on the shore of the ultimate sea

Whose Umbrella Matters?

I was a little surprised this morning to see one of my favorite blogs reference Do I Need an Umbrella, a site that, conveniently enough, answers the question Do I Need an Umbrella?

Turns out, Do I Need an Umbrella? (left) is a downmarket version of Umbrella Today?. Perhaps the most popular single-serving site out there. Umbrella Today? does the exact same thing (and more), was established earlier and has since become immensely popular. In the case of Umbrella Today? versus Do I Need an Umbrella? the former’s brevity of initial query and the quality it suggests shines through in all aspects, making the site, in every way possible, better than its more literal stepchild.

But, despite Do I Need an Umbrella? appearing to be a knock-off, it made me think. A few weeks ago, someone I know wrote something like “I didn’t like the weather report, so I just kept looking at other places until I found one that was suitable.”

So why not check and see if they agreed, and if not, which one was correct? I was after all, in the mood for something to tell me whether to bring an umbrella.

They didn’t agree. One told me I needed an umbrella, the other said I didn’t. So who do I trust?

I didn’t want to just toss it up between those two, so I hit my F12 and checked the old standby, the easiest weather report, the one I check nearly every day. My dashboard widget showed a thundercloud; the only icon for the day was rain. It’d have to be an umbrella day.

I hedged one more time–Weather Underground. My old standby said I could get away with not carrying an umbrella until 5pm, when the storms rolled in. (All these tests were done by inputting my zip code within a span of five minutes.)

Done, right? The binary yes/no nature of the Umbrella sites was conflicting, and Apple’s weather widget wasn’t detailed enough. With a better forecast I could make the decision.

But it’s interesting that the uniquely internet phenomenon by which we tend to select our news and choose only sources that are similar to our bias, say electing to receive only news that’s been run through a liberal filter, has extended to something that should be mildly scientific. I don’t want to carry an umbrella on a Saturday, so I’ll look around until I find evidence to support my position.

Meteorology is by no means an exact science, but we can now ask dozens whether it’s going to rain and get different answers. That sort of thing never happened down on the farm.

So, to that end, wrapping up this non-item item (really, blogging about the weather is about as prosaic and time-filling than talking about it) someone needs to develop an optimist’s Umbrella Today?, which will only ever answer with an emphatic “No” and indeed, additionally, let us know it’s going to be a beautiful day where we’ll get closer to our dreams then we ever imagined.

And we can curse the weatherman on the odd days it’s not correct, unless of course we want a spectacular summer storm and wind up getting one. I’ve been hoping for thunder and lightening from 5pm onwards today and Weather Underground has yet to deliver.

UPDATE: Never content to let an idea easily executed languish on the Internet unfulfilled, Noah Brier slapped up doineedanumbrellatoday.com, your one-stop shop for permanently sunny weather news. Another version of this whole affair came up recently when I was reading James Wood’s How Fiction Works. Speaking about the protagonist, Ricardo Reis, in Saramago’s The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, Wood writes “He reflects fondly on the story of the ninety-seven-year-old John D. Rockefeller, who has a speciall doctored version of The New York Tmes delivered every day, altered to contain only good news. ‘The world’s threats are universal, like the sun, but Ricard Reis takes shelter under his own shadow.'”

Written by Nick

May 9th, 2009 at 11:14 pm

2 Responses to 'Whose Umbrella Matters?'

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  1. Noah Brier

    10 May 09 at 11:48

  2. Noah, you’re a true prince. I’m only ever getting my weather from this site, forever.

    Nick

    10 May 09 at 14:38

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