A view of the source

Zooniverse HQ, Adler Planetarium, Chicago USA

Zooniverse HQ, Adler Planetarium, Chicago USA

Those of us who use the oldWeather website every day have got thoroughly used to it, and take it for granted. But there is a lot of magic going on behind the scenes to make a complex interaction with the logbook images simple to use on each of many different computers and browsers, and keep working reliably however many people are using it simultaneously.

This magic is actually skill and effort, of course, and it’s made possible because oldWeather is one of the Zooniverse suite of projects. Zooniverse is an infrastructure for online public science: a core team of experts in building and using websites that let everyone do science, a group of 15 projects (oldWeather is one) each doing a different sort of science using Zooniverse tools, and an ever-growing community of volunteers working on the projects.

Most of the time I only concern myself with oldWeather, but last week I went to a Zooniverse-wide workshop in Chicago; where developers, scientists and volunteers from many of the projects got together to talk about technical innovation, good practice and new ideas. It was an excellent meeting, ably described here by our own Janet Jaguar, and in more detail here by Jules Wilkinson. I came away with some new friends, some new ideas, but perhaps most of all, with a renewed appreciation of how much we owe to the development team.

When reading and annotating the logbooks, and even when analysing the results, we don’t think much about user-interface design, database schemas, servers, JavaScript, website responsiveness and the like. But all that has to be done, and to make a website like oldWeather that ‘just works’ it has to be done WELL. So it was a privilege for me to invade the high-tech (if rather dark) office on the shores of Lake Michigan where the developers work their magic – thanks to them all.

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  1. Scientific progress goes … | Old Weather Blog - November 26, 2013

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