My New Web Service: River Runner

In my spare time, when I’m not trying to be a web developer, I enjoy whitewater kayaking. Here’s a photo of me kayaking a river out in West Virginia a few years ago. It’s great fun.

One question every kayaker asks before heading out for the next adventure is: “Is the river up?” IOW, is the level of the water high enough for a good day of boating?

Luckily, that question is easy to answer in today’s modern, digitally-connected world. You see, there are 100’s, if not 1000’s, of realtime water level gauges on the rivers across the U.S. and a few government agencies, like the National Weather Service, provide those realtime data for public use.

This post is about the web service I created to pull water level data from the NWS. In a future post, I’ll write about the WordPress widget and Amazon Alexa skill I created to use this service.

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A New Look At The Data

So, I haven’t yet started my new project – my shared Alexa and WordPress programming project where I plan to create a web service that provides data to a WordPress plugin and Alexa Skill. No, I have instead been working on a side project.

A week or so ago, one of my work colleagues, Joe McGill, turned me on to the open source analytics-reporter that was developed by 18F and the Washington State University’s fork of 18F’s analytics dashboard.

Given we both work on the team that builds many of the front-facing websites for Washington University in St. Louis, a new analytics dashboard has obvious appeal, and what intrigued me most about this solution was that it offered something that I’ve wanted for a long time: a single, comparative view of web traffic for multiple websites.

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