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GovLoop Project of the Week – GovLuv

1. What is GovLuv?

GovLuv is a website that connects government representatives and citizens through Twitter. It illuminates the existing conversations and encourages a more productive two-way dialog. It is a project of Act.ly and the Open Forum Foundation, and is freely available as a public service.

2. How did the idea of GovLuv come about?

Jim Gilliam (@jgilliam) and I were working on a new communication platform for representatives, when he became excited about the potential of Twitter to enhance political communication (this grew out of his development of Act.ly). He got me excited about it and off we went!

3. Who is the brainchild behind GovLuv?

Well, there are actually three of us – Jim had the initial impetus and does all programming and development. Christiana Aretta (@storiented) came up with the name (no small feat in this market!) and is responsible for branding and design. And I work to ensure that GovLuv meets the needs of government as well as it does those of citizens.

4. What is the mission and purpose?

The mission of GovLuv is to harness the power of Twitter for political communication. We set out to enable members of Congress to use Twitter easily and effectively, and have ended up making something that can be just as useful at all levels of government in the United States. So that’s the first benchmark we need to meet – producing something that’s truly useful. Once we accomplish that, we can turn our attention to the rest of the world, opening it up so that this functionality is available everywhere.

5. How does GovLuv work?

Well, the easiest way to find out is to have a look at it: http://govluv.org/ – we’ve done our best to make it really simple and intuitive.

At its core, GovLuv provides a list of representatives on the left and a tweetstream down the middle. The tweetstream shows tweets that are both to and from the selected representative – everything that they’re saying, and everything that is being said to them or about them on Twitter. In addition, GovLuv provides two additional features:

1. Trending tags. At the top of the tweetstream, the 10 most commonly used hashtags are listed. You can instantly tell what most of the people are talking about.
2. Constituency. GovLuv tracks constituency of twitter accounts. This enables it to provide an accurate list of representatives, and to highlight the true currency that elected officials value – the ability to vote! This is done through a combination of methods, including the Twitter bio location, hashtag zipcodes in tweets (eg, #20009), and asking people who visit GovLuv to enter their address.

6. What can a person expect to do when visiting GovLuv?

GovLuv is designed to be easy:

* Learn about your representatives
o When you first visit the site, it will guess your location and give you a list of your representatives. You don’t even have to login.
o See how many constituents they have on Twitter.
o Read their tweetstream – everything they’re tweeting, and everything being tweeted to them and about them.
* Focus In
o Click on a Trending Tag to narrow the tweetstream to a specific area (or maybe get some context for that new hashtag that you haven’t seen before).
o Filter the tweetstream so that it only shows Official tweets or so that it only shows Official and Constituent tweets.
* Engage
o Tweet your representative – GovLuv knows their @name. And if they aren’t on Twitter, GovLuv will provide you with other means of contacting them.
o If you see an interesting tweet in the stream and want to reply or retweet it, of course you can do that too.

7. When did GovLuv officially launch?

Well, it should be in open public beta by the time this interview is published. We’re just putting the finishing touches on it right now.

8. What has the response been like?

The response to the idea has been great. We have a lot of people really excited and can’t wait to see how they use it. We’ll be paying attention and looking for feedback so we can make it even more useful.

9. Include anything else you’d like the audience to know.

GovLuv is sustained and improved by the donations of its users. If you would like to contribute your expertise, passion, or money to making it better, please visit the website.

Brief bios:

Act.ly is a suite of powerful activism tools designed to take full advantage of Twitter.

The Open Forum Foundation is a DC-based nonprofit with a long-term vision to enable legitimate and reliable communication between governments and their citizens. Since early 2008, we’ve been studying the complexities of constituent communications on the Hill and implementations of social media throughout government.

Jim Gilliam (@jgilliam) is co-founder of Act.ly and a well-respected internet veteran. Previously, he co-founded Brave New Films, was the CTO at Business.com, and worked at Lycos in the late 90’s. He is also responsible for http://whitehouse2.org/. Read more at http://jimgilliam.com/about/.

Christiana Aretta (@storiented) does design for websites, interfaces & brands. She also takes awesome photographs and writes a journal.

Wayne Moses Burke (@wmburke) is the founder and Executive Director of the Open Forum Foundation. His entrepreneurial experience includes work in engineering, international relations, and electoral reform. Learn more at http://linkedin.com/in/wmburke.

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Andrew Krzmarzick

This is really incredible. I just added Governor Perdue and searched for Reps. Miller and Price (two guys I know well) and they aren’t on Twitter. My new mission: to contact their staffers and get them signed up!

Meagen Ryan

Making a powerful tool that is also simple and intuitive is no small feat. Wayne and his team have put a great deal of thought into this, and it shows. I love being able to see all my elected representatives and the conversation around them in once place. Like Andy, I’m going to be contacting a few asking why they’re not on Twitter.

Great job to everyone at GovLuv!

Sam Allgood

Great site with some great features! Have you considered adding newly-elected officials awaiting inauguration? Even possibly candidates for office.