Mobile weather information creates an interesting privacy problem. In order to more effectively sell your attention to advertisers, information providers need to know more than just your city. Looks like AccuWeather has gotten caught with its hand a little too far in the cookie jar.


My favorite quote is from the AccuWeather spokesperson:

“This is a quickly evolving legal field and what is best practice one day may change the next; and… we take privacy issues very seriously,” the spokesperson said. “We work to have our [terms of service and agreements] as current as the law is evolving and often beyond that which may be legally required to protect the privacy of our users.”

In other words, “Our lawyers are working quicker than lightning to stay just ahead of the law.”

This is a tough problem. Our business models depend on advertising. But, the “internet of things” is coming for your data. Don’t believe it?

“Society as a whole continues down a path where devices in your home, traditionally our most private space, are largely controlled by other people who want to know what you’re doing,”

There is an easy fix. Opt-in. If users had to tap “Allow” for every piece of data collected Facebook would dry up and blow away, and the AccuWeather legal team might not have to work as hard to “protect the privacy of our users (from us)”.

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The Definition Of A Forecaster

Not long ago I came up with a definition of a forecaster:

  • Assess the current conditions
  • Identify the influences on those conditions
  • Make a prediction as to how the influences will affect the future

This is a really interesting article. You probably need to read it before moving on. I’ll wait…

(tapping foot…shifting in chair…)

The main message is that Facebook is, and has been, pretty good at spotting trends and copying them. I get it. Competition makes everybody stronger.

The underlying message is a bit more ominous. From the article:

Today that app, called Onavo, has become a little-known weapon in Facebook’s massive expansion strategy…

The technology shows how far Facebook is willing to go as part of its aggressive strategy to reach into new areas beyond social networking…

In the last Facebook quarterly earnings report it cautioned that while it has two billion users, it knew that it had reached a point where it knew it couldn’t maintain large growth in the amount of advertising it could put in its mobile app (assessing the current conditions, by the way). In order to maintain a high growth trajectory the company will begin experimenting with ads in its Messenger app because it needs more apps in which to place ads (influences, by the way).

Sidebar. Go and try to log out of Messenger. You can’t do it. Next, remove Facebook and Messenger from your phone. Now put Messenger back and you won’t need to log in. Meaning that somewhere your username and password have been left on the phone.

So, who cares (making a prediction, by the way). Facebook needs more information on you to support its advertising business (another good article, you can read this one after you finish this). It will use Onavo and every other means to gather information about you, whether you are aware of it or not. These actions will be executed by the same guy who took the original idea from two Harvard classmates.

Oh no, Kevin. That old argument? Really?

Yes. And here is why. Forecasting the weather is math. It follows a predicable pattern. If you know the math and can gather enough of the influences you can see the future.

Who knew that you and Zuck were in the same business?

The Washington Post

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Time Warp

Time to mention this time warp again.

Good effort in dealing with one of the inherent problems with social media…old data. We have some arrows showing direction (since a static radar image is next to useless except for the users getting rain) and there is a timestamp.

Twitter used to be chronological but this 3:56pm image was served to me at 6:20pm.

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Weather Geek Art

I was in Norman, OK, this week and found this fantastic sculpture in the lobby of the National Weather Center. (h/t Rick Smith)

It is about 7 feet high, made of metal. Each Oklahoma county is a separate piece and each piece was left outside at an Oklahoma Mesonet site to weather for about three months. A poster next to the sculpture reflects the weather during time the piece was on site.

The artist is Leslie Martin and I’m calling on all of us to do something at least as cool.

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AlexaHomeDotEchoHomePod Smart Speakers

Kinda blown away by the latest chart from the Borrell Associates newsletter.

Borrell Associates

The Apple HomePod is not even available yet but look at the numbers. Borrell says that “smart speaker” ownership is already at 11% in the U.S. Eleven percent may not sound like much but Borrell notes that was exactly where smartphones were in 2008.

So look at the chart. How are people using the devices? Fifty-seven percent use them for weather. Did you create your smart speaker forecast this morning?

We flirted with this a few years ago. Remember that one alarm clock app that had the happy morning anchor team cheerfully saying, “Good morning you wonderful person! Time to get up, and don’t forget to watch our show for all kinds of newsy goodness!” Same message…every day. Those didn’t last 10 minutes (I know why but that is anther post). But, good for them! They gave it a try. Things need to start somewhere and evolve.

Here is your alarm for tomorrow morning. Record this and use it on your phone. “Good morning television meteorologist! The Google Amazon Apple Home Alexia Dot Homepod is already awake!”

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Leave Your Station

Every now and then I hear some version of “You can’t cover your market unless you get out in it.” My first radio program manager said, “Buy a house, look like you live here.” A TV news consultant once said, “The twenty-something producers here have no idea about the lives of their viewers. They have no kids and sit in this building all day.”

I’ve (half) joked before that the weather needs to be moved over to the promotions department. We only get three minutes of a 30 minute newscast. Our job, even while some research shows weather has fallen dramatically as the reason people watch, is to bring viewers into the tent so they can sample the rest of the wares.

Go find some people doing something and put them on TV. Live shots are good but consider the benefit of pre-production. This gives them the chance to tell the rest of their Tribe, “We’re going to be on TV!”

Every time I do a speech I pull out my phone and have the group shout, “Hello, Texoma!” I tell them specifically when they will be on TV. From there it is up to the news people to get them to stick around.

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The Death of Design

I’m certain I’ll get called on the carpet for this but here it goes anyway.

This is a television weather app. The thing that pushed me over the edge to write about it is because two days after this redesign was released I was accosted by an agitated viewer. She hates it. Sadly I agree.

Starting from the top (keeping in mind this is viewed on a phone. The logo…can’t read it. Messy. I’ve seen larger versions and the background picture is an angry shelf cloud rolling over a wheat field. When you invite someone to your home do you open the door and growl at them? Make them feel threatened and uncomfortable? Guessing not.

Moving down. There is literally no usable information on this screen. None.

The Interactive Radar is a static image, that is not current. Yes, radar is important. Does it lead the weather story every day? No.

Current Con… Again static shot, does not change. Not representative of the actual current con… as it was clear at the time of the frame grab.

Live Stream. Only during newscasts. I’d really just like to know the temperature at 10:04 AM. Does this mean I need to wait until the noon news?

Wait, there is the temperature at the bottom…well, half of it. It is covered by the ad for…what is that ad for?

Jakob Nielsen is one of the top usability researchers in the country. He tells us that the ads out there now are actually designed with a signal for us to not pay attention. How do you fix that? There is a little trick. Make the ad look like it belongs in the app. Not flashing pink which actually tells the user it is an ad.

There is a trend here. I’ve done a tiny bit of research on the companies responsible for this that caused a viewer to come after me. The goal of any company is to make money and you do that by playing to the client that is going to pay you. We’re in a little different arena. The B2B companies are marketing to the television stations not the end user. Their pitch focuses on the needs of the television station and not the person waking up and checking their phone first thing, or standing in line wondering how hot it is, or wondering if that approaching dark cloud is really growling at them like the logo.

Go read this book. It promotes a culture. One that is focused on the end user, not the middleman.

We also need a shift from the traditional television consulting model. I’ve yet to find one operational television meteorologist in a consulting roll. The traditional firms have not been in our foxhole. Another example of looking (or not looking) to the needs of the end user.

Go search WeatherBrains for episodes with Laura Myers, Kim Klockow and Gina Eosco. These social scientists are embedding themselves in the culture of weather…not television.

We’ve discussed the Yahoo weather app before. After their redesign a few years ago they saw a 150% increase in traffic in six months.

I’m off to work. Sure hope none of the viewers I will see on the way have updated the app yet.

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