FERDY CHRISTANT - MAR 27, 2015 (12:34:10 AM)
Back in January, I wrote the Big Idea post, in which I set out the vision and focus for JungleDragon V4. Summarizing that post, the big idea was to dramatically improve the ability to explore wildlife geographically, by country. To realize that vision, I needed to implement the concept of a "country" in rich ways.
I'm very happy that in the past 4 weeks alone, much of that vision was already realized. We can now easily link photos to countries, and as a result, countries become rich things. Where before they were map pins only, they now have a photos section, and a species section. This in itself delivers on the core promise of JungleDragon V4 already.
However, there was more in that Big Idea post: I also hinted at the ambition of introducing the "Park" concept. Countries have national parks, and it would be great to have a representation of that in JungleDragon, one level below the country level.
I'm working on that concept right now, and it's still not entirely certain whether I will succeed. In this post I am going to share you everything you want to know as well as everything you don't want to know about my current approach, its many struggles and its promises. I'm not sure if it will be good read, but I really feel that I should write about it, to share both frustrations and some slight successes.
The idea of "Parks" in JungleDragon is not new, I already started work on it during JungleDragon V3. My approach was to pay somebody to collect data about all national parks and zoos in the world, along with some metadata. The idea would then be to integrate them in JungleDragon, but only in limited ways:
- To display a list of parks per country, purely for information purposes
- To display them as pins on a map (yet not as actual areas on a map)
As for linking them to photos, automatic detection of parks from a photo's geo coordinates would definitely not be possible, since we would have only point data and not area data for parks. That would mean that users have to manually associate photos to parks, if they can be bothered to do so.
This approach did not work out, due to the freelancer not delivering and missing deadlines for a period of about a year. In hindsight, not a bad thing, since the new approach has more potential, yet way more challenges.
The new approach
As I was discussing the former approach at the JungleDragon forums, one member (@Lilygirl) pointed out that IUCN could perhaps have a ready-to-use data source for national parks. After a bit more research into that, I came across this:
I don't know why I did not hear about this before, but it's quite a spectacular find. That site shows a map with all protected areas of the world, including shape data that actually draws the area on the map. The specific visualization on that site is powered by a database called WDPA: the World Database of Protected Areas.
Such a promising data source had me itching to take a deep dive into it, to see how and if it can be used for our purpose at JungleDragon. As such, this new data source became the starting point of my new approach.
About the WDPA
Let us first get out of the way a few basics about this data source...
First, the type of data. The database stores "protected areas", which differs from my first approach of national parks and zoos. Zoos are out, it's that simple. They are not considered protected areas, although some may appear in the set if they have a hybrid status.
I can live with that. What about national parks vs protected areas though, are they the same thing? No. Protected areas have a far wider scope than just national parks. "Protected areas" can mean many things in this database, it also includes many areas that one does not consider a national park. A protected area usually has a relation with nature conservation, but that relation can be strong or weak. For example, a protected area can be a floral protection zone, a game zone (which implies managed hunting), and many other things. There is no rock hard definition, although IUCN attempts to classify these area in various ways, with mixed success.
So we're looking at way more than just national parks. How complete is this data? The answer here varies wildly country by country. To give you an example, the USA has a whopping 75,000 entries in the database. And some countries have less than 10. You can't explain such differences by the size of the country alone, clearly there are enormous differences in how well individual countries are described. This is somewhat to be expected, as this data is delivered by said countries, there is no single central authority.
So it looks like some countries are"overcomplete" for our purpose, whilst other are "undercomplete" possibly. So that's data quantity, what about data quality? Again the answer here is mixed. In some countries, a lot of metadata is lacking. You can also see enormous differences in the accuracy of the area shapes. Some countries map them down to the pixel, whilst other draw large rough edged borders around areas.
Another thing I spotted is that some areas are not named as you would expect them to be named. Looking up some famous areas I came across names I did not expect, and most people would certainly not recognize.
So there's problems with this data. The quantity, quality and usefulness varies greatly between countries. Despite these problems, I don't think we're going to find a data source that is better than this. I certainly would not know of any. I also will absolutely not manage or maintain protected areas inside JungleDragon itself. In other words, the data is the data. We're making use of it, we're not maintaining it. With that principle in mind, I started working with the data...
Before we get to the nitty gritty, I'd like to list the functional goals I have for this data,what it can possibly realize inside JungleDragon if all goes well:
1. Listing protected areas per country
This feature would simply list all protected areas (their names and other metadata) as text entries per country. It would be for informational purposes only, to learn about the names of protected areas in any specific country. This feature, as basic as it is, is achievable.
2. Drawing protected areas on a country map
This variation would actually draw the protected areas on the country map, which is a lot more useful. Not only will you learn the names of the areas, you can actually see where they are and what their borders are. This feature too is achievable based on my current progress, yet with a major limitation, that I'll discuss in a minute.
3. Linking protected areas to photos
If and when we have protected areas inside JungleDragon, they would become a lot more valuable if they can be linked to photos. This would make it possible to see photos and species per protected area. Without that link, protected areas would just stand on their own.
You can imagine a photographer picking a park from some kind of list, filtered by country, to associate the photo with the specific park. This approach has so many problems that I will probably not build it. The amount of entries is too large in many countries, their names are not always as you expect, and photographers already need to set the species and country on their photos, which is challenging enough to enforce. This process would be to laboursome and too error-prone.
Which leaves one other option only: automatic park detection. For geotagged photos, the system would automatically calculate inside which protected area shape it would fall, and then automatically settle on a specific protected area. It would be quite an awesome feature.
Whether this can be technically done, is still to be investigated. I have great concerns about the feasibility, performance issues and accuracy. Furthermore, shapes do overlap which can cause additional trouble. Even if I succeed, there is the additional issue that it will only work on geotagged photos, which is about 50% of photos currently.
This goal #3 is the most uncertain goal at this point. The jury is still out on this one. Worst case, only #1 and #2 will be delivered.
Working with the data
One step at a time, I haven't arrived at goal 3 yet as I'm still struggling with #1 and #2. Let's see where we're at and what I did...
First, getting the data. Luckily, protectedplanet allows you to download their data (under conditions) in a number of formats. The one I needed was the KML format, which is an XML dialect to represent geographic shapes. This format is also used by Google Earth as well as Google Maps.
Protectedplanet offers a download of all protectedareas, which I did. It has about 75,000 entries. In addition to that, you can also search for specific countries and download only the KML for that country only. I did that as well for a few countries and something did not add up at this point. The total number of protected areas after downloading a few countries was already larger than the sum total in their single "all" file.
I'm not sure what the reason for that is, but it's highly confusing. And painful, as now I had to take the ISO countries list in hand and manually download the KML for each country, which brings the total number to about 225,000 protected areas. This results in 230 files, as some countries have no protected areas at all.
After the download exercise I started investigating the structure of the data. I had to do this on "small" countries as the larger files will crash any text editor, some are over 2GB in size.
Once I had a good idea about the structure of the data, I started writing a parser that could pull the KML into a relational database. This will be needed later on to integrate it into JungleDragon, plus it is useful to be able to query the data. Writing the parser was painful and I had to start over 3 times due to the enormous size of some files which would crash my script.
I eventually managed though, and had all entries of all countries sitting inside a database. At this point it was easier for me to investigate the actual data in large quantities. Unfortunately, I discovered new data issues as a result. First, WDPA has a data specification, which describes the purpose of each field. The problem is that the enforcement of the definition is very weak.
As an example, they have a field "wdpaid" which supposedly is a unique number given out to protected areas. Except it isn't unique, as there are several areas sharing the same "unique" ID. Likewise, they have a field "designation" which indicates the type of the protected area. An essential field for our purpose, but it's not standardized. Anybody can type in anything in that field, and they do. And many do it in their local language, so forget using this field as any kind of filter. And to make matters worse, many potentially useful fields are often set to "not reported".
And there's more bad news. It gets worse before it gets better. I talked about goal #2, which is to draw the protected areas on a map. The opening screenshot shows that concept for the example country Sri Lanka, where you can see the blue shapes drawn on the map.
That concept is implemented as a KML layer in Google Maps. The problem is that KML has constraints on it. In order to draw such a layer on Google Maps, the KML itself has these constraints:
- The KML file has a maximum file size of 3MB compressed, and 10MB uncompressed
- The KML layer has a maximum of 1,000 shapes in it
Go beyond those constraints, and nothing will get drawn at all. How do they do it at protectedplanet then? They don't use Google Maps, they use OpenMaps combined with a tile server. That's not an option I can consider, not only would it not be compatible with existing JungleDragon functionality, it also would be a major piece of infrastructure and investment to add.
So I have to stick with the constraints. In a way I don't have a problem with the constraints. I intend to show these areas per country, so not on the global map. Making it have less than a 1,000 entries per country seems reasonable given our original goal. Furthermore, it would not be sustainable at all to let users wait for a 100MB (even up to 2GB) of data just to draw this layer of shapes. It would crash browsers even.
The real problem is deciding which protected areas to delete. There are 41 countries exceeding these tresholds and I have to bring all 41 down to less than 1,000 entries per country. In some countries, that means getting rid of half the protected areas, in a country like the USA it means getting rid of 74 out of every 75 protected areas.
This is the step I'm currently in, and its troublesome. I can't go in and manually decide which areas to keep, there simply are too many of them. So I have to throw out protected areas smartly, for each of these 41 countries.
One major way in which I'm trying to do this is to filter them based on metadata. For example, I can use their IUCN category and only keep category I and II (most important), but that still leaves too much data in most cases. I actually have to decide on this smartly, one country at a time. The problem occurs when after "smartly" filtering, it still leaves more than a 1,000 entries. It's an impossible job to decide which one to keep and which one to delete. This is my major challenge currently, and I'm only still at the start of it.
This is a hard point to cross, that will take me a while. The good news though would be that once I overcome this part, goal #1 and #2 are guaranteed.
We've arrived at the state of progress that I'm currently in. As you can see, it is a road full of challenges. My take on the goals discussed earlier:
- Goal #1: listing parks: Yes, can and will be done.
- Goal #2: drawing parks: Yes, can be done but with major data selection challenges
- Goal #3: linking photos to parks: remains to be seen, to be further investigated
Despite all the setbacks, I believe I will deliver #1 and #2, with #3 being a stretch goal that may or may not be delivered. Although parks potentially is a useful and cool feature to add, I do see it as an "extra". A powerful and cool extra, but JungleDragon can do without it. With that I mean that the combination of species and countries already offers an endless and rich way of mapping and exploring wildlife.
Whatever happens, you can be sure that I will give it my best shot. I've had several nights where I regret even starting this, but now I am in too deep to just stop. I hope I did not bore you too much with this post :)
FERDY CHRISTANT - MAR 16, 2015 (09:43:47 PM)
Two updates in a single day, I hope you can keep up with the breakneck speed at which JungleDragon V4 is being developed. This update brings to life an important vision for JungleDragon V4, and JungleDragon overall.
Update 15, two updates ago, finally introduced species at the country level. It came along with a new concept, the country introduction (first photo of a species within a country). Whilst country species is a major breakthrough for JungleDragon, this specific update makes it infinitely more useful.
This update is the icing on the cake, as you can now filter country species by popular wildlife categories:
See above. At the country level, below the species link there is now an additional navigation bar. You start navigating all species of the country, yet you can filter using one of 8 categories.
Compared to just showing a large list of species for the country, this is a lot more powerful and intuitive. I'm going to show you an example of each category just ti highlight the importance of this. Each example is clickable, and will take you the real thing.
As the above closeup introduced, here's amphibians in India:
The incredible insect life of Sri Lanka:
The wide array of exotic birds in Australia:
The breath-taking marine life of Belize:
The mysterious world of fungi in the USA:
Tanzania's world-famous mammal life:
Bulgaria's extraordinary wild plant life:
And South Africa's intruiging reptile community:
As said, I'm showing so many examples to demonstrate how natural it is to look at wildlife this way, by country and then by species category. I hope you share my excitement regarding this update.
FERDY CHRISTANT - MAR 16, 2015 (08:53:31 AM)
We're less than 3 months into the development of JungleDragon V4, and here is already the 16th update. This update further builds upon the previous update, which introduced country species and country introductions.
Country intros at user profile level
The country intro is a brand new concept in JungleDragon where you are the first to photograph a species in a specific country. This means that any given member now can have 4 different types of relation with species:
- They photograph them
- They identify them
- They introduce them to the site
- They introduce them to a country
Three of these relations were already visible at any user's profile, below the "species" link there. This update adds the 4th option:
See above. Note the new option "Country intros" at the user profile section, below the "species" link. This new overview works a bit different from the other three overviews. This new overview shows photos, not species (yet their caption shows the species' name). Furthermore, species can occur multiple times, since you can introduce a species to multiple countries. Here's an example of that:
See above. The captions show the flag of the country followed by the species name. In this case, I have introduced the "Black and white ruffed Lemur" to Madagascar, as well as the Netherlands (from a zoo). Furthermore, I have introduced the "Black-backed Jackal" to both the Netherlands (zoo) and to Tanzania.
As explained in my previous post, both species intros and country intros are a driving force for members to further expand JungleDragon's content, so I hope this new personal overview is appreciated.
From species to countries
Whereas update 15 made finding the species in a country possible, update 16 makes the opposite also possible: finding countries from a species record. Below is the species page of the Black Vulture:
Note the new section "Photographed in":
From this new section we can tell the 4 countries in which this species was photographed. Clicking a country will bring you directly to that countries' species section.
New country sort methods
The country selection screen, which is a main way to explore wildlife geographically, now has two new sorting: most photos and most species:
They do what you expect, they list countries with the most photos/species on top.
Country border outlines
When you now select a country from the above list, it will zoom in on the map to that country as always, yet the countries' borders are now higlighted:
See above the white outline for Brazil, showing both country and province/state borders. This is a nice improvement to learn the true borders of a nation, which can be complex. Due to the way this is implemented (as a KML layer), there are a few countries in which it does not work. I accept that, since this is a non-essential feature.
Mod page updated
A few updates ago we introduced the concept of country linking, where we try to link as many photos as we can to countries, in particular for photos that are not geotagged. I've added a new help page to the moderators panel that explains the concept:
That's it, I hope you like these updates!
FERDY CHRISTANT - MAR 12, 2015 (10:05:53 PM)
The above is a screenshot from a blog post regarding JungleDragon development from December 2011. It shows me getting some first succesful output of an attempt to programmatically query and parse complicated Wikipedia species pages.
At that time, JungleDragon had no species. You couldn't identify them. There was no species browser, no species management system, no moderation tools, no species intros, and no culture to collect and organize them. All of those things that we do have now, are the result of the above first brick that was laid. And that brick was not laid out of some grand vision. I figured it would be a nice feature, but I never expected it to become THE feature of JungleDragon.
Why this trip down memory lane? Because today I am laying another such brick. A brick that will appear unimpressive at first, yet will be a guiding factor and direction for JungleDragon in years to come. It starts with this update, with this essential building block.
Yes, country species are finally here. As explained in my Big Idea post, JungleDragon V4 is and will all be about geography. In recent updates, we've laid the foundation for that, so let's go over that quickly:
See above. As always, we have our global wildlife map, showing geotagged photos using map pins. However, we can also use the country selection control to pick a country:
There was no way to do this before, so this is a great navigation improvement. Browsing wildlife by country is now very easy. Let's pick "Madagascar":
Here we are zoomed in on the selected country, with again map pins shown. However, note that the map header also has a tab "photos":
It does what it says, we're browsing photos taken in that country. Although a perfectly logical feature, this is the first evidence that a country now really exists in JungleDragon. Before, it was merely pins that were grouped, now it really is an entity, a real thing.
Another important recent update is that we can (and should) link as many photos to a country as we can. It happens automatically for geotagged photos, but we're also doing it for non-geotagged photos now. Without that discipline, unlinked photos would not appear on any country's tab, which would be a waste.
The essential new tab
So we've come a long way in only a few weeks of developing the concept of a country inside JungleDragon, and today a crucial enrichment is available. There is now a 3rd tab at the country level called "species":
Here we are browsing the 183 species photographed in Madagascar. We're not looking at photos, mind you, these are species entries. Clicking them will lead you to a species page.
This, my dear readers, is the spectacular update. I hope you are wondering what the big deal is, as that is what I am to explain next...
First, this makes possible what wasn't possible before. There was simply no way at all in JungleDragon to view all of a countries' species. And viewing all of a countries' species is essential:
- Say I am a birder in my home country, it would be awesome to get a listing of local birds, to see them, and to learn more about them. Now I can (in theory at least, more on that in the next section).
- Say I am planning to travel abroad to a great wildlife destination, wouldn't it be awesome to see and learn about the species to expect there ahead of time?
- Ultimately (very long term) this capability can even start to compete with guide books (I've used the book Birds of Sri Lanka before as an example) that you would normally buy. Not right now, but this feature makes it possible.
All of the above scenarios are now possible. They were not possible before, and that is why this is a breakthrough. But there's more. Besides exploring wildlife in this rich new way, contributing it in such a way will not only be possible, it will be fun and addictive, just like species intros are right now.
I'll go into that part in a minute, but first, we have to be honest about a few problems still. As said, this is a new brick, the beginning of something new.
With this first basic implementation of country species I see 3 main challenges. Two can be explained in a single screenshot:
Above we are browsing the 1,143 species photographed in the USA. Let's discuss the problems:
1. Zoo species
As is to be expected, in some countries (in particular industrialized countries) a lot of species are photographed in zoos. Although it is technically correct to show them on the countries' species tab, it is kind of weird to have an African Elephant in the USA.
I will address this issue eventually , but I will first "live" with the problem for a while. Ultimately, there should be a way to browse wild and non-wild species using filters. Building it is no problem, the challenge is in finding the best way to administer it. Likely it will be a shared moderation task, or there could be a new role of country manager. I have to think it through some more, but it will be solved eventually.
Fun fact: I'm also planning on the ability to filter on endemic species, species occuring only in that specific country.
2. Species types
The 2nd problem of the current implementation is that it simply is a long list of species. In countries with many species photographed, it is not ideal to explore biodiversity this way. My proposed solution is to offer a simple navigator that shows popular categories of wildlife, so that you can quickly navigate to birds, mammals, plants, etc.
This solution should come soon, so it's only a temporary problem.
3. We need content
I saved the biggest challenge for last. Since introducing the concept of countries, we know that JungleDragon has quite some blank spots in its content base, meaning that we still have countries with no photos, as well as countries with few photos taken.
Those blank spots just got multiplied as it comes to country species. The content is even thinner there. This doesn't come as a surprise, because we're now basically talking about documenting all (or many) species occuring in all (or many) countries. Or, put in different terms, documenting all of life.
To illustrate the challenge at a lower level: We have several photos of the Red Fox (vulpes vulpes). So the species is there. However, this well-known species occurs in over 100 countries. We have only a few of those occurences.
So we have this mission impossible of documenting every species occuring in every country of the world. Which is really a mission impossible, but that is the utopia goal. And we have our current content base, which represents a tiny fraction of that goal only currently.
This outlook may appear as kind of depressing at first, but in my vision, the total opposite is true. The lack of content is not a downer, this new country species feature will in fact be a driving force for collection, and it will be total fun. Allow me to explain.
Members who contribute to JungleDragon need to have a driving force, something that makes them come back and give them a sense of accomplishment and appreciation. Parts of those attractions are in engaging with fellow enthusiasts, as well as getting feedback on your photography. However, what I believe to be a stronger attraction even is the species intro. It happens when you identify the species on your photo and learn that it was in fact the first photo of that species on the site. That accomplishment is highly visualized in the site, highly appreciated by others, and it gives yourself a meaningful sense of accomplishment, as you just contributed something unique to the site. You were the first.
So how do we move from our current country species situation as far as possible towards out utopia goal? We'll do it again by "gamifying" the experience of doing so. Allow me to present to you an entirely new concept: the country species intro.
A country species intro, which as of now I'll shorten to "country intro", means that you were the first to photograph a species in a specific country. To return to our example of the Red Fox: there is only one species intro (site-wide species intro) for the species, yet there can be over a 100 country intros for the species. If you photograph it in Germany, whilst it wasn't photographed there yet, you've accomplished a "country intro". Let's visualize:
Here we have a Carpet Chameleon photographed in Madagascar. The label in blue indicates this is a species intro, the first photo of this species at all on the site, regardless of where it was photographed. Note the new label in green though, this was also the first photo of this species in this country, Madagascar in this example. Another example:
This awesome photo of a Fan-throated lizard in India is not a species intro, it was photographed before. However, it is the first occurence in India specifically, so it is a country intro for the species, as the green label shows.
This 2nd example is crucial. Compared to site-wide species intros, there's endless opportunities for country intros. I know that some members are selective in what to upload, as they really want to focus on species intros only. They shouldn't, as even when a species is already known, the country in which it occurs is equally important.
In other words, our culture of collecting species just exploded into infinitely more opportunities. And I do mean infinitely, this mechanism is for years to come. Whether it is a species intro or a country intro, there is no limit to this game.
Whereas the above shows the intro badges on photo thumbs, here's how they look when opening a photo page:
This photo has the maximum amount of badges. It is promoted to the homepage, it is a new species, as well as a country intro. It doesn't get better than this.
With the new species tab at the country level, also comes a new counter. Here's the country block on a photo page:
As you can see, the "Explore" link not only shows the countries' photo counter, it also shows the countries' species counter. This is vital information as the most important page in JungleDragon is the photo page. At a glance you can now see how rich or thinly the country in question is populated with content, further stimulating the "collection" game.
Likewise, these counters are available on the country selection screen:
And this is the humbling experience I was talking about. As said though, we'll bend this into opportunity and fun. Every photo that gets added, every day that passes, we're making small steps towards further filling up country photos and species. We have our work, our fun and our hobby carved out for us for years to come, or perhaps endlessly. My key point is that the journey itself should be just as satisfying as the goal itself. We are merely enthusiasts having fun and learning, and with these guiding systems in place, we are realizing phenomenal ways to explore wildlife, a little better each day. In the process, we produce something useful for the world to enjoy, whilst also developing ourselves.
This essential new feature of JungleDragon will have a lasting impact on the community. It will not be felt from day one, but its effects will become clear over time.
As for next steps, there are many. Both this part of countries as well as countries as a whole is far from done, yet after today, I conclude that we have some very important essentials in place. I hope you feel the same way!
FERDY CHRISTANT - MAR 6, 2015 (01:19:31 PM)
JungleDragon Update 14 of V4 is now live. This is an "aftercare" update that improves several aspects of the previous updates, based on community feedback.
The previous update was a game-changer. After more than 2 years of focusing on species identification on photos, suddenly an extra shared task appeared: linking photos to countries, for photos that are not geotagged.
And what a community we have! The new task is fully embraced. Using the tools introduced, hard manual work, feedback on bugs and suggestions for improvements, we went from 46% of photos linked to a country to 68% currently:
And all of this was achieved just 4 days after the deployment. I have every hope that we will eventually reach the 80-90% range in this area.
So now we have a dual obsession: identifying species and linking photos to locations (GPS or country). All of this work is ultimately part of a vision to make this possible:
(click to enlarge)
We're not just looking at a great photo of a Jaguar. We can actually see that it is a Jaguar because it is identified as such. We can learn more about the species and check more photos of it, amongst other things. And, we see it was taken in Brazil. We can navigate to Brazil and learn more about the photos and species there. Combined, all this info makes for an incredible, context-rich, educational experience that far surpasses just looking at photos. This, in a nutshell, is what JungleDragon is about, and we're moving ever closer to that ideal.
Allright, time to discuss the improvements and fixes part of this update:
Better country detection for geotagged photos
When a photo is geotagged, manual country linking is not needed, as JungleDragon will detect the country automatically. At least it tries to. It worked in 90% of all cases, yet by making some improvements in my code it should now work in about 98-99% of cases.
Some geotagged photos will never be linked to a country, in particular those geotagged too far outside country borders, meaning in the sea.
More accuracy in unidentified and unmapped overviews
People helping out with getting our unidentified and unmapped overviews more empty may often look at the percentage number in the header. I've added a two decimal extra precision to those numbers so that you can have more insight in the progress we're making.
Country counters on photo pages
When a photo is linked to a country (whether automatic or manually), the "Explore" link in the sidebar will now show the photo counter of the country:
"Explore" even more important
Exploring photos by country is becoming so important that I placed it further to the left in the global navigation bar, with "lists" moved further to the right:
Personal unidentified and unmapped overviews
Right after deploying the site-wide new "unmapped" overview, multiple people have requested to also have such an overview at the user level. This way members can "clean up" their own set of photos.
I initially hesitated to build this due to user profiles already being so full of links, and due to other priorities, but I've given in. Here it is:
See above the new "unmapped" overview at the user level, right next to it is also an overview of photos where the species are not identified.
I'm glad I built it, the community was right. Right after first seeing it, I saw several hundreds of photos not yet linked to a country, so I set the right example and cleaned it up.
Whilst at the topic of user profiles, I cleaned up the layout in the header which displays the user's country, age, gender and join date, which was sometimes messy before.
This one is not related to countries. When a user is not signed in and opening a photo, there will be a header that briefly explains JungleDragon, along with a "Join" button:
This is done for users that do not know JungleDragon and directly land at a photo page (for example coming from Google). As said, signed in members will not see this header.
iPhone search bug
Also unrelated to countries: when using any of the site's search boxes, on iPhones after typing 3 characters you would get a blank background. This weird bug is now solved.
I'm very happy with the past few weeks of progress. Brick by brick we're building awesome country exploration functionality. Above all I am deeply impressed by the community in engaging with the new functionality, in adapting our content, in reporting issues, all of it. It is very hard work but I never imagined we would move this fast.
The next step is in building country species. This is a huge one, that will likely costs a few weeks, which I intend to spread over multiple updates. Please have some patience with this one, it's no easy task.