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Friday, 18 December 2009
No business like #UKsnow Business - How it all began..thanks to Schofield!
We have to go back to the last deluge of snow in February 2009, I had just recently come out of hospital with an all new metal knee joint (to match the other knee implant eight months earlier; as a result I was confined to the house and ramped up my time on Twitter virtually day and night as it was impossible to sleep, the pain still resisting 8 daily Diclofenacs!
Phillip Schofield, the TV Presenter on ITV's This Morning was busy tweeting that due to snow he might not get into the studio from his vast estate on the top of a hill. At the time, accurate immediate local snow reports were hard to come by, the Met Office would ramble on, and on, issue warnings for whole sections of the country and at times compete with the Environment Agency but still failed to give you precise, immediate, very local snow reports.
As the objective was to get Scofield to his ITV studio in Central London, plotting a possible route, I suggested to my happy band of followers, we all immediately report and retweet snow conditions using a kind of pre-determined shorthand namely a twitter hashtag #UKsnow followed by a FULL postcode and the depth of snow in inches, plus any other info in the remaining tweet.
Armed with this information, inputting the whole postcode into websites like "Up My Street", would give you the locality and so on. Crude but effective. It launched about 11am and then began to climb even knocking the USA Super Bowl off the twitter leaders board, this woke up America and suddenly my humble hashtag was climbing even higher. "Whats with the snow thing in England?" They would wail...
This caught the eye of a few lurking UK software developers and various mashups began to appear @OliBray (no relation) had one but used balloons and these overlapped. @BenMarsh started a snow map, but then mass tweeted his developer crowd and (I like to think unwittingly) changed and lost the whole travel information aspect by converting part of the data into a simple snow map. Ideal for software experts and assorted computer nerds but of little use if you wanted detailed travel information.
You have to understand, the first Ben Marsh UKsnow map didn't give details of the tweets, so in effect hijacked my information hashtag for his own program.
Given a few prods at the time by the media and by a few fellow developers, Ben then acknowledged where he got the hashtag from and has indeed made a lot of money out it (and good luck to him) with other programs based on the #UKsnow program, he did one for Vodafone to market Holiday destinations and roaming charges for example.
As a lot of my then followers helped to get the hashtag off the ground, long before Ben opened his map website, creative copyright I would claim is still mine as originator of a made up word is UKsnow. We also suggested the BBC use UK SNOW for detailed snow reports, which they now do.
Don't get me wrong, the NEW UKsnow map from @Benmarsh NOW does the job very well, as he now incorporates the twitter feed but it would take very little to acknowledge that he didn't start it all off and that a lot of other people got the ball rolling before he came along... including @schofe so Ben in the style of Desert Island Discs "UKsnow hashtag originated by Julian Bray and developed by Ben Marsh." That would satisfy the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act in the UK and I'd be more than happy to grant a licence for UKsnow and SnowUK.... both of which will trigger the Ben Marsh map but hopefully the newer SnowUk will contain emergency news and practical help for those stranded by putting in the precise position, a hundred calls to the appropriate emergency service will ensure help really is on the way..
Bringing the saga up to date: OK hands up! Being an old hand at PR; if I hadn't made the claim for the IP rights, this story would have been spiked. Immediately dead and buried.
As it is, a few tweets put a cyber feather up the backside of some IT hacks, BBC corrs. such as Rory Kettleandphones together with assorted data obsessive anoracs who should know better before rushing into print and wasting acres of airtime on the IP claim.
It was after all in response to widespread press notices being sent out by Ben and his merry crew and the incorrect version of the story being given the oxygen of publicity by the Guardian Datablog but you would expect that of the Grauniad so nothing new...
I'm blissfully happy as now everyone knows that it was in effect a collaborative effort started as a twitter discussion by my happy band of followers and something that within a couple of hours had zipped to the top of twitter trending.
As a by-product it is also interesting to see how many other unrelated subjects are now routinely prefixed UK rather than British. The UK of course being a term more widely used in conversation outside of the United Kingdom, rather than inside our country.
Finally me learned friends over some fine claret advise it is possible to assert the copyright and IP claim, to the made up word not to a hashtag as such. It is up to others if they wish to challenge my assertion and if they do, it will probably be in public, thereby keeping the #UKsnow idea alive and so for many years to come. Clearly a win, win situation.... the Simon Cowell of Tweets no less...
Julian Bray MCIPR NUJ
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