile app will remember your last 3 categories and species that you've reported and provide a super convenient "one click" way of "reporting another orchid" or "reporting another Caladenia actensis" kind of thing... Where as at the moment, you need to drill down every single time, Plants > Orchids > Find Caladenia actensis etc. I personlly find it a major pain to report lots of the same species because it takes so long to navigate through all the taxonomy dropdowns. So if you're out surveying a particular category or group of species, this will make your life 10 times easier!

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be taking some downtime from my regular day job work and will be focusing heavily on NatureMapr and kicking a few goals.

The broad plan is:

  • Complete the re-write of the Admin area so we can switch off the Old Admin site properly
  • Complete the redevelopment of the survey capability so we can turn the Frogwatch ACT audio survey project back on
  • Other general tweaks and improvements

Once these tasks are complete, we will have then 100% completed the entire re-development of the platform from end to end. Every single last piece of code. We will then undertake a series of important user facing improvements that I've wanted to get to for quite some time.

Some other things that we have in the works include:

  • Ability to crop and rotate images
  • Ability to "Request use of an image" from a sighting author. The system will send a request through to the author and request their explicit permission for you to use their images. This will replace the need to manually chase/email/contact users in the event that you would like to seek permission to use an image from the site.
  • Data quality rating system for all sightings. Sightings will be scored based on the criteria they meet in terms of being high quality scientific records.

So please hang in there, it is all going to happen.

36 comments

KimPullen wrote:
   12 Jul 2020
Great work, Aaron and team! It's easy for me to forget you guys working away behind the scenes to keep NatureMapr working like it does.
   13 Jul 2020
Hi Aaron and Co., I hope the general tweaks and improvements include reverting to the original ability to confirm a species without having to go through the two step process of suggesting it first, thereby generating an extra and unnecessary email. I'm longing to see the back of that little quirk! And adding images to the ID pages via define images without having to go in via admin would be nice too. Yours in hope, Jackie. PS Who gets to score the sightings for data quality? Could get complicated eg if the image is lousy but you trust the person who put it up.
   13 Jul 2020
Thanks for all of your work on this!
   13 Jul 2020
I am not sure what is the best forum for asking this question, but I am wondering if anyone can explain to me the process by which NatureMapr sightings are in turn fed into the Atlas of Living Australia platform? Do our sightings submitted here get transferred? How frequently does this occur? Many thanks for any advice you can provide!
RodDeb wrote:
   13 Jul 2020
Really appreciate all the effort and hard work you are all doing for NatureMapr including those who do the identifications. Thank you.
Harrisi wrote:
   13 Jul 2020
Take a bow to all concerned, you should be proud of your work, it is greatly appreciated. A wonderful resource is the result of your efforts!
   14 Jul 2020
Many thanks to all involved. I am so glad that the creators started this site as I really enjoy the community on CNM and I also find CNM a really useful resource to identify the creatures I see. Many thanks to all for the great site and for the updates. I really appreciate CNM and your workπŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘
   15 Jul 2020
In the words of the lads from Liverpool: "..it's getting better all the time..." Good work team!
   15 Jul 2020
Many thanks for the support everyone.

Hi Jackie: I'm glad you mentioned that, I didn't realise. So do we need to show the "Confirm" button straight away for moderators? That's a relatively easy thing to fix.

We will be developing a new way to "define sample species images" soon, it is part of our road map.

No "person" gets to score sighting data quality, it will be a transparent set of simple rules and checks that the system will test for, we may not get it perfect first time, but we will refine it until we get it right. E.g. if we get GPS proof of location directly out of the image, then that's worth a point.. More on this soon.

Hi WattaWanderer: The ALA download all our latest sightings (via our API / web service) once weekly. We are still unable to send any sensitive sightings through to the ALA as they are unable to properly suppress the information we provide, therefore we only send non-sensitive sightings through to the ALA at this point in time.

Cheers

Aaron.
LisaH wrote:
   19 Jul 2020
Hi Aaron - congratulations, to you and all involved. I can't tell you how my life has been influenced by being part of this project - and community.
Wandiyali wrote:
   19 Jul 2020
Huge job, many thanks Aaron. Continue to really enjoy the platform and community.
   22 Jul 2020
Hi All,

Sighting Upload delays have now been resolved and a number of sightings are being refreshed in the background to ensure they have the correct location "Place" names. Google was throttling us from geocoding too many sightings! But we are making some changes to better handle that (I.e. so we don't smash Google too hard so that this won't happen in the future).

We have also fixed a few bugs in the past 24 hours:
- Editing sightings with 4 images trying to add a 5th image
- Tiny thumbnails not refreshing sometimes on Sighting Edit Page
- New Admin area (for project adminstrators) can now grant and revoke security roles, categories and locations

More to come...

Cheers

Aaron.
   23 Jul 2020
Hi All,
- Data Export capability is now available in the New Admin area for Administrators.

We continue to redevelop the Admin area and are currently focused on 3 critical user facing issues:
- Nightly/weekly emails are sometimes being sent twice
- User sighting counts are not always re-freshed after sighting upload
- If google geocoding fails, we will abort maintaining a sighting and flag it for retry a short time later.

We hope to have these 3 issues resolved by the end of the coming weekend. They are all funnily enough related to the same piece of architecture within the platform that is getting an upgrade.

More to come...
Mike wrote:
   23 Jul 2020
Great work. For your To Do List you can add geolocation for audio on the app (maybe that's just for Android). Or do you already have it? When I thought audio was not working on the app I uploaded some via the website but I also put some on the Australian Museum FrogID app. I noticed that this also captures lat./long. though I am not sure how I got to that information because I don't see it today.
   23 Jul 2020
Hi Mike,

The upload audio feature on the app uses the GPS location of your device at the point/time when you recorded the audio clip. That is because audio clips themselves natively don't contain any embedded GPS info inside them like images do. Therefore, we can only collect the location if you used the app to record the audio clip.

Otherwise, if uploading audio via the website, you need to specify the location manually. (In which case going forward into the future, your sighting would overall score less "scientific quality" points because we can't prove that the audio was truly recorded at the claimed location, which we can do if using the app.

Hope I'm making sense!

Cheers

Aaron.
Mike wrote:
   23 Jul 2020
Makes sense. I was doing it manually when the app was not working with audio for a while. Back to the app.
Bron wrote:
   24 Jul 2020
Brilliant work Aaron and team! Thanks.. I look forward to uploading many more historical sightings when it's all done. They'll miss out on GPS points but might prove interesting. A quick question - are you including a taxonomic structure so that slotting new species in will be more logical? I've learned so much about taxonomy from ALA's structure and would love to see similar in CNM. Cheers Bron
   26 Jul 2020
Hi Bron,

Work on the taxonomy (A bit of an overhaul and consolidation across projects) is planned on our roadmap, but we have a few more critical things to get to before we can do that. More to come...

Cheers

Aaron.
   26 Jul 2020
Hi All,

Several issues were resolved today.

- We have identified 2 further important maintenance improvements that will be made to the mobile apps in the next coming maintenance release to further improve stability
- All Attributes were merged across projects into a single consolidated list of attributes for species and categories regardless of project. This will help NatureMapr sightings be more and more consistent across projects and drastically improve the overall scientific quality of sighting information collected.

More to come.

Cheers

Aaron.
Bron wrote:
   27 Jul 2020
Thanks Aaron! And thans again for the tireless work. Cheers Bron
   27 Jul 2020
Good stuff, thanks for making these imrovements and for communicating how the platform is being upgraded
   29 Jul 2020
Hi All,

Some improvements:
- Bulk sighting import tool has been sped up and made more robust for very large files
- Google geocoding service has been made more robust and google throttling issue has been resolved

Next things on our immediate hit list are:
- Some nightly/weekly emails are still being sent multiple times. Will be resolved ASAP
- Species List tools moved into New Admin
- Create/Edit/Delete Maps/POIs/Places moved into New Admin
- Import taxonomy and import sightings tools moved into New Admin
- Mobile maintenance release is in the works

More to come...
   30 Jul 2020
Hi all, replies to cross project announcements (like this one), will now show in the latest comments across all projects so that we can get more cross project discussion happening against key topics such as important platform updates.

Cheers

Aaron.
   1 Aug 2020
Hi All,

For Administrators:

- Content Management has been moved into New Admin (dependency removed from Old Admin)
- Species List Management has been moved into New Admin (dependency removed from Old Admin)

More to come...

Cheers

Aaron.
   2 Aug 2020
Hi All, Last night at 12:30am, Rohan released an update to improve the reliability of our nightly and weekly emails. This should hopefully prevent any duplicate emails from being sent out due to the existing method timing out and auto-retrying (which resulted in the emails being sent out multiple times). We will keep an eye on this from here on... My weekend has also mostly been programming on the new Admin interface to bring more and more functions across from Old Admin. Cheers Aaron.
   2 Aug 2020
Hi All,

For Administrators:
- Add/Edit/Remove Location functions have now been redeveloped into the New Admin area (another dependency removed from Old Admin)

The next things for New Admin are:
- Ability to define dropdown attribute options
- Ability to define species within a species list
- Ability to define/upload polygons and points for locations
- Import taxonomy move to New Admin

Cheers

Aaron.
   6 Aug 2020
Hi All,

- You can now maintain your profile images once again via the Account Settings page
- Administrators can also maintain profile images for users from within the Admin area

Another small, incremental step forward...

Cheers

Aaron.
   8 Aug 2020
Hi All,

- For administrators: Custom Attribute options (dropdown list values) can now be maintained from the New Admin area

Cheers

Aaron.
   8 Aug 2020
Hi All,

- For Administrators. You can now fully maintain Location Groups from the New Admin area.

Cheers

Aaron.
   8 Aug 2020
Hi All,
- Species Synonyms now show up in Quick Search

Cheers

Aaron.
   9 Aug 2020
Hi All,

For Administrators: You can now fully maintain/edit Points of Interest via the New Admin area.

Cheers

Aaron.
michaelb wrote:
   9 Aug 2020
Re Species Synonyms now show up in Quick Search
Thanks Aaron
Another little bug off the list.
   9 Aug 2020
Hi All,

Lots of other things have been fixed.

Cheers

Aaron.
   10 Aug 2020
Hi All,

- We've addressed a small gap where the mobile apps were not being told to fetch updates for the field guide when points of interest were updated

Next things on our hit list are:
- Bring bulk import sightings into New Admin
-Bring import taxonomy into New Admin
- Introduce global "Location Groups" such as "watering points" that will be presented the same across all projects.
- Replace the publicly accessible "add point of interest" page with a better one that's more like the new one in New Admin

Aiming for end of week/end to achieve the above.

Cheers

Aaron.
Stewart wrote:
   10 Aug 2020
Great work Aaron and team! It's really starting to hum along now esp with field guides for POI and new admin areas working well! Thanks for all your tireless efforts.
   11 Aug 2020
Hi All, Going forward from the next app maintenance release onwards, NatureMapr will start supporting only the last "x" versions of the mobile app for both iOS and Android. This means that if you have the app on your device and you haven't updated it in quite a while, the app will notify you that you are required to update the app before allowing you to perform any key functions. This is because our support footprint is unrealistically large and we need to only support the last X versions of the app that are reasonably close to the latest version. For example: If we push out a major/important update to the mobile apps (which may break old versions of the app), this new check will inform users automatically that they are older than a particular version and they need to update in order to continue to use the app. This is really important to avoid us ending up in an untenable and unrealistic support situation so that we can continue to provide high quality support to our app users. Cheers Aaron.

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AaronClausen

AaronClausen
AaronClausen

Founder, NatureMapr

344046 sightings of 6301 species in 315 locations from 808 members
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