If you need an excuse to sit on the sofa and eat biscuits all day, we've found one: Sickweather, an app that shows you in real-time what nasty bugs are swirling around near you. Using the dubious methodology of scanning social media posts for self-reports of sickness, plus user reports within the app, Sickweather aggregates results on a real-time map so you can see where the illness hotspots are near you.
Since scraping social media posts is fraught with issues, the app points out that irrelevant tweets about "Bieber fever" and the like are excluded, but even if you have full faith in the algorithms, you're still relying on people to tell the truth. I fully expect to see outbreaks of Swine Flu near David Cameron's house.
The app allows you to choose the kinds of illnesses you're interested in, from a veritable menu of ailments - one of which was sponsored by a cleaning product. Hmm.
The sickspots that appeared for us were pretty weak, even for relatively common respiratory illnesses: one on Lovegrove Walk in Canary Wharf is based on a single report of flu three days ago, for instance. The app won't let me see what the report was, so I can't assess it for accuracy. Most of the other sickspots currently showing are also based on lone reports, and some of them are nearly two weeks old.
On the whole, then, the app - available free on iOS and Android - isn't going to help you avoid getting ill. In fact, it's probably just going to fuel paranoia. But if you're a newly-minted President hoping to avoid 'showers' of germs...
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 11, 2017
...then this might be just the excuse you needed to stay indoors. You're welcome. [Redferret]
Photo: Sickweather via Facebook