Starting at 6pm GMT, on November 2nd, 2010, London Underground will stage its 3rd tubestrike in two months. During the two previous strikes, BBC London used the Ushahidi cloud-based platform, crowdmap to crowdsource reports from Londoners trying to get to and from work. Much has been learned during the previous two outings and hopefully this third test will prove to be indispensable for people trying to move around the capital.
Union members who work on the London Underground are striking because of proposed job losses. It is a series of 4 strikes. The first and second strikes were in September. BBC London, a part of BBC News, decided to use Ushahidi’s new crowdmap platform to tell the story of the tubestrike.
After the first two strikes, a few lessons were learned through the experience: crowdsourcing was the only way to accurately tell the story of the strike. The official sources were providing conflicting information about station closures, and it was often the case that information coming in from users of crowdmap was the most accurate.
The biggest issue, and obviously the one faced by anyone attempting to crowdsource information, is dissemination. During the first strike, no mention was made of the map on radio or TV.
The map still managed to reach 18,860 unique visitors, and 39,306 page views from 55 countries. The team was obviously very happy with that, but was also aware that this traffic came about because of significant twitter chatter in social media circles about the BBC using crowdmap.
The 2nd strike took place on October 2nd. This time BBC London felt confident about the platform and talked about it on radio and TV with the hope that the map would filter through to Londoners who don’t use social media. It started to work. This was made clear when the site went down twice during the day as the crowdmap servers couldn’t cope.
It was clear from the first attempt that crowdmap is a great platform, but like any good crowdsourcing initiative it takes resourcing. Staff need to sit there feverously checking different feeds as they came in via twitter, email and SMS, and then approving each report before it went up on to the site. But it’s worth it.
There were some technical issues around design, mostly because the 24 hour tubestrike was the first time-dependent use of the map. Ushahidi was incredibly welcoming of the feedback and are including it in their future design plans.
The 3rd strike starts tonight. Ushahidi have been amazing and have moved the tubestrike map onto a dedicated server so it should be much more stable. Hopefully momentum has built around the map and more Londoners will log on and provide up to date, real-time information to fellow commuters about bus stop queues, congested roads, and tips for getting home more quickly. Help spread the word to you fellow Londoners by sharing this article or directing them to the tubestrike map.