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Distilling the Weather

by Simon Collison

Originally Published in FK Newsletter #6, Feb 2018

It’s Groundhog Day tomorrow, and naturally, Phil will deliver his forecast. That’s all well and good, but this year I’ve no interest in the questionable binary predictions of celebrated woodchuck Punxsutawney Phil. I instead place my trust in our very own forecasting Phil, the meteorological Mr Markunas.

The weather here in St. John’s right now is “Colder than yesterday. Windy starting tonight, and continuing until tomorrow morning.” I know this not because I am outside or looking through a window, but because I’m using Weather Badge.

Groundhog Day

I love that Phil built this modest app because he needed it. It’s as useful and relevant to him as if he’d made a new piece of furniture. “Building simple tools for yourself—whether others use them or not—feels very satisfying,” he explains. “Weather Badge comes from an idea I had for single player and multi player apps. This one works well with just one player.”

Phil’s objective was to represent the day with a single image. “It was important to make it minimal, which created an interesting design challenge, and a fun start to the project: the motivation to distil.”

Along the way, Phil encountered the age-old battle of simplicity versus complexity. It seems that despite best intentions he ended up needing a little more detail in those daily weather reports than anticipated.

“I think all projects start out with best intentions, but inevitably things require more complexity. In building this app, I experienced that just by myself, in microcosm.

Weather Badge Logo

“With the simplest version—just a badge and basic description—I couldn’t get the info I needed; I didn’t know if or when I could ride my bike to work. So there’s further hourly info hidden behind a couple of taps. I feel like I’m breaking best practices, but if I didn’t hide the less vital information I’d be going back on my principles of simplicity.”

So what next? “The main objective is to keep learning things and discover how things work,” he says, with a nod to more small but meaningful projects. “I like quiet and stress-free places on the internet, and my hypothesis is to make the internet feel a little more human.”

Go check out Weather Badge for yourself. If you’d like more insight, be sure to read Phil’s post about the process.

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