Gov 2.0, News, Public Participation

Third Thursdays SF with TransportationCamp

Friends of OpenSF packed into mid-Market’s Mavelous last night, kicking off discussion and networking around transit-oriented innovation, tech, good government and healthy cities. The event was Third Thursdays SF, a monthly tech and civics meetup organized by OpenSF, CityCampSF, GovFresh and Gov 2.0 Radio (my “networked government” Web radio show).

City workers, local developers and progressive activists were greeted by Frank Hebbert from OpenPlans, who opened the night with a short film by Streetfilms recapping the TransportationCamp unconference held in New York earlier this month. TransportationCamp is in SF this weekend at Public Works.

More photos of March’s Third Thursdays event here.


Open Data Improves Lives

In case you missed it on Sunday, the New York Times had a great article on the importance of government-published open data and its benefits to business and community. The article, by Richard H. Thaler of the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, singled out the pioneering efforts of San Francisco’s government and developers:

For some years, Bay Area transit systems had been tracking the locations of their trains and buses via onboard GPS. Then someone got the bright idea to post that information in real time. Thus the delightful app Routesy was born. Install it on a smartphone and the app can tell you that your bus is stuck in traffic and will be 10 minutes late — or it can help you realize that you are standing on the wrong street, dummy. It gives consumers a great new way to find out when and where the bus is coming, and all at minimal government expense.

Find the full Times article here, and check out DataSF for more good bits. 


The Subtle Art of Hashtagging

One of the more difficult things to learn on Twitter is effective use of hashtags (check out this ReadWriteWeb article on the birth of the Twitter hashtag). Hashtags on Twitter today create hyperlinks for searches of tagged term, such as #sf, #sfgov, and #opensf. Clicking the tagged tweet leads to searches for #sf, #sfgov, and #opensf, while people searching for SF, sfgov and opensf will find the tagged terms and those same terms without tags.

Hashtags are frequently overused, used needlessly, and added to all proper nouns in a Twitter message, rendering them nearly unreadable. Conversely, they are often not used when they would be helpful for expanding the reach of a tweet or adding additional context.

The important thing to consider is using tags is the search result desired. In the picture above, a search for “OpenSF” turns up three successive posts, two to a blog link from OpenSF, another a tweet I sent using the hashtagged “#opensf.” A search for “#opensf” would turn up the tagged tweet alone. Because the tweets to the blog post include the name of the blog, there is no need to use the tag #opensf in the tweet. However, adding #opengov and #gov20 at the end of the tweet means it now ends up in searches for “opengov” or “gov20” and in the results when people click those tags in others’ tweets. 

In the same way, I often use the #gov20 tag at the end of a tweet that includes “Gov 2.0,” so that the post comes up in searches for both “gov20” and “Gov 2.0”.

In posts from the San Francisco City Attorney Twitter account, I often tag tweets with #sf at the end, so that even if I’ve included “San Francisco” or “S.F.” in the tweet, they turn up in searches for “SF.” However, there is little reason to tag SF within a sentence, as it turns up in “SF” searches without a tag. In fact, by tagging a noun in the middle of a sentence, I undermine the tweet’s message, either by making it more difficult to read, or by giving my reader a hyperlink to click that takes them away from my message before finishing it. If I want the tweet to turn up in searches for “SFand when people click the “#sf” in others’ tweets, I’ll add the tag to the end of the tweet.

Another important consideration in using hashtags to customize a search for an event or issue advocacy (such as our use of #opensf to share news relevant to this blog’s community) is to ensure that the tag is not already in use. Avoid tags that are already in wide and consistent use for other topics.

If you’re looking to integrate your tweet into searches for a broad topic, research which tags are most popular and where you would get the most impact. This is why I use #SF and not #sfo for City Attorney tweets. While some regions use airport codes as unifying tags, here, SF is the dominant term, while “#SFO” is mostly automated job postings and airport check-ins from Foursquare.

Finally, consider that when you tag a tweet, you’re piping it into search, and if you’re repeating a tweet, you might not need to tag it. The #gov20 and #opengov tags are pretty popular these days, some I often omit the tags in RTs to keep the search stream from getting more cluttered.

Any questions or comments about using hashtags? Have additional hashtag resources or tips and tricks that would be helpful to the OpenSF community? Let us know!

Gov 2.0, News, Open Data, Open Source, Public Participation

OpenSF Relaunch; ‘Third Thursdays SF’

We’re excited about a fresh new look for OpenSF, a team blog dedicated to innovation, collaboration and transparency in San Francisco government. OpenSF was originally launched by Jay Nath, director of innovation in the City’s Department of Technology, and his team members were the primary contributors. For about a year, I’ve been writing regularly for OpenSF, highlighting social media projects by the City Attorney’s Office and sharing news from the San Francisco Gov 2.0 community and from other City departments.

Today, we’re got a great new look thanks to the volunteer efforts of GovFresh founder Luke Fretwell, we’ve got an OpenSF Twitter account, and were adding new contributers from the City family. OpenSF is an informal place to share about our projects and thoughts and to dialog with San Francisco residents and the global Gov 2.0, Open Government and Open Data communities.

We’re also excited to announce a new monthly networking event for anyone interested in topics of tech and good governance. Called ‘Third Thursdays,’ the meetup is also supported by CityCampSF, Gov 2.0 Radio and GovFresh. You can join Third Thursdays on Facebook here, and find out about the latest events. Also, click here to hear Jay and I discuss OpenSF, Third Thursday and more on Gov 2.0 Radio.

Thanks for reading, and welcome to the new OpenSF!

Photo: Brett Husbands of Firmstep at Daly’s Dive (Buck Tavern), the venue for Third Thursdays SF.

Gov 2.0, News, Open Data, Public Participation

Open Gov Summit Planning in SF

I headed over to Granicus’ SoMa offices last night to join in a local planning meeting for an SF Bay Area open government summit. Eight of us discussed a local event as part of a U.S.-wide series of municipal-level summits to organize around and promote themes of transparency, participation and collaboration in government.

In the spirited discussion, organizers discussed aims for the May event, such as:

  • Telling stories of why transparency, participation and collaboration matter for local government and community;
  • Highlight best practices from local governments;
  • Create greater awareness of the open government principles;
  • Foster better inter-governmental cooperation.

Based on the discussion around this summit, I suspect that CityCampSF, a loosely organized group that put on an unconference last October, will sharpen its focus to promote informal meetups around civic innovation and organization of volunteers and stakeholders around technical solutions for improving government engagement and efficiency.

One of the goals of OpenSF is to encourage more city workers to engage around Gov 2.0 principles of working directly with volunteers and community stakeholders to create agile solutions, and to increase two-way communication through social media.

Find our more about how to get involved in planning the opengov summit in the Bay Area, or in your community, at the OpenGov Playbook wiki.

Also, learn more about Gov 2.0 and the modern definition of Open Government on this collaborative Google document.

Adriel Hampton

Gov 2.0, News, Public Participation

On Twitter, Engagement Equals Influence for Gov’t Accounts

A new analysis of government Twitter accounts in San Francisco shows that the most interactive are also the most influential. Of the 35 accounts surveyed last week (excluding political accounts by elected officials and inactive accounts), 11 are graded either above 99 by TwitterGrader, or above 20 by Klout, two of the most trusted Twitter influence analytics services. These accounts in general have two things in common: a high level of replies to and mentions of other Twitter users, and, they follow a significant number of other accounts.

The only exceptions to this trend comes from two popular public safety accounts, those run by the SF Police Department and the Department of Emergency Management. Both follow only a small number of other official accounts, and do not interact with other Twitter members (broadcast messages only).

Of the remaining nine accounts, all actively engage with other Twitter members, and six include others’ user names in more than half of their tweets. Additionally, eight of the nine follow at least 10 percent as many Twitter users as follow them.

The most influential San Francisco government-related Twitter accounts are: BART, 311, Asian Art Museum, Golden Gate Park, Emergency Management, City Attorney, Environment, Arts, Water, Police, and technology innovations manager Jay Nath.

You can check out the full survey at

– Adriel Hampton

Gov 2.0, News, Public Participation

Lean Lessons for Local Gov

You might not think that local governments are primed to be hotbeds of innovation. Then again, you may not yet have heard of Manor, TX, a little town that’s repeatedly garnered attention from the White House for its innovative ways. And you may not have heard entrepreneur-turned-scholar Vivek Wadhwa give one of his frank talks about the demographics of startup founders: 40, educated but not Ivy League, experienced.
Kind of sounds like an average government employee.
And don’t expect to get sympathy from Wadhwa regarding the lack of monetary incentives (bonuses) for innovation in government. Wadhwa points out that fledgling entrepreneurs generally work outrageous hours for little or no pay, motivated more by a dream for a better world than the short chances of financial success.
Shouldn’t public servants have some of that same sort of motivation?
Wadhwa spoke to more than 50 San Francisco employees Monday in the first of the Department of Technology’s “Innovation @ Work” lunchtime talks. Most of the attendees heard about the event through an e-mail to anyone who participated in a recent electronic suggestion box exercise on fixing the City’s budget woes.
Joining Wadhwa was Eric Ries, startup vetran and adviser, who advocates the “lean” model of getting a good idea off the ground, where the unit of progress is in lessons learned about meeting customer needs.
“Stop building stuff nobody wants,” Ries said. He also put the burden of successful innovation in government on the shoulders of managers. “Entrepreneurship is management,” he said.
Whether veteran public IT managers went back to their offices today with dreams of remaking their legacy systems in the lean model or not, Ries, a San Francisco resident, and Wadhwa stressed that the group was unusual in that San Francisco is embracing the need for critical change.
The US is in serious trouble,” Wadhwa said. “While we were sleeping, the world changed. … If you started to rebuild your systems, you would become the innovator.”
Postscript: I heard a bit of tittering when Vivek Wadhwa asked how many of us were tweeting from the event (I know of two). Why Twitter? Direct communication with the speakers. Cross-continental thought pollination. Notes for this blog post.

Onward and upward.

~ Adriel Hampton