Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Shredded Tweet

The Mayor got all hot and bothered yesterday about councillors tweeting in the council chamber. She stopped the meeting several times to tell the miscreant off. The horror!

I know that she is only in the job thanks to the two-faced previous Mayor and not had the advantage of shadowing the Mayor for a year but perhaps to get her up to speed on procedures someone should have told her that it is perfectly legitimate for councillors to tweet during meetings to keep people in touch with what's happening in their name. As long as it remains council policy that meetings should be webcast and made accessible to all it is a perfectly reasonable thing for elected representatives to do.

Here's the crux of the matter for the technologically challenged Luddites in the Labour group. The council has an existing policy on webcasting.

Definition of webcasting: A webcast is a media file distributed over the Internet using streaming media technology to distribute a single content source to many simultaneous listeners/viewers. A webcast may either be distributed live or on demand. Essentially, webcasting is “broadcasting” over the Internet.

From twitter.com: "The Twitter Streaming API allows high-throughput near-realtime access to various subsets of public and protected Twitter data."

Facebook also has a streaming API, so for the purposes of existing council policy, tweeting and posting on Facebook are allowed by the previous motion.

Which makes me wonder how did Jon "Snitch" Hartley know that someone was tweeting before crying to mummy? He couldn't have been following the debate on Twitter because that would surely make him a hypocrite so I do hope he wasn't getting texts from his chums in the public gallery. You see, texting isn't streaming media and doesn't come under the amended Open Source motions provisions. Mind you, he's the councillor who took photographs during a council debate so a 'do as I say not what I do' attitude from him will be no surprise to anyone.

There's some social media guidance from the council but that's all it is guidance. I have no problem with the view of the Commons committee report that says it should be used "with decorum and regard for others". I don't think any posted last night fell outside that test unless you were a Labour activist looking for something to moan and bellyache about.

The only finding from the standards board of any relevance was about being disrespectful to members of the public. Well, I don't mind being found guilty of being disrespectful to Basher McKenzie. I was. However, to make out that he was some sensitive little flower hurt by the thought that only silver bullets could stop him was funny. Poor little diddums. However, to keep on side I'm happy to restrict tweeting to the debate in hand, I'll just lay off their stooges until after the meeting.

The bottom line is that informing the public about the conduct of debate via Twitter is absolutely covered by existing council policy, subject to the normal rules of councillor conduct.

Of course the real reason that Labour don't like tweeting is that is gives people the ability for the opposition to put over their points direct to the public in a contemporaneous fashion without a filter. Most residents have never been to the council chamber and have no idea what goes on in in their name and the nature of meetings is that column inches to cover the debate properly is limited to a few soundbites. So until meetings are routinely broadcast, it is the best way of showing the democratic process in operation.

In that respect, tweeting is being embraced by councils up and down the country, the Houses of Parliament and now the Courts are looking favourably on it as a way of communication during public sessions.

Labour's attempts to put the genie back in the bottle are as laughable as they are ludicrous.

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