Frozen Peas

Okay. I’ve had it.

In this promotional material from The Weather Company the second sentence negates the entire premise.

“The content you have is more time-sensitive…”

If Facebook (and to some degree Twitter) is going to trickle your content to 2-3% of your followers over a period of 2-3 days…how is that helping the time-sensitive nature of your content?!?!

In the immortal words of Orson Wells in Frozen Peas:

“Come on, fellas, you’re losing your heads!”

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Pirate Ships

A few years ago I read a great book called Creative Confidence. The author was an early Apple designer and the mission of the book was to help people unlock the inner creativity that was probably beaten out of them somewhere earlier in life.

I came across David Kelley’s TED talk last night. It is not very long and worth your time.

Kelly tells the story of Doug Dietz, an engineer who builds MRI machines. Dietz was very proud of the amazing technology but also deeply saddened to learn that most children were terrified to use his product, which was big and noisy and scary. Determined to look at the problem from his users point of view Dietz consulted with experts in children’s communication and the result was an MRI that looked like a pirate ship. An adventure story was created to go with the artwork. Kids loved it and were much more comforted during the experience.

Again, the main message of Creative Confidence is unlocking creativity. The greater message for me was realizing how important it is to look at your product through the eyes of the end user. Doing so is a game changer.

A standing ovation for everyone at The Weather Channel for amazing work during this amazing tropical season. Thank you.

All of us, especially those in severe weather markets, understand the daunting task of continuous coverage. You need things to talk about. As we wait for the next big and noisy and scary thing, ask if your users will receive useable information from a visually cumbersome spaghetti plot. The goal, looking through their eyes, is not to dazzle them with unnecessary technology. They’d rather have you hold their hand on a pirate ship.

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Strike While The Iron Is Wet

It seems unlikely that one of your reporters and a photographer will be caught on a flooded highway…..and told that their television station is being evacuated…..and have to carry the coverage solo for close to an hour… the middle of a once in a lifetime weather event.

This is the moment right after Brandi Smith and Mario Sandoval found themselves in that exact position. They did a fantastic job.

After more than 30 minutes of solo coverage it began to rain even harder and there was the slightest tone shift in Brandi’s delivery for just a moment that said, “Really? More? There is more?” I had been watching radar and knew it was coming.

Take this moment to visit with news management and make sure everyone in the newsroom has RadarScope on their phone. More importantly, teach them how to use it.

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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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