Frequently asked questions

How much does Indicia cost?

Indicia is free and open source software and there are no costs for the software itself or any of the software it is dependent on. However, before implementing a project using Indicia please take into account the cost of web-hosting and developing your Indicia powered site, although the latter should be considerably cheaper using Indicia than if starting from scratch.

Does Indicia allow photos to be uploaded with records?

Yes, Indicia supports photo upload for records as well as for site data. The uploader also supports resizing the image within the browser making uploads much faster as well as showing a progress bar during the upload.

Does Indicia support expert verification of the records?

Yes, Indicia can be used to build sites that support expert verification of incoming records and includes ready made verification pages that can be added to any Indicia site. Full details of records are available including photos, maps with overlay of existing distributions of the species for comparison and phenology charts built using existing records. The verification facilities support bulk verification of records, e.g. verify all records of a common and easy to identify species, or all records by a trusted recorder. Email communication facilities and integration with NBN Record Cleaner rules combine to make verification both simple and fast.

What support options are available?

Indicia currently has the following support and help options:

If you would like something more concrete than free community support then there are a number of developers available who can provide paid for support or complete website development. The best approach would be to post a message requesting assistance on the forum.

Note

When choosing the technologies used for Indicia, we have consciously elected to stick with widely used, free and open source tools. Therefore finding developers with the right skillset (mainly PHP and JavaScript) is relatively easy and there are no up-front costs to get set up as a developer. You can find out more about the technology or dive straight in to the developer documentation.

Will the Indicia project be supported into the future?

Todo

answer question about support in the future

Is there a mobile interface for Indicia?

There isn’t a generic approach to building mobile applications in Indicia at the present time, however Indicia provides an excellent platform for building mobile applications against since it provides the services required to store records, lookup species names and report on the data that a mobile application requires. PlantTracker is a good example of a mobile application written using Indicia as the platform for storing the records, thereby benefitting from the reporting, verification and other data management tools.

Currently, a mobile app is being developed for the UK Ladybird Recording Scheme and as part of this project a generic approach to building mobile applications to run alongside Drupal websites is being developed.

What do I need to do to setup my own online recording site?

There are two principal components to Indicia, the Warehouse and the website which your recording forms are presented on. The Warehouse is the part which stores all the data and provides an interface for administering the recording surveys and the data they contain. Your website will communicate with the Warehouse behind the scenes, sending and receiving data to and from it. You need both of these components in order to use Indicia. However, the design of Indicia is such that a single Warehouse can be shared between several websites, so you may only need to host your own website and not the Warehouse.

What are the hosting options for the Indicia Warehouse?

Most popular web-hosting packages support just MySQL as a database platform. Unfortunately MySQL is excellent at what it does, but is currently very limited in its capability to store and process spatial data - in particular it does not properly handle reports which request the occurrences falling inside a polygon. It also has weak support for “procedural” code embedded in the database itself. PostgreSQL on the other hand has a very rich support for spatial data and is free and open source, which in turn makes it well supported by other mapping tools (it’s pretty easy to draw PostgreSQL data onto a Google Map or a desktop GIS for example).

So, our approach to this dilemma has been to split an Indicia based website into 2 parts as mentioned above. The “Warehouse” is where we put the PostgreSQL database. This part provides an administration website plus a set of web services providing access to the data and validation tools. The second part is the bit you get to write - a website that allows your participants to enter their observations, report and map them. It’s completely up to you how you go about this, but we are providing PHP classes to make the task extremely simple, and also provide modules for the Drupal Content Management System so you can get going without writing any code. Now the good thing is that all of this will run easily on the vast majority of web-hosting packages.

So, whilst the actual online-recording websites will run pretty much anywhere, the options for running the Warehouse are as follows:

  1. Host your own web server. The good news here is that all the software required on the server is free and open source (Indicia is free as in free speech and free beer). Indicia’s bandwidth requirements are also not likely to be very high by today’s standards.

  2. Use a web-hosting package. Whilst the packages that support PostgreSQL are limited, there are some, for example those in the following list:

    Please note that this list is not an endorsement in anyway, merely a suggestion of some hosts to investigate. For the ultimate in power and flexibility most hosts can provide a Virtual Private Server - effectively your own virtual machine which you have a lot more freedom over, though it is often quite a lot more expensive.

  3. Share a server with a partner organisation that is willing and capable of hosting the Warehouse on your behalf. At this time the only organisation planning to do this on behalf of other organisations is the Biological Records Centre, but that does not mean there won’t be more.

Remember with options 1 and 2 there is an overhead of installation and administration of the Warehouse - for example you will need to setup an appropriate backup strategy and so forth.

One of the things you may want to think about when selecting a host is whether you want to expose your data as “spatial web services”. The way we are doing this is to install a package called GeoServer. This runs alongside the PostgreSQL database and allows GIS and web-mapping packages to request maps and map data directly from the database using a standardised method. So, for example, it is easy to dump data onto a web-map, Google Earth or your GIS. To do this requires the ability to run Java on the server and it would be worth asking a potential web host if they can support GeoServer before going down this route (unless of course you don’t need to expose the data spatially).

How do I access the data held in Indicia?

Because Indicia is a web application as opposed to a desktop application, the way you access the data is different. There are many options available but typically you will use one of the following:

  • Download the data in spreadsheet format
  • Download the data in NBN Exchange format
  • Directly access the data from a GIS or other mapping program such as Google Earth using web services.

Note

It is possible to run powerful queries on the web-server itself so you don’t even need to download the data to perform many basic analysis operations.

Which versions of Drupal does Indicia integrate with?

At the time of writing (November 2012), the Indicia integration module is available for Drupal 6 and work is currently in progress on the Drupal 7 version, which will be released this winter.

Can Indicia use a MySQL database?

Todo

Answer question about MySQL

How do I report a bug?

First, you need to have a Google account. Once you have that set up, go to the Issues list and click the New Issue link near the top. Please take care to fill in all the details you can about how to reproduce the bug.

Does Indicia support the NBN Record Cleaner?

The NBN Record Cleaner is a tool designed to help you spot common problems in your data, e.g. by identifying records outside the expected time of year or geographic range for a species. Indicia supports importing rule files created for the NBN Record Cleaner which define individual verification rules. The rules are then automatically applied to incoming data and this information is made available for verifiers during the verification process. It all happens online and there is no need to download data into the NBN Record Cleaner tool itself.

Indicia supports Period, Period Within Year, Identification Difficulty and Without Polygon rules. See http://www.nbn.org.uk/Tools-Resources/Recording-Resources/NBN-Record-Cleaner/Creating-verification-rules.aspx for more information.