Last Wednesday, a tweet was sent from @rdsahl:
Gov Patrick: WashPost blog floats your name for HHS. Are you in the mix? Would you take if offered. Thanks.
Fortunately, staff in the Governor’s Office was watching Twitter. They not only look for tweet “replies” directly to @MassGovernor, but also use Twitter Search‘s RSS feature and so were able to find this reference to the Governor. In just about an hour, @MassGovernor replied:
@rdsahl As the Governor has said countless times, he is staying put and running for re-election. – Kyle Sullivan, Press Secretary
This quote was in Friday’s Boston Globe (p. B2) and the story was also picked up by Associated Press. There was bit of a flurry in the Twitterverse and blogosphere because @rdsahl is NECN reporter R.D. Sahl and he was using Twitter to do his job. Yay, social media!
But there are a few issues that this case raises:
1. The debate over bloggers versus traditional journalism is somewhat pointless. It’s not a question of one or the other, it’s how the two spheres can complement each other to improve the quality of information available to people.
2. Twitter has no mechanism for verifying identity – you are who you say you are – and there is no published formal process for challenging people making false or misleading identity claims. What if @DevalPatrick (an account that is used to point to a website critical of Gov. Patrick) had responded to @rdsahl instead of @MassGovernor? Would he have know that it was not the Governor? Without some form of identity verification, the authenticity of information found on Twitter is suspect.
3. Finally, this highlights two reasons for monitoring Twitter. The first is to be sure incorrect information is not being spread. The second is to increase opportunities for volunteering useful and correct information in a forum where many people can see your individual responses. It is an indication of your competence and commitment to service.