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Applying The Crowd Mentality to Tweeting Your Congressman – Plus Your Weekend Reads

If a tree falls in the forest and no one notices does it make a sound? The same same concept is true in the Twitterverse. If you tweet your Congressman and they don’t notice, does your tweet even make a difference?

David Moore is the Executive Director of the Non-Profit Participatory Politics Foundation. Moore and his team have created a new tool, AskThem, that allows tweets to gain popularity in order to get politicians attention.

Moore told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that this new tool creates an amazing opportunity for citizens to connect and showcase their needs to their political leaders in a new way.

“AskThem is a non-profit organization and our mission is to increase civic engagement. We do that by building free websites that are open to everyone that encourage civic engagement and make government more transparent,” said Moore.

Tell us about the tool

“It is called AskThem.io. It is a free question and answer platform with every US elected official and anyone who has a verified twitter account,” said Moore.

How does it work?

  • The White House has a petition platform called We The People. The site allows for anyone to start a petition and it gets voted up and at a certain threshold the White House is committed to respond.
  • This is the basic model for our question and answer platform. We have profile pages for over 142,000 US elected officials, that covers everyone in Congress and everyone in state government, all the way down to counties and city level municipal governments.
  • Anyone can ask a question. Questions get circulated like online petitions. When the questions reach a certain threshold we deliver the questions to the elected officials for an official response. Anyone can be targeted with a question. Many elected officials have already joined us to respond to popular questions from their constituents.
  • Anyone can start a question if they have a verified twitter account. We hope that this tool will surface ideas that has broad popular support from a more distributed community. We also hope the tool will allow elected officials to stay in better and continual communication with their constituents.

How do you keep the questions from getting silly?

“With a huge platform like this we always anticipate there will be a huge diversity of causes and issues. It is a sure thing, that during major events like the State of the Union that questions will be relevant to what is on the agenda and what is being brought up. We integrate official government data on our website to make sure our users can ask good questions in context of the people that represent them. But with our platform we are also encouraging a more casual and continual communication online. We do expect that there will be amusing questions or questions that are just about getting to know the people in government better. We hope that some of those get answered and shared in social media to build that public trust in government and increase civic engagement,” said Moore.

Have elected officials signed on?

“As of the launch there are 66 elected officials nationwide at various levels of government who have signed on to just agree to respond to popular questions about once a month. But we also have pages for every elected officials. For these 66 we have an informal agreement in place, anyone can join, there is no cost and no contract. Our data is open. We are a non-profit platform and especially our code is open so this is a free and open sourced platform,” said Moore.

What is the threshold?

“The threshold varies based on the jurisdiction of the elected official in question. So Senators require more signatures than a city council member. We are aiming to be continually adjusting the signature threshold based on what we are hearing from elected officials and their staffs and second what the actual site analytics are. We are going to look at how this just launched platform is used and probably continually raise the threshold to make sure we get to a good level of communications with public officials and their staff. We are aiming for a ballpark of 0.1% of a jurisdiction’s population. So for an average congressional district that is roughly 760,000 people that will come down to about 760 signatures,” said Moore.

Weekend reads

We know weekend time is precious, so we try to pull some stories throughout the week that are worth your time… and may just plant a seed for new ideas…

  • Strategy+Business magazine: How to Break the Cycle of CIO Turnover: Companies benefit from strong IT leaders. The trick is developing and retaining them. For CEOs, the selection and retention of a skilled CIO has never been as critical as it is now.

  • Government Technology: Social Media Changes Emergency Operations, Adds Immediacy: The explosion of social media has fundamentally changed the way emergency management officials approach their jobs. No longer do they have to hold news conferences and wait for the traditional media to spread their message. They send information out immediately on Twitter and Facebook and post it on their own websites. Of course, they still ask the media for help in explaining situations and reaching the less plugged-in residents. And in South Carolina, one of the best places to cut through all of the social media chatter and find information compiled in an easy-to-understand format is at www.thestate.com. But the big difference for emergency officials is they no longer wait to put out an update every four hours like they once did. “For us from a crisis communications and an emergency alert standpoint, it’s been the biggest game changer since the telephone, even more so than the Internet,” said Derrec Becker, spokesman for the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, said of social media. “We’re communicating directly not only with the media … but also with citizens at home.

  • Harvard Business Review: How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To: Can you imagine how much less guilt, stress, and frustration you would feel if you could somehow just make yourself do the things you don’t want to do when you are actually supposed to do them? Not to mention how much happier and more effective you would be?

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