There have been a lot of references recently to the use of Twitter by law enforcement and community crime watch groups. I thought it might be helpful, especially if you haven’t heard of us before, to describe what Nation of Neighbors is and how it works, in relation to Twitter.
Twitter facilitates the exchange of short message between users based on user level subscriptions. You elect to ‘follow’ certain users and can receive an update when users you are following add new messages. You can also view a chronological list of messages from users that you are following and there mechanisms for replying and rebroadcasting other users messages to your own list of followers.
Nation of Neighbors broadcasts messages based on geographical location. You are automatically networked to other users who are in your local community and to any participating local law enforcement agencies.
Let’s look at how a scenario might play out with both Twitter and Nation of Neighbors.
You arrive home and find your house was broken into. After you call the police you:
* post the crime on Twitter. Your followers (subscribers) find out about the crime and may retweet it if they happen to live in the same locality as you.
* report the crime on Nation of Neighbors. The information, including the approximate location is sent immediately to your actual neighbors and law enforcement who can submit tips or feedback.
A few more differences:
Twitter allows you to send text and links – adding content to Nation of Neighbors is more like Facebook in that you can add images, links, files, events…
Maintaining a local community network via Twitter requires that each participant follow every other participant. While it’s possible, it’s hard to maintain. Nation of Neighbors provides the community level network automatically while still allowing community managers to control access to their network.
Anyone can create a Twitter account. Only verified law enforcement agencies can create an agency account on Nation of Neighbors.
I’ll add some more examples to this list later this week. In the meantime, here’s a recent excerpt mentioning both Nation of Neighbors and Twitter with regard to crime.
While social networking plays only a small role in national security, community safety could be enormously improved by expanding resident reporting systems, like WatchJeffersonCounty.net [editor's note: now Nation of Neighbors], which collects reports of unusual behaviors. These reports provide important clues for civic officials to prevent crimes, control teenage gangs, or simply fix potholes. A huge success, now run by the U.S. Dept of Justice, is the Amber Alert reporting system for abducted children. Beyond the 430 cases they claim to have helped solve, the awareness generated among 7 million participants may have prevented many more abductions. Websites for reporting extreme weather effects, such as Storm Watchers typically run by local radio/TV stations, are being joined by reporting schemes for earthquake damage, influenza outbreaks, food poisoning, and other community problems. The micro-blogging tool, Twitter, is now rapidly spreading, as users from Orange County firefighters to Mumbai police post their 140-character messages about where they are and what they are doing.
A National Initiative for Social Participation
Science 13 March 2009: 1426-1427