UK Indymedia and Twitter
Since Indymedia started over a decade ago, the web has undergone major changes, with many more people and campaigns using their own blogs and sites. Corporate sites such as facebook and twitter have also become players in the exchange of information. Recent convictions of Facebook users have shown that using corporate sites can mean an increased risk for users, and whilst twitter has been more assertive about challenging police requests for user information, it remains another database which the state can potentially mine for information, for example the recent court request to Twitter for Occupy users IP addresses in the US. At Indymedia UK we still strive to find ways of getting out information about actions and campaigns to as wide an audience as possible, whilst bearing in mind the need to maintain anonymity and to reduce the risks to our users. We are currently reviewing our twitter strategy with a view to expanding the user base and getting information out to as wide an audience as posssible.
How it currently works
Tweets go out at twitter.com/ukindymedia via indy.im/ukindymedia via the RSS feeds for newswire and feature articles, this is an automated process. Indy.im is a status.net instance, status.net is a open free software application which implements the OStatus standard for distributed micro blogging and also acts as an anonymising bridge to twitter. The advantage of the current set-up is that it doesn't need any additional work by Indymedia admins but the drawback is that it's not always that interesting following bots on Twitter -- you can't interact.and hidden articles are tweeted as well. This bot account works best for those those who are interested in keeping track of everything that is posted to the site, but some users may feel that it provides way more information than they need.
The automatic tweets are constructed from the Author and Title fields of newswire articles and one or two of the topics ticked, this means that you can put Twitter @usernames and #hashtags in these fields to direct the resulting tweet at a twitter user, or to identify the author or groups twitter account and to enable the post to be found via a hash tag search.
Over the years several UK Indymedia Twitter accounts have been set up, for example imcuk and indymediauk, however none of these accounts are run by any admins currently involved in the UK Indymedia site, and these accounts have many followers while the more recent 'official' IMC uk admin collectve?) twitter.com/ukindymedia account has some catching up to do.
How we plan to use it
Often with things like this it's easier (and more fun) to give something different a try by doing it rather than by working out a plan in advance, so we are suggesting that we try the following approach and see how it goes and then draw lessons from this and as needs be distill these into guidelines and the like. So these are our ideas...
We plan to create a seperate account for the bot, this could also Tweet comments (if users would find this useful) as well as articles and the main twitter account could be used exclusively by UK Indymedia admins to retweet bot posts, retweet other peoples tweets and to post far better tweets about articles on the site -- eg quoting a key part of an article in a tweet is generally going to be better than one automatically generated. We envisage that it could also be used to promote breaking news, and to highlight important articles from other sources.. Such an account would provide less information more reliably, in the same way that the promoted newswire does now.
This would involve a new role for UK Indymedia admins and should we would therefore need to develop some guidelines to go with the responsibility. Ideally we want the guidelines to enable us to meet the needs of as many users as possible, and we invite site users to make suggestions via the comments on this thread or via email to the features list., so that we can try to incorporate them.