Strata Gems: Let it snow

Simple crowdsourcing paints a Twitter map of UK snow

We’re publishing a new Strata Gem each day all the way through to December 24. Yesterday’s Gem: Usahidi enables crowdsourced journalism and intelligence.

Strata 2011Weather in the UK is so unpredictable and varied that it’s the primary topic of national conversation. Each year brings just enough snow to make it a remarkable surprise every time the white stuff comes down.

Snow in the UK is generally a source of delight, but inevitably brings school closures and travel disruption. So, a simple idea to use Twitter as a way of gathering snow reports from around the country has proved remarkably popular. Built by developer Ben Marsh (@benmarsh), the #uksnow Map aggregates the reports from Twitter users on a map. With the recent UK snowfalls, the project has had as much traffic as it did in the entirety of the 2009 winter.

UK snow screenshot
The #uksnow Map

The idea is to tweet using the hashtag #uksnow with a snow rating on a scale of 1-10, along with the first half of your postal code. If you attach a picture to the tweet, then that can be placed on the map too.

Getting people to carefully craft tweets can be troublesome, but if it’s fun enough and the payoff useful, it’s a great lightweight way of aggregating citizen reports. The Usahidi project is a generalization of this concept into a platform.

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