Friday, July 24, 2009

NH police on twitter - One month later...

Last month, several news outlets, including the Union Leader, WMUR,  Seacoast Online and others reported about a few cases of local police departments using twitter as a way to keep folks updated on local happenings.  I read the story with interest because it seemed like a good application for twitter.  Well, it's been about a month since those stories broke, so I thought I'd post a quick follow up.

First I have to confess a bias - IMO, twitter has become way over-hyped.   Lots of people are creating twitter feeds in cases where the technology is clearly not a good match.   Let's face it, using twitter involves tradeoffs.  Not all of us can condense our thoughts down to just 140 characters.  Twitter is really a niche application that does a great job with a certain type of communication - Real-time point-to-multipoint and multipoint-to-multipoint messaging where access to a web browser is limited.  That's it.   If your message doesn't need to be read by its intended targets within an hour or two, and if the senders and the receivers of messages are likely to have ready access to an Internet connected computer, twitter probably isn't the right technology for the job.

That said, local police departments' use of twitter seemed like a good match for the technology.  Both the senders of the messages, as well as the receivers might not have computer access and time is certainly of the essence.

Last month, I signed up to the RSS feed for the EppingNHPolice twitter account.  Receiving tweets through RSS in a news reader is pretty handy.   Part of twitter's power is that it can be accessed by whatever means is most convenient.  Just because you can use your cell phone doesn't mean you have to.  Since my online world is centered around Google Reader, that's how I subscribed to the EppingNHPolice feed.

It takes just a couple of mouse clicks to subscribe, even without a twitter account.  BTW, if you haven't heard of Google Reader, or RSS Readers in general, you might like to try one out.  I now subscribe by RSS to just about everything I read on the Internet.  And not just blogs,  I also use Google Reader to keep track of which online newspaper articles I've read.  (I usually click through in the reader to read the article on the newspaper site so they still get the ad revenue)

After a month of following the EppingNHPolice twitter feed, IMO, they've really hit a home run.  I don't know anything about how they're structured, or who the driving force is behind the tweets, but if you follow the feed for any length of time, you can't help but notice that they're using the technology to the fullest.  Below, I've posted a summary of the tweets from the last day or two.   Over the last month they seem to average 5-10 tweets a day.  That seems to me like a reasonable number considering everything.

The GreenlandPolice have started using twitter as well.  They also seem to be doing a good job with it, although their tweets are pretty sparse compared to Epping.  Greenland does a tweet every day or two compared to Epping's 5-10 tweets a day.  Maybe Epping is just a lot more happening than Greenland :)

Disclaimer - I'm not a resident of either Greenland or Epping, although I do drive through both towns from time to time.

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