- Category: Social studies
- Published on Sunday, 05 August 2012 08:50
Mayor Watts recently wrapped up a series of town hall meetings with a live-streamed online meeting July 25.
Here's the City of Surrey's page "Talk Surrey with Mayor Watts". It sums up the process and links to the video of the event. Questions were submitted before and during the 1-hour broadcast during a Wednesday afternoon via email, Twitter (using the #askwatts hashtag) and Facebook.
Media love anything social media. The event made the front page of the Surrey Now. Their story "Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts catches live stream bug" compiled a few statistics:
"All told, she received 15 questions via email. Fourty-four questions were submitted via Twitter during the hour (noon to 1 p.m.) and by Facebook, 14 questions were submitted during the show, 12 before, and two after it was over."
You have to applaud the effort. Regular town hall meetings are a great way to allow citizens to feel involved and let off a little steam, but aren't particularly efficient. They can also be over run by obnoxious talkative people with agendas to push. Well, I guess you can't avoid that no matter the medium, but the online advantage is its accessibility. It's easy to send an email (or tweet) about something bugging you; it's hard to stand up in a room of people and try not to stutter your way into embarrassment. The asynchronous nature of the medium also gives time for organizers to collect similar questions or themes together.
Langley recently did something similar on April 4, 2012, but only on Twitter (no video), using #asklangley. Here's my (brief) coverage. The City of Langley Mayor, the Township of Langley Mayor and the MLA were all responding to questions live for half an hour.
A few weaknesses of the process:
- An hour is hardly enough to answer 85 (or so) questions. Presumably questions were redirected to City staff that could respond directly.
- I notice today (August 5) there hasn't been any tweets using #askwatts for a week (at least by this search). People do send questions directly to Mayor Watts' twitter account though, and presumably emails are also going through.
- And, minor detail, the video wouldn't work on my system because of whatever technology they're using. Standards would be nice. Of course, if I hadn't been using Linux or had the time to find the plug-in it wouldn't be an issue.
The City has plans to do more of these, at least twice a year.
People like that sense of connectedness. Why does it have to be set to a semi-annual or quarterly event? I can picture a weekly or monthly 15- or 30-minute video where Mayor Watts answers a question or two that comes through the various channels, perhaps with the Q and A posted as a regular feature on the City's website. The PR people would love it!
The tweeted questions
Here are the tweets that were sent using #askwatts, in reverse chronological order. You'll notice it's difficult to frame a good question that makes sense in 140 characters! Also, there seem to be more comments than questions.