I’ll admit it. I am one of those people who semi-compulsively refreshes the Weather Page on cornell.edu. I’m not sure why, exactly. It’s just one of those places that I go when I am bored. I check the weather. I check the radar. I tell people it’s so that I know which blanket is appropriate sleepwear for my horse on any given night, but the truth of the matter is that I am a weather addict.
Thankfully, I am not alone in my affliction. cornell.edu stats show that, on average, that page sees 90,000 hits in any given month (more when the weather is bad).
So I’m sure that you, loyal readers, have noticed that something is amiss with our beloved Weather page. Where are those awesome icons of the clock tower in various weather conditions? You’ve probably also noticed that the Weather page has been sporting an error message about the forecast more often than not, lately.
I say this out of love, people. Put down the mouse and back away from the keyboard. There is no need to drop a note to the Webmaster mailbox. We know about the problem.
One would think that, in an age where we can surf the web on telephones, land rovers on Mars, and have a heavenly burrito made to our specifications, it would be fairly easy to pull in a weather feed and match it to some pictures. And, technically speaking, it is.
Except when it’s not.
Once upon a time, the Weather page data (this dates back to CUInfo and the original clock tower images, by the way) was taken from Cornell’s own Northeast Regional Climate Center. Specifically, it was pulled from a machine housed at the Ithaca airport. Machines can’t always be trusted, though (have you seen I, Robot??) and, on occasion, the script would crash, necessitating human intervention.
And by human intervention, I mean that former colleague and long-time NexusOfAllThingsCornell(TM) Tim Perry would pick up the telephone and call the guys out at the weather station to tell them their script was kaput. (I have always imagined that these intrepid climatologists had names like Piotr and Georg and spent their time in parkas and mad-bomber caps, but that’s just me.) They would re-start the sever and– Bob’s your uncle! –weather again!!
Recently, this script had been breaking more often than not and it was determined that poor Piotr and Georg were no longer reliable sources of information. So much for Glasnost, eh?
Our Programmer, Mark Fowler (whom I hesitate to call NexusOfAllThingsCornell(TM) just yet on account of not wanting him to run screaming into the night), has been poking around in the code and changed the source of the feed to be pulled from the National Weather Service which, in theory, should be more reliable than the old feed.
Problem is, the NWS does not call the weather conditions the same things that Piotr and Georg did, which means that our script that matches conditions (say…”sleeting and windy”) to the weather icons we’ve all come to know and love is now broken. Life is about trade-offs, my friends. Paper or plastic, smoking or non, weather or…not.
So, long story short: someone has to go in and manually re-assign keywords to the icons. This is not a difficult task–just time consuming. And not very high on our mile-long list of priorities, I’m sad to say.
I miss those icons, man.
Bon Voyage, Comrades,