Weather Weblogging

Weather junkies rejoice

I’ve been a subscriber to the Weather Underground for a few years now. For the cost of 5.00 a year, you can access all the functionality at the site, without ads and including radar pictures during peak times. The weather forecasting is superior to Weather channel’s site, and the maps and graphics much cleaner and easier to read. For a weather junkie, Weather Underground is candy.

Recently the site has added weblogs as a component of its interactive services. Now, in addition to sharing photos and personal weather station information, you can now share your intimate thoughts and deep corporate secrets. Well, as long as neither are obscene, because the company has put censorship control in the hands of the customers — allowing each of us to ‘flag’ whether a post is obscene or not.

My weblog, with it’s first innocuous entry is here. The left side of the blog page contains page controls, including options controlling whether to display the top photo banner and a login. For members, the left side also has a link to member settings, Weather Email and Mail Box, My Photos, My Blog, and the Forecast Fliers.

The right side displays thumbnails of recent photos I’ve uploaded. By uploading them, I give Weather Underground explicit permission to use the photos for the company’s own purpose, though I retain full copyright. Following the photos are links I’ve added to the weblog, and the weather stations I monitor . These stations are maintained by a network of people who run their own personal weather stations and then use software to upload the data to the site.

Before I started uploaded photos and creating WunderBlog entries, I could add weather forecasts as favorites and email alerts. This is in addition to the click and zoom radar and subscribing to weather casts through Bloglines, based on the RSS feeds associated with each individual community. (I’ve even thought about trying something a little interesting with the feeds and my comments, because lord knows, we need more toys.) I also use the Trip Planner to check out typical weather conditions when I’m planning a cross-country drive.

Now the site has weblogs and cross-member communication. I’ve already had my first email message, with kind words on one of my photos–the bee on the water lily. Kind considering the great photo the sender had just posted–take a look at that critter’s face. (Want more critter closeups, then check out this damselfly.)

About the only thing missing at Weather Underground from a social network perspective is tags. They do have categories for the photos, though, so don’t despair.

Though all of the tech is fun to play with, there’s a great deal of usefulness about all of this interactivity. The personal weather stations not only provide in-depth current weather information, they also provide history, which can then be used to help out with other technology such as the trip planner. In his weblog, the Weather Underground’s top meteorologist provides a more in-depth look at weather patterns and what they mean, such as the exceedingly calm spring we’ve had this year (Oklahoma had no tornadoes in May — a record). He was also able to issue an alert about a pending bill in Congress that would close the NWS (National Weather Service) data from small, independent companies if the data is provided by ‘commercial providers’–a direct violation of federally funded data being made available to the people without prejudice (and a bill instigated by a couple of larger, commercial weather data providers.)

(He also provided pointers to a graph of the drought that’s hitting us and surrounding states. From the look of it, I think one reason we may be seeing more bear in Missouri now is a severe drought in northern Arkansas, where most of these bear live.)

In the Weather Station discussion, how the stations tracked Arlene is mapped, and how the new weblogging system is put together is discussed in the developer’s weblog.

I don’t plan on posting frequently to my WunderBlog weblog. I’ll most likely leave it for weather-related writings that might bore most of you. (Though they do make a nice break from the ‘women in weblogging’, blasting the Illuminati, and other too-typical fare, eh?) It has been interesting to watch this site evolve from being ‘just’ a weather web page to being the center of a rather thriving little community. A nice next step would be an API that allows integrated access from other sites, though this might overwhelm the services if too successful. Besides, at 5.00 a year, mustn’t get too greedy.

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