Two Oxford University academics say there's potential in looking at Google searches and Wikipedia pageview trends for predicting the outcomes of elections. In a December paper, Taha Yasseri and Jonathan Bright, both of the Oxford Internet Institute, acknowledge that search activity suffers from the immediate problem of being opaque about the searcher's sentiments.
If an agency posts misinformation or information that's misinterpreted or subject to negative attention, it's best to acknowledge it, correct it and move on, said Nicole Stillwell, community and brand manager for the State Department's bureau of consular affairs office of policy coordination and public affairs new media.
On social media, such as Twitter, smartly using every precious character of the 140 allowed is an important part of getting one's message across, but so is establishing credibility. The General Services Administration reminds agencies that it has two tools that can help new media managers achieve both of these goals.
Twitter gave a lesson to government workers on how to work the social media website to its full advantage, including how to tweet breaking news and how lawmakers can affect policy change through the site. The social media platform issued detailed guidance, saying Twitter alerts provide vital information to the public during fast-moving situations and also gives the public insight into how government works.
The Internet is bolstering the views of majorities but may leave minorities vulnerable, said Zeynep Tufekci, an information science and sociology professor at the University of North Carolina, during a Brookings Institution event Nov. 25.
Late last month the Environmental Protection Agency experimented with a new social media tool designed to amplify a single message across social networks called Thunderclap. The tool is open to all agencies for use based on federal-friendly terms of service recently negotiated by the General Services Administration.
A Twitter account's number of followers does not tend to correlate strongly with the degree of public engagement, said Jed Sundwall, a consultant who helped develop the federal social media registry and the USA.gov social media presence.
An effort to structure government content under a "create once, publish everywhere" model will help agencies adapt, share and syndicate information, Lakshmi Grama of the National Cancer Institute said Nov. 7. Structured content can be plugged into different formats automatically, she explained.
The Centers for Disease Control can envision a future where it uses social media as a data source for the early tracking of emerging diseases, but it's not without obstacles. Nontraditional data sources are an increasing necessity caused by the great recent decline of public health staff at local governments, said Joanne Andreadis, senior advisor within the CDC Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. She spoke on a panel Oct. 28 during the annual ACT-IAC Executive Leadership Conference.
In the next few years, the Health Data Initiative plans to focus on publicizing its openly available data to ensure it's put to use. A strategy document dated Oct. 23 says the initiative, which the Health and Human Services Department launched in 2010, should make healthdata.gov more user-friendly and boost outreach to businesses and developers who can realize the data's potential.