Finding the signal in the flow

Suw and I had been noticing a bit of an economic uptick on our local high street here in London last autumn and into the winter. Shop fronts that had been empty were getting new tenants, and just in our corner of the Big Smoke, we could see green shoots of recovery.

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This morning Jonathan Lloyd who has a hyper-local content and commerce platform, Media Street Apps (story about the platform here on, tweeted this observation that he was seeing gutted shop units. It’s not the first rather grim economic observation that I’ve seen on Twitter as the UK economy seems to be softening again.

As a journalist, I immediately started to think of how we might find the signal in this flow of updates. Jonathan is very close to local retailers, and he might be flagging up an indicator of the direction of the economy. Google is already mining its own online shopping data to map local inflation trends in the US to create its own price index, and while I was writing this, Techmeme editor Mahendra Palsule says that financial market analysts are already doing this and flagged up the Stocktwits service.

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I wonder what other signals we could find in the flow of social media and how this might be used for journalism.