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2015 Already? A Few Predictions

Hard to believe it is 2015. The past year has been one of upheavals internationally, nationally and yes, even locally. Who would have thought a relatively unknown jihadist group a year ago would have taken over so much Syrian and Iraqi territory sending a coalition, including Canada, back into Middle East conflict, or that in Greater Victoria a mayor with well over a decade in office would be out of his job by over 1000 votes. defeated by a complete political neophyte – that happened in Saanich, and was reflected in the City of Victoria. With all that upheaval in mind from the previous 12 months, here are some predictions for 2015. With so much in play in all levels of politics and media…

1: BC Ferries figures it is actually more economical under their financial projections to winch Vancouver Island 20km closer to the mainland to save on fuel costs. Then once again hedges oil at $120 per barrel for the coming year. BC Government heralds this as ‘enlightened management’.

2: SHAW Cable hikes fees another 10%, wonders why users revolt. Hires now ex- BC Ferries CEO Mike Corrigan as a consultant.

3: Pope Francis appoints a lesbian, transgender, atheist bishop as head of Opus Dei. Becomes a regular panelist on Real Time with Bill Maher.

4: Black Press finally buys out all latent print media in British Columbia, places Tom Fletcher as full editor in charge. Editor Tom immediately reserves all Op/Ed placements for the Fraser Institute – no one notices.

5: National Energy Board in a big ‘whoops’ accidentally releases pre-approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline dated August 2014. Subsequent followup…’ hey folks, look at our record, did you expect anything different?’

6: Christy Clark in a major announcement disbands cabinet. Places Rich Coleman as Minister of Everything, saying ‘look at the guy! He’s BIG – he can do liquor, gambling, LNG – all that great, wonderful, goochy stuff BCers love!!’.  Donate here…

7: As a surprise Christy Clark calls a 2 week 2015 fall session of the Legislature – one bill to be debated, making obeying stop signs arbitrary. ‘Just want to be prepared for 2017’

8: BuzzFeed buys out Black Press

9: Trying not to be recalcitrant, ISIS welcomes homosexuals and demands equal panelist time with Pope Francis on Real Time with Bill Maher

10: Jack Knox will have a better top 10!

Happy New Year!

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When Journalists Become the News in the Age of Social Media

There is no doubt social media has radically altered the news room, and the entire journalism profession. While the vast majority of editors, reporters, writers and broadcasters have scrambled to fit in an entire new medium and audience into what is often an overwhelming schedule, a few (and growing number) have stood out, carving niches and new positions . In Canada we can look to CBC’s Kady O’Malley (@Kady) whose twitter feed on the daily drama in Parliament is an education; Andy Carvin (@acarvin) from NPR who curated and sorted on citizen media throughout the Arab Spring and

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys (@TheMatthewKeys). Matthew is young, only 26, and just over year into a position as deputy social media editor at Reuters in New York, one he came to after stints as a reporter in California. His online presence: erudite, prolific without being overwhelming, searching and questioning, and often humorous, helped quickly build a large following, likely securing the job. One reason Matthew has risen among the ‘noted’ of online journalists: he connects. Not simply broadcasting his employer’s articles, he asks questions, responds – has even caught me out with a few corrections (grateful).

Which is why the news today a California court has indicted Matthew Keys, accusing him of supplying log in information for Tribune websites to Anonymous leading to a LA Times hack, has shocked many. (You can read the full indictment here). It is this Guardian article which provides more clues: one which I suggest everyone read before jumping to conclusions as to innocence or guilt. He has investigated Anonymous, identifying himself as a journalist, and now is caught up a a US legal system which recently has proved to be zealous in prosecuting alleged hacking cases.

Of course, for any journalist to become the news, and in a legal situation, is difficult personally, and for the organization who employs them: even more so in the age of social media, and especially when said journalist is responsible for that aspect of the job. What might be a matter for the California legal system spread quickly with reports on the indictment of Matthew Keys across the world, with, of course, social media weighing in.

I have never met Matthew Keys, though would do so in an instant, with pleasure.  We have connected on both Twitter and Facebook since 2010/11, had many conversations, shared news – and I’ve delighted in following a young, capable and ambitious journalist rising to a position of responsibility at Reuters, largely through his own hard work and keen sense of digital media. Although it is only a few hours since the news of the indictment, it is also worth noting that (so far) Reuters has neither suspended, or moved him to another position.

This is a cautionary tale, one everyone engaged in social media should watch – journalists,  citizen media, activists – even those who simply retweet a message. As much as media are catching up to the social media space, the legal system and law enforcement are far behind. We should all recede from judgement on this particular case until the facts unfold, but recognize there is nothing online, nor a shred of anecdotal evidence that Matthew Keys has been dis-ingenuous to his audience or employers: personally or professionally.

 

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Punditry Explodes on #BCpoli

Updated: Events can outpace thoughts. Just after this post was published news came in that cabinet will hold an emergency meeting on Sunday in Vancouver. This raises a number of questions: is it a backroom rally to support Premier Clark, a big show of unity? Have senior party members received notice from a number of MLAs they will leave caucus if the Premier remains? Stay tuned…

Political communication, especially in a age of Social Media, is always fascinating, especially true when a major scandal breaks in the lead to an election campaign. We can look back to the recent US Presidential election with the #47percent tag (when the video of Mitt Romney talking about 47% of the population being freeloaders was released) as the seminal moment for the GOP demise, and now, here in British Columbia, Canada with revelations this week now tagged on Twitter as #EthnicGate and #QuickWins:

Could this be empty soon?

Could this be empty soon?

For a recap, an email chain was made public showing senior BC Liberal party officials and government staffers planning to potentially use government resources targeting ethnic voters to support the party. This is not only unethical, it is illegal and a violation of the separation between non-partisan government work on behalf of all citizens in the province, and political campaigning. Full details can be found here in Cassidy Oliver’s article in The Province newspaper. The result has been the resignation of Premier Christy Clark’s Deputy Chief of Staff (and long time adviser) Kim Haakstad, a full apology in the Legislature, and a potentially even more damaging investigation into the entire matter.

As the CBC’s Stephen Smart put it:

Add to this the BC Liberals are trailing double digits to the NDP in the polls, even being pushed to third place in some ridings by the BC Green Party; three Liberal riding association presidents have resigned in Surrey, twenty ridings have no BC Liberal candidates nominated, and a number of high profile MLAs have decided not to run in the upcoming election. When the “Ethnic Gate” scandal broke mid-week, Premier Christy Clark refused to return to Victoria from a speaking tour, leaving her deputies and cabinet to face the music, with some Liberal MLAs openly questioning her ability to continue as party leader.

Which leads to some interesting possible scenarios:

The provincial election is set for May 14th, with a 29 day ‘writ’ (official campaign period), however the Legislature is currently sitting with a number of bills going through debates and votes, including the budget. In fact, second reading of the budget is set for Tuesday March 5th – if the government is defeated in a budget vote it could lead to the opposition NDP calling for a no-confidence vote and an early election. As it stands now, the BC Liberal Party has a four seat majority, and four independent MLAs essentially holding the reigns of power.

One independent MLA, Bob Simpson, has said in answer to a question I sent him on Twitter, that he intends to vote against the budget:

Monday March 4th Premier Clark returns to Victoria for what should prove to be an uncomfortable and possibly career ending caucus meeting, while, as this article is being written, Liberal Party activists, donors, and organizers are meeting around the province to determine if she can stay on as leader – and what it means if she is deposed so close to the start of the campaign.

1: Caucus meets and (likely very reluctantly) decide to back the Premier and remain unified.

2: Premier Christy Clark decides to resign to avoid a caucus revolt.

3: A majority of caucus declare no confidence in the Premier leading to a snap leadership campaign and convention before the election writ period.

4: Five, or more, MLAs leave caucus to sit as independents, or join another party, making it more likely a Legislature no confidence vote on the budget would pass, leading to an early election.

The opposition NDP, with the current huge lead in the polls, are unlikely to want an early election as the sitting legislative period is an opportunity to continually beat up on the government and Premier Christy Clark. Ironically, a Liberal leadership campaign and convention, so close to the election might be the best chance for the Liberal Party to reverse a further slide in the polls. It would take the attention away from the NDP, redefine the party under new leadership, and likely bring back in jaded supporters – especially those who have fled to the BC Conservatives and Greens.

If some form of scenario two or three plays out it puts the NDP in an interesting quandary. The Legislature can continue to sit under the deputy leader while a leadership campaign is underway, but would the NDP call a no confidence vote so the Liberals are forced to run a simultaneous leadership AND election campaign? Certainly, these questions and possibilities are being bandied about this weekend among the leadership and organizers of all parties.

No matter the outcomes of Monday’s caucus meeting, the budget vote, and any other revelations over the next weeks, no one can say that politics in British Columbia is boring.  You can follow the conversations and public punditry using the Twitter tags #BCpoli – and the current discussion #QuickWin and #EthnicGate

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2013 Predictions, or the Year of the Sneek

The 5th, or 6th year of doing a ‘Top Predictions’ blog for the upcoming year: inspired by the (ever expiring) Victoria BC Times Colonist journalist Jack Knox (@JackKnox), who annually regales us Islanders with his profoundly insightful prophecy. This year, a connection as the team at #YYJchat, of whom I am honoured to be a member, actually had our hero scribe as a guest – well done, we will never regain our reputations.

Looking over last year’s predictions jiggled the funny bone as a few made the zeitgeist – yep, Mayan Apocalypse certainly gained attention.

normal_happy_teaser_ad_copySo…. Here’s looking to 2013

1: Chinese year of the Snake: Snakes on a Plane….snakes in the grass…Washington State legalizes marijuana…B.C. in a big election…BC Marijuana Party wins! (stream of thought)

2: Social Media finally combines into an extremely useful, single platform called #PintYourFaceintoMyTube – marketers revel. Google adds a + version a month later.

3: Apple launches iPhone 6, 6.3, and a ‘mini-mini’ iPad (iPhone 4 revamped) all within 3 weeks, with midnight launches. Expectant buyer lineups combine and cause riots around the world.

4: US ‘fiscal cliff’ becomes a ‘cliff hanger’ lasting well into the the next Presidential election – which starts next week.

5: BC Ferries announces $50 million revamp of upper class lounges – though, these will be at terminals. Have a great meal, or 2 – even 3 – while you wait.

6: Lockheed introduces the F36, just to confuse Canadians.

7: Iceland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece all apply to leave the EU and join the Canadian currency. Mark Carney has a giggle fit from London.

8: The Mayans were right, just a month off – it’s January 21st folks!

9: China notes buying and centralizing world iron/steel around Beijing is creating an earth magnetic wobble. Solution: buy these accredited sea sickness ginseng pills from our wonderful, safe and friendly factories.

10: In reference to #9, Harper notes Canadian potash exports help the global production of ginseng.

11: BC Premier Christie Clark goes for broke, and kisses a girl – though it turns out to be Katy Perry who crashed a fund raiser…even the NDP say ‘it could happen to anyone’. John Cummins …. ‘goddamn, why was I not invited?’ Jane Sterk kisses a sewage pipe, and that wins the election….

12: The Amazon cloud sever becomes sentient – John Grisham is forced into slavery to write novellas for Kindle.

13: 13th year of the new century: Blade Runner is looking like a soft landing!

and this is the year of the sneek: who gets your data?

Your comments, questions are welcome – have a great year.

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Police Roadblock! Should you Post that on Social Media?

It is the  Christmas holiday season and the weekend where the first of the holiday parties start in business districts. Restaurants, hotels, bars love this time of year as so many harried workers and executives sign off from work for a night of eats, conversation and, well, drinks. Also the time when police ramp up their anti-drinking driving campaigns – yes, the road blocks are back. This is where social media, and frankly a conscience, matters both on behalf of the public enjoying a night out and the police who are there for public safety, and raising awareness.

However, a tweet from the Vancouver BC police department immediately raised my interest:

So, while Vancouver PD was asking people to send in photos and videos of the famous hockey riot, and then also asking the same audience to identify people from that material, they are now publishing a policy ‘don’t post’. This is the anti=thesis of social media, the ability for anyone at anytime to report on events happening in their lives. So, what if someone takes a photo and tweets – ‘Got stopped at X/Y cross road, passed the test – and kudos to Van PD on making our roads safe‘ vs ‘Hey folks – Roadblock at X/Y street, avoid the area‘? Either message increases awareness, and each is the same problem for the police department – identifying the location.

Fact is we are all journalists. That should not be hampered by any official body, it is a fundamental aspect of contemporary life that people have the ability to post the immediacy of situations via Twitter, allpokies.co.nz, Facebook – through status updates, photos and videos – using smart phones and tablets. For the Vancouver police department to even question that raises a more profound thought – why are they even raising the issue? Do they want control over Social Media accounts so nobody can post about certain operations?

Policing is built on trust, and certainly in terms of drink driving, speeding, cyclist and pedestrian awareness, the active road blocks; and further community awareness with school programs, community groups et al help. To ask the public NOT TO POST, to be controlled, and trying to control the public about raising that issue – well, that is simply a communication, and engagement, failure.

Recognize, no matter how large and powerful your organization, the public are far larger – and if they get their game up over an issue, you are beaten.

If you want the conversation, then let’s do it

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Can Social Media Engagement Predict Elections?

The 2012 Alberta Provincial election was noteworthy as the vast majority of official polls predicted an upset win for The Wild Rose party, while in effect the incumbent Conservatives under Alison Redford won a comfortable majority. The final week of the provincial campaign saw pollsters and pundits echoing published numbers, yet in the background on social media a shift in sentiment was occurring. That was especially true on Twitter and Facebook in the important urban riding in and around Calgary.

Now Calgary is once again in the news as one of three Federal by elections to be held on November 26th. Considered a ‘safe’ Conservative seat a November 17th Forum Research poll for Calgary Centre shows the Liberal candidate Harvey Locke (30%) within the margin of error to beat Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt (32%) in voter preferences – albeit, the Forum poll has a very small sample size and there are very few other polls using the same methodology to use in comparison.

Can Social Media Indicate Voter Sentiment?

A problem with political polling in Canada is lack of consistent reports, mainly due to the expense with a relatively small population for polling companies and media organizations. In reality only Federal elections and those in more populated provinces receive the number, and variety, of polls with larger (therefore more accurate) sample sizes. Creating a comparison system like Nate Silver did with the 538 New York Times blog, to the humiliation of Republican pundits in the recent US Presidential race, simply is not possible in Canada due to a dearth of data.

Campaigns certainly are using social media, so how do the candidates compare in their use of Twitter and Facebook? Note – each candidate per riding is profiled below with their website, Twitter handle (followers and updates), and Facebook page likes. Number of Twitter updates is based on when they created their account, which in some cases was well ahead of the party nominations – so does not necessarily reflect updates during the actual campaign.

Calgary Centre, Alta.

Joan Crockatt (CPC)- website

Twitter: @Crockatteer: 2879 Followers, 10637 updates since June 2009
Facebook: 1347 Likes

Harvey Locke (LPC) – website

Twitter: @HarveyLockeYYC: 801 Followers, 402 updates since Sept. 2012
Facebook: 656 Likes

Dan Meades (NDP) – website

Twitter: @Meades4Centre: 427 Followers, 210 updates since Oct. 2012
Facebook: 302 Likes

Chris Turner (GPC) – website

Twitter: @Turner4yyc: 558 Followers, 1022 updates since Sept. 2012
Facebook: 1932 Likes

Durham, Ontario

Erin O’Toole (CPC)- website

Twitter: @Erin_M_OToole: 452 Followers, 771 updates since May 2011
Facebook: 436 Likes

Grant Humes (LPC) – website

Twitter: @GrantHumes: 562 Followers, 461 updates since March. 2011
Facebook: 467 Likes

Larry O’Connor (NDP) – website

Twitter: @LarryOConnorNDP: 529 Followers, 1252 updates since Aug. 2009
Facebook: 594 Likes

Virginia Ervin (GPC) – website

Twitter: @Virginia_Ervin: 121 Followers, 177 updates since July 2009
Facebook: 239 Likes

Victoria, BC

Dale Gann (CPC)- website

Twitter: @DaleGann: 916 Followers, 288 updates since March 2009
Facebook: 259 Likes

Paul Summerville (LPC) – website

Twitter: @PaulSummerville: 854 Followers, 2768 updates since Dec. 2009
Facebook: 192 Likes

Murray Rankin (NDP) – website

Twitter: @MurrayRankin: 975 Followers, 368 updates since Sept. 2012
Facebook: 1,151 Likes

Donald Galloway (GPC) – website

Twitter: @DonaldGalloway: 485 Followers, 497 updates since May 2011
Facebook: 673 Likes

In campaigns social media is largely used to support base voters – those already with a connection to a particular party. That is reflected in the polling especially for Calgary Centre, although the rise in numbers for particular candidates is revealing. While Joan Crockatt appears to have more followers on Twitter and Facebook, the number of interactions is low: compared to Liberal candidate Harvey Locke and Green Party candidate Chris Turner who each have risen sharply in numbers and positive sentiment especially in the last two weeks. This could indicate an upset in Monday’s vote.

The Victoria Riding is also interesting. The NDP certainly came into the by election with a massive incumbent vote advantage from the May 2011 Federal election, which is reflected in the social media numbers especially on Facebook, yet the sewage debate (a central issue in the Victoria campaign) has certainly pushed sentiment towards Liberal candidate Paul Summerville and Green Party candidate Donald Galloway.

This is all academic of course. By elections are challenging to predict as major polls are not available, turnout is usually lower, and local issues can have an undue effect compared to national or provincial elections. However, it will be interesting to see post Monday if social media numbers reflect actual placement once the votes are finally tallied.

As always – your thoughts, comments and questions are welcome.

 

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Tony Clement and UBCM Fail the Authenticity Test – Public demands Better

Update: I will be on CFAX 1070 Am with host Adam Stirling at 11am Monday September 24th discussing authenticity in political social media and engagement.

You get on a tweetchat thankful for the opportunity to directly engage with a person who has the power to enact change, maybe who will even respond directly to your message and start a conversation – only to find out after the fact, it was a team. The message, or answer to a question, you might reveive (in fact most likely in the following case), was from a communications staffer.

That is the realization after The Winnipeg Free Press revealed Conservative Cabinet Minister Tony Clement was not the ‘Mayor of his own Town Hall’, in fact the majority of responses, accredited to him on his own Twitter account @TonyClementCPC, were via a ghostwriter: (Full article)

During an online chat on the subject of open government, the Treasury Board president, who is a prolific tweeter, had a ghostwriter doing most of the work for him.
Last December’s town hall made federal political history as the first live online chat to be hosted by a cabinet minister using the popular microblogging service.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper once took questions via YouTube, but that experiment was never repeated.
The subject of Clement’s town hall was the Conservatives’ recently launched open government strategy, a three-prong effort which seeks to increase transparency around the official workings of Ottawa.
Clement has been a vocal champion of the strategy, as well as for the increased use of social media by politicians to communicate with Canadians.
He’s regularly ranked among Parliament Hill’s top tweeters and lauded by social media watchers as having a natural touch with the technology.
But when it came to formally engaging with Canadians, bureaucracy ground his freewheeling ways to a stop.

Photo via National Post

Photo via National Post

As a founder and moderator of #YYJchat, I admire the guests who can keep up with an often frantic flow of public questions and comments, while keeping disparate topics alive, and responding with personality. However, as Tony Clement MP is the cabinet minister in charge of open government, and a champion of social media interaction between elected officials and the public, the perception he delegated the majority of replies from his Twitter account to others – albeit, his ‘voice’ or message intent – using a moderator flies in the face of authenticity.

There is no problem at all, in my view, of using someone else to do the actual typing work, as long as that is identified. There are well established Twitter protocols for handling such events such as using ^MW (an upper dash, with initials) to identify the responder. This is standard practice for corporate accounts, especially with customer service, to keep track of ‘who said what’. Clement’s team could also have easily used another Government Twitter account to respond to questions on the Minister’s behalf -which would have been more positive, allowing Tony Clement’s own posts to be highlighted in the stream.

The vast majority of people active on Social Media realize it is impossible for a single person to respond thoughtfully and directly to potentially thousands of questions and comments in a 45 minute, national, town hall. Being authentic, and open about WHO is responding is key – and we wonder why trust in governments and politicians is rapidly eroding.

UBCM 2012 – The Theme is Communications, but where is it?

The annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention is set to start Monday Sept. 24th in Victoria BC, with this year’s conference theme being ‘Communications’ (UBCM Theme Page). A great topic, and long overdue, but it begs the question – where is the communication?

Communications that are highly developed and ever changing is the way of the future. Through blogging or tweeting, community consultation via Facebook, or podcasts and online video of key announcements, there are more ways than ever to connect with the community.

As local governments explore the potential of these tools, the basic questions of good governance remain: are we hearing what the community is saying, and does the community hear what we are saying?

This year’s Convention theme is around communication. Whether it’s with local residents, other levels of governments, or our teenager at home, this year’s focus will be on improving these relationships by examining how we relay our messages and how we receive feedback.

 

So, where are the public events? The Tweet chats, G+ Hangouts, Facebook interaction and live events seeking public opinion on how the public and local government can best interact? There is nothing on the UBCM website, or through their social media accounts. It seems a huge opportunity has been missed by the organizers of UBCM to create interactive events, inviting the public for their ideas, comments and questions – and use that feedback as part of a resolution.

In that light, #YYJchat (See Victoria Wave for details on future and past chats) has decided to dedicate this coming Tuesday’s chat to UBCM, with an extended two hour format, and live from the Bengal Lounge (@TheBengalLounge) at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, next to the Victoria Convention Centre. Since YYJchat began in May this year we have brought MPs, MLAs, Mayors, councillors and more to the local and regional ‘Twittersphere’, providing an opportunity for authentic engagement with the public.

We will be joined with primary guests City of Victoria Councillor Shellie Gudgeon (@ShellieGudgeon) and local business owner Derek Sanderson (@The Island IT), and reaching out to UBCM delegates to join us, share their thoughts on the conference, and what it means to be a politician in the Social Media age.

#YYJchat will begin at 6:30pm and finish at 8;30pm – we welcome your comments and questions to the guests. Just follow the hashtag, and join in.

Follow @YYJchat for updates. Moderators and organizers are Susan Jones (@SusanJones), Kyle Schembri (@KyleSchem) and Mat Wright (@MatVic)

 

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Are Your Followers Fake?

As social media platforms tout the number of users as a value of their overall worth, the fact many ‘followers’ and ‘profiles’ are fake is illustrating a growing issue with spam and advertising analytics. In July the BBC set up a fake business ‘Virtual Bagel’, began advertising on Facebook, and determined that a large majority of likes came from South East Asia and were most likely fake accounts or bots. Another company, Limited Press, ran analytics on their own Facebook advertising alleging more than 80% of likes were fake.

Facebook itself was forced to reveal in company filings that 8.7% of over 955 million profiles broke rules in some way – duplicate profiles, misclassified accounts and undesirables – those who use accounts solely for spamming.

Newsday reported an analysis on Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney gaining more than 100 000 Twitter followers in one weekend, most of whom were fake. Twitter has yet to publish numbers on percentage of overall fake vs real users, but Tweet spam is a continual and growing headache for many users.

As social media platforms rely almost solely on advertising for revenue, their value to advertisers diminishes dramatically when companies discover ‘likes’ and clicks on paid links are worthless.

Do you have Fake Followers?

A new service, Status People, will parse your personal and business Twitter accounts for fake users, and give you a percentage report. While it is not an exact science the algorithm has some guiding principles, and becomes more accurate as more users check their followers:

“Spam accounts tend to have few or no followers and few or no tweets,” the company writes. “But they tend to follow a lot of other accounts.”

You can then use a system like TwitCleaner to identify fake, bot or inactive users that you either follow, or follow you, and clean up your account.

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Twitter is the News

There is no doubt Twitter has altered the broadcast and news gathering culture of media organizations, but what is behind the 140 character system that aligns so well with ‘news’?

Maclean's Magazine TwitterA reason for posing the question is noticing how some news papers and broadcasters are dedicating sections solely to Twitter trends and headlines, others incorporating #Hashtag streams into programming. Recently Maclean’s Magazine – a weekly Canadian print publication covering politics, business, and news – began a daily online article: Daily Headlines via Twitter using Storify to curate top headlines from a number of news organizations.

Next, take a look at a basic search for ‘Twitter’ on the Guardian UK newspaper website. For July 28th, almost all the top headline stories, from the latest Olympic updates to news from Syria, and the passing of actor Geoffrey Hughes have a direct reference to Twitter in the articles, clearly demonstrating the short message service has inordinate influence as a news gathering tool for journalists. Likely because it so quick and responsive, reporters can easily grab relevant content to boost just about any story: a quote, comments, updates etc.

It seems somewhat disproportionate as Twitter has around 150 million active users compared to Facebook’s 900+ million, yet Zuckerberg’s platform is nowhere near as mentioned as a source, or even as a news story itself unless discussing its share price. A news search on Google for “Twitter Olympics” shows 10800 news items compared to “Facebook Olympics” at 127.

Alan Rusbridger, Editor in Chief of the Guardian UK: posted fifteen points on “Why Twitter matters for media organisations” in November of 2010. Nearly two years later, are they still appropriate or actually reinforced, can others be added?

Point One:  It’s an amazing form of distribution: No doubt, and even more so now as the user base has extended from around 60 million in 2010 to 150 million today. Twitter (and yes, Facebook and Youtube) have profoundly impacted, some even argue inspired, the Arab Spring and now a necessary communication tool for politicians.

Point Two: It’s where things happen first: Or, where news is reported at all. The now 18 month uprising in Syria illustrates how citizen media can equal, even trump, traditional journalism in places where accredited media are denied access by authorities.

Point Three: As a search engine, it rivals Google: Yes and no these days as even Google has given in to including Twitter profiles and sometimes tweets themselves into results. Social is becoming even more integrated into operating systems and search.

Point Four: It’s a formidable aggregation tool: Where Twitter excels over other search engines – even those within the likes of Facebook and Youtube – is that the aggregation itself is user generated. A #Hashtag can be created by anyone, used and posted to by anyone. It turns search on its head from the realm of mathematicians to a crowd sourced function.

Point FiveIt’s a great reporting tool: Such an obvious statement it’s not even worth bothering to comment, except to say journalists and editors must be vigilant on specious tweets and deliberate misinformation.

Point SixIt’s a fantastic form of marketing: Yes, certainly with a growing user base news organizations can directly broadcast both breaking news and more nuanced opinion, to a far larger audience. The problem is twofold: journalists themselves, especially those who grabbed a Twitter user name before many organizations had a brand policy, are in a position to take their followers to another ‘brand’ – and – it is a flat platform. The audience decides who has authority on any given issue. Quite often the most re-tweeted posts are not from news organizations, but citizens directly involved in an issue or event.

Point SevenIt’s a series of common conversations. Or it can be: In fact, Twitter is about the conversation which is why chats surrounding a #hashtag are one the most popular and powerful features. This is where news organizations are getting it wrong, with only a few notable exceptions. Al Jazeera has daily open chats on topical issues, The Guardian has experimented with open editorial – ‘make your own newsroom’ idea, and CBC has a weekly Wednesday Politics chat. For the most part however, the majority of publications and broadcasters are not utilizing discussion features, to the detriment of their own organizations.

Mainly due to the fact no one in Greater Victoria BC had plugged into the concept of a regular Tweetchat, the group at Victoria Wave (of which I am a founder) decided to start our own. In many ways, #YYJchat is a news source on its own with weekly guests – politicians, community leaders, experts – and topical to the region. One wonders why news organizations are not taking advantage of chats and #Hashtags to reinforce their community credentials and brand image.

Point Eight: It’s more diverse: As with any social media platform the greater the number of users, the more diverse the opinions and focus. However, unlike Facebook which is the ultimate walled garden, Twitter does allow non user viewing through search apps and widgets – then again, you still require an account to participate.

Point Nine: It changes the tone of writing: Many would say to the detriment of any language, yet ultimately what Twitter has done to journalism and writing of any form is to highlight the necessity of brevity.

Point Ten: It’s a level playing field: Which goes back to my #7 point – a level playing field means news orgs have to take the initiative and not be afraid to experiment.

Point Eleven: It has different news values: This point from Alan Rusbridger was one of the most poignant. Twitter (and other platforms) highlight trending topics, which often are the goal for publicists, marketers and political parties. One could say ‘Twitter trends are the new SEO’. An open platform, where the crowd is determining what is topical, can force editors into ‘follow the audience’ to maintain online ratings – create a quick article or blog post that fits a trending topic simply for the retweet value is not uncommon.

Point Twelve: It has a long attention span: More so than most would think. In Canada the #Hashtags #TellVicEverything and #HarperHistory still resonate, and are searchable for an archive. This simple function, grouping messages around a tag, beats any searchable query on any other platform.

Point Thirteen: It creates communities: Yes, and relevant to many previous points, with an emphasis that news organizations are not taking advantage of this essential nature of Twitter. Editors and broadcast/publication owners might feel it is not their duty or function to create and maintain Twitter communities – yet they are broadcasting into them, and quite often seek comments on articles and opinion pieces (a blog is a community of sorts). Instead of complaining that social media is taking away an audience, while using published material, news organizations should be taking it on and creating the community – you can’t own a hashtag, but you can be the first to use it.

Point Fourteen: It changes notions of authority: In a much more problematic way now than in 2010. Certainly aggregators like Huffington Post filter and add to mainstream media posts – the bug bear of early social media to traditional media, and now largely discounted as an issue. What has occurred is a confluence of both highspeed mobile access to the web, and simple, equally high end, production. An iPhone, with the right apps, is a media production platform rivaling professional studio output from only a few years ago. Yes, it does take skill to create a video with appropriate context – a blog article with authority – an interview that hits the facts, but this is now in the hands of citizens, and as individuals gain audience, they gain authority. For better and worse.

Point Fifteen: It is an agent of change: Or an agent of the status quo, depending on who owns the trend at a particular time.

No doubt Twitter has radically altered ‘News’ as we know it – and it will become more profound as the platform gains more users. There needs to be a balance however between profit motive editors chasing trends for the potential audience value, vs allocating resources to reports that have community impact.

As always your thoughts and comments are valued and welcomed

 

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Victoria Police Take to Twitter for Canada Day

One of the most difficult jobs is changing the communication culture of an organization, especially a police department. There is a natural resistance not only over legal barriers, but the ‘vision’ of what policing and community engagement actually means.

Update: analytics have been crunched regarding the #VicPDHelps Twitter hashtag for Canada Day – 123 tweets generated 314,345 impressions, reaching an audience of 75,099 followers within the past 24 hours via @Org9. Total network reach, which includes secondary level ie: ‘friends of friends’ is an estimated reach of 105 000. Considering the population of Greater Victoria is around 376 000 (source CRD), this illustrates the potential of social media to engage the region.

CHEK News Video

This is #YYJChat In Real Life!

Victoria Police Constable Mike Russel with #YYJchat

It is so refreshing to witness the Victoria BC Police Department experiment with Twitter on Canada Day. Creating a Hashtag – #VicPDhelps – as a non-911 means for people to note problems or concerns while tens of thousands gathered in the downtown core to celebrate the national holiday.

Mike Russell, the Victoria Police officer behind the Twitter handle @VicPDCanada, along with the department’s communication team, has moved online engagement from a staid press release broadcast, to putting a personality into the ‘handle’, making real connections, and proving that taking the time for online conversations can have real benefits.

Mike has reached out to the community. He has presented at the largest conference in North America dedicated to social media, Social Media Camp, and did a full hour on #YYJchat taking questions from the Greater Victoria online ‘crowd’.

On Canada Day, with an expected record number of over 50 000 people flooding into the downtown Victoria and Inner Harbour area to watch concerts and the fireworks, police communication changes. Crowd sourcing issues, nipping problems in the bud before they get out of control seems elemental, but can only happen if the community trusts the people behind both the badge, and hashtag.

In this case, it seems to have worked. The night is not over, but up to midnight, it is quite obvious the local community was well aware of the Victoria Police Twitter initiative, trusted it, and was willing to offer leads and assistance.

The problem for Victoria Police now is the future. Once a hashtag permeates a community, it can take on a life of its own. Using #VicPDhelps simply for special events, during set hours, might not be possible. Integrating Twitter, and other social media platforms, directly into 911 call centres and non-emergency, but reactive, communications, will be a challenge.

The following is an edited Storify of Canada Day using posts from @VicPDCanada #VicPDHelps #YYJCanadaDay and #YYJ

Note: the hashtag #VicPDhelps monitoring time was 4pm July 1st to 2am July 2nd. The Storify has posts to midnight July 1st

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