I don’t know what to make of weather apps that propose to obtain more accurate weather data through crowdsourcing. Ourcast isn’t the first one I’ve seen, but it’s the first one that’s inspired me to dust off the Three Tenets. Thank goodness I’ve made simple criteria to tell me what to think in situations like this!
- Incentive: At first glance, this seems to be where most of my issues with this brand of app lie. Weather is certainly ubiquitous, and it affects everyone, but there’s only so much an app can do. We already have a whole nation covered in complicated devices for measuring and predicting weather, so what more can this app give us? The only thing I can think of is up-to-the-minute forecasts done by members in areas with inadequate weather coverage to begin with. Other than that, I don’t see the appeal of this app over simply typing “weather.com” into one’s browser.
- Barrier to Entry: As I mentioned, weather affects and is seen by everyone, so the barrier to entry on a project like this has to be super-low. It’s not required that you’re an expert; only that you have a tenuous grasp on what defines “rain” and what defines “sunny”. With this in mind, a smartphone app does indeed seem like the way to go, especially if the app demands constant updates, most likely from people directly observing the weather (i.e. outside and away from a computer).
- Compartmentalization: If the app is lacking in incentive, this is where it makes up for it. The feature I like the most, although I may be alone on this, is that the app features several buttons you can click to give a specialized description of the weather. For example, clicking the “sunny” button may open a menu where you can modify that description with buttons such as “good gardening weather”. The average person doesn’t care about wind direction or barometric pressure; they simply want to know if the rain will affect their jog, so this is what the app encourages users to input. The full weather reports the app provides give the aforementioned nitty-gritty weather data, but similarly presented in such a way that the important stuff is front and center.
My conclusion, according to my own criteria, seems to be that Ourcast is a well-put-together app that serves the purpose it sets out to. Unfortunately, it suffers from a bit of an unsolvable problem, which is that the weather is fundamentally mundane and doesn’t really lend itself to foster a community well. But that’s hardly a fault of the app.