Tuesday, July 21, 2009

JNS BLOG EDITORIAL: 311 System On Twitter? WHY NOT?

Photo By John Hoff. I totally told 311 about this building on the light rail line
five weeks ago but as of today it still looks like THIS.

Last night I was coming home by light rail and bus from Mall of America, dropping off my child to his mother after five weeks of summer visitation. The rain started to pour down heavily as I waited at a dark bus shelter. There was nothing else to do with myself, so I began sending tweets on Twitter.com.

By and by I noticed...

...graffiti on a lamp post and a trash can. I began to wish I could call 311 and report it, but it was too late at night for 311. Casually, I wished I could just send a tweet to 311. And then I realized...

Geez, that's a great idea! Why can't I twitter 311 and tell them something like, "Silver graffiti on green painted steel door, 510 Cedar Ave." I can already send 311 an email, so twittering is the next logical step between calling and emailing, isn't it?

There are certain advantages to Twitter which the other systems do not have: the tweets can be instantly shared with the wired world, which includes other folks who may care about the particular problem being reported and might jump in to add more information. (Or, in the alternative, they may realize there's no need to report the problem, now, since it has been reported)

I might also add that it would ALSO be a great idea if citizens could send text messages to 311. (In fact, I submitted this idea to 311 and they gave me reference number 275164) (I also told them 311 "frequent fliers" would be more motivated to dial 311 if we knew our "rankings," whether a particular citizen is the No. 1 caller to 311 or, say, third or fourth)

The more ways people have to contact 311 and get satisfying feedback from the system, the better. Sometimes, it's just more convenient to send a text than to call or email, like when you're on a noisy train and you just spotted graffiti at a train stop. The more ways there are to contact 311, the more likely citizens are to use the system.

So, standing there at the bus stop, feeling overwhelmingly alone without the companionship of my son, which I'd grown quite accustomed to, I sublimated whatever I was feeling into renewed energy for urban revitalization, something I do pretty frequently, and I "twittered" my little idea to the world. Within a few hours, my friend and fellow twitterer Connie Nompelis (No-buhl-iss, it's Greek) had forwarded that tweet to Mayor Rybak. (I'm still figuring out how to forward a tweet, but I'll get the hang of it in no time)

So let me reiterate my idea: Citizens being able to "tweet" 311?



veg*nation said...

please, please run for city council on the 3-1-1-tweet and anti-yellow pages platform!

Margaret said...

follow me, J-No, it would be great to compare notes occasionally in real time. @mplscrime

Johnny Northside said...

Veg*nation, this is not my season to run. I need to contribute to this city in a meaningful way for a few more years before I'd think of that.

In the meantime, I'll keep raising these issues and hope these issues get picked up as election issues.

Johnny Northside said...


Follow you on Twitter, you mean? What is your Twitter handle?

Ranty said...

Actually I re-tweeted it pretty directly after you... maybe you need a better phone if you're not seeing this stuff in -as they say- "real time."

BTW, the way to retweet is to type:

RT@[nameofperson] and then their copy/pasted tweet.

Similarly, if you want to direct a tweet to someone, you just put the @[nameofperson] and then write what you want.

Please note that all of your followers see these messages.

Johnny Northside said...

As I'm figuring out, Connie, as I'm figuring out.

Anonymous said...

Twitter is old news...try www.beaper.com

Ariah said...

as to the text messaging 311, you know you can send a text or picture message to an email address?

If you have free picture messaging you can send longer messages (up to 1000 characters I think) and include a picture of the incident. That's what I do.

Margaret said...

Yeah, follow me on twitter, mplscrime is my handle. I have been following you. If you follow me, I can DM you (direct message you).

Johnny Northside said...

Here's a great email I got from 311!

Hi John,

Thank you for your suggestion regarding be able to "text message" 311. I just wanted to let you know that we have this on our "to do" list.

We are also investigating what other "social media" avenues are emerging and what makes the most sense for Minneapolis 311 to be involved with.

Lastly, while I'm not sure who has reported the most service requests, we do know that we have residents who call on a very regular basis and
are staying on top of reporting the issues they come across in their neighborhood. Thank you for your great work in this area.

Thanks for using Minneapolis 311.


Don Stickney

Minneapolis 311 - Director

(612) 673-3117 Phone

(612) 673-5970 Fax