The Treasury Board and its president, Minister Tony Clement, held a public consultation on open government data over Twitter yesterday afternoon. In fact, two sessions were held; one in French, one in English. I used Sysomos Heartbeat to perform analysis of the English session. If there’s enough interest, I will publish a similar analysis of the French event. Note that analysis is restricted to accounts which are profiled as being Canadian.

Traffic analysis

In all, 854 tweets were issued from 293 Twitter accounts as part of the consultation (average 2.91 tweets per participating Twitter account). A majority of the activity took place during the scheduled session with very little follow-up activity (or lead-in activity, really). Relevant traffic picked up substantially just prior to the scheduled start time and dropped off just as quickly once the session wrapped-up.

Retweets (the Amplifier Effect)

Retweets, what I often refer to as the amplifier effect, accounted for 55.5% (474 tweets) of all relevant traffic; 51.4% (439 tweets) began with RT meaning no fresh content was added to the front of those messages. There were 633 unique tweets, which means 25.9% (221 tweets) were exact duplicates, typically retweets of original content.

New accounts (anonymity?)

I heard a suggestion that some people created accounts specifically for this consultation — either to join Twitter to be able to participate or to mask their identity for the consultation. I identified 41 participating Twitter accounts with fewer than 20 followers, which I figured was a respectable measure of this group since they may have picked up a few followers during the consultation.

Male dominated conversation

Consistent with the rest of my analysis of digital-political engagement, participation skews male (71%). Note gender is determined based on accounts which disclose gender information or from which gender can be credibly determined by the disclosed name. Not everyone does that online. So, the results are based on a statistically relevant sample. The number of disclosing accounts is indicated in the graph.

Top 10 contributors

The 10 most active participants accounted for 35.7% (305 tweets) of the conversation:

  1. @SimonARoberts, 78
  2. @TBS_Canada, 33
  3. @Kady, 26
  4. @JKonga, 26
  5. @MOD_TBS_SCT, 23
  6. @Lyne_Robichaud, 23
  7. @Thornley, 21
  8. @zannalyons, 20
  9. @SCT_Canada, 17
  10. @RichardPietro, 15

Some thoughts

What does all this mean? Well, I know a lot of people are excited about the evolution of digital government and a public service engaged in social media activities. Based on what I know, I expected to see greater numbers of participation. I suppose one could defend the participation rate with the argument we’re in the middle of Christmas season and the consultation was held during rush hour (Eastern Time). Also, Twitter doesn’t lend itself to conversations steeped in nuance or requiring a more meaningful character count.

Like Your Interview with Prime Minister Harper, this was a noble first effort. Hopefully it was not done in isolation. Hopefully there is inertia building and we witness follow-up. And, hopefully the powers that be consider all tools/channels and online culture in planning future #opengovchat events.

More to come?

I’m going to go through the content and offer some thoughts. I just haven’t had the opportunity to dig into the 854 tweets in the last 21 hours. And, if there’s interest, I might do analysis of the French consultation.