For those who are not so tech literate (which seems odd saying on an internet blog), one of the latest crazes in social media is something called “micro-blogging”. Instead of posting up longer, more “in-depth” posts that you see in conventional blogs, micro-blogging allows users to send brief text messages or other media like photos and audio clips and publish them to be viewed by anyone, or by a restricted group which can be chosen by the user. These messages can be submitted by a variety of means, including text messaging, instant messaging, email, MP3 or the web.
Many of the popular social media sites like facebook have their own micro-blogging feature which they call status updates. One of the fast risers in this trend is a service called Twitter. Twitter is a micro-blogging site that allows users to post updates of 140 characters. Users can “follow” other users, which means that you can read their updates on the web. You can also enable your cell-phone to to receive SMS text messages of these 140 character messages every time someone you are following posts.
This is where the cops come in. Many departments (Im working on mine) are starting to see the power of a service such as this. Imagine that everybody who works, plays, shops or just travels through your jurisdiction is “following” your departments Twitter feed and has their phones receiving your messages. As accidents, critical incidents and other events occur the department can send out alerts that are fast, widespread and better yet free. If a road is closed, the twitter message can inform the populace quicker than a press release. If we are looking for a subject that is on the loose, a BOLO (be on the look out) can be transmitted in real-time. Crime prevention tips can be disseminated, schools can be warned of possible “active shooter” events..the list of uses are limited only by the imagination. Some Universities are using Twitter to communicate with their student bodies to get warnings out fast in the event of another VT event.
The current drawback of this concept is Twitters notorious “downtime” problems, but as time marches on and services like this become more stable and powerful, the possibilities are very attractive.
If only “Twitter” was a more macho word though………