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Wednesday, February 25, 2009 Economy, Twitter   Volume 5 Issue 2  
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This Too Shall Pass
How Bad is the Economy, Really?
What is Government Twittering About?
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The Making of a Leader
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What is Government Twittering About?
by Megan Crowley, Technologist, CPPA

Twitter (www.twitter.com) is a rapidly growing social web technology that is gaining incredible uptake from the government sector. An elegantly simple design, Twitter functions by creating connections and then asking just one question: “What are you doing?” Although this may seem like a very personal question to ask a government entity, the answer to that question can be very informative. For example, a government employee or entity may post a link to a new service offering, talk about a new initiative they are working on, or announce an important event. This information sharing assists in attaining citizen participation and government transparency.
 
How does it work?

While it is possible to follow a Twitter without creating an account (Twitter accounts have a web link just like any web page), the following describes how to create an account and explains how Twitter works. You must have a Twitter account in order to search for others. To see an example of Twitters without creating an account, see CPPA’s Twitter at http://twitter.com/cppa.
 
To create an account:
  1. First, go to www.twitter.com and create a Twitter account. Complete your profile.

  2. Next, using a search function, find people and organizations to “follow” (see their posts). Other people and organizations will find you to follow using this same search function.
     
    You can click on an entity you are following and follow who THEY are following. You can click on an entity that is following YOU and follow those that they are following.
    This viral, organic way of building followers and following lists is preferable to a simple search because you can see the Twitters that those you respect follow.

  3. Now, answer the question “What are you doing?” by posting with only 140 characters. This is called a “Tweet”.

We suggest that a web link (url) in your posting will give your followers much more valuable information than just posting what you are doing. Since you are allowed only 140 characters, Twitter shortens long links right in the posting field, using a tinyurl function. Tinyurl is a web service that takes long urls and shortens them which helps fit them into the 140-character limit. See tinyurl.com for more information. When links are too long to use the Twitter built in tinyurl function, you can go to tinyurl.com beforehand and get the tinyurl to use in your Twitter post.
 
On your Twitter home page, a list develops of the tweets you are following. If they have added a url, then you have the opportunity to go deeper into the subject of what they are doing. Another option is to click on who you are following to see only their latest tweets

Features of Twitter

One of the best features of Twitter is its simplicity. The following is a list of simple but powerful features that Twitter offers:
  • Forcing the 140-character limit encourages posters to be more succinct in their posts
  • The lack of other features keeps the time requirement low
  • The ability to add links creates a richer experience for followers
  • The ability to use Twitter on mobile devices such as cell phone or Blackberry
  • The ability to respond publicly or privately through direct messages
  • It’s free!

There are a variety of other third-party tools that work with Twitter and they have various functions from incorporation into your blog or website, to integration with other social web tools like Facebook. Here are just a few:

  • Twirl is a browser free Twitter client
  • Tweetscan is a search tool. You can search Twitters based on topics, partial names and more
  • Friendfeed aggregates your Twitter feed along with other news feeds you might be using
  • Twitterlocal keeps it local by finding tweets based on location in the profile

Some Types of Tweets (postings) with examples

Although the original purpose of a Tweet is to answer the “What are you doing?” question, many tweets are simply informational posts written in one concise sentence.
 
Type
Example
Alerts
Homeland Security: The U.S. threat level is High, or Orange, for all domestic and international flights.
Events
Utah Tech Council: Have you registered for our upcoming February events? http://www.utahtech.org/eve...
Announcements
Utah Gov: First two weeks of the Utah 2009 legislative session are over and captured on YouTube http://tinyurl.com/cj8t97
Informational
CPPA: Read our report "Undocumented Workers in a Declining Labor Market" at http://tinyurl.com/algavc
New Offerings
Utah Mitigation: See the new earthquake awareness brochure "Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country." Nice work! http://ussc.utah.gov/public...
Questions
Utah Senate: Is Nuclear Energy Renewable????: by Patricia Jones Senate Minority Leader This question was posed this week on t.. http://tinyurl.com/cryuzs
News
Utah Gov: School districts throughout Utah are still looking for teachers, http://tinyurl.com/d2rf9z
 
Again, all of these types of tweets are more useful if combined with a link for more information.

Benefits of Government Twittering
 
Twitter creates an environment where:
  • Citizens can see what is happening in government
  • Government can see what is important to citizens
  • Government can see what is happening across branches and agencies
  • All entities can share information by adding links


Using Twitter is just one way that government groups are improving accessibility and government transparency by connecting directly with the public.
 
 
Utah’s Twitters
 
Several prominent Utah public entities are now twittering; the Utah Senate, Utah’s Parks and Recreation, Utah’s branch of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and even cities and towns. The following lists just a few:
 
Remember, you can view these Twitter sites without creating your own account by simply typing the web link into your browser, but you must have a Twitter account to search for others.
 
The Center for Public Policy & Administration has a Twitter located at: http://twitter.com/cppa.
 
David Fletcher, the Utah Chief Technology Officer has one of the most widely read Twitters (along with his blog). David’s Twitters are a good example of best practices in wording and link usage. http://twitter.com/dfletcher
 
The Utah State Senate has a very active Twitter located at: http://twitter.com/utahsenate

http://twitter.com/UtahStateParks
 
http://twitter.com/UtahGov
 
http://twitter.com/UT_MIT (Utah’s Homeland Security)
 
http://twitter.com/centervilleut (Centerville, Utah)
 
Note: CPPA is working on a larger report about eGovernment in Utah.
Megan Crowley has a background in technology and the web and is CPPA’s technologist.


Apendix

  Partial list of Twitters found by searching for “gov” in Twitter
Gov Schwarzenegger
schwarzenegger / Gov SchwarzeneggerOfficial page for the 38th Governor of California
14,902 followers · from Sacramento, California · updated 1:20 PM yesterday
Gov. Mike Huckabee
GovMikeHuckabee / Gov. Mike HuckabeeFOX Host, Bass Guitarist, Radio Commentator
2,715 followers · from Little Rock, Arkansas · updated about 4 hours ago
womenshealth.gov
womenshealth / womenshealth.govWomenshealth.gov is part of the US DHHS Office on Women's Health, the Federal Government's resource for women's health information.
1,758 followers · from US · updated about 3 hours ago
maine.gov
www_maine_gov / maine.govCitizen Alerts from Maine.gov
777 followers · from Maine, USA · updated 6:15 AM Jan 29th
Utah.gov
UtahGov / Utah.gov
757 followers · from State of Utah · updated 8:08 AM yesterday
The_Gov
The_Gov / The_GovEsoteric & possibly psychotic poker player...be afraid, be very afraid. ;) ~~~>>> If you just LOVE president Hussein, I am probably not a good twit to follow
499 followers · from North Florida & Las Vegas · updated about 1 hour ago
Gov Gab
GovGab / Gov GabA U.S. government blog from the Office of Citizen Services and Communications U.S. General Services Administration
487 followers · from Washington, DC, USA · updated about 9 hours ago
Kentucky.gov
kygov / Kentucky.govThe Official Website of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
437 followers · from Frankfort, KY · updated about 1 hour ago
colorado.gov
coloradogov / colorado.govProvides Internet-based, electronic government services to state and local Colorado governments.
401 followers · from Colorado · updated 3:01 PM Feb 11th
Vermont.gov
vermontgov / Vermont.govVermont Government Online
319 followers · from Vermont · updated 8:22 AM Feb 11th
VisitNH.gov
VisitNH / VisitNH.govE.J. is tweeting away on behalf of Travel and Tourism for the state of New Hampshire. Contact him at: VisitNH@gmail.com.
336 followers · from New Hampshire · updated about 7 hours ago
RI.gov
rigov / RI.govRhode Island Government Online
291 followers · from Rhode Island · updated about 4 hours ago
IDAHO.gov
IDAHOgov / IDAHO.govIdaho's official website
280 followers · from Idaho, USA · updated 2:01 PM yesterday
Gov. Bill Ritter, Jr
govritter / Gov. Bill Ritter, JrFather, Husband, Governor of Colorado, Democrat, Angler, Johnny Cash Fan
283 followers · from Denver, CO · updated about 22 hours ago
Michigan.gov
migov / Michigan.govOfficial State of Michigan Portal
254 followers · from Michigan · updated 7:57 AM Dec 30th, 2008
GobiernoUSA.gov
GobiernoUSA / GobiernoUSA.govThe Official Portal of the U.S. government in Spanish
225 followers · from Washington, DC · updated 9:08 AM yesterday
Gov Blago Shakespear
BizarroBlago / Gov Blago ShakespearPoet Laureate of Illinois
182 followers · from Chicago, Illinois · updated 12:19 PM Feb 11th
georgia.gov
georgiagov / georgia.govOnline access to Georgia government
178 followers · from Atlanta, Ga. · updated 2:16 PM yesterday
Delaware.gov
delaware_gov / Delaware.govDelaware.gov is the official website for the State of Delaware. For more information and online services visit Delaware.gov.
116 followers · from Delaware · updated about 3 hours ago
 
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