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Hashtags for D&D work

Susanna Haas Lyons started an interesting thread on the NCDD listserv tonight on hashtags for dialogue and deliberation.  Hashtags (or tags) help people find content on particular topics or events on social media sites like Twitter.  We’ve used tags like “ncdd” or “ncddaustin” at our events, so attendees (and non-attendees) can follow each other’s tweets.

Twitter ImageSusanna observed that it would be great to have a hashtag we could all use, so we can track each other’s contributions and discussions.

There’s a new tag called #demopart (for democratic participation) gaining some steam on Twitter.  Some others include #PublicEngmt #citizen20 #edem #gov20 #opengov.  Tim Bonnemann has a nice post on his blog about various tags being used by participation folks, and I especially appreciate his combined search query.

I’m more of a Facebook and LinkedIn user myself, but you can follow NCDD’s tweets at twitter.com/ncdd if you’re interested (our blog headlines are posted automagically).  We also have an NCDD “list” on twitter that you can follow — it allows you, in one swoop, to follow the tweets of over 200 NCDD members.

I’ll close by asking Susanna’s question:  Any thoughts about the right hashtag for our work? Should we go with one of the above? Another one?

Sandy Heierbacher on FacebookSandy Heierbacher on LinkedinSandy Heierbacher on Twitter
Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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  1. I bookmarked the combined search query that Tim included in his December blog post and regularly refer back to it when tweeting for AmericaSpeaks. I use it not necessarily as a feed of tweets to digest, but rather as a reference for what kind of content is getting pinned to which hashtags.

    The combined search query makes it really clear that there's a lot of overlap between open gov folks, gov 2.0 folks, and citizen engagement folks on Twitter. That said, it seems like the former two communities tend to be a stronger and better connected–possibly because citizen engagement has so many forms and hasn't been embraced by a tech crowd as much as open gov/gov 2.0 have. When tweeting about citizen engagement news, I often put an open gov/gov 2.0 spin on it and use the #opengov or #gov20 hashtags to get the attention of robust tweeters who are fully invested in those worlds. Admittedly, this might get people thinking citizen engagement as a fringe movement of open gov and gov 2.0 advocacy–which it isn't.

    I think it would definitely be useful for many deliberative democracy practitioners to start using a tag like #demopart when contributing to our ongoing exploration of citizen engagement. It's always great to be on the same page, or at least to have a page in common that we can turn to. Plus, open gov folks, gov 2.0 folks, and interested bystanders tend to be pretty interested in citizen engagement as part of the solution to broken governance structures, and it can't hurt to show that lots of contributors in the DD field are on the same page.

  2. Thanks, Mary. Glad you found my post useful. Following you now.

  3. This is a very valuable comment, Mary! Thank you for contributing this. I perception is that at this point, the vast majority of tweets coming from people in our field don't include hashtags consistently. Would you agree? You're looking at this stuff more carefully than I have been.

    This could really be a good time to encourage people to use #demopart , as my sense is that most people in our field are still figuring out how best to use tools like twitter and might be open to suggestion.

    I'll add #demopart to the end of the NCDD tweets that come from our main blog and Resource Center. But maybe I could ask you to let me know if #demopart goes out of favor, Mary, so I can remove/change that automatic hash tag?

  4. I found your page on tweets useful, too, Tim. I am having trouble even understanding how to use both twitter and facebook. Using your search phrase filled my screen with tweets that I wandered around in with some interest. I'm not sure how I would use it myself. I also have trouble even understanding most of the tweets. I suppose it takes some time.

    I was fascinated by the fact that there seem to be tweets coming from folks one might never hear from, like people working on the recovery.gov site (I think). The other interesting thing is to just follow the links that show up in the tweets. It is kind of a "stumble" sort of experience, discovering this web site and that.

    If it doesn't carry a lot of content, it seems to give a vague sense of what is going on in certain oddball places.

    I'm not sure exactly how I would use it. I'm intrigued by some real time communication during events we are involved in, though I can't imagine switching from managing a public event to communicating about it on my computer. I presume lots of people use their cell phones for this, but I still haven't mastered sending text messages, both because I have trouble even seeing my keypad without reading glasses and because text message would add $20 to my already ridiculous cell phone bill.

    The process of exploring twitter and facebook has filled me in on the strange and amazing impact these phenomena are having on society. It is kind of decision making by the numbers with little content or reflection. I have always thought that the problem with web 2.0 is that it is driven by programmers and people who have the resources to hire programmers, namely investors, politicians, and advocacy groups. In addition to that there is an element in the open source community that donates a lot of time (though a lot of this is paid for, too). In the end it is what techies think is useful guided by where the hoards are moving on facebook and twitter, as well as other places. It mostly ends up following the advertising dollar.

    The web services APIs are interesting, intriguing and fascinating, but it still takes quite a bit of expertise to utilize these in novel ways, i.e. in ways for which someone else has not already crated a gateway.

    –Kenoli

  5. Forgot to mention… people are also using the #ncdd hashtag (especially when they reference something on our blog or website). I encourage people to keep using that one! 🙂

    Kenoli – have you forayed into LinkedIn yet? Though it's billed as a job-hunting site, it's a wonderful place to have professional discussions and meet new colleagues. The NCDD LinkedIn group (http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=990997&trk=hb_side_g) has had some in-depth discussions I think you'd be impressed with. Most recently, one on best practices for facilitating virtual meetings was summarized by one of our group members. That summary is posted at https://ncdd.org/rc/item/5086

    I see LinkedIn as a great place for professional connections and reputation-building. Facebook is wonderful for keeping personal connections going, but since everyone's using it I also find it a great place for quick professional updates (news from NCDD, alerts about articles, etc.). If the topic is timely/interesting enough, you can get some discussion going there, but it's rarely in depth.

    I'm still making sense of twitter myself. My mind doesn't work properly when I'm scanning tweets on dozens of different topics.

  6. Using a hashtag can be a good way to get the attention of people who are following searches for that particular hashtag. I think that a lot of tweeters in the deliberative democracy field tend to use #opengov and #gov20 more consistently than any DD hashtag because the audience is there for the former two, but not the latter. Maybe if we make commitments to use a DD hashtag when appropriate and also follow tweets generated with that hashtag, we can call more attention to the field and also create a more robust DD community on Twitter.

    In terms of an automatic hashtag, I think it's safe to say that people will pay more attention to a hashtag if it isn't automatically included in tweets linked to a blog or RSS feed. I find hashtags valuable if people specifically add them to certain tweets to spark conversation or add to an ongoing conversation…sort of a custom touch.

  7. Kenoli, thanks for your questions about how to best use these tools for our own information and as contributions to our public engagement work. I think social media is so new that we have to experiment, reflect, question, experiment and play…

    For my own use, I find using a social media management tool like Hootsuite,, Seesmic, or TweetDeck makes all the difference, as I can follow specific hashtags (topics) or lists of people in a way that is quite manageable.

    For use of Twitter as a public engagement tool, there's a chance to have a conversation before, during and after engagement 'events' in order to connect Twitter oriented participants to each other. It can be a feedback tool, an outreach tool, a summarizing tool, an advocacy tool, etc…

    All this said, and I'm sure there's plenty of agreement in this venue, we need to continuously frame online tools as complements, not replacements, to face to face methods.

  8. Thanks for the feedback. I'm not going to be a complete curmudgeon. I'll try to try it out.

    On the curmudgeon side, I have concerns about the fact that these sites are influencing huge number of people, especially youth and wonder what the impact will be. I suspect, at a minimum, a shortening of attention span (though I'm sure other things did this long ago).

    I would be interested in an exploration of what we would like to see in the way of web software. What would be our goals and what kind of software would serve those goals. Suppose we could tell our techie friends what we wanted. What would it be?

    –Kenoli

  9. PS — I'm checking out Linkedln. I had no idea discussions went on there. I thought it was just a site that pestered you to keep going there to respond to requests to link up to make "business" connections. And I always think the second "i" is an "l" and that it sounds like linked-lin.

    –Kenoli

    • heierbacher says:

      Oh yeah – LinkedIn has great discussions going on! You just need to find the groups that interest you and join them; that's where the discussions are happening. NCDD's group is great, and for you I'd also suggest the Professional Facilitators Network (http://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=60314), which is hopping. And knowing your interests, you may want to join the Open Space and World Cafe groups as well.

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