Just let them know what is happening...

Early last year we had a significant snow storm that caused many avalanches in places along I-90 in central Washington that hadn't seen avalanches before. One of these avalanches took out a popular Web camera. Immediately after the camera was taken offline by an avalanche negative feedback started coming in as users of our site were frustrated because they couldn't see this camera that was they considered such a vital part of their life and that would allow them to see how bad the conditions were along that route..

We immediately started thinking of ways to tell users why the camera was taken offline. The most logical place to put this message was the camera image itself (other sites like news sites embed these cameras into their own Web site to show conditions). We edited the image and gave it a little personality to make it seem like it was talking back to them. (See examples below.) Once we did this, the negative feedback about the camera being out of order stopped and something happened that took us by surprise; kudos and positive feedback started rolling in. "Thanks for making my mechanical friends talk to me" they said, "so glad to see someone has a sense of humor!" By letting the public know what had happened and making the camera seem like it had a personality of its' own we were able to save ourselves countless hours of responding to negative emails and got to bask in the kudos of openness.

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