Tons of Twitterers!

Twittering seems to be sweeping through both the world of political consultants and elected officials these days and is getting plenty of media attention. For those of you not familiar with Twitter, it is essentially a web service that allows you keep your friends and family up to date by providing a 140 character answer to the question: what are you doing? These answers are then uploaded to the central server and can be received on the web, via third party software (I prefer twhirl), and via cell phone. You can also update Twitter via those same methods. 

As I mentioned, although Twitter is often used to keep families in touch, politicians are using it to keep constituents and fans constantly up to date. Not all elected officials do their own twittering, but many are twittering live from meetings, even some behind closed doors: two Republican members of Congress sent over twenty “tweets” (as messages on twitter are known) from last week’s meeting with President Obama. However, not everyone is enthused about the innovation.

From Politico:

Andrew Rasiej, founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, a conference and website focused on the intersection of technology and politics, says it’s all for the good. He believes that “real-time constituent communications” soon will become “the norm rather than the exception” — a development that will lead to “more transparency and more citizen participation, hopefully resulting in a better democracy.”

Perhaps, but isn’t it rude to pay more attention to your handheld than to your colleagues?

Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert based in Palm Beach, Fla., and New York, thinks so. 

“When you’re sitting in the room with the president of the United States and you’re on Twitter, what are your priorities?” she said. “And I also think it is a bit disrespectful to the person you’re with.”

The article then goes on to talk about how a simple tweet, while taking 30 seconds or so to complete, might take five minutes of someone’s attention. Still, as with every technology, there is a balance to be had. Certainly you should not be tweeting non-stop when you are expected to be an active participant in a meeting, but when you are a passive observer or listening to a speaker that may be of importance to hundreds of people, then Twitter is the perfect technology. 

ABC News points out that the GOP is taking advantage of Twitter in the process of re-branding themselves as the party of small government and transparency:

 

Fifty members of Congress use the micro-blogging service Twitter to communicate with constituents, according to the Sunlight Foundation, a non-partisan watchdog group that advocates for greater transparency through technology.

One might think that the party of our BlackBerry-wielding, text-happy president would be the one to lead the way in this ever-expanding Twitter-verse.

But, in Congress, it appears that, according to Sunlight, Twittering Republicans outnumber their Democratic counterparts almost 2 to 1.

“It is ironic, but they’re in the process of rebranding themselves,” Thomas Whalen, a political historian at Boston University, told ABCNews.com, adding that Republicans partly attribute their loss in November to Barack Obama’s tech-savviness.

“Because they’re the party of the outs, it behooves them to open the government,” he said.

 

Be sure  to check out the rest of the article for some great quotes from Texas Congressman John Culberson about why the GOP is so readily embracing twitter. Twitter is the perfect tool for two reasons: One, to communicate with the youth demographic that so readily abandoned the party last fall. Two, Twitter helps underscore the movement towards the GOP being the party of transparency. 

I think Twittering has applications and should be embraced from the bottom up–any Board candidates or members interested in embracing Web 2.0?

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