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.

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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.


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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.

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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.


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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.”

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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.

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The Creepy Factor…Creeping

A couple years ago I was lucky to be part of a small gathering put together by an executive at Google. Google Plus was in full swing at the time and the conversation was wide ranging, including The Creepy Factor, the question of how much information were you willing to let an online service have in return for services. Obviously Google and Facebook and Twitter and…would like all of your information. Privacy advocates warn against the “creep” that comes after letting the encyclopedia salesman get his foot in the door.


This was the third thing in my personal Facebook feed this morning. Facebook reached over to the station website and found a story I had nothing to do with, formatted it as a post, and suggested I pay to promote it on my public profile page. This story, by the way, is now three days old.

Does anyone else get frustrated during and after weather events? Two to 3 percent reach of important information. More troubling, seeing old information liked and shared two to three days after an event.

I was in another meeting recently and asked my often asked question, “What is the ROI on social for weather.” One attendee, all of whom are smarter than me, said, “That is not my job to figure out. My job is to engage the users. Someone else needs to figure out what to do with them.”

A fair point, but the encyclopedia salesman is now way past the front door. We let him in and now he is creeping around our stuff.

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