Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tech Column: Weathermob for Your Inner Weather Geek

by Bill Adler

There are a lot of excellent, informative and even fun weather apps for cell phones. My current favorites are Clear Day, which gives you just the right dose of weather information along with an informative picture, http://www.vimov.com/clearday/, and Weather Kitty, that presents only the weather basics, but does so with a cute cat photo, http://bit.ly/17h2ie6.

But what if you want to be more involved with the weather? I'm not talking about using the collective power of all our Android phones, iPhones, Windows Phones and remaining dozen or so Blackberries to change the weather (though that will eventually come to pass.) I'm talking about being a weather reporter, contributing the a massive database of weather information. For that there's Weathermob, www.weathermob.me.

Weathermob describes its mission this way: "Weather observations worldwide are sorely lacking. There are currently only a little over 40,000 weather stations on Earth that have the capability to regularly contribute to global weather forecasting, and more than 80% of those are in the US and Europe. More weather reports are critically needed in the world's cities and rapidly developing countries.

"To create 21st century weather predictions, we need a 21st century weather observation system. One that's people-powered and driven by curiosity and the beauty of the natural world. We here at Weathermob think that system starts with you."

Your Weathermob weather report contains several bits of information: a photo or video, your location, the current temperature, whatever comments you want to add, and icons representing the current sky conditions, your mood and what activities the weather is good for.

I like Weathermob. It's a good citizen weather reporting tool, and fun for weather geeks. But Weathermob hasn't decided what it is: a social network or a weather tool? Including an icon for sky and weather conditions --sunny, rainy, cloudy, snowy-- is a good idea. But I'm sure that my current mood --happy, glum, dandy, meh-- and what the weather is good for --pizza eating, dog walking, sailing, shoe shopping-- have little bearing on how pleasant, bad, hot, breezy, or unusual the weather might be. I'm also sure that the tornado icon, should that be your current weather condition, shouldn't be on equal footing with the martini glass icon.

In place of icons I'd like to see other data, such as wind speed, humidity, barometric pressure, and even "feels like" temperature. Yesterday it was 93 degrees in Tokyo and with the humidity it felt like 114 F. That's more interesting than the fact that I included a ice pop icon along with my weather report.

In Weathemob you can switch between the two most unspellable words in English, Fahrenheit and Celsius, to suit your preference. You can comment on others weather reports, as well as favorite reports and follow people.

Weathermob is fun. It's a good step forward to making weather reporting ubiquitous and interesting to do. Weathermob just needs a few tweaks here and there to make it as useful as it wants to be.


Bill Adler is a writer. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOft, "Outwitting Squirrels," http://amzn.to/VXuLBh, and a mess of other books. He tweets at @billadler. His tech column is published on Tuesdays.

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