in Twitter, Wandsworth

Is it worth Tweeting council meetings?

Last night I Tweeted from Wandsworth’s council tax setting meeting. You can see the Tweets in my last post. As with anything in life, it’s worth a little bit of reflection.

Why I did it
It seemed a worthy experiment, but beyond that I can’t give any really good reasons. I’d seen a few examples of it happening elsewhere, but hadn’t seen any examples that I thought had ‘worked’; none had members of the public had responded or engaged during the meeting, and they seemed one way.  Obviously I don’t know how much interaction took place via direct message or after the event.  I’m sure someone can point me to an example where it did work.

How it went – Engagement
Was it successful ‘engagement’? Did people actually read it? I think the answer is yes. There were at least 4 Wandsworth residents reading and Tweeting during the meeting, and at least one afterwards. It’s obviously impossible to tell how many others read but did not Tweet about it.

Admittedly 4 is not a huge number, but it’s also 4 more than you usually get in the public gallery at a meeting. The argument I would make is that anything that increases involvement and engagement is a good thing. I rather suspect that, overall, far more residents will read those Tweets than will read the council’s minutes.

But do people really want to be involved in the formal decision making processes of the council. This is where I have doubts, last night perhaps had a certain novelty value – but given that hardly anyone bothers with the public gallery isn’t that a message that residents look for their engagement elsewhere, perhaps where they can interact and have their say rather than just listening to councillors?

How it went – doing it
It was much harder work than I expected. There is, clearly, a skill to summarising in 140 characters, giving a flavour of the meeting but not overloading followers with unnecessary Tweets. Perhaps I don’t have that skill, because it took effort to keep the Tweets up to date, respond to incoming Tweets and follow the discussions.

I was speaking in the debate on the council’s response to the recession and decided not to Tweet so I could concentrate on what was being said and plan what I was going to say in response. The consequence was that the most interesting discussion of the evening went untwittered.

Will I do it again?
Probably not. I don’t expect huge waves of disappointment, it was an interesting experiment but not one I’m planning on repeating.

My view would change if there were other councillors, even from the other side, to share the load, but as (currently) the council’s lone Twitterer it is quite a burden. It definitely does change your view and approach to the meeting and leaves you a little detached while you analyse and think of Tweets and that was something I didn’t enjoy.

Additionally, I suspect I might have breached the council’s standing orders by Tweeting during the meeting!

As always, I’m interested in your thoughts, you can always comment below, contact me or even follow me on Twitter.

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