Always Take The Weather With You

I recently went round for dinner with some friends I haven’t seen for about five years. Conversation turned to my job and I mentioned that I worked for the Mozilla Foundation. “Firefox? We’ve got that, but we never really use it. Why’s it better?”

I went to their laptop PC, balanced on the sofa in the corner of the lounge, and showed them about tabs, and how it makes browsing so much more pleasant. (I couldn’t show them middle-click, as the laptop didn’t have a middle mouse button.) They seemed only mildly impressed.

Next, I moved on to the addons system. Trying to find something that would appeal, I went to and started looking through the “Most Popular” list. However, everything on offer suddenly seemed incredibly geeky and irrelevant to their lives. Web Developer Toolbar? Nope. FlashGot? Get real.

Then we scrolled past ForecastFox. Now, my view of weather is that it’s something you dress for, not something you obsess about, and so this extension has never been of interest. But when I explained it, their eyes lit up. Somewhat bemused, I installed it (incidentally, ForecastFox’s UI for telling it your location is far too complicated). They thought that having three little weather symbols in the status bar was was the coolest thing since sliced bread, and said they’d be using Firefox from then on!

It just goes to show, you can hook people on Firefox with the strangest things …

17 thoughts on “Always Take The Weather With You

  1. Yep. Sometimes I’m sure you wonder as a developer how much people will notice the vast amount of time you spend in minor details and things like this don’t help. However, that’s the beauty of Firefox. It’s extensible and flexible. Perhaps once the Addons get more finalized a “normal” user extension list would be generated.

  2. ImageZoom is a nice add-on that is good for demonstrations.

    I’m going to give ForecastFox a try now that you mention it : ).

  3. In exactly the same vein, I’ve managed to convert a few people at work to firefox based on the stock ticker extension. Very simple it sits in the bottom corner and give current stock prices. We have a scheme where we can get discounted company shares so if the price goes up everyone feels richer…

    The other one that has got a few people hooked is ViewMyCurrency that will do on page currency conversions. We travel a lot and so it’s useful. We were looking at booking hotels and someone noticed that I had prices in pounds whilst they were still seeing prices in dollars….

  4. Well… then only you developers haven’t noticed Forecastfox’s potential. It’s the single most cheered up extension for every Joe User and his dog out there that I install Firefox for.

  5. The one I use to convince people is the Adblock Plus / Filterset.G Updater combo.

    Then open IE and Firefox, go to a selection of the user’s fave sites with both, and let them see the difference.

    If that doesn’t work, I show them FoxyTunes.

  6. My wife (who’s favourite TV channel is The Weather Channel) was also hooked on Firefox once I showed it to her.

    The other good way to hook people I found is Customize Google. The automatic presentation of the Google Suggestions never fails to amaze people.

  7. @Gerv: On every laptop I’ve ever seen, holding down both trackpad buttons at the same time is interpreted as a middle-click.

    @kwanbis: I pay for my Internet connection. I have every right to control what my browser downloads, it’s that simple. Or do you think Lynx, smartphone users, etc. are wrong because they don’t see the ad images either?

    @Everyone: Yeah, Forcastfox and Adblock are the best extensions to get people interested in Firefox, at least in my experience.

  8. Anyone who tries to promote is supporting libertarianism in its purest form … abolish the National Weather Service in favor of a corporation … that never seems to get the weather right anyways.

  9. Also about middle clicking, many trackpad control apps let you assign a corner to act as middle click, just like you can assign the left and bottom sides as scroll bars.

  10. Weather, huh? Guess I should have seen that coming, considering how many end users spend 20+ hours/week outdoors for no apparent reason.

    The ones I positively can’t live without are FlashBlock (_if_ the Flash plugin is installed; on a computer that only I use, I just don’t install Flash in the first place, but on e.g. the computers at work sometimes it is wanted, usually to get through the stupid Flash-based “front door page” of some site or another), the Web Developer toolbar (which of course mostly appeals to web developers, but I think it ought to be included if you install the developer tools; it’s at least as useful as the Javascript debugger — but yeah, end users aren’t going to care), Nuke Anything Enhanced (or the equivalent — another non-starter for end users I fear), ImageZoom, and Copy Plain Text (_certainly_ not interesting to end users).

    For end users I suggest more visual stuff, like the one that shows national flags when you visit country-coded URIs. The Session Saver extension would have potential to impress end users, if the bugs could be ironed out; for now, I’d leave it to geeks.

    Then too, don’t forget some of Firefox’s built-in technology that doesn’t even require any extensions. A couple of years ago (when we were still using the Moz suite, but Firefox would do just as well) my dad (definitely an end user; this is a guy who thought I was a master programmer when he found out I knew how to find the calculator app on the computer) was somewhere away from home and had to use a computer that had IE installed, and when he told me about it, one of the words he used to describe the experience was “unusable”. Apparently the web has way more pop-up windows than he ever imagined. ISTR that Microsoft has now done something about this particular issue, but there are still some areas besides just tabbed browsing where Firefox has an edge, even without any extensions. Show them how easy it is to create a folder on the bookmarks toolbar and drag sites into it from the location bar, for instance.

    Also you may occasionally run into an end user who cares about the privacy features, particularly the one that clears all personal information in one fell swoop. *Most* end users won’t give up their pocket lint for that, but every now and again you’ll run into one who’s paranoid somebody’s going to come along to the computer after him and somehow get his personal information.

  11. Now if only the same interface could have UK Met Office forecast data behind it…

  12. I like ForecaseFox, but ForecastFox Enhanced adds much larger radar images with animation. Nice.