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The Mechanics
« Illinois, Like Basically Every Other State, Won't Fund Its Public Transit Mellow Yellow »

Springfield Fri May 01 2009

It's 10 AM: Do you know what your legislators are tweeting?

I'm new to Twitter.

Before recently, I'd always thought of myself as a Facebook sorta guy and never really "got" Twitter. That is, until I forgot to take a pen and paper on a reporting tour of the Chicagoland public transit system two weeks ago. Instead of ink, I "tweeted" everything through my iPhone.

Suddenly, people started to reply, "retweet" and tag me. Who would have thought the fuel economy of the CTA's buses would be so interesting? Or the fact that politicians dream of transforming Metra stations into community centers? (Kinda weird, that one is.)

A little late to the game, I realized a sliver of Twitter's potential. Twitter now has 12.1 million users--almost 7.5 percent of adult Internet users in the U.S.--and is projected to reach 18.1 million users in 2010.

There are still skeptics, and this week we found out nearly 60 percent of Twitter users stop using the service after the first month.

I can understand why. Who really has a desire to constantly update the world on their life using 140 characters or fewer? What kind of person needs to broadcast their day-to-day lives to millions of people they don't even know and will never meet?

I can think of one type of person who fits the Twitter bill perfectly: Politicians.

Want to communicate to that new, young, hip constituency? Use Twitter. Want to be followed by throngs of adoring fans (and watched closely by your political enemies)? Use Twitter. Want to have something to do in all those boring committee meetings? Use Twitter.

Here in Illinois, our tweeting politicians have a new reason to get on the Twitter bandwagon. My organization--the Illinois Policy Institute--launched a new site this week called TweetIllinois.org, where politicians can tweet away and be seen by Springfield-watchers and Tea Partiers alike.

TweetIllinois.org collects the tweets of registered legislators--there are around 15 legislators registered currently, including my own state rep Sara Feigenholtz @SaraFeigenholtz--and displays it in a feed-like system on the front page. It's inspired by TweetCongress.org. At a glance, you can see what's going on in legislators' minds when the General Assembly is in session, or take a peek at Rep. John Frichey's excitement at the Bulls game: "OT!! The building is going wild!!"

So if you want real accountability from your elected officials--and a glimpse into their sleeping habits--encourage them to join Twitter and register with TweetIllinois.org.

And if you're interested in this Chicago libertarian's perspective on the world follow me on Twitter. I'm @rlorenc.

 
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