Civic Innovations

Technology, Government Innovation, and Open Data

Twitter, Facebook, Geotagging and 311

Several weeks back, I wrote a quick post about the new locational functionality being rolled out in Twitter. Now that this new functionality is being supported by more and more Twitter clients, I think its time for an object lesson in how Twitter’s new locational feature (and soon Facebook’s) can be used to engage citizens to submit 311 service requests.

Consider the following Tweet (sent using TweetDeck for iPhone):

311 Service Request Tweet

Here is the data behind this Tweet in XML format, courtesy of the Twitter API:

Does this Tweet contain enough information to start a 311 Service request (and by “start” I mean via some application logic that automatically parses 311 tweets and requires no human intervention)?

It has a hashtag describing the nature of the request (#pothole), a URL to a picture of the offending pothole (admittedly a pretty wimpy one) and it also has the lat/long of the location where I took the picture. All together, it took me about 15-20 seconds to take the photo, geotag the Tweet and compose the message.

The Twitter API provides some background information on me, in the event that the government handling this kind of a service request wants or needs it. If there was really a need for more, it wouldn’t be all that hard to build a Twitter BOT to interact with the person Tweeting the service request and get any additional information that was required.

One of the primary benefits for governments from deploying a 311 API, or working with companies like CitySourced or SeeClickFix is that it can help engage (and empower) citizens to report service requests. If it’s quick, easy and convenient to report 311 requests, people will do it and they are more likely to be satisfied with the experience (something that doesn’t always happen when citizens interact with government).

The new locational feature of Twitter (and soon of Facebook) will provide governments with a very effective way of empowering citizens to report 311 service requests.

It will be interesting to see how many of the them leverage this as part of their 311 services.

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About Me

I am the former Chief Data Officer for the City of Philadelphia. I also served as Director of Government Relations at Code for America, and as Director of the State of Delaware’s Government Information Center. For about six years, I served in the General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Services (TTS), and helped pioneer their work with state and local governments. I also led platform evangelism efforts for TTS’ cloud platform, which supports over 30 critical federal agency systems.

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