Posts about Twitter
The District Department of Transportation has long been known for its effective use of social media, particularly Twitter. But more recently, DDOT has fallen short on reaching out to the public online. The DDOT Twiter feed took a particularly bizarre turn this past Monday.
Residents who tweeted DDOT with a request to fix a pothole or a question about a construction project received an unhelpful and somewhat patronizing message: "Thx 4 this Tweet! Service has been requested. Thank you for using DDOT TWITTER. Thank you for being a "Super-Citizen'!"
While DDOT always used Twitter to disseminate information and promote transparency, it was its consistently prompt responses to service requests that earned it a stellar reputation among citizens. Mark Bjorge and John Lisle, who ran the feed, displayed a wry sense of humor rarely seen coming from a government communications office.
Bjorge and Lisle both left the agency earlier this year. Since then, tweets to DDOT have been answered slowly, or not at all. When these latest boilerplate tweets started coming out on Monday, the backlash was palpable.
DDOT spokesperson Monica Hernandez insists that the agency is trying to get back on top of its Twitter game and has no intention of letting its social media presence continue to slide. "Those responses don't represent a new direction we're taking," she says, and went on to state that the automated replies are "not effective" and are "being addressed."
The concerns they've heard have hit home for the agency. "This brings to light the role our followers play when it comes to our communication here," says Hernandez. "They are our eyes and ears, and their feedback is critical."
That's a great outlook, but it's even better when put into practice. Since Twitter has played such a vital role in communication between DDOT and District residents over the past few years, I hoped that the department would recognize the value in bringing on other social media-literate employees after the staff changes took place. Instead, District residents have lost one of the most reliable means of communicating with the city about transportation issues.
Hernandez was unable to say whether Bjorge and Lisle had undergone any special social media training, or what kind of training is being provided to those currently at the feed's helm. She mentioned that DDOT's goal was to have more than just two people running its Twitter account, as questions and requests could be answered faster if there are more hands on deck.
Whatever the method, let's hope that DDOT's social media growing pains end soon. The agency has a great model for how to do social media right
The DC Office of Planning will answer your questions about the zoning update on their first Twitter Town Hall, noon to 1 pm.
Ask your questions with the hashtag #ZRR. All tweets with that tag appear in the box below; afterward, I'll replace the box with some highlights from the event.
Blogger Tales from the Sharrows mashed up a classic inspirational quote with an equally classic argument opposing urban change. This sparked a hilarious set of #inspirationalNIMBY tweets yesterday.
Here are some favorites. For each, I've added attribution, put them all into a standard format, and corrected any spelling errors.
What would you add?
We enjoyed putting together some April Fool posts for you this year. We've decided to change the name of the site from Greater Greater Wells back to Greater Greater Washington, but you can continue to enjoy our April 1 homepage here.
How many of the changes to the site could you pick out? At right is the day's Twitter avatar, preserved for your enjoyment.
Thanks go to our many contributors who put in ideas for jokes, whether for the Weekend Links, elements of the Red Line story, and ideas we weren't able to fit in during the day.
A number of other local blogs revealed some surprising and foolish news. The Cleveland Park listserv revealed a new in-home concierge trash pickup service for DC; for those who don't subscribe to the list, details should soon be posted here. WashCycle reported that Maryland plans to build a high-speed rail line which it would then immediately abandon to create a rail trail.
New York introduced a left-handed turnstile, says Transportation Nation, Project for Public Spaces started a new campaign to give public spaces rights just like people and corporations, and Philadelphia announced new sidewalk lanes for people texting.
In not-fooling April Fool news, DC's political Twitterati concluded that, as it happens, the 2014 primary election in DC will actually fall on April 1, unless the council takes action to modify the ridiculously early primary date they established beginning this year.
Did you see entertaining articles not listed here? Post them in the comments.
Yesterday, Marc Tomik (@marctomik) adapted an idea from King County, Washington and the Washington (state) DOT to write haikus about transportation on Twitter.
Because Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct is being torn down, @wsdot started a contest to write some "vaikus" about the viaduct.
- Marc decided to call for some road haikus.
- And Adam Froehlig and others jumped right in:
- I decided to try and thread the tweets by introducing the #transpohaiku hashtag. And it kind of took off from there.
- Some of the tweets echoed debates we often have on Greater Greater Washington.
- Metro was a common subject, of course.
- The idea spread to other cities, too.
- We were even joined by the venerable Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation, Montgomery council member Roger Berliner, and @wmata.
- Tweets are still coming in, too.
Social media played a gradually growing role in Rail~Volution over the past few years. This year, panels explored topics such as blogging and how public agencies use social media.
Both David and I sat on a panel discussing the way blogging has changed the conversation. We were joined by Reconnecting America's Jeff Wood and Curt Ailes from Urban Indy. Blogging has come a long way in the past few years, and the panel discussed the influence that blogs have had on policy and organizing movements.
One audience member said she associated blogs with someone posting pictures of their cat. And certainly that sort of thing used to be a primary function of blogs. But these days, many blogs have become a major part of the conversation. In fact, blogs like Streetsblog and Greater Greater Washington are changing the conversation.
As Curt explained, the urban conversation in Indianapolis hasn't come as far as it has here. As a result, Urban Indy plays a large role in introducing Indianans to planning concepts. Curt recounted an instance where the print media came to him about a bike path. He was able to help the reporter (and the readers) to get the terminology right and understand was was at stake.
And that's really how I see the role of Greater Greater Washington. Not as a way of bringing people over to our opinion, but as a way to give people the tools they need to be a productive participant in the conversation.
And while transforming the dialog is a great thing, social media can fill other roles, too. Metro's Nat Bottigheimer mentioned in a panel an idea for a social media network geared toward transit users. It could let transit riders share their experiences, and could help new riders to learn how to get started. While a new social medium may or may not be forthcoming, it is possible to leverage the platforms that already exist.
We heard from representatives of several public sector agencies about the role social media plays in their communication strategies. The Utah Transit Authority has a strong presence in cyberspace; using Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Foursquare, YouTube, and with three blogs catering to different user groups.
I was impressed with the idea of using Foursquare and blogging to help riders (and potential riders) find things they could use transit to get to. Foursquare has always been one of the social media tools I've not found much use for. But as a spatial tool, it could prove helpful to transit agencies.
UTA's representative, Tauni Everett, also talked about using Twitter to engage the public. A recent spate of hearings about a fare hike drew less than 20 attendees to the 7 meetings held in the six-county UTA service area. But an online public hearing using Twitter generated hundreds of comments, all of which were counted in the public record.
We also heard from people from goDCgo and Nashville's MPO about different initiatives to reach out and use new tools. For planning to be effective, it needs public participation. In today's fast-paced world, it can be difficult to engage people in traditional ways. Using social media is proving to be a way to connect with new voices and regular participants alike.
In our region, agencies are using new strategies for communication as well. Metro, for example, has started to engage riders on Twitter. And the planning department there has started its own blog to help broaden the dialogue.
How do you see the role of social media and blogging as a part of the planning conversation? How could agencies like DDOT and WMATA improve? And what's the next generation of social media?
Members of Vincent Gray's administration have been both quoted and sourced on background as being unhappy with a city employee going above and beyond the call of duty on the job. The mayor must explicitly quash such thinking if he doesn't want to send a signal to all other city employees not to work very hard.
Lon Walls. Image from Twitter.
Lon Walls, the communications director for DC's the Fire & Emergency Medical Services (FEMS), gave Mark Segraves some revealing statements regarding the ongoing saga of Pete Piringer, who ran the DC Fire & EMS twitter feed (@dcfireems).
Walls told WTOP, "We had a discussion, I told Pete he was going out of his lanes in terms of other agencies." One of those "lanes" apparently included tweeting about fallen trees and crime scenes. It seems other agencies were miffed that @dcfireems was tweeting about things slightly outside their core competency, and that was "making [other agencies] look slow and unresponsive."
Washington Life Magazine listed Walls as one of the "Titans of PR" last year. He ran Walls Communications prior to becoming the head of communications at FEMS. (It appears that the regular website of his firm has been scaled back, with a more detailed site residing here.)
The site boasts of "transforming [communications] challenges into successful and measurable results." Is less communication with residents the kind of results the city is looking for? (Incidentally, Walls is on Twitter, but he doesn't appear to have mastered use of it as a communication forum.)
Put simply, Pete Piringer ran a fantastic service while working at FEMS. I'm one of the three people who worked on compiling the Struck in DC (@struckdc) twitter feed, and we relied on timely information from @dcfireems to keep people aware of how many pedestrians and cyclists had been victims of incidents involving vehicles in the city for over a year. Without the information that Piringer supplied, our service has withered on the vine.
Walls told DCist, "I'd rather be slow and right than fast and wrong," and, "Social media is for parties. We ain't givin' parties." Instead of a sneering, derisive taunt, Walls should be able to see, as a communications professional, the value of actually "communicating" with citizens.
In response to objections, the Mayor promised on September 22 that @dcfireems would not be "filtered" or "silenced." This temporarily assuaged frazzled nerves, but the goodwill was short-lived. The @dcfireems feed has not mentioned a single struck pedestrian or cyclist since August 29. While it would be wonderful if no such crashes have occurred since then, we already know that's sadly not the case.
Since September 22, @dcfireems has tweeted more about the fire chief's weight and pictures of the mayor with McGruff the Crime Dog than the information it was known for prior to September 1. That's a shame. A valuable service is gone.
Meanwhile, Piringer has been moved to work for the Office of the Secretary of the District of Columbia, where he will work on publicizing things like ceremonial documents.
Because Pete Piringer was busting his butt, he got busted down a notch (contrary to what Lon Walls would like to have us believe). Instead of other agencies stepping up their game to try to match his, we instead get the lowest common denominator. It's depressing to think that might be official policy from the executive branch.
Members of the Gray administration have essentially declared that those who perform above and beyond the call of duty will be punished for their hard work. If Mayor Gray himself does not see this for the "buck stops here" situation that this is, we can only assume he condones such thinking. If I were an ambitious employee looking to make my name as a civil servant, I certainly would look somewhere besides the District of Columbia to ply my trade.
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