There’s nothing like a breaking news event to show off the usefulness of Twitter. Today large swathes of the UK were blanketed in snow, but the Twitter feeds and mashups came to the rescue of anyone wanting real-time updates about what was happening.
One of the most useful was the feeds provided by Ben Smith (@bensmithuk) who built UK Trains Wiki which Tweets disruption alerts for 25 UK train operators. The original data is processed and shortened to less than 140 characters (in most cases) by Yahoo Pipes and tweeted via Twitterfeed which also adds a short-link back to the original BBC report. It’s enabled by travel news feeds from the BBC (via BBC Backstage).
The more fanciful but ‘nice to look at’ Twitter mashup came from Ben Marsh who coded the #uksnow mashup, pictured above. This is a Google map which maps reports of snow from UK Twitterers. They simply Tweet the first half of their postcode and a score out of 10 for their local snow cover e.g.”#uksnow E1 4/10″.
This made it clear that although the UK Twitter scene appears to be breaking through to the mainstream, the use of things like hashtags is probably not. As you can see the UKSnow map only shows some parts of the UK covered in Snow. However it show the potential to actually see what is happening on the ground because the satellites are clearly unable to penetrate the cloud cover, as you can see form the Met Office image, right.
Update: Here’s the story about the snow map.