Tag Archives: Ben Marsh

A tea break with Ben Marsh

After looking at the Channel 4 cuts map i thought i’d just grab a quick chat with the creator Ben Marsh – the freelance web developer who has easyjet, Channel 4, vodafone among his clients…

Your2pence: Firstly who are you and what do you do?

Ben Marsh: I’m a freelance web developer who creates ‘mashups’ – which means extracting information from various (potentially unrelated) resources and putting them together in a meaningful way.

Y2P: Why did Channel 4 come to  you to create the cuts map?

BM: Channel 4 approached me after seeing my #uksnow Map over the winter. With all the spending cuts that are currently taking place they wanted to show this in an alternative visual.

Y2P:What’s the point of this map though? Why don’t we just keep it nice and old fashioned?

BM: Visuals and graphics are usually a better way of getting complex information across. Being able to see how spending cuts are taking place geographically and also on a month-to-month basis gives a different angle to what is happening.

Having the ability for a consumer to discover and understand content their own way can only be a good thing.

Y2P: How has the internet helped to shape your ideas and projects?

BM: There is a huge resource of open information on the internet, and it is getting easier and easier to pull these sources together and make something more meaningful. I’ve been creating apps and sites for quite some time, but the first one that caught the public imagination was the #uksnow map, which took locatable snow reports from Twitter and plotted them on a map.

You might like to check out Ben’s latest project http://ilooklikearoyal.com which has just been launched for easyjet and the Royal Wedding. They are looking for…you guessed it Europe’s best Will and Kate look-a-likes…

Courtesy of Ben Marsh

Follow Ben and what he’s up to on @benmarsh.


UGC Snow Story

As the snow begins to fall journalistic cliché blankets Britain. We’re a nation obsessed with talking about the weather, yet we still manage to be embarrassingly unprepared for it. The snow barely has time to settle before the news headlines ‘treacherous’ travel conditions and dangerously low grit supplies.

This is when the role of the citizen journalist really comes into it’s own. When it’s impossible for the reporters and TV crews to get to the snow-scene unscathed, it’s up to snow’s victims and enthusiasts to do the storytelling.

Screengrab from Sky - Your Photos. Photo by Nina Power - "Frosty the snowman and friend Nathan. Taken in the back garden

The BBC UGC Hub receives thousands of stills and videos on the days it snows, interestingly far more than during heat-waves, and the Channel 4 Facebook page has set up an album especially for its viewers snowy scenes.

We no longer have to rely on meteorologist’s changeable predictions alone, but on those than can physically see the snowfall from their window. Twitter users can create a live snow map of the UK by tweeting their postcode and snow rating to the hashtag #uksnow. Ben Marsh, #uksnowmap’s creator, says that from November 23rd to December 31st the site notched up half a million hits and 85,000 reports from 150,000 tweets.

"Heathrow T3 looks like a war zone - debris, foil blankets & camping passengers" @PaulLomax

But UGC’s finest snow hour came this weekend when BAA banned TV crews from entering Heathrow airport during the snow chaos that caused thousands of passengers to miss their flights. Newsrooms began calling out to passengers for news on their experiences. Along with Flickr, Twitter and YouTube there was soon an influx of shocking stills and videos of people camping out in foil blankets – more akin to a warzone than an airport terminal! Some posted videos of themselves as reporter and interviewer, questioning other passengers about their experiences.

BAA might have been able to keep out the professional broadcasters, but what difference did it make? They underestimated the growing power and proficiency of the citizen journalists, who proved more than capable of getting their story told to thousands of viewers and listeners.

When it comes to a snow story UGC tells it best.

"Not a toilet seat but a plane window and yes, that is snow" @DaisyPoppets