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Twitter has long been a place where fictional characters – from Darth Vader to strange turns on comic book heroes to the characters from the space opera Firefly – have found life. Now, in a move to warm a tourism board’s heart, some of the most iconic features of San Francisco are also animated on the micro-blogging service.

Authored by a person or persons unknown, about two dozen SF buildings, structures, landscape features – even the fog – tweet away to each other and other Twitter users concerned with traffic, weather and other Bay Area happenings. These tweeting icons are cheeky in style, and several are quite active, while others have faded away, as Twitter users are wont to do.

From “Karl the Fog” to “TransAmericaBdg,” you can check out their latest antics on my new Twitter list.

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My fall schedule is quite busy, and I’m looking forward to meet many of my social media friends at several upcoming speaking engagements.

So you’ll know where to find me:

Citizen 2.0 Workshop – Sunday, Sept. 19, 2-4 p.m., Fairfield, CA – I’ll be leading a session on social media for progressive activists and campaign workers at the Solano County Democratic Party Headquarters;

NAGW National Conference – Sept. 21-22, St. Louis, MO – I’ll be leading a workshop and a regular conference session on social media for government;

CityCampSF – Oct. 16-17, San Francisco, CA – I’m an organizer of this unconference, and will be proposing sessions on social media, neighborhood beautification and mobile apps, and a public art location-based app check-in race;

Beyond 2010 – October 20-23, Edmonton, AB, Canada – I’ll be speaking in Edmonton on the 21st, on “Sci-fi, Digital Society and the Future of Governance,” holding a social media workshop for City of Edmonton’s IT branch, and meeting up with friends from Twitter and Empire Avenue;

How To: Podcasting – October 28, Oakland, CA – Joe Hackman and I are the guest speakers at Jonathan Fleming’s East Bay LocalPreneurs meetup, talking about our respective podcasts and sharing tips;

Gravity Summit – November 8-9, Irvine, CA – I’ll be keynoting the Social Media and Government event, talking about going to the next level with conversation and collaboration for governments and campaigns;

Keep up with me on Twitter, and I’ll be Plancasting these events as well. Hope to see you soon!

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Just a few today:

The Breaking Time: Toxic Privi-lege

10 Groups Call On Facebook To Make More Privacy Changes

Jeffrey Levy: Atwitter About Reliability

Kristy Fifelski: Video – Next Generation of Government Summit

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Most of what I’m doing on Twitter on a daily basis is working to build community. I’ve also got several other places where I’m doing similar things, but Twitter is definitely the largest pool where I reach out to new people to grow my personal network and evangelize a vision for government reform through social and collaborative technologies (Government 2.0). Consistently working on a large and closely connected personal Twitter network also helps when I have a need, like when I was trying to help a friend find a marrow donor for his sick daughter a few months back. A point I make frequently is that you always want to build your network before you really need it.

So, today I was doing some pruning of the folks I follow on Twitter. This can be tedious work, but it’s important to my networking efforts. I try to follow back most accounts that follow me, as long as they look like they have live people or organizations behind them. Plenty slip through the cracks, though, and I begin find my feed a bit overrun with people using FriendFeed, Facebook and a slew of other services to pipe content to Twitter with zero interaction there. Unless it’s content highly useful to me – like feeds from a few blogs and news agencies – I generally unfollow those sorts of accounts.

Cutting loose spammy and dead accounts
During this exercise, I also notice two kinds of accounts from people who are obviously trying to use Twitter as a networking tool, but are going astray. There are the accounts obviously auto-following people (look for 1-to-1 follower-following ratios) and having little luck at engagement, and then there are those who’ve simply stopped tweeting.

Reviewing these accounts, it’s often clear that they had purpose in getting started, whether to tweet at a conference, to promote their business, or simple to build that network before it’s needed. Many of the folks who stop tweeting don’t say why, but enough do that I’m guessing it’s because they simple aren’t getting the kind of engagement they were promised or expecting. Sometimes they’re discouraged because they’ve got hundreds of Twitter followers but only a few of those click on the links they share.

Strategic networking
My advice for networking on Twitter – and I believe the informational networking there is tremendously valuable – is to be strategic in how you build out your community. For example, if you’re trying to market SEO services, and sign up for a service that auto-follows anyone who tweets the words “social media,” you’ve totally missed any sort of practical audience. Sure, you can all retweet each others’ links and tidbits of wisdom, and yes, that may increase your personal SEO (which is one of the few good reasons to crank out content on Twitter without and personal engagement). But it’s not likely to get you customers. What if instead you identified local businesses and Chamber of Commerce members engaging on Twitter who might be interested in your services? Start interacting with them; build a relationship that will lead to real business.

If you’re the conferencegoer, figure out what Twitter hashtag people are using to tweet about the event, and make connections before, during and after by merging your Twitter and offline networking. Chances are, Twitter connections established there will continue due to shared interest or profession.

Government 2.0
Twitter has been an extremely valuable tool for the Government 2.0 movement. Last week, Gov 2.0 consultant Maxine Teller commented on why she thinks it’s important that Twitter is hiring a government liaison, explaining how Mark Drapeau convinced her to start using Twitter actively in 2008 after she’d stopped:

The whole reason that you and I were jazzed about Twitter back then was because it was – and still is – a great way for us to find and connect with like-minded folks who believe – and are using – emerging tools and technologies enable us to more efficiently and effectively achieve our government missions.

To repeat the mantra that we’ve all chanted in our Gov 2.0 conference and event presentations umpteen times, Gov 2.0 (despite its software release naming convention) is not about the tools and technologies; it’s about the collaborative interactions, innovative thinking, and revolutionary approaches that these tools and technologies catalyze and enable.

In late 2009, Gartner consultant Andrea DiMaio published a research noted defining Government 2.0 as “the use of IT to socialize and commoditize government services, processes and data.” His definition is one of the most solid and comprehensive I’ve seen, and it encapsulates many of the reasons social technologies are important to other businesses sectors as well:

The socialization of information has multiple facets (government to citizens, citizens to government and government to government) and the boundaries between these facets are increasingly blurred. The next step will be the socialization of services and processes by engaging individuals and communities to perform part of existing government processes or transform them by leveraging external data and applications.

Commoditization – which has already started with consolidation and shared services to reduce the diversity of infrastructure and horizontal application – will gradually move toward services and business processes.

Government 2.0 has seven main characteristics:

* It is citizen-driven.

* It is employee-centric.

* It keeps evolving.

* It is transformational.

* It requires a blend of planning and nurturing.

* It needs Pattern-Based Strategy capabilities.

* It calls for a new management style.

Food for thought.

Resources:

Twitter Strategy for Agencies and Causes

Why and How: Local Twitter Lists

Government 2.0: A Gartner Definition

Drapeau: Government 2.0 Movement Seemingly Passes by Twitter, Inc.

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There’s been a lot of reading between the lines of Twitter’s job posting for a DC-based government liaison (and even one instance of actual follow-up reporting). One post really caught my attention – because I disagree with it so vehemently.

My friend Alan W. Silberberg, a Gov 2.0 innovator and founding organizer of Gov 2.0 LA, argued that, “Twitter needs a government relations expect who is also a social media expert. Not the other way around.” His five-point post went on to urge a traditional (if exceptionally well-qualified in the type) Beltway insider for the new post, which Twitter envisions heading up an emerging public affairs shop.

Wrote Silberbeg (who said he is not applying):

Because of the Giants amongst us like Microsoft, Google, Facebook – Twitter’s entry into the Government space has to be taken carefully. The Giants have armies of lobbyists, lawyers, pr firms, etc. The Twitter person needs to be able to navigate these waters with firm decision making. Time spent getting up to speed will only hurt the company, and its investors like Union Square’s Fred Wilson. This goes back to my first point. Twitter needs to hire someone known in the Gov 2.0 space – but also known in DC. IN Government. No offense to my peers and friends applying for this job – but it clearly says that they are looking for a DC area person who already has Government experience. That really means connections, access and understanding of the policies and ethics surrounding these changing times.

I’m not going to do a point-by-point, because Alan’s arguments are sound from the perspective of traditional government relations.

But our times urgently call for the non-traditional. I often say that my social media-fueled campaign for Congress last year was a few years too early.

Hiring anyone but a visionary for Twitter’s first government-facing employee would be be a few years too late.

As a friend in government recently said to me, “We have the next 10 years to shape the next 30.” Our government is a massive public engagement fail, and aping its nature of privilege and insider connections would be a disaster.

Another friend, Shaun Dakin, anti-robocall activist and dot-com era veteran, is applying for the post and today gave his reaction to Silberberg’s post and the job description’s inclusion of “entrepreneurial” qualities.

Wrote Dakin:

People used to working in Gov’t and big companies (I was there, big time, with Fannie Mae and FedEx) are used to WAITING for permission to do things. They do research. They go to meetings. They brainstorm. They rarely DO anything.
Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, don’t really ask anyone for permission. They just do.
… Critically, I think, they know how to get things done with few resources.
Perhaps Twitter thinks that whomever is in this role (he or she) will be really “starting up” not just a new office but also a new line of business for Twitter.
So, my recommendation to Twitter would be to look hard at if the person has had to DO.

In the past couple years, hundreds of driven and innovative political and government media and engagement strategists have qualified themselves for this position. I hope Twitter picks from that number.

Resources/References:

Steve Lunceford: Interview provides new details on search for Twitter’s government liaison

Silberbeg: Gov 2.0 and Twitter Finally Tweet-up!

Dakin: My Response to Alan Silberberg on the Huffington Post

Me: Gov 2.0 is a Leveler, or It is Nothing

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A very interesting day of buzz over the new Twitter governmental liaison position, with everything from Act.ly petitions to a sort of Microsoft-O’Reilly Media-Twitter Gov 2.0 debate on Mark Drapeau’s blog.
@Twitter opened on Monday the with a job post: http://bit.ly/twitgovTrack the #twitgov search

Cue Wednesday:

Mark Drapeau (one of Microsoft’s social media samurai) trashes Twitter’s hiring plans and sparks comments from O’Reilly Media Gov 2.0 correspondent Alex Howard and Twitter comms VP Sean Garrett, who Mark, a prolific tweeter, then ignored on Twitter proper before a passive blog comment response: Government 2.0 Movement Seemingly Passes By Twitter, Inc.

(Garrett, by the way, is one of three Twitter bloggers posting about innovative Twitter uses, many of them in the Gov 2.0 mold: Clever Twitter Accounts – Twitterers that make you say, “Now I get it!’”)

Howard follows up on the Drapeau blog comments debate: Why is Twitter hiring a government liaison? Thoughts from @SG and more. [#gov20]

Must. Be. Awesome!!! blogger Du4 offers up a point-by-point response to Tuesday’s Andrew P. Wilson suggestions post: Andrew Wilson’s Top 10 Requests of the Twitter Gov Liaison

Luke Fretwell names four folks he thinks would fit the position, and calls for more nominations: Tweeters Twitter should consider for its new government gig

Alan W. Silberberg offers a surprisingly Gov 1.0 argument for a beltway insider, including reference to Twitter’s investors (then expands on Twitter with arguments for awesome Gov 2.0 heroes Lovisa Williams and Noel Dickover): Gov 2.0 and #Twitter Finally Meet!

And for those suggesting/joking about opening it up to nominations, been there, did the YouTube videos:  http://bit.ly/TopGov

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There has been an unquestionable explosion of government social media use in the last year. Last week, GovTwit, the Twitter directory of government agencies and officials reported 44.9 million followers for the 3,000 IDs it tracks, after starting in 2009 with just a handful of accounts. Still, towns, agencies and leaders not using social media still far outnumber the early adopters.
And much of the hand-wringing over official social media use is about the public – what if they say something we don’t like! Many of the agencies using shiny tools like Facebook and or Twitter don’t even allow comments on their Web sites, even sites they call “blogs.”
Fear and failure to engage are simple reinforcing citizen concerns that government doesn’t listen and doesn’t care.
According to an April Pew study on trust in government, “By almost every conceivable measure Americans are less positive and more critical of government these days.”
I, and, I hope, thousands of other Government 2.0 advocates, have not spent the last two years building a movement to have it end up as “The System 2.0.”
Some may argue that government needs to be on social media channels because of the large audiences. However, I cannot state more emphatically – if you’re considering a social media channel, but don’t want to provide citizen (customer) service and two-way engagement on that platform, you shouldn’t bother.
Using new media channels for one-way broadcasts and propaganda will only further alienate the people we serve. There are plenty of agencies using social media to engage and build trust. Join them, or don’t bother.
Resources:

Pew: Distrust, Discontent, Anger and Partisan Rancor – The People and Their Government

GovFresh: The politics of open government free speech

EPA social media response matrix chart

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Anyone familiar with my writing over the past two years knows I love social networks and social media. Going back further, I was an Examiner blogger (archives of that effort are buried five to seven years back on this site) before the paper even had an inkling that online was its future. In 2008, I fell in love with Facebook. I used it to to incessantly update my status – causing some real life friends to hide my updates; I used it to promote the Barack Obama campaign; to rail against Wall Street bailouts; and even to protest a Bay Area Rapid Transit congestion pricing scheme.

In January 2009, I wrote, in a post oriented towards citizen-government engagement, that Facebook “is simply the easiest platform for sharing and collaborating on matters of importance.” I began leading “Citizen 2.0″ trainings on social media for civic activism.

But while I was becoming more and more enamored with the site, its plans had less and less to do with me.

My next Facebook blog post was about how Twitter was a more open network, “much more of a real news feed than Facebook.”

It was less than two months later that Facebook converted its status updates to a Twitter-style feed, temporarily filtering updates that included the word “Twitter,” like it was a curse word. The social web was blowing up with updates about Facebook ripping off its smaller competitor, and I wrote, in a post entitled “Facebook is Evil,” “Facebook is not to be trusted, though it remains a decent tool for some purposes.”

I tolerated the site for more than a year after that, building up a following of more than 2,000 over the summer for my social media-fueled bid for U.S. Congress.

Since the election, I’d been using it more sparingly and not doing much thinking about Facebook at all, until April of this year, when Facebook launched plans to basically reshape the web in its own image. Its social web vision was impressive, but Facebook has always been ham-handed and immature when it comes to implementation.

I began writing that governments should be using their own social portals and content, not relying on Facebook and its advertising platform. I kept reading about Facebook’s plans and many of the new content-control and privacy issues they present. Last weekend, I abruptly deleted my Facebook account.

On Monday, I realized that Facebook’s new “community pages” were hijacking search terms for official government pages, including those for major federal departments. On Tuesday, I wrote about how community pages usurp the tourism pages for major cities around the world. Also Tuesday night, I answered some questions for Ari Herzog, elaborating on the end of a spirited relationship.

But I’ve not given up on social media as part of Gov 2.0, not hardly, and you can still find me on several blogs, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Onward and upward into the future.

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For niche and fledgling bloggers, it can be quite intimidating to see public stats around some of the big dogs of the blogging world. “There go another 482 retweets for Chris Brogan’s latest post!” you might think, with more than hint of envy. In this post, I want to examine a few ways to get your original content to pop on Twitter. These tips are draw from my experience over the last few days, where a relatively innocuous pair of posts churned into massive retweeting, reblogging, and a news radio interview.
Headline. Headline. Headline. When I was a newspaper headline writer, with a relatively captive audience and little tracking of how well my headlines did, clever was king. “Blue Period,” to describe a stand-alone photo of cops selling their artwork for charity, “Alone in the Arctic, Physician Must Heal Herself,” you get the drift.
If you want your post circulating on Twitter, you need a much snappier headline. Clever in this medium is selling the post, and selling it hard. “How to” is good, and so, I learned, is the descriptive “kick-ass.”
Tap into a community. Blog what you know, or ask and learn what you don’t.
I’m known as a Gov 2.0 thinker. In that community, most of my posts get a bit of circulation. There is no surprise there, because I’ve put in a lot of hard work to build with and grow with the community. Recent posts on the vibrant Edmonton, AB Twitter community – which I’m only recently familiar with – worked because the community was already there and ready to help spread the word about its success.
Build anticipation. Tweet out teaser questions. Propose draft themes as tweets. Most of my high traffic posts and great participation in my Gov 2.0 podcast come from engaging early and often on Twitter.
Name names. You like seeing your name in posts and tweets, right? So does everybody else. So credit ideas, draw from blog comments; if you get answers on Twitter or in blog comments, credit the authors. When I used to write a political column, I’d squeeze in as many names as I could – and you can bet every one of those people read it when their name was in it, and passed it on to friends.
Make your success theirs. By tapping into a community and naming names, you’re ensuring that if the post pops, the community benefits. Early retweeters benefit, too, as they get traffic by passing on the info. And public retweet counters on your posts make people feel a part of something when the post starts to go big.
So go out there and make those posts pop!
(Bonus: For great tips about making it easy for others to pass on your blog posts, check out Brogan’s, “How Does This Share.” My Posterous blog has done much better than WordPress in terms of traffic, and I think that’s highly due to the built-in sharing mechanisms.)

~ Adriel Hampton is a San Francisco public servant and host of the Gov 2.0 Radio podcast. Want to help? Learn more about Gov 2.0, and host local Gov 2.0 tweetups and meetups.

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I recently wrote about the vibrant Twitter community organized around the hashtagging of the airport code for Edmonton, AB (#yeg). The use of the regional tag to organize Edmonton community tweets began in summer of 2008, and has become so popular it now grows organically without much thought to its backstory.

I’ve long argued that Twitter is very powerful for community building, with special value for generating civic engagement and pride and boosting local businesses. Knowing the benefits, and realizing them, though, is very different. Edmonton’s Twitter community has really blazed a trail, and it’s worth examining its success and drawing out a few lessons for would-be imitators.

According to #yeg enthusiasts who responded to my inquires on Twitter and my blogs, local software developer Mack Male and other influential social media enthusiasts deserve much of the credit for the tags’s success (the YEG airport code, now in common vernacular in Edmonton, was not used to describe the region before achieving Twitter popularity). Male regularly updates stats on Edmonton’s Twitter community, and in October cataloged more than 5,600 locals at least semi-active on Twitter and more than 18,000 tweets using the #yeg tag. There appear to be hundreds of Twitter users using the #yeg tag as part of their daily lives, and in-person meeutps get dozens of attendees (no small feat for Twitter communities, at least today).

Male, in a year-in-review blog post this past June, describes advocating the #yeg tag after learning at a conference that Twitter users in Calgary, AB, were organizing around their airport code, #yyc. (Twitter users in Victoria, BC, are also successfully using their airport code, #yyj).

This brings us to one of the first points that makes #yeg successful, and perhaps explains #yyc and #yyj as well: in a harsh climate isolated geographically, airport codes take on greater significance because residents are used to flying whenever they need to get somewhere else.

The #yeg buzzcronym also works because it’s easy to pronounce (rhymes with “egg”) and good for new self-referential words, says Edmonton journalist Karen Unland. Edmonton’s Twitter folk lovingly refer to one another and themselves as “yegsters” and “yeggers” (or “yeg’ers,” a construction that better utilizes Twitters search grouping function). They’ve built out the tag’s utility with features such as Edmonton traffic updates.

Edmonton’s yegsters have also built their community by taking the interaction offline, with tweetups organized around charities, political reform, open data, and other civic concerns. (Here’s a short video from a December tweetup benefiting the local food bank, courtesy of #yeg documentarian Jerry Aulenbach.) The hashtag unites Edmonton’s Twitter users around civic pride and involvement – even if they don’t follow each other in the traditional Twitter stream, many check up on the tag for its local flavor, discovering new connections and community in the process.

So, what is unique to Edmonton’s hashtagging that cannot be repeated elsewhere? Unique geography and a single regional airport seem important. Tourist hubs like Los Angeles, Vancouver, Los Angeles or San Francisco might simply suffer from random clutter (the SF Bay Area, where I live, is so large and full of urban and suburban density points, #sfo will likely never be much more than an airport). Jas Darrah, an Edmonton civil servant, emphasizes that adoption of #yeg was no accident and required key influencers actively promoting and training on its use. That included local press, institutions and government.

So, where might #yeg’s success be replicated? In the U.S., I’d suggest cities with significant populations and semi-isolated geography: Spokane, WA (GEG); Portland, OR (PDX); Bakersfield, CA (BFL); Tucson, AZ (TUS); Albequerque, NM (ABQ); Colorado Springs, CO (COS); Wichita, KS (ICT); Tulsa, OK (TUL); Pittsburgh, PA (PIT). Due to the aforementioned pronounceability factor, GEG, COS, TUL, and PIT gain an edge.

Let’s get this party started!

~ Adriel Hampton is a San Francisco public servant and host of the Gov 2.0 Radio podcast. Follow him on Twitter @adrielhampton.

photos of the December yegtweetup by Jerry Aulenbach

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