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.