London

Please tweet responsibly

I love Twitter. I really really do. When there’s a breaking news story – or, I guess, a rolling news story – then I’m usually glued to Twitter, watching the appropriate hashtags or searching for info and generally trying to find out as much as possible about what’s happening from as many on-the-ground sources as possible. It’s also nice to feel like there are other people out there, interested and concerned about the same things you are; it’s good to get assurances that your friends are okay, or let someone know you’re thinking about them, all in real-time.

But. Unfortunately, there has to be a but. When something is going on that’s as big and scary and emotional as the recent riots across England, it’s difficult to separate fact from rumour. I’ve spent an awful lot of time over the past few days reassuring people that nothing was kicking off in my area – and confronting people who were either mistakenly or maliciously spreading untruths about what’s going on. I know a lot of my friends were in similar positions, trying to fight the rumour mill and make sure that what was getting reported was actually accurate.

I don’t know what drives people to deliberately lie about what’s happening. I do understand a little better how people who are scared and have heard rumours might want to warn others, or seek confirmation of what they’ve heard, but Twitter can be like a giant game of Chinese whispers sometimes, with people retweeting or repeating things that aren’t confirmed, and often aren’t true. It’s been frustrating, and stressful, and scary, watching rumours spiral out of control and not being able to stop them.

I’d just like to ask that, if you’re going to tweet about a breaking news story, that you please, please, check your facts first. Please only repeat things you know to be true; if you don’t trust your source, please don’t retweet them. Things have been scary enough lately without frightening people unnecessarily.

My friend Mary Hamilton just wrote a very good article for the Guardian about the same subject; go check it out here. Twitter can be a really valuable tool in situations like this, but not if we’re not using it sensibly. Please tweet responsibly.

London buses > London Underground

I’ve lived in and around London for about five years now, and yet it’s only in the last month that I’ve realised how great buses are. I used to be kind of scared of them, and generally worried about getting lost. But, working in an office without a convenient tube station anywhere nearby forced me to learn how to use the bus, and I’ve decided it’s brilliant.

A recent post by my erstwhile colleague Ben Hammersley on ways to improve London journey planning got me thinking about public transport even more, and led me to draw up the following lists:

Why buses are great:
* You get to see more of the city, and how it fits together
* There’s more space (and daylight! And air!)
* Sometimes when bus drivers see you running to catch the bus, they stop and wait for you
* Buses usually stop closer to your destination than tubes
* Buses are cheaper
* If you’re on a bendy bus, you can look down the bus as it goes round a corner and it looks sort of satisfyingly weird
* If a bus gets stuck in traffic, you can get off and walk. If a tube gets stuck in a tunnel, you’re just trapped underground and it’s horrible
* There are more bus routes than tube lines, so you usually don’t have to change multiple times in one journey
* When you get off the bus, you’re out in the world and where you want to be. When you get off the tube you have to fight your way through tunnels and crowds and barriers, which extends your journey time by at least five minutes
* There’s a whole song about the wheels on the bus. No-one has written a song about the tube (that I know of) (so they probably have, haven’t they?).

Why tubes are great:
* You know where you are when you get to a tube stop and don’t have to rely on knowing where you’re going
* Some of them are air conditioned (although when they’re not, and people don’t bother to open the windows, they turn into saunas and it’s gross)
* The tube map is kind of snazzy-looking!
* The “please mind the gap” voice lady sounds nice
* Sometimes you’re at a bus stop and a bus comes which isn’t your bus, but then your bus can’t pull into the stop and zooms past you and it’s horrible. That doesn’t happen with tubes. They’re strictly one-at-a-time
* Most tube stations are underground, so if it rains you don’t get wet while waiting for your tube
* You’re travelling UNDERGROUND! And that’s kind of magic.

Ultimately, I feel like maybe using the tube is the rookie way to get around London; it’s all so simple and colour-coded and difficult to get lost. Figuring out the endlessly interlinked bus routes takes a bit more confidence. Maybe eventually I’ll graduate to using a Boris bike – though cycling in the city takes some real chutzpah.