Tweet it! The cops!

New frontiers in social networking and law enforcement.

Milwaukee's department is one of a growing number of police and fire agencies turning to social networking Web sites such as Twitter, which lets users send text-message "tweets" to a mass audience in 140 characters or less. The tweets can be read on the Web or on mobile phones within seconds.

Some departments use Twitter to alert people to traffic disruptions, to explain why police are in a certain neighborhood or to offer crime prevention tips. Others encourage leads on more pressing matters: bomb scares, wildfires, school lockdowns and evacuations.


One risk of Twitter is that anyone can go on the site and claim to be the cops. In March, the Texas attorney general's office shut down a phony Twitter account called "Austin PD," which had about 450 followers and used the official city seal.

The culprit has not been arrested, so his or her intent is not yet known. Mainly the tweets were in a joking vein, such as "Warming up my radar gun for SXSW," a reference to Austin's South By Southwest music conference.

But the potential for more dangerous misinformation worries Craig Mitnick, founder of Nixle LLC, which offers what it calls a secure "municipal wire" that public agencies can use instead of Twitter to broadcast updates.

Web sites like Twitter or Facebook are "meant for social purposes and not for trusted information," Mitnick said. "It's a bombshell waiting to explode."

[Milwaukee police spokeswoman Anne E.] Schwartz pointed out that anyone concerned about the validity of the Milwaukee police posts on Twitter can call the department, and she said most of its posts direct readers back to the police Web site as well.

I could be wrong, but I think the fake "Austin PD" example will turn out to be an exception. Twitter is sufficiently easy to use that I think most law enforcement agencies will adopt it sooner rather than later. Plus, how hard is it really to verify that a given account is legit? If nothing else, I'd expect that any new law enforcement-related Twitter sighting will get checked out via traditional media, many of whom have enthusiastically jumped on the Twitter bandwagon or by crowdsourcing pretty quickly. I seriously doubt that any copycat attempts will be nearly as successful as "Austin PD" was. There may be value in a product like Nixle - I'm not familiar with it, so I can't offer a judgment of it - but I think calling Twitter and Facebook a potential bombshell for law enforcement is a serious overbid.

04/26/09 | permalink | comments [0]

Texas lawmakers on Twitter

Elise Hu has compiled a list of elected officials in Austin who use Twitter, for those of you who are into such things. It's a shorter list than I would have expected, but I'll bet it grows before the legislative session is over. A few locals I can add to the list:
Houston Mayor Bill White
City Controller and Mayoral candidate Annise Parker
Roy Morales, HCDE Trustee and candidate for Mayor
Maverick Welsh, running for District H
Ed Gonzalez, running for District H
Galveston District Judge Susan Criss
Julian Castro, candidate for Mayor in San Antonio

I'm sure there are others - feel free to chime in with names in the comments - but those are ones I'm following. And if you obsess about celebrities instead of politicians, Twitter has you covered there as well.

03/04/09 | permalink | comments [1]

Non-profit social media

Ever wonder if your favorite Houston non-profit does social media? The Commit for Life blog rounds up the various social media sites for the local orgs. Check it out, and tell them who they might have missed. (My contribution to the Who They Missed list: The Children's Museum on Twitter.)

01/16/09 | permalink | comments [0]

And may all your Christmases be white

Not gonna happen here in Houston, but no matter. Merry Christmas to all anyway. Thanks to Mark Evanier for the link.

12/25/08 | permalink | comments [0]

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night

How "Twas The Night Before Christmas" should be read:

Like the title says, happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

12/24/08 | permalink | comments [0]

As always, Merry Christmas, Mel Torme

It's time again for a link to my favorite Christmas story, involving Mel Torme and his classic tune "The Christmas Song". Whether you've read it before or not, go read it now. It's always worth the time. Merry Christmas, Mel Torme, wherever you are.

12/24/08 | permalink | comments [0]

Keep Houston Rich

In case you haven't come across it yet, Keep Houston Rich is a blog about our fair city's diversity. From its About page:

Houston is a city rich in spirit and, thanks to the oil industry, home to plenty of millionaires. But that is not all that makes our city rich.

Houstonians are a diverse group and some of the nicest people on the planet. Who better to demonstrate the city's rich diversity than its own citizens!

I don't know where he finds them, but the posts are all video clips, some from recent Houston history and some from present day events. Some of them bring back amazing memories, like the one about Hakeem Olajuwon blocking John Starks' shot to win Game 6 of the 1994 NBA Finals - go here, scroll to the bottom of the page, and remember what fun that all was. Scroll around the site for more cool stuff like that - you could easily waste an afternoon over there. And isn't that what the Internet is all about?

12/03/08 | permalink | comments [2]

The Twitterati

I may be a Twitter user, but I would not claim to be a member of The Twitterati. But that's okay, because you don't need to be to use it. The Chron story is a pretty amusing piece of fluff about Twitter and its local addicts, but it left me scratching my head about one thing: How can the Chron, of all things, write such a story without ever once mentioning Dwight? Turns out, he was featured in the bonus photo feature, so all is well with the universe. If you haven't succumbed to Twitter's charms, I really can't explain it to you - use it and you'll (probably) get it, that's all I can say. You can even get SciGuy's updates there now. Just be aware that it can be a massive time suck, and adjust accordingly. Happy tweeting!

08/05/08 | permalink | comments [0]

Things Younger Than McCain

Not exactly a single-serving site, but sort of one in spirit: Things Younger Than John McCain. Like, for instance, the Golden Gate Bridge. And Cheerios, and the shopping cart, and the concept of an area code, get the idea. Honesty compels me to report, however, that Abe Vigoda is not among them.

05/19/08 | permalink | comments [0]

"When Obama Wins"

When Obama Wins fortune cookies really win end with "in bed". Among other things. Remember that post on single-serving sites? When Obama Wins is your new bicycle. That is all.

05/18/08 | permalink | comments [0]

Diet Coke and Mentos: The sequel

05/17/08 | permalink | comments [0]

Single-serving sites

04/28/08 | permalink | comments [0]

The Stupid Filter

12/16/07 | permalink | comments [1]

Death of Facebook predicted: Film at 11

12/03/07 | permalink | comments [1]

Facebook and Plaxo spam

11/12/07 | permalink | comments [1]

Those four little letters

06/27/07 | permalink | comments [0]

"She maketh me to drive down concrete pastures"

04/20/07 | permalink | comments [1]

Suffering Sappho!

04/18/07 | permalink | comments [1]

Bad baby names

04/07/07 | permalink | comments [2]