Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Romneyevil knows no bounds

It’s almost funny, how Bain Capital shows up in this (from this morning’s New York Times):

The announcement on Monday that the Weather Channel Companies, owners of television’s Weather Channel and, would buy one of its rivals, Weather Underground, set off howls of displeasure on social media platforms and around water coolers across the nation. The purchase price was not disclosed.

In the eyes of Weather Underground’s ardent fans, the Weather Channel appears to represent the wrong kind of weather information: personality-driven sunniness and hype, they say, rather than the pure science of data. As Mike Tucker, a computer professional in New Hampshire, put it on Facebook, reacting to news of the deal: “Nooooooooooooooooo! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”

The controversy illustrates the deep national divide between those people who just want to know if it’s going to rain, and people who really, really, care about the data underlying the weather. Christopher Maxwell, a manager at a solar energy company in Richmond, Va., is in the really-really-cares-about-the-weather camp. He said he saw the Weather Channel deal as a sad sellout for Weather Underground.

“It seems to happen all the time,” he said. “Something great gets invented and sold in the United States, and it gets bought up and destroyed.”

Weather Underground was founded in 1995 in Ann Arbor, where it grew out of the University of Michigan’s online weather database. The name was a winking reference to the radical group that also had its roots in Ann Arbor. Mr. Maxwell said he appreciated Weather Underground’s fanatical devotion to data, and how it drew information from so many thousands of weather stations run by users that he is able to determine “microclimates” of variation that can prove important in getting the most out of a new solar installation.

In other words, as he put it on Facebook, “I liked that Wunderground was indy and for weather geeks and not so much ‘normies.’ ”

For Mr. Tucker, the “Nooooooooooooooooo!” response was a reaction to what he sees as the Weather Channel’s penchant for the commercialization of weather. In a telephone interview, he said: “I’m looking at the site right now, and it’s laden with ads, and promotional things for their shows. I don’t really care about all that stuff. I only care what the weather is.”

Mr. Tucker called the Weather Underground site “simple and somewhat elegant” by comparison.

Paul Baginski, a visiting assistant professor of mathematics at Smith College, said that when he assigned his students to run their hometown temperature data through a series of calculus functions, he pointed them toward Weather Underground instead of because it was so much easier to track down historical data on the independent site. “It seemed with every update to their Web site, added another obstacle” with advertisements and extra tabs and clicks, he said.

Weather Underground’s devotion to weather data has brought the site about 10 million unique visitors a month, according to the measurement firm ComScore, and has helped it to remain an independent company for the better part of two decades. A similar site, WeatherBug, draws 21 million visitors a month. (WeatherBug is owned by Earth Networks.)

Both sites, however, are dwarfed by and the other properties owned by the Weather Channel, which is owned by a consortium that includes Comcast, Bain Capital and the Blackstone Group.

[Sunday, 28 October 2012]  FLASH UPDATE!!! 
Tired of wimpy limp-wristed weather coverage?
Switch to Dr J’s Frankenstorm Central ©
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