Confessions of a Weather Underground Employee
Before I get into why I am writing this blog, I must give two disclosures. First, writing this blog was my idea. I came to the idea to write it after thinking that some in the Weather Underground community would like to hear an employee's point of view regarding Weather Underground becoming part of The Weather Channel Companies. I have not been asked to write this blog and these are my own words. Second, I am speaking mostly from a meteorological perspective. I am not technically in the Development Department, Sales Department, or Marketing Department. Although I work very closely with each of these departments, I do not claim to be speaking for them.
For those of you who haven't heard of me or read my blogs, my name is Shaun Tanner. I have worked for Weather Underground since February 2004, many of those years as its Head of Meteorological Operations. I am responsible for a variety of things, including taking media requests, reporting on weather events, and producing weather-based products. My job, along with nearly all of the other positions at Weather Underground, requires me to wear multiple hats. While I am a trained meteorologist and am responsible for keeping up with major weather events, I also extensively program. Needless to say, I have grown with Weather Underground the past 8.5 years and I have gotten to know many in its community.
So, when I first found out Weather Underground was to merge with The Weather Channel Companies, I went through many emotions. After all, I had literally been with the company through blood, sweat, and tears, so it felt as if something was being taken from me. It took a few days before I began to realize the possibilities of a partnership with The Weather Channel Companies. While this eventually became clear to me, it will take some explaining for it to become clear to you.
When I first came to Weather Underground, the company was very small. There were three meteorologists, one of which was Dr. Jeff Masters. We had a small Sales Department of a couple people, and no formal Marketing Department. While much has changed over the years, we still "only" have 8 meteorologists. I say "only" because other weather companies have many multiple times this amount. Although it is amazing what we have produced with this amount of meteorologists working hand-in-hand with the other departments, we can do so much more.
The atmosphere in our office has always been free-flowing. Departments freely exchange ideas, both good and bad, with other departments in hopes of developing an innovative new way of imaginging weather and the way the public sees it. WunderMap was one of these projects that was imagined by the Development Department and took cooperation with every other department to make it happen. Thus, today we have a product that has really revolutionalized weather imagery. There are many more examples, if you've got the time.
No idea is too crazy for Weather Underground. Crazy ideas often have a way of becoming brilliantly innovative. While we do not act on every crazy idea, we sure love to entertain them often. This brings me to the possibilities of a partnership with The Weather Channel Companies. An expanding imagination is the biggest of these. I could literally name around a dozen weather, climate, and environment products off the top of my head that I have not been able to develop over the past few years. These products have not failed due to the will of the company or any other negative attitude, but rather because I have not had the time or resources to see these products to their full potential. And, by the way, I am no wiz kid. I am willing to bet that each Weather Underground employee has at least a similar amount of fantastic ideas floating around that could once again revolutionize weather. We need to pull these products out, let them mature, and open them up to the Weather Underground community. A partnership with The Weather Channel Companies will allow this to happen. This is why I am excited. Weather is at the core of what The Weather Channel Companies does. Because of this, we will have at our disposal over 200 meterologists and a vast array of other resources that we will be able to use to bring to the Weather Underground community some more innovative products we have always been known for producing.
You are the Community
The last thing I want to write about is you, the Weather Underground community. The community you have built on our site is like no other in the weather industry. We have created, and you have produced, a robust blog network, millions of WunderPhotos, the most widespread Personal Weather Station network on the web, and a weather site with a community as its foundation. This is what makes Weather Underground so special. Many of you reading this blog have even been using the site longer than I have been employed at the company. I still receive emails occasionally from customers who used the initial telnet site back in the mid-1990s. How awesome is that! There is no one aspect of Weather Underground we should thank more that its community. But, guess what? That community is about to get bigger. That community packed full of weather fanatics, "wunderful" photographers, and backyard meteorologists is about to receive a bunch of new members that didn't even know the community ever existed. And that, perhaps, is the most exciting part. If the community made Weather Underground what it is today, what will you make it tomorrow?
Finally, I will leave you with this thought. I was exchanging an email with a co-worker regarding what we had accomplished over the past 8 years and what we could accomplish in the next 20. He responded with all the crazy ideas that went on to flourish along with the crazy ideas that fell flat on the cutting room floor. Then, at the bottom of the email he wrote, "Let's bring the crazy with us."
Yes, let's do that.