2008/2009 Spotter Network Newsletter

Hello Spotter Network members!

This is the once a year / end of season newsletter where we get to talk
about the past year, the future of the SN and any administrative things
that need to be brought up for the new season. There are a lot of changes
in the works for the 2009 storm season that you need to be aware of. So
please, read this entire email.

-- 2008 In Review --

Through-out the year we expanded the SN integration points to include
WeatherTap.com, Storm Lab, Severe Studios Live Chase Cams and IEMChat.

In the middle of 2008 the SN had a face lift and we rolled out a new
website design and some new beta functionality. We hope it has improved
the usability of the website. We think so.

Around the same time the SN signed its first commercial contract for data
distribution rights with Weather Central. Weather Central Inc., founded in
1974 by broadcasters and meteorologists based in Madison, Wisconsin, is
the leader in providing professional on-air, online, and print weather
systems utilizing dynamic weather graphics, precise forecast models and
data and other patented technology. Weather Central will be making the SN
reports available to its commercial customers as well as their newly
launched reportstorms.com website. In exchange, Weather Central is
providing enough funding to make sure the SN has the necessary hardware to
facility the free use of the SN for non-commercial users. As has always
been the case, AllisonHouse LLC, is picking up any of the other expenses
associated with the operations of the Spotter Network.

After the spring/summer storm season ended the SN and employees of the NWS
Goodland Office conducted a usage and quality control review of all
reports received via the SN. We learned a lot from this review and it has
guided several of the changes we will be implementing in 2009. The review
in short showed that from January 1, 2007 thru October 1, 2008 there had
been 1800 reports submitted.

-- Looking forward to 2009 --

As many of you are aware the NWS is rolling out an Instant Messaging
service based on the highly successfull IEMChat technology that the SN
integrated with earlier in the year. The SN has been contacted by NWS
staff and we will be integrating with the new NWSChat system as soon as we
can get all necessary paperwork completed. Since the SN is not government
sponsored or officially sanctioned we have some hoops to jump through to
get connected.

Several months ago I contacted 8 well known members of the meteorological
and storm chasing/spotting community and asked them if they would be
willing to form a Spotter Network Advisory Committee. Gratefully, all
accepted and this Advisory Committee has been providing me (Tyler)
invaluable input to guide the future of the SN these past few months. The
current Advisory Committee is:
Rob Dale
Evan Bookbinder
Albert Pietrycha
Greg Stumpf
Ben Holcomb
John Wetter
Craig Curlee

Shortly after they were officially sworn in so to speak, several topics
immediately bubbled to the top of the discussion list and we quickly
decided to implement the following changes starting in 2009.


..UPCOMING CHANGES..

* Training will be required for all SN members before reporting capability
allowed
Anyone may obtain an SN account, but only those who successfully complete
a basic severe weather reporting test (currently in development) will be
permitted to submit reports through the SN. We will announce when the test
will be ready and various alert messages will be displayed on the website
to remind you to take it when it is available. We want to make sure that
the weather community considers the Spotter Network the top tier of severe
weather reporting and that it's members are trusted to provide high
quality and accurate reports. Training and accountability are necessary to
maintain this consideration.

* Increased Accountability
The SN will implement more accountability controls. We have already
increased the level of logging and are currently investigating a phone
number verification system. This is primarily in response to several false
reports by people who thought they could be anonymous. In every case, we
were able to identify who was ultimately responsible, but we want to try
and eliminate this activity before it happens.

* Relaxation of Severe Weather Reporting Criteria
After long and arduous discussions, and hearing from the community, the
committee has agreed on the following relaxation of what type of reports
we will be accepting. Unfortunately, not all NWS offices follow the same
severe weather criteria so enforcing a single criteria is not practical or
feasible. Even though we will be accepting more types of reports, we are
increasing and strengthening our expectations for the quality of all
reports. The new accepted reporting criteria is provided below:

- Any Tornado, Wall Cloud, Funnel Events
- Wind Speeds and/or Gusts > 50 mph
- All Hail Events
- All Hydro Events in relation to severe weather
- All Winter Events in relation to severe weather
- All Tropical Events in relation to severe weather
- All Notable Damage in relation to severe weather

You will notice that the last four have a qualifier of "in relation to
severe weather". Please remember the Spotter Network is designed to be
real-time severe weather related. Reporting such things as rain fall
amounts in the past 24 hours is not appropriate, unless it coincides with
severe weather criteria. Once the reporting test, as discussed earlier, is
completed it should be very clear what the expectations are. Please stay
tuned.

* New Quality Control Enforcement
Members of the Advisory Committee will be conducting after-the-fact report
quality control reviews of _ALL_ reports. If a significant number of
committee members believe that a particular report was of low quality the
person submitting the report will be sent a reminder to only submit high
quality reports. If a future report is submitted with low quality, the
submitter will have their reporting capability taken away until they pass
the training program again. If it happens for a third time, the submitter
will have their reporting capability removed permanently. This is not
intended to discourage you reporting severe situations, we just want you
to take an extra few seconds to make the report actionable and detailed.

* New One Strike Rule
Though it has always been the policy of the SN to do our best to deal with
the occasional abuse of the SN system, the Advisory Committee has decided
to implement a one strike policy. Effective immediately, the SN will not
tolerate any false severe weather reports or false position reporting. If
we identify such activity the person will be permanently banned from the
SN.

The Advisory Committee and myself (Tyler) are looking forward to an
exciting 2009 storm season and the improvements we have outlined above. We
hope you agree with those changes and will redouble your efforts to help
grow and utilize the Spotter Network. And lastly, we would encourage you
to take every opportunity you have to learn more about the world and
weather around you. There are literally hundreds of opportunities made
available to you, many of which are free of charge, for you to learn more
and grow in your knowledge of severe weather. The more you know, the
better of an asset you are to the Spotter Network and the public we serve.

Stay Safe,

Tyler Allison
Manager of the Spotter Network
Owner, AllisonHouse LLC