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October 01, 2006

Friday's data not good enough

Having reliable data is important in many areas, even when the application is leisure. Outside the IT business, my passion is sailing, Not racing, just being "out there". Mostly coastal cruising, often offshore , but mostly within sight of land. Weather is important for sailors. Nothing worse than being hit with a gale when you don't expect it. Now that we have permanent Internet access on the boat, I use the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) website to great effect. Not only their forecast information, but also the (near) real time observations which help predict when that Sydney Southerly is going to hit.

So it is disappointing when a highly reputable organisation such the BOM. has a serious lapse. This weekend, coastal weather observations have been frozen in time at Friday 7.05 am. I reported it to their support section and was particularly pleased when I received an email back from a human within an hour (we're talking early Sunday morning). Unfortunately the response was that "we've notified our NSW office". As of Sunday 4pm the service was still down.

In IT, failure is a common experience, and as an industry we have a poor reputation. Whatever the reason for this failure, it was most likely just one link in the chain. The website works fine, the automated buoys are riding the waves measuring the height. To keep things going needs a close integration between systems, often mediated by mere mortals. Responding to a failure within an hour but letting the problem "go through to the keeper" doesn't help anyone. Having a public website means that your agility and customer focus is on public view 24hrs per day, even on long weekends. A reason to look at our own efforts and whether they stand up to scrutiny, rather than just a reason to complain...

[update: The BOM fixed the problem when they came back from the long weekend at 9.00 am on Tuesday. ]

Posted by Marius at October 1, 2006 05:01 PM

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