social media

Election 2012: A #SocialElection Driven By The Data

Social media was a bigger part of the election season of 2012 than ever before, from the enormous volume of Facebook updates and tweets to memes during the Presidential debates to public awareness of what the campaigns were doing there in popular culture. Facebook may even have booted President Obama’s vote tally.

While it’s too early to say if any of the plethora of platforms played any sort of determinative role in 2012, strong interest in what social media meant in this election season led me to participate in two panels in the past two weeks: one during DC Week 2012 and another at the National Press Club, earlier today. Storifies of the online conversations during each one are embedded below.



The big tech story of this campaign, however, was not social media. As Micah Sifry presciently observed last year, it wasn’t (just) about Facebook: “it’s the data, stupid.” And when it came to building for this re-election campaign like an Internet company, the digital infrastructure that the Obama campaign’s team of engineers built helped to deliver the 2012 election.

To use social media in a time of need, start building networks before disasters

As is the case in every major event in the U.S., social media was part of the fabric of communications during Hurricane Sandy. Twitter was a window into what was happening in real-time. Facebook gave families and friends a way to stay in touch about safety or power. And government officials and employees, from first responders mayors to governors to the President of the United States, put critical information into the hands of citizens that needed it.

While Hurricane Sandy cemented the utility of these networks, neither they nor their role are new. With all due respect to Gartner analyst Andrea Di Maio, his notion that people aren’t conveying “useful information” every day there — that it’s just ” chatting about sport results, or favorite actors, or how to bake” — is like some weird flashback to a 2007 blog post or ignorant cable news anchor.

Public sector, first responders and emergency management officials have recognized the utility of social media reports as a means for situational awareness before, during and after natural or man-made disasters for years now and have integrated tools into crisis response.

Officials at local, state and federal levels have confirmed to me again and again that it’s critical to build trusted networks *before* disaster strikes so that when crises occur, the quality of intelligence is improved and existing relationships with influence can amplify their messages.

Media and civil society serve as infomediaries and critical filters (aka, B.S. detectors) for vetting information, something that has proved crucial with fake reports and pictures popping up. Official government accounts play a critical role for putting trusted information into the networks to share, something we saw in real-time up and down the East Coast this week.

To be frank, Di Maio’s advice that authorities shouldn’t incorporate social media into their normal course of business is precisely the opposite of the experience on the ground of organizations like the Los Angeles Fire Department, Red Cross or FEMA. Here’s Brian Humphrey, public information officer of the LAFD, on best practices for social media:

If public safety officials come across Di Maio’s advice, I hope they’ll choose instead to listen to citizens every day and look to scale the best practices of their peers for using technology for emergency response, not start during a crisis.

A Twitter chat with @VotingInfo on voting, elections and tech

Today, I hosted a Twitter chat with the Voting Information Project. They partner with states to provide official election data that developers can use to create free, open source tools for voters.

I’ve embedded a storify of our conversation below, along with a video explaining more about what they do. Of special note: VIP is partnering with Mobile Commons to let registered voters know where to vote. Just txt “where” or “donde” to 877-877.


Can government innovation rise above partisan politics?

Earlier today, the White House announced the first class of Presidential Innovation Fellows. Following is the story you might have missed on the Twitter backchannel, followed by a NodeX graph of the tweets around #InnovateGov.

In the network graph below, you’ll see there are 3 discreet groups around the White House, Tim O’Reilly and me, and Michelle Malkin. The lines between the nodes show replies.

Philadelphia shows brotherly love to open data with new executive order

As TechnicallyPhilly reported this morning, the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has joined the ranks of municipalities putting more public data onto the Internet.

“Transparency is a cornerstone of good governance, and it is vital for the City to be open and available to our citizens,” said Mayor Michael Nutter in a statement posted to the city of Philadelphia’s Facebook page. “Philadelphia was recently named at the seventh most social media savvy city in the nation. The Open Data policy furthers many of the policies and initiatives already put in place by the City.”

Bill Signing_MLeff_08

“The Open Data Policy puts in place the necessary framework, structure and governance that will increase collaboration among City departments and bring citizens closer to their government,” said Chief Innovation Officer Adel Ebeid. “This policy is the first installment in Mayor Nutter’s vision for Philadelphia to become a model for increasing transparency and removing barriers to information sharing and collaboration.”

As NBC Philadelphia reported, the executive order also establishes an internal social media policy for Philadelphia municipal government.

The city now has 90 days to select or hire a chief data officer (a position that Logan Clier called for all cities to establish on the Code for America blog earlier today) and 120 days to establish a “data governance advisory” board, both of which will be in entrusted with established standards and means of publishing open data, along with periodically evaluating the releases to date.

Philadelphia may soon have an opportunity to compare notes with other cities that have pursued open data platforms around the United States, including San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Boston and New York City. NYC has set up a wiki to help implement its landmark open data legislation, an example that Philadelphians might draw inspiration from, with respect to forming more collaborative and transparent processes online.

There’s much to like in this executive order, for open data advocates, but one phrase in particular jumps out: “Each City department and agency shall develop a schedule for making information available to the public and updating it on a regular basis.”

This could go a long way to addressing key concern that has been extant in other cities and states, where data sets go online but are not subsequently updated. That will only be true, however, if political will is coupled with policy clout to drive more release and public engagement with media, academy and Philadelphia’s technical community to put the data to work for the public’s good.

The good news on that count is that Philadelphia has a partner in Technically Philly, which has been an active participant in driving this change:

The Executive Order had been long rumored and follows the more than year-long growth of a public-private coalitionpushing for a clearer strategy on using data to make government more transparent and efficient.

Full disclosure: Technically Philly has been involved in these conversations, though purely to make clear the editorial objectives of this technology news site. Last fall, during and after the OpenDataRace, a project that sought public voting on desired city data, representatives of Technically Philly, GIS firm Azavea, which built OpenDataPhilly.org, and the William Penn Foundation met with new city CIO Adel Ebeid to discuss the effort on multiple occasions, sometimes with other city IT staff.

As with every open data effort, the devil will be in the details. Or, to put it another way, the devil will be in the datasets, including the quality and relevance of what’s posted. That said, it’s impossible to see today’s action as anything other than a watershed for the city that I grew up in, from 1984 to 1994, and I can’t help but hope that everyone in the City of Brotherly Love collaborates in making the most of the opportunity that now lies before Philadelphia to apply data for the public good.

Go make stuff that matters.


As of 7:43 PM ET this evening, the city had not yet posted the executive order to Phila.gov, the city’s official website. I’ve published the EO on open data and government transparency in full below.

EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. __ -12

OPEN DATA AND GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY

WHEREAS, the City of Philadelphia is committed to creating a high level of openness and transparency in government; and

WHEREAS, the three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration form the cornerstone of an open government; and

WHEREAS, the City’s participation as a founding and vital partner in the open data consortium has provided a model for transparency on which the City should continue to build; and

WHEREAS, more City data sets should be published and made available via an Open Data Portal which will provide access to information and a mechanism for public feedback and participation; and

WHEREAS, the demands of an across-the-board open government framework require the dedication of a new position, of Chief Data Officer, to direct these initiatives; and

WHEREAS, social media tools have become a part of everyday life for City employees and City residents, such that social media can be a means of increasing government transparency and civic engagement; and

WHEREAS, timetables should be established for development and implementation of an overall Open Government Plan to enhance and develop transparency, public participation, and collaboration in all City activities;

NOW THEREFORE, I, Michael A. Nutter, Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, by the authority vested in me by the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, do hereby order as follows:

SECTION 1. OPEN DATA WORKING GROUP AND CHIEF DATA OFFICER

A. As soon as practicable, the Mayor and the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) will establish an Open Data Working Group to focus on transparency, accountability, participation, and collaboration within City government. The Working Group, which will include senior level representation from program and management offices throughout the City, will assist the CIO in selecting a Chief Data Officer. The Working Group will also provide a forum to develop innovative ideas for promoting open government goals, including collaborations with researchers, the private sector, and the public, and for developing resolutions to issues raised through the public feedback mechanisms of the Open Government Portal.

B. Within 90 days of the Effective Date of this Order, the CIO, with assistance from the Open Data Working Group, shall hire or designate an individual to serve as Chief Data Officer (CDO). The CDO will lead the Open Data and Transparency initiatives outlined in this Order, including working with City departments and agencies to establish standards for publication of data and the most effective means for making such data available. The CDO will report to the Chief Innovation Officer.

SECTION 2. DATA GOVERNANCE ADVISORY BOARD

Within 120 days from the Effective Date of this Order, the Mayor shall appoint a Data Governance Advisory Board. The Board shall consist of nine members, including the Chief Innovation Officer and the CDO, and shall be chaired by an individual designated by the Mayor. The Open Data Working Group shall solicit nominations for members of the Advisory Board, and shall recommend appointments from the public, private, academic and nonprofit sectors. The Advisory Board shall meet regularly at such times as the Board decides, and its members shall serve at the pleasure of the Mayor.

SECTION 3. OPEN GOVERNMENT PLAN

A. Development of Plan. Within six months of the Effective Date of this Order, the CIO and the CDO, in conjunction with the Advisory Board, shall develop and publish an Open Government Plan. The plan will detail, including specific actions and timelines, the steps that the City will take to incorporate the principles of open government into its daily activities.

B. The Plan shall be formulated with the input of senior policy, legal, and technology leadership in the City; open government experts; and the general public.

C. Components of the Plan shall include:

(1) Transparency: Steps the City will take to conduct its work more openly and publish its information online, including ready public access to ordinances and regulations, policies, legislative records, budget information, crime statistics, public health statistics, and other information. Where possible, publication shall be in an open format, subject to privacy, confidentiality, and security concerns, and to the City’s Social Media Use Policy. Additionally, the Plan will identify high value data sets not yet available to the public, and establish a reasonable timeline for their publication online in open formats.

(2) Public Participation: Description of how the City will enhance and expand opportunities for the public to participate throughout each City agency’s decision-making process, including instructions for online access to published information and opportunities for comment; methods for identifying stakeholders and other affected parties and encouraging their participation; links to appropriate websites where the public can engage in the City’s existing participatory processes; and proposed changes to internal management and administrative policies to increase public participation.

(3) Collaboration: Steps the City will take to enhance and expand cooperation among City departments and agencies, other governmental agencies, private and nonprofit entities, and the public, to fulfill City goals and obligations; including proposals to use technology platforms and links to appropriate websites to improve, and inform the public about, existing collaboration efforts, and use of innovative methods to obtain ideas from and to increase collaboration with those in the private sector, nonprofit and academic communities.

SECTION 4. OPEN DATA POLICY

A. Open Government Portal. Within 90 days of the Chief Data Officer’s assumption of responsibilities, the Office of Innovation and Technology shall establish a Portal that will serve as the source for Citywide and departmental activities with respect to this open government initiative. The Chief Innovation Officer, in his discretion, may build on previous open data initiatives, or may establish a new portal.

B. Identification of Barriers, Guidance and Revisions. Within 120 days of the Effective Date of this Order, the City Solicitor, in consultation with the Chief Innovation Officer, shall review existing city policies to identify impediments to open government and to the use of new technologies and, where necessary, issue clarifying guidance or propose revisions to such policies, where greater openness can be promoted without damage to the City’s legal and financial interests.

C. Department and Agency Open Formats. Each City department and agency shall develop a schedule for making information available to the public and updating it on a regular basis. To the extent practicable and subject to valid restrictions, agencies shall publish information on line (in addition to other planned or mandated publication methods), and in an open format. The open format will provide data in a form that can be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, searched and reused by commonly used web search applications and software. Such information shall, subject to legal and practical restrictions and to the City’s Social Media Use Policy, be made available to the public without restrictions that would impede re-use of the information.

D. Open Data Catalog. Within 90 days of the CDO’s assumption of duties, each City department and agency shall create a catalog of its public information. The catalog shall be made accessible through the Open Government Portal. The determination of what shall constitute “public information” and “high value data sets” for purposes of this Order, as well as what “high value data sets” should be shared as set forth in paragraph 4.E hereof, shall be made by each department or agency head in consultation with OIT and the Law Department.

E. High Value Data Sets. Within 120 days of the CDO’s assumption of duties, each Deputy Mayor shall identify and publish online, in an open format, at least three high-value data sets, not currently available on line or not available in a downloadable format.

F. Public Feedback. The Open Government Portal shall include a mechanism for the public to give feedback on and assess the quality of published information, provide input about what information should be a priority for publication, and provide input on the City’s Open Government Plan.

G. Legally Protected Information. Nothing in this Order shall be construed to supersede existing requirements for review and clearance of information exempt from disclosure under the Pennsylvania Right to Know Act and other applicable laws, regulations, or judicial orders.

H. Evaluation. The City’s progress toward meeting the open government goals set forth in this Order shall be evaluated six months from the Effective Date of this Order, again one year from the Effective Date, and annually thereafter. The evaluation shall be released on the Open Government Portal, and shall include criteria to be developed by the Advisory Board.

SECTION 5. SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY

A. The City of Philadelphia’s Social Media Use Policy is, by this Order, simultaneously adopted and incorporated herein by reference as if fully stated.

B. Going forward, the Mayor’s Director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships and the CIO, or their designees, shall consider any additional issues that arise concerning standards for the acceptable use of social media by City employees, as well as by members of the general public who comment on or otherwise interact with the City through its social media websites, and shall, with the review and approval of the Law Department, make such amendments as may be advisable to the Social Media Use Policy.

SECTION 6. EFFECTIVE DATE

This Order shall be effective immediately.

Date: ___________________ ____________________________
MICHAEL A. NUTTER, MAYOR

STUDY: On Twitter, Congressional Republicans lead on engagement, links and laws cited

Data from a new study on the use of Twitter by U.S. Senator and Representatives by public relations giant Edelman strongly suggests that the Grand Old Party has opened up a grand old lead in its use of the popular microblogging platform in just about every metric.

On Twitter’s 6th birthday, there’s more political speech flowing through tweets than ever. Twitter data from the study, as provided by Simply Measured, showed that on Twitter, Republican lawmakers are mentioned more, reply more often, are retweeted more, share more links to rich content and webpages, and reference specific bills much more often. Republicans tweet about legislation 3.5 times more than Democrats.

There are also more Republicans on Twitter: while the 89 U.S. Senators who tweet are evenly split, with one more Republican Senator tipping the balance, in the U.S. House there are 67 more Republican Representatives expressing themselves in 140 characters or less.

At this point, it’s worth noting that one of Twitter’s government leads in DC estimated earlier this year that only 15-20% of Congressional Twitter accounts are actually being updated by the Congressmen themselves, but the imbalance stands.

While Edelman DC was quite tactful about what its study on the yeas and nays of the Congressional Twitterverse revealed, the lead Congressional Republicans hold on Twitter has been well documented since 2010, when a study on Twitter in Congress asserted that Democrats use Twitter for transparency, while Republicans use it for outreach. A 2011 survey of social media use in Congress by the Associated Press found that the Republicans similarly “out tweeting” Democrats on Twitter.

While the ways that governments deal with social media cannot be measured by one platform alone nor the activity upon it, the data in the embedded study below be of interest to many, particularly as the window for Congress to pass meaningful legislation narrows as the full election season looms this summer.

In the context of social media and election 2012, how well a Representative or Senator is tweeting could be assessed by whether they can use Twitter to build awareness of political platforms, respond to opposing campaign or, perhaps importantly for the purposes of the election, reach potential voters, help get them registered, and bring them to the polls

Capitol Tweets: Yeas and Nays of the Congressional Twitterverse

Nathan Eung, one of the authors of the study cited above, wrote at Govfresh about how the reasons for using Twitter may be different across party lines

Outreach and transparency are both valuable to a healthy democracy, and to some extent, it is re-assuring that Twitter use is motivated by both reasons. An interesting counter-factual situation would be if the Republicans were the majority party. We may therefore ask in that situation: Is the desire to reach out to (opposing) voters strongest for “losing” parties? Our study certainly hints that Republicans are not only motivated to use Twitter as a means to reach out to their own followers, but also to Democrats, as they are more likely to use Twitter in cases where their district was overwhelmingly in favor President Barack Obama.

All-in-all, it would seem like Twitter is good for the whole Gov 2.0 idea. If Republicans are using Twitter as a means for outreach, then more bills may be passed (note: this has yet to be tested empirically, and still remains an open question for researchers). If Democrats are using Twitter as a means for transparency, then the public benefits from the stronger sense of accountability.

Capitol Tweets: New Edelman Study Looks at U.S. Congressional Performance on Twitter

A Conversation About Social Media, Open Government and eDemocracy [VIDEO]

If the town square now includes public discourse online, democratic governments in the 21st century are finding that part of civic life now includes listening there. Given what we’ve seen in this young century, how governments deal with social media is now part of how they deal with civil liberties, press freedom, privacy and freedom of expression in general.

At the end of Social Media Week 2012, I moderated a discussion with Matt Lira, Lorelei Kelly our Clay Johnson at the U.S. National Archives. This conversation explored more than how social media is changing politics in Washington: we looked at its potential to can help elected officials and other public servants make better policy decisions in the 21st century.

I hope you find it of interest; all three of the panelists gave thoughtful answers to the questions that I and the audience posed.

How do you build online community and moderate social media?

Last month, I wrote a popular post on the value of blog comments. My take: Whether you choose to have comments or not speaks to whether you want to create an online community, which requires a human’s touch to manage and moderate, or to simply publish your thoughts publicly online, without making the necessary commitment of time and patience.

As is often the case, I agree with Mathew Ingram: blog comments are worth the effort. Last week, I had the opportunity to expand upon what I meant in a public forum here in the District of Columbia during Social Media Week.

Creating and managing high quality online conversations isn’t easy but I strongly believe that it’s worth it. Following is a storify of the online conversation that emerged on the Twitter “backchannel” during the panel discussion and some rules of the road that explain how I’m approaching moderation on Facebook and Google+, where I now have over 50,000 circlers/subscribers combined.

On moderating Facebook and Google+ public pages

Over the past year, I’ve seen a lot of spam and pornography links pop up on the blogs I moderate, on Facebook and on the Google+. Fortunately, Google and Facebook both give us the ability to moderate comments and, if we wish, to block other people who do not respect the opinions or character of others. Last month, I saw a lack of clarity about my approach to online community, so here’s how I think about it, with a nod to Dan Gillmor’s example:

I can and do block spammers and people posting links to pornography.

I generally leave comments on my blogs, precisely because I value conversations, despite the issues that persist online. I have been moderating discussion in online forums and blogs for many years, including those of my publishers.

Insulting me, slandering my employer or my professional work won’t help your case. Insulting others will ruin it.
I was a teacher in my twenties. I would not tolerate disrespectful behavior in my classroom, either to me or to other students. If you can’t be civil and continue to insult others, much less the person hosting the forum, you were asked to leave and see the principal.

If the behavior persists, you will lose the privilege of participating in the class at all.
Eventually, you get expelled. On Google+ or blogs, that takes the form of being defriended, banned or blocked from my public updates. I prefer not to block users but I will do so. I respect your right to speak freely on your own blog, Twitter, Facebook or Google+ account, whether that involves cursing or ignorance.

I strongly believe in the First Amendment, with respect to government not censoring citizens. That said, I do not feel obligated to host such speech on my own blog, particularly if it is directed towards other commenters. I believe that building and maintaining healthy communities, online of offline, requires that the people hosting them enforce standards for participation that encourage civil dialogue.

I hope that makes sense to folks here. If not, you are welcome to let me know in the comments.