Specific Guidelines for Deciding on Mode of Operation and Level of Customization
I have steadily improved WXSIM and added features so that now the program has more versatility, flexibility, and accuracy than ever before. However, this means its forms have grown crowded with all the tools and options, many of which are really of interest only to experienced or professional meteorologists. Surveys of WXSIM customers revealed that many features are never used by most people and that in fact they could be distracting and intimidating. While most new customers seem to learn to use the program fairly quickly, I sometimes received questions from users who had hit the wrong buttons or otherwise 'gotten into trouble'.
My solution to this is to offer a more basic (well, there's still a good bit to learn!) mode of operation, in which the advanced features - while still present - are 'grayed out' and disabled. This should help beginners more quickly focus on what to do and in fact I think most users may never really need the advanced features. If you are a professional meteorologist or an enthusiastic amateur, however, who wants to squeeze as much accuracy as possible out of the program, these extra features can in fact help, and will probably be worth the extra cost.
If you purchase the standard mode, the registration code I send you will have 6 digits and will enable only the commonly used features. If you order the professional mode, you'll get a 9 digit code which unlocks all features (and I'll give you a 6 digit code in case you want to operate in standard mode sometimes). If you order standard mode, you can always upgrade to professional later for simply the difference in the two prices. Also, existing customers (who ordered before July 22, 2008) will already have professional mode with any upgrade. You can always experiment with professional and standard modes in the demo, as Atlanta is permanently stuck on professional mode, and the other sites on standard.
There's another issue, which probably impacts me more than it does customers. This is the matter of the level of detail and care I take in making the customization. Frankly, I'm almost obsessive (not quite 'clinically', but you get the idea!) about trying to make WXSIM (especially the temperature forecast) really match each site I do. Of the 3 or 4 hours I spend on a typical site, about half the time is spent with the basic creation and setting up of files (entering climate data, choosing a couple hundred advection sites, creating codes, zipping up the package, etc.). The other half, though, consists of analysis of customer's actual station data, comparison of this data to nearby official and previously customized sites, and repeated testing of the program against climatology in different seasons.
This extra work has certainly contributed a lot to the accuracy of the program and its site-specificity. However, as I've gradually filled in parts of the world map with the 500+ sites I've done over the years, most of the new ones are fitting in well with their surroundings. This means I could have done almost (but not quite) as good a job by simply interpolating among surrounding, exisiting sites (adjusting for elevation and urbanization differences). I (thankfully) have enough of a flow of orders now so that the time I spend will be an issue during the school year (I'm a high school teacher). I've got to find a way to cut down on the time spent with each job, and yet I don't want to sacrifice the quality of the product!
My answer to this is that I am now offering two levels of customization, as well. The basic version (which, combined with standard mode, leaves the price as before, at $129) includes fully built and site-specific files, with a full complement of advection sites (usually over 200). However, for this level I will not analyze (except maybe briefly, and in a pre-summarized format) customers' home station data. I will also do only brief testing after building the files. This should work well for most sites. I am still offering the option of a full-blown, careful-as-ever job, for a bit more compensation. For this enhanced customization, I will happily analyze your home station data and test thoroughly. The gain in accuracy in most cases will be marginal, but for some sites, it could be significant. I you want to know that you got the best job I could do, this option may be for you.
You should be fine with the standard mode (as opposed to professional mode) UNLESS at least some of the following apply:
You can upgrade to the professional mode at any time for the difference in the prices.
Here are the specific items disabled in the standard version:
Almost all options for auto run remain intact in the standard version, the only potentially significant item disabled being the ability to alter the model bias adjustments. Users of the manual mode who are trying to get the best possible forecasts will have reason to be interested in the professional mode.
You should be fine with the basic level of customization (as opposed to the enhanced level) UNLESS at least some of the following apply:
If you choose the basic customization, I can still take into account a description of your site, especially how you think temperatures (daytime highs and nighttime lows) compare to an average for your area, or to a specific nearby station. Photographs of your weather station and its surroundings may also be useful.
If you choose the enhanced customization, I can analyze home weather station data (or for an official site, historical data) to help refine the job. The easiest data to analyze is Weather Display (by Brian Hamilton) log files, but I am also set up to analyze text files from Davis WeatherLink and can also make use of Ambient's Virtual Weather Station data. I may also communicate with you with further questions. Where possible, I will send you some samples of my analysis.
If you just recently got a home weather station, and want to go ahead with a basic customization now, you can upgrade (for the difference in prices) to a full detailed customization later when you have collected a few months of data.
To summarize, users who want forecasts representative of the average of surrounding nearby areas (rather than reflecting conditions very particular to their own weather station) and who want to save a little money should be fine with the basic level of customization. Users with lots of station data they'd like incorporated, and are willing to spend a little more to get little more accuracy (mainly in temperatures, and especially in mountainous areas) should consider the enhanced customization.