Tagged: twitter

The Worst Summer on Record


As some of you may have noticed, Buoy Alarm experienced some spotty Twitter service this summer, with the stations going offline for a period of nearly two months. This was completely our fault. We were unprepared for a Twitter API deprecation that left our publishing script unable to properly authenticate. The fix was trivial, but finding time to debug, code, and deploy a solution took months.

Buoy Alarm is maintained on a part-time basis by myself and @aaronvb. It’s a free service, which means we’re not bound to service level agreements, or overwhelmed by a flood of support tickets when an issue occurs. It also means we generate zero revenue. The app is fueled by our own passion for the ocean and software development, a strange mixture of salt water and code, and continued commitment to this service we’ve built.

Ten months ago I accepted a full-time position at Marinexplore, and while I naively expected to continue working on Buoy Alarm during my free time, I quickly learned that doing so was unrealistic. Long hours at a startup leaves little room for much of anything else, and spending those precious few hours writing more software left me feeling unbalanced. I have no regrets for choosing friends, surfing, and sleep instead.

Fortunately, Buoy Alarm is rather autonomous, and required little to no effort on our behalf for much of the year. Then in June the Twitter API crapped out. More recently, the NOAA forecast data that we parse began to report inconsistent column values, causing wave heights that were obviously wrong. Both issues lingered for quite some time before we could even investigate them. Twitter feeds were eventually fixed, but forecasts have been disabled until we can clarify the source file issue with NOAA.

Issues are bound to happen, I’m actually surprised something didn’t break sooner, but our inability to respond to them in a timely fashion is something that concerns me. I think our users deserve better, but it’s the best we can currently do, and unfortunately the situation is unlikely to change any time soon. Thanks for hanging in there.



How To: Buoy Reports via Text Message

Did you know you can subscribe to buoy observations via text message? Simply text “follow buoy51201” to 40404 to begin receiving text message updates from the Waimea Bay buoy. The best part about SMS updates is that you don’t need a fancy smart-phone to stay current with your favorite stations.

TL;DR: Quick Start Cheat Sheet

These examples use the Waimea Bay station, which has the Twitter username buoy51201. Text messages should be sent to 40404, which is Twitter’s shortcode.

  1. Receive Reports: “follow buoy51201”
  2. Disable Reports: “off buoy51201”
  3. Enable Reports: “on buoy51201”
  4. Latest Report: “get buoy51201”

Here’s how you can receive real-time buoy reports via text message, with a little help from Twitter’s SMS service.

Receive All Reports From a Station

Let’s say you’d like to receive reports via text message from the Half Moon Bay buoy, which has a station ID of 46012 and the Twitter username buoy46012. To begin receiving updates simply text “follow buoy46012” to 40404.

You will receive a confirmation that you are “now following @buoy46012” along with the most recent report from the buoy. When new observations become available, they’ll be sent directly to your phone.

Disable / Enable Station Reporting

If you’d like to stop receiving updates from a station, simply text “off buoy46012” to 40404. To begin receiving them again, text “on buoy46012” to 40404.

These commands are handy for managing text message subscriptions for individual stations. If you’d like to enable or disable text messaging entirely (if you’re subscribed to multiple stations for example), text “on” or “off” to 40404 respectively.

Get Only the Latest Report

Say you’re only interested in the latest report from a station, and don’t want a stream of text messages flooding your phone every 30 to 60 minutes. The “get” command allows you to only receive the most recent report from a station.

For example, to receive the latest report from the Half Moon Bay buoy you’d text “get buoy46012” to 40404.


Please note that all these commands require the use of the buoy’s Twitter username, which follows the convention “buoyXXXXX” where XXXXX is the station’s 5-character NDBC ID.

There is no limit to the number of stations you can follow. To subscribe to additional buoys, replace “buoy46012” in the examples above with your favorite station’s Twitter username.

Additional SMS commands and examples are available in Twitter’s SMS help center.


Point Mugu Offshore Buoy Added

Point Mugu, California

The Point Mugu Offshore buoy is now reporting real-time wave and meteorological observations via Twitter at @buoy46250… for those select few who can actually get on base.

By the way, the 2011 NBVC Point Mugu Surf Contest Presented by Quiksilver is scheduled for August 20-21, and they are still accepting military and women’s division entrants through Monday, August 8th. Fees are a bit steep for civilians, but then again, you don’t defend our country.


Over 170 Buoys Now on Twitter

We’ve improved our buoy offerings on Twitter, including the addition of 19 new buoys in the Northeast Atlantic, Celtic Sea, and the English Channel. This includes the UK Met Office observational buoys, which provide real-time weather and marine data, as well as a number of Lightships within the English Channel.

The buoys now reporting on Twitter include:

  • K1 Buoy – @buoyK1
  • K2 Buoy – @buoyK2
  • K5 Buoy – @buoyK5
  • M3 Buoy (30 NM Southwest of Mizen Head) – @buoyM3
  • M4 Buoy (Donegal Bay) – @buoyM4
  • M5 Buoy (South East) – @buoy_M5
  • M6 Buoy (West Coast) – @buoyM6
  • Sevenstones Lightship – @buoy62107
  • Sandettie Lightship – @buoy62304
  • Greenwich Lightship – @buoy62305
  • Gascogne (Bay of Biscay) – @buoy62001

Have we missed a buoy? No problem, let us know which buoy you’d like to see on Twitter and we’ll do our best to get it online.


New Buoys on Twitter

We’ve added a bunch of new buoys to Twitter, including Kalo, Majuro, Marshall Islands (@buoy52201); Ocean Station PAPA (@buoy46246); Clatsop Spit, Oregon (@buoy46243); Fareham, St. Croix (@buoy41141); and South Ramea Island, Newfoundland (@buoy44235).

These buoys are currently only available on Twitter. If you’d like us to chart their wave observations, let us know.


Improved Real-Time Wave and Wind Observations via Twitter

Improving ocean enthusiasts’ accessibility to real-time buoy data is a primary objective for us. Buoy Alarm was the first to deliver real-time observations via Twitter, and we currently maintain a network that provides updates for over 120 buoys, totaling over 3,000 tweets per day.

Today, we’re proud to announce the addition of meteorological data to our network’s Twitter feeds. Although the observation capabilities of each buoy varies, as of today, all observed readings will be delivered via Twitter and prefaced with a (Met) label. This includes wind speed, wind direction, water temperature, air temperature, and pressure data.

We’ve also improved our wave reports to deliver detailed wave data via Twitter, including significant wave height, primary swell, and wind wave data. Each of these reports provides height, period, and direction when available, and is prefaced by a (Wave) label.

Keep in mind this is real-time, observed data, not a computer model. The reported data reflects actual ocean conditions at the report time, and are delivered via Twitter as soon as they become available.

Our data labels are based on the NDBC measurement system, and a quick rundown of each is available below:

  • WSPD: Average Wind Speed (Knots)
  • GST: Wind Gust (Knots)
  • WDIR: Wind Direction (the direction the wind is coming from in degrees clockwise from true North)
  • ATMP: Air Temperature (Degrees Fahrenheit)
  • WTMP: Water Temperature (Degrees Fahrenheit)
  • DEWP: Dew Point (Degrees Fahrenheit)
  • PRES: Atmospheric Pressure (Hectopascals)
  • PTDY: Pressure Tendency (Hectopascals)
  • SWELL: Primary Swell Height (Feet), Period (Seconds), and Direction (the direction the waves are coming from in degrees clockwise from true North)
  • WIND WAVE: Wind Wave Height (Feet), Period (Seconds), and Direction (the direction the wind waves are coming from in degrees clockwise from true North)
  • WVHT: Significant Wave Height
  • APD: Average Wave Period
  • MWD: Dominant Period Wave Direction (the direction the waves at the dominant period are coming from in degrees clockwise from true North)

A Twitter account is required to take advantage of these free reports. Once you’ve registered with Twitter, simply follow the buoy you’re interested in and you’ll automatically receive report data as it’s published.

A few of our recommendations include Waimea Bay, HI (@buoy51201), Half Moon Bay, CA (@buoy46012), Dana Point, CA (@buoy46223), Cape Canaveral, FL (@buoy41010), and Buoy Alarm (@buoyalarm) of course!

For an overview of all available buoys, visit the Buoy Alarm regional map.


Tune Your Surf Forecasting Skills With Twitter And Buoy Alarm

We’re stoked to announce that each and every one of the 97 buoys tracked by Buoy Alarm are now available on Twitter.

If you’re unfamiliar with Twitter, it is essentially a modern day communication service similar to text and instant messaging. It facilitates instant communication, but unlike a text or instant message (which are typically sent between two individuals), Twitter allows you to broadcast to a large number of people at once. Furthermore, each individual user controls who they are listening to, and who may listen to them, at any given moment.

Buoy Alarm posts individual buoy observations to Twitter as soon as they become available. These “tweets” include report time, dominant swell height, period, and direction. Following a buoy on Twitter is currently the best way to actively monitor its conditions because observations are immediately available and may be delivered to your desktop, laptop, or mobile phone concurrently.

Here is an example: I notice that a Northwest swell is in the forecast for Hawaii (like this Sunday evening, cheehu!), so I begin to follow the Northwest Buoy. I will now receive an update every hour from Buoy 51101 via Twitter.  I use one of the free Twitter applications to monitor conditions while on my computer, and another on my iPhone while on the go. This allows me to see when the intial forerunners arrive (spike in swell period), when the swell peaks (maximum swell height), and when it begins to fade (both period and height taper off). Once the swell concludes, if there are no others in the forecast, I’ll unfollow the buoy on Twitter, thereby ceasing report delivery.

The beauty of this is you can be at a surf spot, watching the actual local surf conditions, and refer to the buoy’s historical readings via Twitter.  This allows you to tune your own surf spot’s reaction to a swell, and further your own forecasting abilities. If you’re diligent, you’ll soon begin to recognize that magical combination of swell height, period and direction that creates epic conditions at your local surf break.