Twitter and Inclusiveness

The unique ways in which Twitter is being used as a communication tool are simply amazing. The use cases go far beyond simple status updates, from customer support to conference feedback. And the Twitter universe keeps growing, with new users and apps on a daily basis.

What still amazes me though, is how many people don't care about Twitter. Denver - where I live - is not New York or parts of California, where I assume the ratio of Twitter-user per capita must be more substantial. And the same is probably true for the tech industry in general, at tech conferences, meetups, barcamps etc. But when I'm around friends, many tech-savvy thirty-somethings, none of them care about Twitter. It's not something they use as part of their job or for networking purposes and they use Facebook to keep up with friends - so why bother updating another social media site? And they are just one example of many groups that are generally not on Twitter, and most likely will not be in the (short term?) future.

This has a serious impact on the effectiveness of using Twitter as a channel for feedback or dialogue. The hashtag sign is probably one of the most straight-forward, immediate discussion boards on the web and mobile - a wonderful back-channel at conferences or venue for chatter during TV shows. But it's limited to the Twitter audience while leaving everyone else wondering about the strange # sign. I've been to a few non-tech conferences that embraced a Twitter hashtag for conference communication and the Twitter conversation barely included a handful of people.

As someone working in the realm of civic engagement, I love the opportunities Twitter offers for public participation. For example to have a message board at events to collect instant feedback or ideas. Or to host a mobile dialogue, using a hashtag to discuss elements of a proposed masterplan right on-site in the neighborhood. Technically, Twitter allows us to do that. But using Twitter would leave the majority of voices out of the conversation, without even talking about the fact that plenty of Twitter users don't tweet from their phones.

With Twitter not only being a great communication tool, but also a wonderful exchange format with an open API, the question is: Can we use other channels of communication to broaden the user base while taking advantage of Twitter's unique ease-of-use and interactivity?

Text messaging has reached widespread adoption, with 65% of users 50 years or younger texting, up to 85% of those in the group between 18 - 29 years old. Twitter is not anywhere close to that. (I have experienced the unexperienced-ness of the 89% of those 65 years and older who don't text, but let's ignore that for now...).

Would adding a mobile option that is integrated into Twitter make those #hashtag conversations more inclusive?

That's what we would like to explore further. We built a prototype of such a platform at http://GuerrillaTweets.com. It allows users to mobilize Twitter accounts and hashtags, while participants can text in responses without the need of a Twitter subscription or smartphone. It's a second step towards inclusive, mobile dialogues (with Twitter's hashtags being the first one), but far from the last. And we'd love to hear your feedback and ideas. 

Conference Report - Using Virtual Reality for Stakeholder Engagement

­­­Public Decisions today released the conference report for the Using Virtual Reality for Stakeholder Engagement conference back in July. Very insightful, including many comments and feedback from the event. This summary table outlines some of the key findings: 

­­ ­

Benefits Drawba­cks Tradeoffs
­Appropriateness - May appeal to some participants who otherwise might not attend
- May be useful in instances where biases or limited abilities (such as for persons with physical disabilities) place constraints on effectively achieving engagement goals
- The idea of virtual worlds may be unappealing or have a residual negative connotation for some people (e.g., “gaming”)
- Technology can be overwhelming to some not used to it
Like other engagement techniques, virtual worlds may be appropriate for certain proportion of stakeholders
Effectiveness Provides an immersive, collaborative experience to the degree that in-person, telephone conference calls and web-enabled meetings cannot Requires computer that meets systems requirements and high-speed internet; some organizational firewalls also may block access Requires some willingness by stakeholders to learn how to use / navigate in virtual worlds (orientation sessions are suggested)
Efficiency - Provides opportunities for participants to have experiences that otherwise might be too costly or difficult / dangerous
- Costs of using virtual worlds can be very low and other hosts in-world are often willing to assist at no charge
Creating your own “island” or space in virtual worlds can be costly - Organization / host must invest time and effort to first understand the potential applicability and acquire the capabilities needed for virtual worlds in order to create a successful immersive experience for participants
- Networking with other organizations in-world is key for locating free or lowcost spaces available for use in virtual worlds

­To access the full report, go to the Public Decisions website >>

Promising Practices in Online Engagement

Exciting news, we just released our new report on Promising Practices in Online Engagement: The Internet's revolutionary impact on information-sharing and network-building is having an increasingly powerful impact on public life. So far, the deliberative democratic potential of the medium has been less fully explored than has its application to electoral and interest group politics. This report highlights multiple approaches to how the Internet can help build capacity and momentum for inclusive, collaborative and boundary-crossing problem-solving, both locally and at the national level.

Read the full report >>

Brief Analysis of 5 Recent eParticipation Projects

Great summary by Tim Bonnemann:




Event Announcement: PCamp09

­­Unfortunately I won't be able to participate, even though they offer great ways to participate virtually. From their website:

Participation Camp will provide the spark for an explosion of sharing, experimentation, and collaboration around this question.  Participants may attend a wide range of physical and virtual presentations (or deliver one themselves), compete in a conference-wide participation game, or roll up their sleeves in a hands-on workshop.

PCamp will be hosted by ITP@NYU.  There is no cost to attend.  Register now.

"It's Not the Campaign Anymore"

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Geek Appointed as Director of Citizen Participation

And that's good news, another sign that eParticipation is ready for prime time. 

Hopes are raised today that Change.gov's sort of citizen engagement is on its way to WhiteHouse.gov. As first reported by MediaMemo's Peter Kafka, Google's Katie Jacobs Stanton will be joining the White House as the new Director of Citizen Participation, starting in March.

What's fascinating is that in bringing Stanton in-house, the Obama Administration is bringing in the mechanic to drive the car (or some less clunky phrase). Stanton, reports the TechChuck blog, was part of the team that brought to life Google Moderator. That's the tool that powered Change.gov's Open for Questions. And during the presidential campaign, Stanton worked on the company's Elections and Moderator team. (via TechPresident)


Blogs vs. Wikis - Oldschool but funny

Found this funny video on Nancy White's Fullcirc website. The discussion blogs vs. wikis is a little 2003ish - I'm glad to see online engagement mature beyond this question and new tools evolve. 


Webinar: The State of Online Community

The State of Online Community
A webinar sponsored by the Online Community Research Network
December 11, 2008, 11:00 am PST

Register at http://ocstate.eventbrite.com >>

Join online community expert, Bill Johnston of Forum One Networks for highlights from the Online Community Research Network 2008 research series and a discussion of trends on the horizon for 2009. Session highlights will include:

  • Online community strategy and ownership
  • Community as an ecosystem
  • Budget, headcount and compensation
  • The evolving role of management and moderation

Please note: Attendance is FREE but limited to 200 people. Register early to reserve your spot!

Change.gov - Early signs of a new political style?

President-elect Barack Obama has launched the website change.gov, where you can find news about the transition and inauguration and information about his agenda. Interestingly, the site also has a place for people to share their ideas for government and their stories about the campaign. This might be an early answer to the question I raised in my last post...


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