The Intelligence is in the Network, Social Media and Local Public Life Gathering in Boston Thursday

    by Steven Clift
    March 18, 2009

    Join me this Thursday evening at Harvard’s Berkman Center for a discussion of Social Media and Local Public Life. It should be an interesting conversation, particularly if you bring examples with you.

    On a related note, I am getting ready to speak on Saturday at the Newout.Org conference in Boston which is described as:

    _NEWSOUT: What to do when the newsroom lights go out:
    _In the last 18 months, some 15,000 U.S. working journalist have lost their jobs through retirement, buyouts or layoffs. New England newsrooms have not been immune.
    _If independent, watchdog journalism is critical to participatory democracy, then what should communities do when the lights dim — to use a metaphor — at news organizations? Who will watch the school board? Check public records before planning, zoning and conservation boards? Champion those in need? Connect the dots on critical regional issues?
    I am tasked to speak about: The Intersection of E-Democracy and E-Journalism: How can the Internet support local and state government? (I am replacing “government” with “governance and citizen engagement.”


    To freshen up my case studies, I did what everyone one should do – ask a few thousand people to do your work for you. :-)

    The examples below again confirm that the intelligence in in the network.

    My query:


    Looking for …

    1. The best local or state government example of providing online access to public meetings – webcasts, decision-making documents (before the meeting), unexpected hand outs, real-time public questions, personalized meeting notifications, etc.

    2. A community that uses a unique Twitter #hashtag to discussion/react to public meetings in real-time – particularly useful for those watching on television or webcasts. Sort of like what happened with the Minnesota Senate recount: http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23mnrecount

    3. Local/state versions of http://www.usaspending.gov

    4. Local sites with local government salaries online (I’ve seen state-focused sites put up by the media) – government direct or media hosted.

    5. Anything like a U.S. local version of http://FixMyStreet.com or smaller town versions of http://everyblock.com – Also, state and local sites like http://OpenCongress.org or http://GovTrack.us that local or state government databases to providing interesting tools to the public.

    6. Online news sites that have become the primary interface for webcasts of local public meetings, meeting schedules, source materials, etc. A public cable access service that does this would also be of interest.

    7. Any government accountability/anti-corruption sites modeled after http://english.seoul.go.kr/gover/initiatives/inti_open_system.htm in other places.

    8. A government or media website that provides personalized real-time “what’s new” alerts on public documents – Like Google News Alerts, but digging into the depth of decision-making/legislative information.

    9. Any local government that has decided to or has past an ordinance requiring that all public meetings be recorded (and perhaps now record them digitally and at least post audio for on-demand access).

    And the network response from:

    Now to work many of these examples into my slides. (Speaking of slides, a new collection of Local Citizen Media examples are available in an on-demand webinar.)

    Steven Clift


    2 responses to “The Intelligence is in the Network, Social Media and Local Public Life Gathering in Boston Thursday”

    1. Ellen Hume says:

      Steve, although I will be away and thus can’t be part of your wonderful Boston confab this week, here are some thoughts about some of your questions:
      1, 3 and 4: We had a visit last week from Chris Hoenig of stateofthe usa.org, a project still in development that aims to aggregate 300 indicators of how the USA is doing–economics, health, demographics, etc.–to provide the public with a one-stop place to determine the “state of the union” for themselves. It received favorable comments from both professional journalists and MIT folks during their visit.
      5. I see you already have comments about seeclickfix.com which won a prize and a lot of kudos at WeMedia for their tool, which alas is not open source.
      6. I believe Newton and Cambridge in Massachusetts both have city govt coverage by their cable access channels.

    2. Hasheem says:

      I like the idea of making big political issues public and open to discussion in some kind of real time forum that’s very unique. It would be great to have that kind of information available in a blog discussion format. So very often you miss out on relevant information and you never hear about it again. This would be a great way to stay abreast and informed of all the latest happenings. I’m also really feeling the public access news channel with online news feeds that would be awesome.Perhaps I could record all the really relevant news updates on my DVR at home for review at a later time.

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