The right kind of snow but wrong kind of news

The forecasters must be congratulating themselves this week, as certainly here in Berkshire we have had a good covering of snow – some 5 inches as at 9am on Wednesday, followed by three beautiful wintery days with a night time temperature reaching minus 9.5 and daytime not much over freezing.

But I knew the snow was coming towards us through another channel altogether, while the TV showed us spinning wheels on cars in Yorkshire, shot 12 hours ago and filmed normal streetscenes hoping someone may fall or at least slip on the ice, generally pumping out the same polished stories hour after hour. 

http://uksnow.benmarsh.co.uk maps Twitter messages (tweets) which use the special hash tag “#uksnow” along with a postcode and a measurement of the snow currently falling. For instance tweeting “#uksnow NG9 6/10” would place a “pin” in this map in real time. It will also disappear after a short time to ensure the info is bang up to date and not some out of date list.

Nobody demanded that thousands of contributers should post their local information this way – the great net applications propagate themselves and here is a superb example where one person has grabbed a growing trend on Twitter and maximized it’s effectiveness.  He even has an iPhone version for mobile use.

While BBC reporters in designer scarves search for local crises to justify their existance, people power is beginning to rule and the results are so much more specific that they actually mean something. Can the Beeb really justify the cost of hiring a helicopter to show us pictures of the M3 running pretty much normally last week?

For example today the BBC seem fixated on the number of schools closed due to the snow. 17? 170? 1700? what does it mean? Is your school in this number?  Sounds good on the news but totally meaningless.

Apply the #uksnow principal and have every school tweet it’s real time status. Suddenly your school is in the map, quite literally and the meaningless stats are now so relevant.

Now back to canals. The press are never going to cover the ice on the canals in any detail, although today BW did declare that 90% of canals are iced over which is better than saying 1,700 miles are iced over but still meaningless if I want to check if Wolverhampton locks are passable.

People power to the rescue then! One of the contributors to waterscape.com has aleady produced a canal ice map which will read twitter tweets containing the tag #canalice. For once we seem almost ahead of the game!  It needs some work to locate the tweets properly, but its the start of something very powerful. http://www.waterscape.com/blog/authors/chris/canal-ice

Maybe too late to become popular enough to be useful this week but it looks like we need to get used to the extreme conditions so let’s get used to updating each other too!

Join Twitter, send regular posts containing #canalice, a canal name and a location and lets see if we can make this thing take off!

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