How the BBC crowdsourced the Tube strike
Frustrated by the Tube strike in London today? Or far away from the capital and can’t see what all the fuss is about? Either way, take a moment to look at BBC London’s crowdsourcing experiment to document the travel situation.
The London Tube Strike Map asks commuters to report their experiences via email, text, audioboo, Twitter or the form on the website. Their experiences are plotted on a map and in a continually updated list of latest problem areas.
The map is created through Ushahidi, a free and open source platform used to crowdsource crisis information which was originally designed to plot civil unrest in Kenya.
The woman behind the experiment, Claire Wardle, says she got the idea from a similar project in Washington DC and explains that it is the ‘perfect way of easily visualising a lot of information about the strike.’
It’s a step further than, say, #uksnow, another collaborative journalism project in which Twitter users created a live snapshot of a snow-covered Britain.
Nothing stirs Brits into action like an opportunity to be vocal about the weather and travel problems, does it?
So how could the map be improved? The whole interface could be a bit more welcoming for starters. A lot of the data isn’t immediate enough, for example we know that users are sending in images but when you click on pictures nothing comes up. While you can include a location when you set up travel alerts, I can’t see a way of searching by postcode to help you plan a route. Claire Wardle says she’s manually updating the map while looking at the Transport for London website; maybe next time there could be a greater merging of data between the two.
And as BBC Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones points out, ‘more people may need to be accustomed to using smartphones if the traffic to maps like this is really going to take off.’
But for now this is just an experiment which has gone ahead despite a short timeframe; although Tube strikes have been planned for some time today’s action was only officially announced last week. Now the BBC has got this under its belt it’ll be interesting to see if a simlar map can be swung into action in times of truly unexpected crisis.