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Our hurricane-tracking startup (stormpulse.com)
12 points by wensing on June 20, 2007 | hide | past | web | favorite | 23 comments

The surfer crowd could be a good market here. You could probably find some traffic by posting in their forums. California looks to hurricane development off Mexico all the time for swell, but I see you are only covering the atlanitc here...

Great idea! Have you seen www.surfline.com? Maybe we could advertise there once we get the Pacific going (which wouldn't be a colossal amount of work with the systems we have in place...).

Advertise? You should partner with them. Their hurricane service is terrible.

Going to check it out. Thanks for the idea. We've been thinking about "Stormpulse as an embedded service" for a while . . .

Partner with them? They should crush them.

Been working on this for a while, and it's time to start telling folks about it. I'm curious to know what you all think of anything and everything you're willing to comment on.

Very pretty. I'm not sure who your audience is, but assuming its goal is to reach the widest audience possible, here are my comments:

1) When looking at a storm, only information about that storm should be displayed. When I looked at TS Barry, the bottom half of the site showed a ton of images. I thought these images were of Barry, but they were of current weather. Ultimately I found the site very cluttered.

2) If the target is a wide audience, it would be nice to have little snippets of text that give a simple interpretation of what you're seeing in images. Like, this is an IR channel sensitive to water vapor.

3) RGB images need some explanation of what the RGB channels are. The color contrast is terrible. I suggest an arcsinh stretch which is linear at small values and logarithmic at high values. I can give you more details if you like.

4) There's a yellow line that goes across the RGB images. Is this the sunrise?

5) The main image window is awesome. Is it really necessary to display all that other information in the bottom half? Before I said the site is cluttered. Actually, it's just that part below the main map.

6) On the topic of clutter, what's the point of all the buoy data? I personally can not grok it. Better to put it on the map somehow.

7) I love your use of sparklines in the windspeed. It would be cool if you added a scale. Is it possible to put a red dot on the sparkline to show exactly where you are? I like the color hue change, but a red dot, I feel, would be better.

8) This is a cool site. If I hear about another hurricane, I'll definitely use this site. Clearly this is a labor of love from people who love storms :)

1. Point taken. 'Is this data in scope?' is something we need to take seriously.

2. Glad you said this. I would like to do the same. It would be nice if it didn't take a lot of work to explain. Maybe footnotes would do for now instead of a big 'Help' section.

3. Also glad you said this, since I myself am not sure what the RGB channels are. It's funny that you are criticizing the quality, not because I disagree, but since I had nothing to do with the satellite images (they are government-produced). I'd like to hear more about 'arcsinh stretching'.

4. That is the sunrise.

5. I definitely want to get as much as possible on the map. However, I do like having the larger canvas of the HTML page for data that just can't fit. I appreciate your feedback on this since I want to stay motivated to strive for more density in the map window.

6. Yeah, you're right. Should either kill the buoy table or find a better way of organizing the data. Coincidentally, that data is on the map. If you see a blue or red square on the map you can click them. Those are buoys. We could use a legend.

7. Definitely possible, it's already in the code. I think the dot already exists, it's just always the latest color hue--i.e. the shade of white to red that corresponds to the current speed, rather than red all the time, since red represents a Category 5 storm.

8. Thanks a lot.

Nice site, but... what about the non-hurricane season? It seems like a service that's likely to get pounded at certain times, and be virtually unused at others.

Good question, and one that we went over and tried to model based on things like Google trends and Alexa data for other storm sites.

In the end we found that what you are saying is true--the traffic is extremely spiky. But what we also learned is that there are thousands of people that will traffic these sites all year long. Not millions, but thousands, and if we can monetize those thousands through very appealing memberships and services, that'll be enough to make ends meet for both of us. :)

Great work. Keep it up. Someone should buy these guys quickly. I see you guys are using S3. There's no doubt that you have a ton of info. The trick is not to overwhelm the user with that info but at the same time have it easy for them to access it and interpret it if they wanted.

Thanks for the encouragement.

S3, yes. We're happy so far.

Feel free to point out any trouble spots with information density vs. legibility.

I had previously ignored this links on News.YC since hurricanes aren't a passion of mine, but glad I checked it out today. Very well done! Excellent job on the site and the interface. I found myself engrossed and playing with the data for much longer than I anticipated. Keep up the good work!

Thanks, Matt! I was somewhat hesitant to put this up on the news, but since it is our startup and I've been following YC for a while now, I thought some folks might like to see it.

Really happy to hear that you were pulled in even though you're not a storm-o-phile.

We definitely seem to teeter somewhere between 'great interface' and 'whoa, I'm overwhelmed, there's too much data!' Density is what we are striving for, but legibility is paramount.

So cool! I've been playing on the site and I'm impressed. Who's your ideal customer? How do you plan on making money?

Thanks, Ty!

Ideally, anyone interested in this sort of information. That said, there's obviously an advanced tilt to the site right now to support our marketing strategy of going after the most avid enthusiasts first, and the general public second.

We are planning to provide some (hopefully) very useful localization features. Ads and sponsorships would be okay as well. We have sunk in personal investment, but we don't owe any outside financiers; read: we don't feel pressured to make huge sums, nor must we to make anyone happy.

Wow.. this site must have required many long nights and lots of coffee to put together.

Make it work on the cell phone.

By which I assume you mean: 'Make all of it work on the cell phone.' because at least part of it already does.

FlashLite is the answer to getting the Flash component to work on something other than the iPhone :), and I haven't had the time to figure out how to make our ActionScript 2.0 / Flash Player 8 code compatible.

I'm pretty convinced that doing so would be profitable, of course. Problem is, I feel that way about more features/enhancements than we have the time for right now.

As a storm chaser, This sounds like a great way to track incoming storms!

Well, I'm sure this is useful in some manner. However, I've never even seen a hurricane, and a hurricane has never affected my life. So I'll leave the commentary for those people whose cat has been raped by a hurricane...

Then why even bother commenting on this thread? Great site btw although I had a bit of trouble navigating the site. Help docs should alleviate that...also it would be nice if the UI was cleaned up a bit for new users. I had no trouble using the map and checking out the world. But the rest of the site leaves me confused with so much information all over the place.

Great mashup guys! I like the cloud toggle switch.

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