Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Someone said it had been snowing....

Photo Credit
So lots of people in central London couldn't get to work yesterday. And lots of other people on the mainland and in North America understandably laughed at us for getting in su
ch a fuss over 6 inches of snow (incidentally, is snow the only thing other than TV screens still measured in inches? I don't understand imperial measures on principle, but have spent the last couple of days converting centimetres BACK into inches, like it's the 1950s).

And once we'd finished our 'every five years sledging expedition', we turned the day into genuine English community spirit. Lots of weather to talk about, a proper reason to whinge about public transport, but an overwhelming sense of being sent home from school. London certainly turned into a bunch of kids for the day. And what means now is sharing experiences with as many people as possible. The BBC had the largest ever response to an appeal for photos, video, stor
ies, etc. Much of the BBC news consisted of camera phone video: this was news affecting everyone and documented by everyone.

But it was also the day that Twitter showed its public service credentials.
Not for everyone, but anyone using it was at a distinct advantage. By 8am the overground rail companies' information boards had frozen up, the TFL website was buckling under the weight of traffic, but anyone following @uktrains knew exactly what their chances of getting anywhere were (slim to none). The app pulls feeds from the BBC, shortens them in Yahoo Pipes to 140 characters or less, and publishes them through Twitterfeed. More details here

We also joined in at crowdsourcing the weather forecast. From Sunday afternoon's excited but disorganised 'Its snowing in [wherever]' tweets, we had moved by early Monday morning to a semi official hashtag #uksnow, and a location based weight of snow system, relying on tweets including the hashtag, a postcode, and a snow intensity out of ten (eg. '#uksnow SE24 7/10'). This fed Ben Marsh's fantastic #uksnow mashup, showing live Twitter sourced weatherTo be fair this is more of a map of where it is snowing AND people use Twitter, rather than simply of where it is snowing. But you get the picture.

To me the really big and important mash-up will be when the BBC start broadcasting events like this using Twitter. We saw it a couple of weeks ago when Janis Krums' photo of US Airways Flight 1549 floating in the Hudson River made front pages around the world, but that was a single big event where he happened to be closer than the news crews. We also saw it pre-planned with CNN's Facebook Connect link up for the US presidential inauguration. Here, in a random weather event affecting half the country, the real personal content was there for all to see and mashup, and there was a major broadcaster desperately seeking real personal content. The BBC's coverage has been all the better for leading with non-professional footage, but next national story there need to be more integration.


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