In a blog post yesterday, the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones describes how stranded European air passengers have been using twitter and facebook to organise lifts home. Like no fewer than six of my Headshift colleagues, I too have been grounded by the volcanic ash cloud hanging over Europe – abandoning plans to travel on Saturday to pick up my kids who are visiting relatives in Poland.
This isn't the first time I've used Twitter to solicit or provide travel information, something that the format is particularly well suited for. During a fierce snow storm last year, I was enroute to Luton Airport for a flight to Glasgow when we were told, on board the train, that all buses between the railway stop and the airport, a good 2km or so up a steep hill, had been cancelled, as had many flights. I did a quick twitter search and found someone, who coincidentally also works in the social media industry, tweeting from air side. He confirmed that they were still plowing the snow from the runway and de-icing planes. Because of his information, I continued to make my way to the airport, tweeting and posting photos as I did for the benefit of other passengers. My tweets were picked up by BBC Radio Three Counties, where I'm familiar with several journalists, and before I knew it I was doing two ways as I trudged up the snowy airport approach road with my luggage. I eventually did manage to get my flight, after having a coffee with my new friend, and made my way up to Scotland as planned.
Twitter isn't going to get me a lift to Poland this time – I simply don't have the time, or inclination, to drive – but whenever or weather or transport crisis hits, it's the first place I check for details from the ground.