Hurricane Joaquin forecast contest begins

Hey! The tropics have awoken and there’s a not-unreasonable chance that the newly-upgraded Hurricane Joaquin will make landfall. Here’s your chance to test your forecast skill:

Submit your forecast by 00 UTC on October 2 (8 PM EDT Thursday). If Joaquin does not make landfall, we’ll just pretend like this never happened. For previous forecast game results, see

New entries in the Forecast Discussion Hall of Fame

Radar estimates of wind speed aren’t always the most reliable for a variety of reasons, but on Friday, forecasters in Memphis, TN opted to believe the radar instead of the surface observation. Maybe because the Millington station was reporting a 343 MPH wind gust.

NWS forecasters are public servants dedicated to preserving life and property. It should come as no surprise that they are sometimes moved by uncontrollable bursts of patriotism. Chris Hattings in Riverton, WY felt very Jeffersonian on Independence Day.

Both of these discussions have been added to the Forecast Discussion Hall of Fame.

Impact of license selection on open source software quality

I’ve made several vague references to my master’s thesis on this blog, but I’ve never said much of substance. Your long wait is over though, as I’ve finally gotten around to uploading it and creating a research page on the website. If you don’t want to read the full thesis, there’s a condensed version that was presented at a conference in March (and won best paper in the session, I might add).

The even more condensed version is that my research shows (to my dismay) that copyleft projects tend to have higher technical debt than permissively-licensed projects. What’s more interesting than the results is the pile of questions that it brings up.

I’ll admit that my methods are not necessarily the most stringent, particularly when it comes to how quality is proxied (or even the quantification of technical debt). My methodology was partly driven by convenience and partly driven by the dearth of research available on the topic. Of course, the steep price of the C/C++ plugin hampered my ability to get a good sample.

I hope someone else picks up where I left off and does a more detailed analysis. For my own part, I hope to be able to conduct some research in my “spare time”. In addition to the mere study of differences in debt, I’d like to see how non-license project governance affects software quality. There was no analysis in my study of developer quantity, funding, etc. The ultimate goal is to develop concrete recommendations for FLOSS project leaders that would improve the quality of the finished product.


Building my website with blatter

I recently came across a project called “blatter”. It’s a Python script that uses jinja2’s template engine to build static websites. This is exactly the sort of thing I’d been looking for. I don’t do anything too fancy with, but every once in a while I want to make a change across all (or at least most) pages. For example, I recently updated the default content license from CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 United States to CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International. It’s a relatively minor change, but changing it everywhere is a real pain.

Sure, I could switch to a real CMS (heck, I already have WordPress installed!) or re-do the site in PHP, but that sounded too much like effort. I like my static pages that are artisinally hand-crafted slapped together in vi, but I also like being able to make lazy changes. And I really like page-to-page consistency. With blatter, I can create a few small templates and suddenly changes can be made across the whole site in just a few seconds.

Blatter smoothly merges static and templated content. The only downside is that because it seems to touch all files every time it builds (blats), pushing the new content to my website becomes a larger task. That’s not a huge concern because of the relatively small size of the content, but it’s something that seems fixable. So pretty much all of the site has been blatterized now. For the most part, you shouldn’t really notice any changes.

New discussions in the Hall of Fame

Thanks to Tony Cristaldi, I’ve added a couple of new discussions to the Hall of Fame. They’re a bit hard to read because they’re scans of printed discussions from 17 years ago. I can’t say much for the meteorological quality of the discussions because I haven’t actually read them. The real beauty is in the artwork. I hope Forecaster Moore got as much enjoyment writing these and I’ve had looking at them.

New discussions added to the Hall of Fame

A reader named Jill passed a few discussions to me recently. They’re National Hurricane Center discussions about two storms that refused to die: 2002’s Hurricane Kyle and 2005’s Hurricane Epsilon (which was notable enough just for being a December Hurricane). I’ve added them to the Forecast Discussion Hall of Fame page at

New entry in the Hall of Fame

Robert Deal sent in an AFD from Lake Charles, LA discussing how NWS employees remove ice from their cars. I’ve added it to the Forecast Discussion Hall of Fame. Since I edited the page, I also updated the copyright wording to reference the CC-NC-BY-SA license I’m using. It’s on my to-do list to PHPize at least some of the site so that these sorts of things are easier.

That’s certainly not going to happen for at least another week, as I’m leaving in a few hours for the LISA Conference in Boston. Once again, I’ll be on the conference blog team, so you can follow along at