In 2022, I toyed with the idea of creating a wiki-like experience to organize and document anything related to birds and my hobby of birdwatching.
The first concept of birding.wiki was launched on Because Birds as the BirdDex. This was a fun project where I learned and leveraged WordPress’ custom post types to create and add “Bird” entries into the CMS. It gave me space to design a basic experience and begin to solidify what type of information I would include in these entries. Think of it as a bird Pokédex. I literally researched how to create Pokédex on WordPress to serve as a starting point in the project.
On these pages I included observation statistics, photographs, audio recordings, and personal anecdotes. But as with most of my projects, I yearned for more: more ease of use, more flexibility, more space. So, I began setting my sights on a dedicated platform for this information.
In Late 2022, I bought the domain birding.wiki and began researching self-hosted wiki software solutions. I came across many options and decided to take the plunge and set one up: Wiki.js.
For the first few months of the birding.wiki project, I learned and began building out content in the platform. This exercise in organization and content management showed me ways in which I could display different types of content and helped me clarify what I wanted out of a wiki software.
Wiki.js is a one-man show as far as development is concerned. While the software was visually appealing, it was slow and cumbersome to use and half of the features in the platform were ‘coming soon.’ Development on the product felt slow, with releases of new versions coming out sporadically.
In Early 2023, as my frustration with Wiki.js grew, I began to revisit a few of the wiki platforms from my previous research. BookStack App app intrigued me the most due to its passionate user base and high praises on Reddit.
BookStack’s organization follows the idea of physical books: shelves, books, chapters, and pages. I wondered to myself if this type of structure would work for my use case so I decided to spin up an instance and try it out for myself.
I began by recreating all my existing Wiki.js content into a few “Books” on my new BookStack server. The ease of use and speed of the platform became apparent as soon as I started. The content organization approach started simple and I reworked it as more content was added.
The wiki has four main “shelves”.
The bread & butter of the birding.wiki is the Birds shelf. In the “World birds” book there are entries about many species throughout North America and the world. Birds are organized into chapters based on geographic region and contain personal statistics, media, anecdotes, and links to related blog posts on Because Birds.
The Locations shelf is home to the book of “World places” where I have started to create entries for birdwatching locations that I have enjoyed. Chapters organize these locations based on geographic region. Each page includes photographs, recordings, descriptions, and experiences I’ve had.
The Equipment shelf and respective book contain a detailed breakdown of the gear setups I use in my photography and audio recording endeavors. You’ll find the tools I use and why I use them, as well as links to learn more about each.
The Tech projects shelf contains several books describing the various bird-related web and home projects I use or have created. There is a book for workflows that details the processes I follow to find, capture, and catalogue bird observations and media.