The Rubbish Side of Social Media Users

September 16, 2013

Over the years I’ve been using Twitter, blogging and other social media I’ve noticed the reticence of some users, particularly from public bodies such as police, central government and arms-length government organizations to take part in a conversation. Locally, in York, I follow the police who both maintain a dialogue and make Tweets interesting to followers by adding humour (where appropriate), safety and security advice, along with road closure warnings. In contrast very recently, being unable to find a way to complain to Greater Manchester Police I tweeted my complaint with a strong hint of sarcasm, I obviously failed miserably when a day later @GMPolice made a favourite of it!

This similar approach has been used on the regional offices of central government failing similarly when they don’t even respond. I’ve got so use to the local council not responding to Tweets or emails that I now just don’t expect it. In contrast, some councillors (but not many) willingly maintain a dialogue or move it to email, whilst others might as well not bother having a Twitter account. I notice that a number of bodies such as the Environment Agency are encouraging managers to have Twitter accounts on their behalf, whilst the same individuals do not have a publicly available email account. I take this as a symptom of the risk aversive nature of such bodies, when they don’t want individuals appearing to speak for a ‘department’. The same people are, by large, also averse to holding a dialogue in Twitter but happily tell us the details of their day-to-day work (yawn).

A lot of this I take to being the absence of a good policy and training. If bodies are going to get themselves involved in social media they need to accept complaints and compliments by it, as well as posting interesting stuff, but less of the day-to-day drivel, please!

Anti-social media

November 11, 2012

Whilst I am much less skeptical about the use of social media in government than I used to be, like email it is set to become a big part of the of the job, in the same way that handling email has become a major part of the day-to-day of everyone from junior officers to chief officers. My only question then is – who does the original job?

LearnStuff have put together a little video on how social media is affecting productivity entitled Social Media at Work. My question remains – who is doing the work that was done before email/social media, or is that no longer the job? Now, what did I used to do?


Social media in a disaster

November 4, 2012

My thanks have to go to Steven Clift for circulating the following links regarding the use of social media in a disaster situation and we are all aware of what the USA has had to go through recently:

First of all some lessons learned from the Joplin tornado –

There was already Steven’s article – – about creating micro online groups for more informal ongoing exchange as emergency response moves into recovery.

From Christchurch NZ comes a multi-agency meta site –

As the globe warms and water levels and weather changes, these experiences need to be shared.

Pakistan – watch this space

October 21, 2012

Pakistan may hardly be a frontrunner in the world of e-government but might provide an interesting country to view given the messy politics, illiteracy of the masses, and the many, many more variables that can affect matters around using it. Why am I interested? As a long-time supporter of Khwendo Kor (KK), since its chief executive Maryam Bibi first studied in York, I have followed the machinations in Pakistan, particularly in KP, the former North West Frontier Province, with great interest – I’m also rather partial to the food from the Indian sub-continent. Observers of the KK website can see that actually having one and electronic newsletters is probably more for gaining external aid and support, as communicating inside the country, so this is why I was interested to find Fouad Bajwa’s blog post “Politics and Social Media in Pakistan – The struggle for new power within an immature democracy!” when he presented himself to the W3C E-government Interest Group recently.

I frequently argue on these pages about the lack of chance of social media moving a representative democracy to any kind of direct democracy, which many of its adherents assume will happen, and remain dubious that the Arab Spring was a direct result of social media. Given the lack of chance in the west or ‘developed’ world, what are the chances in a country like Pakistan where it regularly hovers between military despots and one party control, and is thus hardly even a representative democracy. The Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF) argues similarly and emphasises the Internet’s value as a communication tool – as NOREF state in their conclusions “Europe can help mitigate these risks by sponsoring projects that develop guidelines for appropriate content and by supporting initiatives that promote tolerant online communication.” There is obviously some use (good and bad) being made of social media in Pakistan, so as Fouad Bajwa states in his blog “For all those political leaders and their parties that lack interest or do not follow the Social Media in Pakistan should be alerted that the largest voter base of Pakistan irrespective of their rural or urban location are following and commenting on the political carnage in Pakistan.” In other words, if you are in Pakistani politics, one needs to be practising in the social media game, if only to communicate your values and actions.

Digital by diktat 2

October 15, 2012

I’ve just received an email promotion from DFDS Seaways about holidays in Amsterdam. The trouble was that the one link I tried, that to do a survey and possibly win a crossing, didn’t work – it just led me to SurveyMonkey’s homepage! I then tried telling DFDS Seaways about their crap marketing attempt and emailed the address at the bottom of the email – that bounced! It appears that you can either follow them on Twitter or Facebook but you can’t sort out their mistakes directly.

Governments – please take note of this and do NOT follow their example…


Social Media Fantasy

September 9, 2012

My thanks to Itir Akdogan PhD for informing the Democracies Online Exchange: about the publication of a new report “The Use of Social Media in Finnish Parliament Elections 2011” (PDF, 32 pages, 480 Kb) by Irina Khaldarova, Salla-Maaria Laaksonen & Janne Matikainen of the Communication Research Centre CRC, Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki.

Since it is reporting on the parliamentary representative democracy of a country where there is also an active use of new technologies I believe this report should give some guidance as to what can be expected elsewhere. Unfortunately it concludes by writing of politicians that “their way of using social media mostly reminds one-way mass communication”, which is something warned of on this blog earlier and then continues “In this sense it seems that despite the high hopes laid upon social media services as a tool of e-democracy, there still exists a gap between politicians and citizens. Social media will not foster deliberative democracy unless it is truly used for two-way communication and as a platform for conversation.” And it can’t come much clearer than that! This is based on the conclusions from the data that “the study shows that social media does not play the role in the Finnish politics as it is usually ascribed for. The power of social media in the recent elections has been obviously exaggerated as most of the elected MPs can hardly be considered as active or very popular social media users.”

Whether this experience is something particularly Finnish remains to be seen, but it currently appears that deliberative democracy will not be created from the representative kind through the employment of social media.

Social local

August 19, 2012

Thanks to Steven Clift at for being there to enable Karen Purser from the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (ACELG) to post the link to their new report on “Using Social Media in Local Government: 2011 Survey Report” (PDF, 1.16 Mb, 34 pages) published  27th June 2012. The report, as its title infers, is the product of a survey of Australian local government and the conclusions are quite clear that there can be benefits to the use of social media, particularly in the event of an emergency. However, it is acknowledged that there are a number of concerns surrounding its use – it being resource intensive, possibilities of issues around record keeping, other legal concerns and a general lack of understanding of the field. The author suggests that these might be overcome by some sector-wide training and documentation.

I sympathise with both sides on this. There are a range of opportunities for using social media well – and I emphasise the ‘well’ – from dealing with all types of civil emergencies, to broadcasting important information, but I suspect Australian public sector staff are under the same pressures as those in the UK where due to redundancy and target-focused changes they have little time to learn the new skills or confidently apply them. The solution is then down to their political leaders to create the space for staff to experiment with and use new media and technologies or see the electorate pull the rug from under their feet as they are used to their detriment.

Whilst a revolution may not be Tweeted, mass (or even small) movements will and should make use of every opportunity to grab back some power from politicians and bureaucrats who hide behind words like ‘open’ or ‘transparency’ whilst failing to be either.