According to the official weather service, the UK has just suffered through its longest spell of freezing conditions since December 1981.

The recent winter storms across the whole of the UK wreaked havoc with public transport and generally disrupted the lives of millions of UK residents. Soon hundreds of thousands of UK residents turned to a Twitter-based application, the UK Snow Map. Created by freelance web developer Ben Marsh and powered by 34SP.com, the application lets Twitter users report where snow is falling and by which amount. It displays the reports in real-time on a map of the UK. It works regardless of the cloud cover, unlike weather satellites.

The system is deceptively simple: anyone with a Twitter account can report on her local snow conditions with the hashtag #uksnow. She rates the snowfall from 0 (no snow) to 10 (blizzard), and specifies her location using the name of the town or the ZIP code –no geo-tag support yet. Those tweets are then analyzed and placed on a map of the UK, giving a real-time visual picture of the local snow conditions as reported by actual residents on the ground.

The UK Snow Map has been active since February 2009, and has seen a huge increased in use, mirroring the Twitter popularity in the UK, as well as this year’s harsh winter. At the height of the snowfall last week, the map received 50,000 visits in one day –as many as the total number of visits it received last year. During the recent wintry weather, the application processed over 100,000 unique snow reports from all over the UK, with rates of over 100 tweets per minute at peak times.

Next step, using geo-location and more hashtags for real-time maps of fog and rain? Or to-the-minute traffic info? What kind of application would you build on top of it?

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2 Comments on Twitter and snowflakes

  1. Twitter stepped in and took over the real-time communication aspect of social media, something that even news websites had failed to execute. The witnesses and participants of events were now ‘tweeting’ their experiences as they were occurring, giving audiences with pure insight and uncensored content. Although Twitter feels like a lose end waiting to be tied, its unusually exponential worldwide increase will maintain its community and – more significantly – create a connection among audiences that neither Facebook nor any other media can get close to achieve.

  2. Agree. Twitter is no Facebook. Twitter enables people to listen to, share with, and broadcast to prefect strangers, or a specific community that is the target of the message. It’s a great marketing tool, and a great media for establishing a professional or expert network. Not even mentioning a great source of information –like RSS filtered by people you trust.

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