The #BirdCam Social Media Experiment Final Recap

The #BirdCam Social Media Experiment Final Recap

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The #BirdCam Experiment has come to an end. As you all know I was fortunate enough to spot a robin’s nest on May 22nd in our yard in a location conducive for having a webcam mounted. The eggs hatched on June 3rd and the 4 baby robin’s left on June 16th.


  • May 18-21 Eggs laid
  • June 2-4 Eggs hatched
  • June 9 Open eyes
  • June 12 Standing up, spread wings
  • June 15 Jumping around nest
  • June 16 Baby robins left nest

Here is a final recap video just completed with highlights of the project, amazing pictures, and time lapsed videos:

The website is still available to view:

  • 19 Videos (time lapse, live, news)
  • Archive pictures
  • Favorite pictures
  • All-time favorites
  • Fun facts


#BirdCam: How does it work?

#BirdCam: How does it work?

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I will take you through the 5 steps to get pictures of the nest over to a public webserver on the Internet.


  • The Yard Shed
  • The Garage
  • The House
  • The Internet
  • The WebServer

The Yard Shed

This is where it all begins! Mother nature is generating unique content for us to try and capture the moment to enjoy.

Many years ago at the beginning of this millenia, I obtained a very inexpensive webcam ($60) on eBay that I have used for a variety of applications. The model I chose was an Axis 2100 for the reason that it supported the ability to schedule taking sequential pictures (time lapse) between certain times and automatically upload these picture files to a network server.

The dilemma for me was creating reliable connectivity back to our house where our Internet connection is located. Due to the heavy amount of foliage and elevation changes on our property, my preference was a “wired” solution vs a “wireless” solution. A wireless solution would have introduced issues with installing external antennas and dealing with interference and reliability.

Being that a wired solution was chosen to connect back to our home network, this involved running a network cable through the bush from the shed up to the nearest building which is our garage. The total cable length of cat5 ended up being 297 feet (90.5 meters) which is very close to maximum length.

Outside the Shed

Power extension cables were also run which we use for other things in the yard. The cat5 cable was run through a loose section of conduit we had lying around to help prevent it from being crushed.

The Garage

The cat5 cable from the yard shed was terminated into a DLink DHP302 powerline adapter (ethernet over power). The power from our garage is a subpanel off our main house panel, therefore I was able to get a signal to work through the powerline adapters.

Essentially it is like extending the ethernet cat5 cable from one location to the other, using your electrical cables that are run. It does this by using frequencies higher than the 60Hz range used by north american power.

Networking from Garage

The House

In the house near my main ethernet switch is a matching DLink DHP302 powerline adapter. This helps provide a connection to the extended network outside (yard shed via garage) to our home network.

Once connected to the main home network, this allows a connection to my home server and to the Internet.

My home fileserver is FreeBSD (a flavour of unix). Anything can work that supports an FTP server (where the Axis camera deposits the pictures every minute) and rsync (more on this in “The Internet”) would do the trick. You could use a Mac or Windows box as well. Note that this machines needs to be on all the time for the pictures to be “collected”.

The Internet

Due to the unreliability of the Internet, I decided to have images go to my home server as an intermediate instead of directly to the public webserver. I wanted to minimize the possibility of losing photos.

To syncronize the directory of images between my home server and the webserver on the Internet, I used a fantastic program called “rsync”. This program allows the ability essentially “mirror” a file directory between 2 different servers. Thus only requiring to transfer any new photos that were captured by the webcam. I run this “rsync” utility every minute which helps keep things near realtime for viewing images on the public website.

The Web Server

The idea was to keep it a light and simple website consisting of a single page. No menu or no navigation required. The images appear in a subdirectory of the website so it was very easy using a quick PHP script to always display the most recent image.

The images being uploaded by the webcam are named with the date and time as part of the filename, and in a manner that is easily sortable. This is a feature of the Axis 2100 when uploading sequential images on a schedule.

Everything up to this point was accomplished within a single afternoon as time was of the essence. My kids discovered the nest on Saturday, on Sunday a light bulb began to flicker in my mind’s eye, and then on holiday Monday I put in my quick implementation.

Tuesday morning, back to work, I had a meeting with my staff showing them this great opportunity we have which was uber time sensitive. By mid afternoon they had created version 1.0 of the website such that it was somewhat appealing and had many of the social networking hooks.

It has since been a work in progress as we receive feedback from people visiting the website. It has exploded since going live Tuesday. Wednesday evening I was contacted by several news agencies and Thursday a segment appeared for the 6 o’clock news.

We are implementing new features such as picture favorites, photo archive, time lapsed videos, and much more.

This has been (and continues to be as of writing this) a great experiment to incorporate nature, technology, and social media.


#BirdCam : A Social Media Experiment

#BirdCam : A Social Media Experiment

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Robin and Nest Favorite 1

My kids spotted a robin’s nest in our yard.
It was inside one of our sheds.
Hmm… a light bulb flickered to life.
Wouldn’t this be a great way to showcase what you can do with technology,
websites, and the power of social networking.

Within a day I had a webcam mounted watching the nest and uploading pictures directly to a server.

By the next day my staff helped create an amazing website in record time. (We are all having fun with this.)

The result:

The website is still evolving with favorite pictures and viewing the photo archives coming online within a day.

Why go through all this effort to do this you ask? Partially because “we can”, also because “it’s cool”, and also it is an “experiment”.

Experiment? How so?

We wanted to see how fast we could create a brand new website, with unique content being generated for us (thank you mother nature), how “viral” could we make it, and see where it leads. Unfortunately much of the content online these days in the social networking world is what I call “noise”. Who cares what you ate for breakfast or what you are wearing. Also many people retweet/republish/repost other people’s content. Noise noise noise. It is difficult to come by brand new unique content.

Robin and Nest Favorite 2

Sites like what we have created have many possible applications. For instance what if we watched the construction of your brand new house being built. You could see it evolve, check on it anytime you wanted, and then a neat bonus with something being built is time lapse videos! Having a picture taken on a regular basis from a consistant location is ideal for compiling such amazing videos.

We are getting recommendations from people and implementing new features as quickly as we can during this experiment. The experiment will be over in the next 3 weeks after the eggs are hatched and the new born robins all fly away. We want to see where things end up at the end of this timeframe and how viral it gets.

Right now I as I write this I am enjoying watching the realtime logs on our webserver going nuts with new visitors and people refreshing their browsers.

Please check out the website and invite your friends and contacts to do so as well. If you are on twitter, the hashtag is #BIRDCAM

And check back frequently near June 1st which is the current best guestimate we have on when the eggs may begin hatching.

How to Protect Yourself from Twitter Scams

How to Protect Yourself from Twitter Scams

Tweeting on Twitter is quickly becoming the most popular ‘thing’ to do. Never heard of Twitter? It’s a free Internet service where you can post just about anything you want from what you’re doing now (e.g., “I’m eating macaroni and cheese”) to sharing links to interesting articles. It is also a useful tool for businesses and entrepreneurs. Ensure that your posts are short and sweet as you’re only allowed 140 characters per message. If you do use Twitter, there are some scams that you should be aware of.

Making easy, fast money from home is one Twitter scam. These scams tell you that you can earn money by marketing other people’s products to them. All you need to do is pay a small fee to sign up. Sounds believable, right? Once you sign-up, expect your credit card to be charged $40.00 a month in membership fees. There are real work-at-home jobs, but the scams fail to tell you about the membership fees or they try to hide this vital information. It can also be hard to cancel your membership or get a refund.

The Twitter phishing scam tricks users into sharing their personal information, such as passwords, social security numbers, and birth dates. Scammers set up a link that takes you to a fake Twitter sign-up page where you have to type in your password. Once they have your password, they can access your account and spread more scams quite easily. Avoid sharing your password with anyone and change it frequently.

If you want more followers to follow your tweets, there is a service out there that promises they can make that happen. How? This service identifies Twitter users who follow anyone who is following their tweets and targets users with the same interests as you. This is a Twitter scam. If you purchase this service, you could be held liable for sending Twitter spam and banned from Twitter. Give it time and wait for followers to follow you.

There is a Twitter scam that sends messages attached with a link that sound like they were written by one of your friends or followers. When you click on this link, you are directed to another web page where malware or spyware is installed. Avoid clicking on unfamiliar links and installing applications that you are unaware of.

Twitter performs regular checks when approving applications, but there are scams that attempt to access your information from the Twitter API if you give them permission to do so. Ensure that you avoid granting permission to access your Twitter account. There is an option in your Twitter settings to reject access to certain applications. It’s a good idea to turn this function on to protect yourself from this particular scam.

What You Should Never Share on Your Social Networking Site

What You Should Never Share on Your Social Networking Site

Almost everyone is on at least one popular social networking site, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Myspace. These social networking sites provide you with an easy way to share all the details of your life on the Internet.

Posting pictures of your friends and family is questionable, depending on the nature of them. What you want to avoid is sharing the kind of personal information that may result in having your insurance canceled, or even worse yet, placing your home at risk of a break-in.

Avoid sharing your birth date and place on your social networking site. These small, simple details may seem harmless, but they could provide identity thieves with a way to access your social insurance number and apply for credit in your name.

Announcing your vacation plans on the Internet is an invitation for thieves to break into your home. Try not to let your excitement of going on holiday get in the way of common sense. Only your close friends and family should know about your travel plans.

Providing your full home address online is another way for thieves to potentially break into your home. Remember to leave out any personal information that gives away where you live and when not home. If you do need to provide your contact details, sharing your email address is your safest bet.

Negative opinions about your job or boss are best kept well away from your social networking site. Posting a malicious comment or lie that relates to your professional career could result in some serious consequences, such as losing your job and damaging your professional reputation.

Some online accounts ask you to supply answers to specific security questions before you log into your account. Avoid providing your answers to these security questions on your social networking site because cyber thieves could use this information to hack into your account.

Sharing your love of high-risk activities that may include driving motorcycles, hand gliding or car racing is something that you shouldn’t boast about on your social networking site. Life insurance companies, as well as other insurers, are searching personal websites to determine how much of a risk their clients are. They also raise their rates according to what they find about you online.

Did You Know 2.0

In a past posting I made (December 2008) I had come across a great video that was done by PromoMMX for SonyBMG Rome 2008.

Since then many Did You Know derivatives have been spawned on the Internet, some not so serious, some with numbers you cannot trust, but some appeared to be well done. Here is one video that raises some great questions and provides thought provoking numbers.

If you are unable to view the link above, here is the script:

Did you know?!
In the next 8 seconds…!
34 babies will be born!
India 5 China 4 US 1!
What will the world be like…!
For them?!
Name this country…!
– Richest in the world!
– Largest military!
– Center of world business and finance!
– Strongest education system!
– Currency the world standard of value!
– Highest standard of living!
Great Britain In 1900!
2006 college graduates!
U.S. 1.3 million India 3.1 million China 3.3 million!
How many college graduates in India speak English? 100%!
In 10 years, it is predicted that the number one English speaking country in the world will be… China!
Who would have predicted this 60 years ago?!
Who would have predicted this 40 years ago?!
Who would have predicted this 20 years ago?!
Did you know?!
According to the U.S. Department of Labor!
1 in 4 workers has been with their current employer!
Less than one year!
1 in 2 workers has been with their current employer!
Less than five years!
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that today’s learners will have!
10 to 14 jobs… by their 38th birthday!
Many of today’s college majors didn’t exist 10 years ago!
New media Organic agriculture e-business Nanotechnology Homeland security!
What will they study 10 years from now?!
Today’s 21 year olds have: Watched 20,000 hours of TV!
Today’s 21 year olds have: Played 10,000 hours of video games!
Today’s 21 year olds have: Talked 10,000 hours on the phone!
And they’ve sent and received 250,000 emails or instant messages!
More than 50% of U.S. 21 year olds have created content on the web!
More than 70% of U.S. 4 year olds have used a computer!
Years it took to reach a market audience of 50 million Radios 38 Televisions 13 Computers 4!
Number of Internet devices in 1984: 1,000!
Number of Internet devices in 1992: 1,000,000!
Number of Internet devices in 2006: 600,000,000!
Did you know?!
We are living in exponential times!
The first commercial text message was sent in December 1992!
The number of text messages sent and received today…!
Exceeds the population of the planet!
The Internet started being widely used by the general public in early 1995!
1 out of 8 couples married in the US in 2005… met online!
Revenue for eBay in 2006: 6 billion eBay was founded in 1996!
There were more than 2.7 billion searches performed on Google… 2,700,000,000! …this month!
To whom were those questions directed B.G.?!
(Before Google)!
MySpace visitors!
More than 230,000 new users signed up for MySpace…!
If MySpace were a country…!
It would be the 8th largest in the world!
YouTube visitors since September 2005!
Did you know?!
There are more than 540,000 words in the English language…!
About five as many as during Shakespeare’s time!
widget web-surfer blog dot-commer e-learner Internet!
More than 3,000 books were published… today!
The amount of technical information is doubling every two years!
By 2010, it’s predicted to double… every 72 hours!
New information!
Third generation fiber optics has recently been tested that push 10 trillion bits per second
down a fiber!
That is 1,900 CD’s or 150 million simultaneous phone calls every second!
It’s currently tripling every six months!
The fiber is already there, they’re just improving the switches on one end…!
which means the marginal cost of these improvements is effectively… zero!
Nearly 2 billion children live in developing countries
One in three never completes fifth grade!
In 2005 the One Laptop per Child Project (OLPC) set out to provide laptops to these children!
The first shipments should be in mid-2007!
Kids who have never held a textbook will now hold the world!
And be connected… to you!
Predictions are that by the time children born in 2007 are 6 years old,!
a supercomputer’s computation capabilities will exceed!
that of the human brain!
And while predictions further out than 15 years are hard to do… 2049!
a $1,000 computer will exceed the computing capabilities!
of the human race!
What does all this mean?!
shift happens!
We are currently preparing students for jobs and technologies that don’t yet exist…in order
to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.!
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”.
-Albert Einstein!
Did you know…!
There are students in China, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh and the USA who!
remember understand apply analyze evaluate create communicate collaborate on projects everyday!
Ask your kids: Are you doing this in school?!
Ask your Principal: How are you helping my child become literate in the 21st century?!
Ask your School Board: Are you providing the resources and training necessary to prepare
students to be successful in 21st century society?!
Ask your Elected Representatives: Now that you know all this, what changes should be made to
current education legislation?!
What’s your vision?!
Did you know…!
The original version of this presentation was created for a Colorado (USA) high school staff
of 150 in August of 2006!
to start a conversation about what our students need to be successful in the 21st century!
By June 2007 it has started more than 5 million conversations around the world!
And now that you know, we want you to join the conversation!

Did You Know?

Did You Know?