I’ve scribed before on how magnificent Twitter can be on a personal level and how good it is for mass communication. When used badly, it is dull, overwhelming, and a bit pants. When used well, it is informative, entertaining, and empowering.
We can all follow celebs and trends on twitter. Find out what Britney Spears, Mischa Barton, Elijah Wood, William Shatner, or Yoko Ono have to say. Though I wouldn’t recommend Yoko. Two words. Space. Cadet. There are also some interesting people to follow though.
If you’re not a Heat magazine aficionado and celebrity culture isn’t your thing, there’s a swelling number of organisations on twitter. Sports teams, charities, news agencies, political parties, tv shows, trade unions, and even Tesco. Whatever your interest, you’ll find it on there somewhere.
In the fallout of the Iran ‘election’, Twitter gave an oppressed people a voice. A way to communicate with the outside world. And with each other. Iranians organised protests, and avoided bloodshed, using Twitter. When an earthquake devastated Haiti, Twitter users spread information faster than mainstream news agencies. Messages from people in Haiti got to families. Word got out. Afterwards, charities like the DEC appeal or Red Cross used Twitter to launch fundraising appeals. No need for expensive tv ads when millions are reached through a campaign of tweets. Wyclef Jean appealed for help on Twitter and went on to raise a million dollars. I think it’s probably safe to say that lives were saved and are still being saved in Haiti because of twitter.
Those are all great things. Lives saved, people helped, democratic principles defended. But what I love more than that, is the things a couple of people start in a pub over a beer, or a kitchen over some toast, that bloom from there. Real people doing real stuff. As a political geek activist and lover of the Labour movement, there are lots of things that come to mind. The rapid rebuttal of Tory campaign posters by Clifford Singer, the hilarious blog the week videos from Conor Pope, or the more serious discussions from Sunder Katwala all spring to mind immediately. But my current favourite is actually a simple, old-fashioned, bit of mobilisation. Manchester Young Labour’s Kev Peel and the inimitable Grace Fletcher-Hackwood (worth following whether for the travesties of her bus journeys or the joys of her cake consumption) had a stroke of genius, a flash of inspiration, or possibly a cake-induced hallucination. I’m not sure which, but it led to the start of “mobmonday“.
Mobmonday is essentially a way of mobilizing Labour members to use the party’s brilliant virtual phone bank to canvass voters in prearranged constituencies. Instead of trying to organise loads of supporters to get on buses and visit constituencies, or even get them all to a Labour party phonebank, mobmonday uses twitter to help activists use the virtual phone bank from their homes, coffee shops, gyms, offices, or bus stops. They can call a marginal constituency, sometimes with very few activists, and make a real impact in just a couple of hours. I’ve used the virtual phone bank on my own before, and it gets quite boring and repetitive and that makes it hard to motivate yourself to make calls. But through the magic of twitter, I sit in an empty room making my calls and feel like I’m really part of something. Sharing stories of voters, funny comments, give and receive instant feedback, and importantly, don’t get bitten by any dogs. Over the last 2 months, mobmonday has called in 9 key seats and made over 3000 contacts, which is fantastic. And it’s growing every week. If you’re a Labour member, have access to a phone and computer, ask me how to get involved!
It’s great to know that even in the 21st century, there’s still a lot of power in a mob.