As snow hits the UK the Twitter mashups storm in

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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.

  • Xavier

    Most discussed topics on twitter related to #uksnow are at the moment: London, brighton, manchester, leeds, bristol, bus, tfl, snowman, mashup, …

    Discussions around #uksnow can be followed on

    (already more than 2478 tweets!)

  • Marcus

    Whilst the Twitter weather map is a cool little piece of technical wizardry, I’d hardly say that it was ‘useful’. The met office pic example is more of a solution searching for a problem IMHO.

    I think Twitter is fascinating and I’m really glad to see it being adopted by the mainstream, and I think it certainly does have it’s uses, but more in a sort of casual-communication sense – much like SMS.

    I’d very much like to think that in the near future, some kind of open standard is formed that allows any service provider to host a Twitter-like platform in a distributed manner – a kind of OpenID version of Twitter.

  • Mike Butcher

    @Marcus You mean like or ?

    • Marcus

      Yep, kindof, except that the most interesting part of twitter (or similar services) is that you can subscribe to and push updates to my friends/fans/followees – not the actual messaging system itself.

      I don’t care whether they are on Twitter,, Yammer, any other microblogging service, Facebook, MySpace, Webjam or whatever – I just want to know what they’re doing online. I suppose services like friendfeed do a good job of allowing you to gather all of your online activity together in one place so that people can subscribe to it, but what would be really great is if I could ‘follow’ all of the online activity of @mbites without having to worry about any of this.

      My prediction is that some organisation (probably google) will come up with an OpenTwitter standard which sites will be able to implement that will allow some kind of social data pub/sub mechanism. Quite how they’ll do it, I’m not so sure!

  • :m)

    now really?! only snow over big cities? ;-)
    information being disinformation in the end.

    Cool idea anyway! keep going, twitterers.

  • harold campbell

    simply brilliant!!!

  • Bob Thomson

    Very clever idea. Although inaccurate unless there are an equal amount of twitter users across the UK. As :m) said before, it’s no surprise that snow is only being reported across densely populated areas.


  • Programmer Helper

    Very Good Information about Twitter. Thank you for you information.

  • John

    lol – only snow over London, Birmingham, Manchester. Just shows where civilisation is ;-)

  • Bob

    Most mashups don’t seem to have much scope for profit, it’ll be interesting to see if anyone can leverage the Twitter userbase to create revenue.

    Now’s the time to do it if you have an idea, Twitter is teetering on the edge of becoming mainstream.

  • Maxwell

    It’s about as much a blizzard as a fun sized mars bar is fun. Over the majority of the UK there’s barely 1″ of snow, if that – here in the south west there’s none settled – doesn’t stop them from canceling the buses, the trains, and closing the schools!

  • Paul Maurice Martin


    But speaking of cool, I have to mention: a cold winter or two, or three, does not disprove global warming. I think you were just being funny, but millions of people don’t seem to get it yet – that global warming is about what the long term trend has been and that blips on the screen are to be expected.

    • Glenn Fannick

      Thank you Paul Maurice Martin for pointing this out. People routinely point to a cold day as a way of undermining the global climate crisis. These throw-away comments feed into that misperception. Our earth is going through a climate shift that is on *average* a significant increase in temperature.

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  • JJ

    *that’s global warming for ya folks*

    If this sentence implies that, because it is snowing, global warming isn’t real, you really don’t understand what global warming is.
    I hope I’m wrong.

    • asdf

      If anything, it’s more proof of global warming..
      Maybe a little less time spent reading twitter and more spent reading about the science in regards to global warming would be a good idea.

  • Corey Frisbee

    Awsome technology!!

  • emma

    “what was happening”? it was f*cking snowing!! open you eyes and look outside!

  • Richard

    Well thank goodness for Twitter. We might not have noticed it was snowing otherwise.

  • Paul Clarke

    Mike, lovely piece. I hadn’t thought about the literal ‘ground view’ dimension (where the satellites can’t see) until now.

    But ultimately it was a bit of fun. The two points from me about the whole thing were: the enabling factor offered by a data standard – the story of it’s formulation in the kitchen is here – and the behavioural tensions from mixing up ‘standardisation’ (to meet the agenda of data reuse) with the agenda of just having a good chat about the weather…

  • Nitin Sawant

    It’s safe in india!! No snow!!

    but Floods in the river suck at rainy season!!

  • > Flakey Tweets

    […] Americans may scoff at any amount less than a foot or so, the English seem to have gone bananas. But several Twitter feeds and mashups showing real-time information about the storm sprouted up. One mashup from Ben Mash uses postal […]

  • Steve Olson

    “The first time in 18 years?” – this is totally untrue. I lived in London in 2003 – it snowed multiple times while I was there. Where did you get this stat?

  • App vs. Mashup?

    Interesting use of the technology! Not to be pedantic, but I could call Ben Smith’s a twitter mashup, but Ben Marsh’s a twitter application. Both are pretty cool.

  • Ben

    “…the first time in 18 years”

    I think you meant:

    “…the worst in 18 years”

    It’s not the Sahara desert, you know!

  • Ben

    btw a much more useful website for tracking the snow-related chaos is:

    It’s a proper old-school “mash up”, with none of your fancy web-2.0 stuff in sight, and all the better for it!

    • graham

      @Ben – like it, Pandemonium FTW!

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