Metrics, reach, and boosts: Unidata fully embraces Facebook

The Unidata Program Center is happy to announce that this is our final blog post...because we are moving all communication channels to Facebook! While this may come as a surprise to our dear community members, we’d like to take this time to highlight a few of the positive aspects associated with this move.

Primarily, the quality metrics we will be able to obtain will ensure future funding for Unidata. For example, NSF dreams of the ability to link scientific data analysis packages to user music genre preference (it’s well known that anything associated with rap is, well, you know, it rhymes with rap). “Currently, this level of metrics is impossible to collect”, says Unidata director Mohan Ramamurthy, “but the move to Facebook will allow us to collect these, and more! Think of the cross-disciplinary research this will enable!”

All community email lists will be moving to Facebook as posts. While the mailman has served us well over the years, the move to Facebook posts will allow us to embrace web 2.0 emoji technology. “Do not underestimate the power of emojis”, says UCP programmer Sean Arms. “Emoji technology was behind the recent move by Slack to shut down their IRC bridge. Emojis are changing the web like no other technology has before, and you better get on board now before you become an effectively illiterate n00b. And quite frankly, as a program, we can't stay 1337 on web 0.1 ASCII garbage LoL”. Moving to Facebook posts will also give us real-time feedback via the “like” mechanism, which again, is far superior to our current mailman based system. A thumbs up or grumpy face tells us infinitely more information than a well crafted piece of hate mail.

Though some staff are unsure of the decision to leave the Roller blogging platform behind, we believe this will be an overall positive move. “I’m just trying to figure out a way to keep my workflow of using scp to move blog post images to the web server.” says programmer Ryan May. MetPy Monday lead John Leeman also expressed concerns at the configurability and scheduling features of Facebook, “I don’t know if I can handle a Monday morning that doesn’t have 20 minutes of manual release tasks.”

Our direct support emails (support-<package>@unidata.ucar.edu) will also be moving to Facebook. This is exciting in many ways. Currently, our support system is based on a series of message handler (mh) centered scripts. Again, while this has served us well for the past several years, we look forward to embracing Facebook’s message handler based scripts. According to UPC's Tom Yoksas, the Facebook mh scripts are ”simply unmatched - there is no way we can do better than the team at Facebook. Also, they use nmh (new message handler), so they are already on the bleeding edge.” Another nice thing about moving our direct support to Facebook is that there is a very clear expectation of privacy (that is, none), as laid out in their terms of service.

A MetPy Doggo.
He's a heckin good boy, 'cause he uses MetPy!

As with any change, there are a few downsides. The biggest challenge we see with this move is fighting Facebook’s news feed algorithms. However, we are taking a multipronged approach to this. First, starting today, we will be opening a Kickstarter to fund an initial round of “boost my posts”. For those not familiar, groups can pay money to have their news float to the top of followers news feeds. Second, realizing that doggo memes consistently perform well in Facebook’s algorithms, we will begin combining dog memes and Metpy Monday posts to try to game the system (heck). We anticipate the dog meme / screencast combination will prove to be a powerful force, and plan on applying the strategy to other Unidata announcements and documents, including our 2018 proposal to NSF.

See you on Facebook, starting April 1st, 2018!

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