A Government (state of Idaho) reaction to use of Twitter
May 8, 2009 at 1:35 pm #71646
Have cross posted in the government 2.0 group
Rally held after state bans man from using Twitter
BOISE – A small but vocal group rallied to support a man who is on professional probation – and caught in a controversy over a social networking account.
The State of Idaho says Wyatt Werner was using his Twitter account at work – and now he’s on professional probation.
“I was given probation and they have blocked my access to Twitter and probably a lot of other blogs, I really haven’t tested,” Werner said.
A group rallied in support of Werner Wednesday night at the Modern Hotel. He has been placed on probation for six months – the state says the punishment is for “excessive social networking on state time.” During that period, he will not be able to access Twitter or other social networks.
The state says Werner was using the social network too much – but he says they don’t understand how it works.
Werener’s use of Twitter turned up during an investigation into an unrelated Twitter account — @butchotter – which the state Department of Administration started looking into late last month. The parody site tweaked Otter with a variety of messages over the span of more than a month.
An anonymous e-mail was sent to governor’s spokesperson Jon Hanian and the Tax Commission. The e-mail claimed that someone in the Tax Commission office was the creator of the @butchotter account.
When Werner was confronted – he says he had nothing to do with it, but did admit to using Twitter at work, though he maintains it was only during work breaks.
“I was never involved (I.e., posting, loggin in, etc) with the @butchotter account,” Werner said by e-mail. “I bantered with the old @butchotter some, but that’s no big deal. I’ve bantered with @guykawasaki and @mchammer, but that doesn’t mean I’m a rapping, entrepreneurial guru!”
After eliminating Werner as the source of the account, the investigation continued and led the state Department of Administration to contact Twitter to complain about the site — which is a violation of the site’s terms of service.
Twitter shut down the parody account and the governor’s office started up a page in its place.
Prominent local Twitter user Chris Blanchard says Otter’s office could have handled the parody better.
“The smarter thing for the governor to do would be to log on and create a new account,” he said. “Imagine if he would have engaged with the parody he would have been seen as a hero rather than a goat.”
“This may come as a shock to these guys, but we actually have more important things to do all day,” he said. “We have been preoccupied with the 2009 legislature trying to get this thing wrapped up and these guys out of town.”
One thing Werner and the governor’s office agree on is the value of Twitter.
“It’s a really good tool to stay connected with people in your profession,” Werner said.
“We see it as a tool in communicating with constituents and feel it’s a good opportunity for him,” Otter’s spokesperson Jon Hanian said.
Hanian says the difference between Werner’s use and the governor’s use is the content of the messages.
“If you ask taxpayers if they are comfortable paying a guy on salary to Twitter and social network while they are paying his salary, I would bet a lot would have a problem with that.”
The Attorney General’s Office says it identified the owner of the faux @butchotter account as an Albion resident.
“He had locked down the governor’s name,” Hanian said. “We were looking at, and have been talking about creating our own Twitter account, but he had the Butch Otter name. The governor should be able to use his own God-given name.”
Those at the Wednesday rally compare the original @butchotter to parodies of famous politicans like those on Saturday Night Live. Hanian said the governor’s office doesn’t disagree.
“There’s this notion that Werner and company are advancing that the governor was so bent out of shape over this that he sicked his attorney general on him. That’s not what happened. No one is debating anyone’s right to parody or criticize,” he said. “This is the governor’s office, it goes with the territory. I reject the notion that the governor is thin skinned or can’t take a joke.”
Hanian says that, for now, the governor isn’t posting directly to Twitter himself — but says he is giving input to office staff on what to tweet.
Since the shutdown of the original parody, two new ones have sprung up, continuing to poke at the state’s highest elected official.
May 8, 2009 at 1:52 pm #71650
I was at a forum this week where some Federal agency people said that all of the social media is barred from their computers. As a Supervisor I agree there is always risk of employees goofing off on the job. Our job as supervisors is to make sure our staff have enough work to keep them busy and hold them accountable. In my experience, you take away one opportunity to not to their work, a poor employee just finds another because they don’t want to do their work. I do understand that sometimes the restrictions are security based, which is different all together.
If my employees are doing their job and tweeting on their breaks, I’m a happy person. Most of the current literature says that a happy employee is a productive employee yet government continues to give us ugly cubicles to work in and hold us prisoners during the work day. Companies that inspire and benefit from innovation and creativity don’t have their staff working in sterile cubicles.
May 8, 2009 at 9:44 pm #71648
Good response, Nancy. Gov is going to have to adapt to new working styles and provide productive, meaningful and flexible working environments or it is not going to replenish its workforce as the economy improves and retirements spike.
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