Archive for the ‘information’ Category

Replacing the Free Site with Free Trials

To our visitors, fans, supporters, and customers:

When we first broke ground on Stormpulse.com, Brad and I were just a couple of fresh-faced entrepreneurs attempting to create something amazing.  Five years, 61 million visits, and 17 million visitors later, we can look at this work of two founders and a handful of amazing contributors and feel a real sense of accomplishment for having come this far.

But of course, we can’t stop there.  We now have a growing list of customers and prospects that want us to keep pushing our service forward.  Alongside this rising mountain of feature requests, we also have an expanding vision for weather mapping and alerting that can transform the way people manage their operations before, during, and after weather that impacts their business.

As a bootstrapped company on the web, keeping up with these demands means continually reviewing and revising our business.  One of the biggest questions that we’ve faced since Day One is how much to give away for free.  Give away too little and we may fail to grab the attention of new visitors that share the site with friends and colleagues through word-of-mouth.  Give away too much and we risk treading water and disappointing, rather than growing and improving the service for our customers.

Over the years, we’ve tried balancing these concerns by experimenting with advertising (which unfortunately makes the experience worse and worse), consumer subscriptions, business subscriptions, and larger enterprise sales and business development.

In the end, I believe we’ve learned that maintaining a completely free site isn’t sustainable, nor is it in the best interest of the people that benefit the most from our service.  Some of the world’s most important missions are using Stormpulse every day, from U.S. military bases to manufacturing facilities to transportation and shipping and energy companies.  We want to continue serving these missions to the fullest extent of our abilities.

To succeed at this, we have to have a laser-like focus.  And so, after serving up over 120 million pageviews, we’ve decided to replace the free site with free trials.  Beginning in April, visitors will be asked to sign up for a free trial and then decide if they are going to continue using the site for a yearly subscription, or whether they will instead use one of the many free sites available on the web.  Plans will start with individual subscriptions, with additional tiers of service for businesses that need to add geographic data to the platform or take advantage of our rules-based, customizable weather alerting.

Many people have asked us why we can’t also have a consumer subscription.  As our support and development teams grow, splitting our attention may become practical.  For now, we’re choosing to focus on the needs of leaders inside operations centers, corporate security teams, and supply chains, all of which can be greatly affected by the weather.

We’re looking forward to a bright future of continuing to improve our service, which so many have come to know and love and expect to remain the best on the market.  We’ve got some incredible ideas waiting up our sleeves.

We’ll be sharing updates in the coming days on the new plans and pricing that will be a part of this change (hint: they’re a lot simpler and better than ever before) (Update, 4/4/12: Here they are, as well as free trials).  As we go through this transition, we’d like to hear from you (as always).  You can share your thoughts with us at: feedback@stormpulse.com.

Many thanks from this Florida native,

Matthew Wensing

Co-founder, Stormpulse

Add markers to weather maps with the Stormpulse API

You can now add your own location data to any Stormpulse map embedded on your site.  To learn how, read our updated API documentation, or watch these video tutorials.

NOTE: This functionality is available to all API users until June 1, 2010.  On June 1, 2010, certain restrictions may apply to API users embedding the map on media (mass audience) sites and API users embedding the map on corporate intranet portals.

Just another small step towards opening up our maps to the rest of the world.  We look forward to adding new functions, objects, and data sets to the library.

If you would like to sign up for an API key (free), you should go to this page on our site.

Nationwide severe weather on Stormpulse

This morning we updated the site to include most of the severe weather watches and warnings published by the National Weather Service (weather.gov).

This includes many, many types of hazards such as:

  • Severe Thunderstorms
  • Tornadoes
  • Floods & flash floods
  • Fire watches/warnings
  • Winter storms (snow, sleet)
  • Frosts/freezes
  • Extreme heat

Here’s an example of some frost creeping into Charlotte, NC this morning:

Frost in Charlotte, NC

We’ve adopted the same colors as the official NWS charts (though that may change), and we’ve added value (in our Stormpulse way) by making the areas clickable, by joining together neighborhoring shapes into a single area (less clutter, less confusion) when they share the same advisory/alert, and by giving you access to the complete description right inside the map.

Along with the mapping visuals, you’ll also notice we have a search box that supports searching by state, city, or zip code.

Search

Example searches: “Memphis, TN“, “33411“, “New York, NY“, “Minnesota“, “California“, “FL“.

Play around and have fun with it, and let us know what you think.  We are considering this very much an early version (‘beta’ in developer lingo), so beware of hidden bugs and potential performance issues if you are using a slower computer.

Hurricane Ike sporting 105 mph winds, says Shell E&P Drilling Platform

At 2:45pm EDT, a Shell International Drilling Platform (also known as NDBC buoy 42361) recorded Hurricane Ike‘s southeastern eyewall at 105 mph at a pressure of 967 mb:

Meanwhile, a buoy stationed off the southeast coast of Galveston, TX is observing 17 ft. waves with winds out of the ENE at 40 mph, gusting to almost 50 mph. Also interesting that these are 17 ft. waves coming in on a 45 ft. water depth. Pressure there is at 995 mb, a 4.6 mb drop since the last observation.

Watch Ike make landfall with radar (NEXRAD) on the Stormpulse map

We’ve been promising it for a while, and now on the brink of Hurricane Ike‘s landfall into northeastern Texas, we are pleased to announce that we’ve added radar as a layer to the Stormpulse map.

To emphasize the feature during this critical time, we’ve placed it first in the list of layers at the top-right. Just toggle it ‘On’, and a semi-transparent layer of doppler radar observations from across the U.S. will load into view. This data is sourced from NEXRAD–the Doppler Radar National Mosaic published by the National Weather Service.

While this does not appear as high-resolution as other familiar displays of radar (“VIPIR” comes to mind), we hope you’ll agree that this layer adds a critical dimension that was heretofore lacking–namely, watching the rain bands come ashore and eventually being greeted with the eye of the monster. We also hope that, being national in scope, this layer creates interest beyond the context of tropical cyclones. Where will we go from here …

In response to many a good question about “Wind Fields”, we’ve also added labels to the Tropical Storm, Storm, and Hurricane Force wind fields, which shows you their meaning in miles per hour (39-57 mph, 58-73 mph, and 74+ mph, respectively):

To all of the many that asked us about these wind fields and about radar: thank you for helping to drive us in this direction. And to everyone: thoughts and feedback welcome.

Interrogative statements commonly found in our Gmail inbox

To improve our communication, we now have a Frequently Asked Questions page.

Aren’t you glad you asked? :-)

Thank you: A summary of Stormpulse feedback in recent days

First of all … with Hurricane Gustav less than 40 hours from landfall, our thoughts are with the people of Louisiana.

I wanted to write a quick post tonight letting all of you know how much we appreciate the flood of feedback and constructive criticism we’ve received, particularly in the last week.  While we read every single character you send our way, we no longer have the ability to respond to every email and continue making progress on the site.  So if we haven’t responded to you personally, we trust you understand …

Since many people claim to be listening to feedback but don’t seem to do much about it, I thought I would prove it by listing the most common (and best) suggestions we’ve heard so far:

  • It’s hard to tell the difference between the various colors in the storm category legend.  Specifically, we need to create a greater distinction between categories 3, 4, and 5.
  • “Please put the category somewhere on the map/info box.”  Done.  We now list “H1”, “H2”, etc. in the information box at the bottom of the map.
  • “Give me some way to make the map bigger“.  Done.  We’ve added a Full-Screen link to the site (look at the top-right), and we’ve made height and width settable parameters in the API.
  • “Let me zoom in farther.”  Coming … we just downloaded imagery from NASA that will allow you to zoom in another one or two steps.
  • Add Little Cayman and Cayman brac to the map!”  Seems reasonable to us.  Haven’t done this yet, though.  Sorry.
  • “Some of the photos for Hurricane Katrina as wrong/false.”  Done.  We’ve gone in and cleared the erroneous ones out, as far as we know.
  • “I can’t see the background tiles/map.”  We’ve narrowed this down, in most cases, to a corporate firewall blocking the traffic or a need to clear your browser cache and try again.
  • Add radar!”  Coming, although it probably won’t animate at first.
  • “Please label latitude and longitude on the grid.”  This is going to be a little tricky, but again, we’ll see what we can do once things calm down a bit.  :-)

All for now.  Thanks again to all of you that have taken the time to write.  And for those that haven’t, thanks for using the site and the API service.  And our fingers are flying fast trying to make it even better.

Invest 94 to become Tropical Storm Gustav? The early morning report from buoy 42059.

According to a buoy stationed just east of the high-potential tropical disturbance also known as Invest 94L, steady winds of 25 mph and gusts of 31 mph were recorded out of the SSE at 5:50am this morning.  With an observed water temperature of 84.56 degrees F (before sunrise!), there should be plenty of warm water fuel should the storm develop any further.

An Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft is scheduled to explore the storm later today.  Current models (something that should be coming to a Stormpulse map near you very soon), indicate a west-northwest progression, with the GFDL turning the storm north over western Cuba.

In case you’re wondering, here’s what that lonely and very useful buoy looks like, bobbing out in the middle of the Caribbean Sea (with 4,900 m of water below).  (You can click the image for complete details).

Cities added to our hurricane-tracking map

This afternoon we added the following cities to our interactive hurricane-tracking map:

  • Montgomery, AL
  • Dover, DE
  • Cedar Key, FL
  • Cocoa Beach, FL
  • Fort Pierce, FL
  • Marathon, FL
  • Panama City, FL
  • Saint Marks, FL
  • Venice, FL
  • Augusta, GA
  • Columbus, GA
  • Buras, LA
  • New Iberia, LA
  • Shreveport, LA
  • Hyannis, MA
  • Nantucket, MA
  • Annapolis, MD
  • Augusta, ME
  • Bar Harbor, ME
  • Eastport, ME
  • Gulfport, MS
  • Jackson, MS
  • Greensboro, NC
  • Morehead City, NC
  • Raleigh, NC
  • Trenton, NJ
  • Newark, NJ
  • Providence, RI
  • Columbia, SC
  • Myrtle Beach, SC
  • Fort Worth, TX
  • Freeport, TX
  • Port Arthur, TX
  • Port O’Connor, TX
  • Richmond, VA
  • St Kitts-Nevis
  • Cape San Antonio, Cuba
  • Grand Bahama, The Bahamas
  • Burgeo, Newfoundland

We also added 34 international cities to our Current Weather Conditions page.

What are the chances? Track Tropical Storm Fay with wind probabilities on the Stormpulse map

This afternoon we launched a new feature on the site that should help answer the question of ‘when can I expect winds in my area?’

The National Hurricane Center publishes a product called “Wind Speed Probabilities” in sync with their Forecast Advisories that provide percentages indicating when a storm’s winds are most likely to affect a particular area. This information is presented in a tabular format like so:

  - - - - WIND SPEED PROBABILITIES FOR SELECTED  LOCATIONS - - - -  

               FROM    FROM    FROM    FROM    FROM    FROM    FROM
  TIME       18Z FRI 06Z SAT 18Z SAT 06Z SUN 18Z SUN 18Z MON 18Z TUE
PERIODS         TO      TO      TO      TO      TO      TO      TO
             06Z SAT 18Z SAT 06Z SUN 18Z SUN 18Z MON 18Z TUE 18Z WED

FORECAST HOUR    (12)   (24)    (36)    (48)    (72)    (96)   (120)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
MOBILE AL      34  X   1( 1)   9(10)   8(18)   5(23)   2(25)   1(26)
MOBILE AL      50  X   X( X)   2( 2)   2( 4)   1( 5)   X( 5)   1( 6)
MOBILE AL      64  X   X( X)   X( X)   1( 1)   X( 1)   1( 2)   X( 2)

We here at Stormpulse believe this is great information of great value, but the presentation is too complex and non-visual. So we are capturing, storing, and representing it directly on the map, in the form of bar charts and a reduced table with familiar dates and times.

To access this information, click “Wind Probabilities” ‘On’ using the the layers menu in the top-right corner of the map. After a small delay (as data is retrieved from our server), you should see a small multitude of blue boxes appear, with small white, yellow, and orange bars inside.

These miniature bar charts provide a quick glance of wind probabilities for the storm. Clicking on the bar chart will expose a details box that shows the bar chart in a large format, along with up to three buttons labeled ‘CHANCE BY DAY’. The bar chart shows you the overall likelihood that the location will experience tropical storm, storm, or hurricane force winds. Hovering over ‘CHANCE BY DAY’ will show you the chance of a particular wind force distributed over the next 5 days of the storm’s travel.

Here we see that Mobile, Alabama has, as of Tropical Storm Fay Advisory 29A, a 26% chance of experiencing tropical storm force winds in the next 5 days. Hovering over the top ‘CHANCE BY DAY’ button reveals the table at the right, which tells us that Sunday at 5 AM is the most likely time for the onset of these winds. However, just as you should not focus on the center line of the forecast cone, it is wise to look at the overall distribution of these percentages. There is still a 1% chance that the winds will come the night before (Saturday at 5 PM).

We hope you enjoy the extra insight provided by this information. We still have a few tweaks to make to this feature, we would appreciate any feedback or questions you may have. Those of you that are embedding our tracking map on your own site using the Stormpulse API do not need to do anything to take advantage of this new feature. It will appear on the map automatically.