Hipper Socks

If you are old enough, you will remember that Pat Sajak, of Wheel of Fortune fame, once had a late-night talk show. The program started with good ratings but quickly faded and was canceled after less than a year and half. As viewers abandoned the show producers made changes, including adjusting the set to have the host sitting not behind a desk, but across a coffee table from the guest, and you could see Sajak from head to toe. After the show was cancelled he was quoted as saying he knew the end was near when some consultant, certain they could help, told him he needed to be wearing hipper socks.

slide bullets

Bullet points from a consultant presentation.

There is an equal amount of silliness and scrambling going on around local TV weather. We’ve been talking about the use of action words like “tracking”, severe weather alert days, crazy colortables and random indices quite a bit on WeatherBrains lately. Broadcast meteorologists are scratching their heads when told to lead the newscast, or do special cutins, when there is light rain in the market. The consultants are telling us that just about every weather parameter is seen as some level of “inconvenience” by someone and we should capitalize on every opportunity to breathlessly keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

Here is an open request, when visited with suggestions that we wear hipper socks. Politely say, “Why?” Respectfully ask to see the data that shows why these socks are better. Or is it just an overreaching opinion fueled by a fading business model. We’re all scientists, we need to see the research. Then share what you learn.

Or…is this a signal to double-down on our digital development? (What is the name of this blog again? Consultants, call me. I have the blueprint.) On Shark Tank Mark Cuban says, “If anyone is going to kick my a$$ in a particular business sector, I want it to be me.” He also wears pretty hip socks on that show.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

What good will that do?

I wanted to share two tales of RadarScope. Both are very important.

Some weeks ago someone, admittedly afraid of storms, asked me how to stay informed and safe in her home. We spent a few minutes downloading and training on RadarScope and she took a deep breath and said, “Okay, we’ll see.”

Two weeks later a mesocyclone producing thunderstorm went right over the woman’s neighborhood. When I saw her a few days later she thanked me and told me, with confidence, that she actually watched the storm go over her house. Knowledge is power.

Since it is springtime in Texas, more storms have come and a different woman came to me recounting how hard it had been driving in a downpour that reduced speed and visibility on the highway. I said, “Let me give you some RadarScope training.” Her response, “What good will that do?” Her mindset was that she was going to get from point A to point B no matter what. A week earlier another story came into our office about a traveler who had windshield damage from hail. Again, we mentioned radar training and somone commented, “What good does that do while you are driving?”


Now, we all know what the “good” is, prevention. Don’t drive through it. Pull over. “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” to quote some government agency we all know and love. But we need to think about this for a minute. The “What good will that do?” people are intelligent folks. They probably went to college. They get up every morning and manage to find their socks, and their way to work. So how could they not see what we see?

I’ve really been struggling with this.

Knowledge is power and previous to this time in history the knowledge of exactly where users are (indicated by the blue target circle on RadarScope) and where that hail core is, and where it is moving in relationship to them, has not been available. They have no history with this information.

Partly cloudy, 72 is available everywhere. Maybe this is one of the few spots we can still add value.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Anatomy of a Weather Tweet


As we head into spring severe weather season, a review of best social media practices is warranted. With a great many “experts” and “consultants” offering best-practices it seems a good time to analyze what makes an effective tweet.

Let’s take a look piece by piece:

. (dot) – You’ll want to start every important tweet with a (dot) because everyone on Twitter needs to see your information.

@spann – Because everyone on Twitter needs to see your information.

Photo – Tweets with photos show 27% higher engagement. You have some flexibility here. A photo that shows you are “working for the user” is best. Try and frame the image showing radar and include your feet up on the desk to show that you are in fact working, but still casual enough to include some personality and give a sense of calm (wearing sneakers is another light touch). It is important to note here that the radar image includes well drawn arrows indicating the motion of the storms since a still radar image is next to useless. Also remember you can include up to four photos in a tweet so consider a shot of the green screen and a selfie with your anchor team holding station coffee mugs.

#tracking – Tracking is a consultant driven term that is sweeping the nation. Users are flocking to tweets using “tracking” because it is an “action” word that tells the user you are “working for them” and has a better chance of getting your tweet on the trending list. If you can squeeze in “track” in the same tweet you are obviously getting double the “track” traction without being repetitive.

ALERT – Will help get attention, particularly with those users following large numbers of accounts because not only do the large letters stand out, it is a sign that you are yelling at the user and need them to pay attention.

BREAKING – Again, all caps. CNN has clearly proven that BREAKING, or DEVELOPING on EVERY story has no EFFECT of DESENSITIZING the user, and, should keep a healthy ANXIETY level that will keep users TUNED IN.

#txwx #okwx #txweather – Location, location, location. If you happen to be in a market that covers more than one state you’ll need to give up precious characters for each state. Be careful, as we are in my market, to not give Oklahoma users the impression that the weather in Oklahoma is “Okay” if it is not. The use of the full word “weather” is also necessary (as was decided in a news meeting at the CBS affiliate in Dallas one day) because most users will not be able to understand the use of “wx”.

Looking Out For You – Obviously you need to use your own station positioning statement and remind the user you are “working for them”.

#pinpoint – Is rapidly gaining popularity with the consultant crowd and suggests accuracy. It is tracking closely behind “tracking”.

#thedress – Obviously this is gender specific, but if you have room for another picture use it. Men can substitute #necktieImwearing, with a picture.

#weather – Should be self-explanatory…because, you know, weather.

http://www.newsch – A link to the station website…..wait…damn it, too many characters. Hmmmm….. OH! I know! Facebook link!! Ooooh, I can feel the “likes” coming in now.


Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Climate survey results released

Covers of 2016 surveys about climate change

The Center for Climate Change Communication released initial findings from two surveys conducted earlier this year to investigate views on climate change.  The first survey focused on broadcast meteorologists (regardless of membership in a professional organization) and the second on members of the American Meteorological Society (regardless of profession).

Some highlights:

  • A large majority of both populations believe climate change is happening, regardless of cause (92% of broadcast meteorologists and 96% of AMS members).
  • AMS members are more likely to see human activity as a cause of climate change (67% say climate change is “entirely”, “largely”, or “mostly” by human activity) than are broadcast meteorologists (46%).
  • The fraction of AMS members who believe their local area’s climate has changed in the last 50 years (74% said yes) is larger than the fraction of broadcast meteorologists who believe their media market’s climate has changed over that same time (54%). Likewise, AMS members were marginally more likely to believe those changes were more harmful than not than colleagues in broadcast meteorology. (38% vs 31%). (This is a bit of an apples-and-oranges comparison since broadcasters work within clearly defined media markets while “local area” is a bit more nebulous, but I found the difference interesting nonetheless.)

One crosstab I’d be interested in seeing is whether AMS membership (and/or being an AMS Sealholder or Certified Broadcast Meteorologist) had any bearing on a respondent’s views on human activity as a cause of climate change.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Social responsibility of color choice

A nearly constant refrain from many from within the weather enterprise — and from many more without — is that we must be more consistent in presentation of information, especially before and during high-impact weather events.  WDT, maker of the popular RadarScope app, is addressing this concern by declining to implement one of the most frequently-asked-for feature requests, customizable color tables:

A frequent feature request we get from our core customer base is the ability to have customizable color tables in RadarScope. As a scientist, I understand wanting to customize the data visualization just to your liking. However, this practice is not socially responsible.


The last thing we want is for someone under threat to be discerning all of the different radar color tables on their Twitter feed.  The RadarScope team is firmly committed to providing a consistent experience to not only our customers, but customers of our customers. Considering our commitment to consistency and safety, we are choosing not to expose a custom color table option in the app at this time.

This is the first time I can recall a major weather vendor asserting social responsibility as a reason behind a decision not to do something.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment


We all have reasons and influences that affect the graphics we put out. I tend to be a minimalist. An image is only on TV for a few minutes, giving a viewer very little time to process something that you may have spent a fair amount of time with. Sometimes I wonder if making a simple graphic doesn’t feel like enough work…remember the viewers perspective, how much are you asking them to process. Base maps might be a little over decorated too.


This image from IBM keeps popping up in my feed. It makes me think of a great quote I once heard:

“You’re not supposed to come out of a Broadway musical humming the set.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Trolls and the Spotlight

Why are we doing this?



Internet troll has a Wikipedia page:

“…a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory…”

Trolls live under bridges, in the darkness. Leave them there without the attention they so desperately crave. If you encourage them, they will multiply, and not in a good way like Marcy.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments