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Notes About Canadian Political Twitter

posted by @cka_politwit on Oct 22, 2010

These are some notes I wrote a year ago for some radio interviews I did about Politwitter & tweeting MPs.

Why you felt it was important to create a centralized political twitter for Canadians

I figured that many people wouldn’t want to follow others of different partisan leanings but were still interested in what they had to say.

So having a site that aggregates all political tweets and filters by partisan affiliation is useful to those people that want to read and interact but not necessarily become a “follower”.

The other main reason is to create a directory of all the MPs, MLAs and other notable political tweeters. So it’s easy for people to find their local MP.

The site also has a directory of political hashtags making it easy for people to learn the meaning of the often cryptic acronyms.  Since the site launched in April, 2009 I have defiantly noticed an increase in hashtag usage among the Canadian political twittersphere.

And once everything is all in one place, one can start to compile interesting statistics and trends.


What exactly does PoliTwitter do?

Politwitter fetches tweets using Twitters API using 4 methods.

  • tweets from a list of MPs and other notable people like party staffers and media
  • tweets from political hashtags that the sites follows
  • tweets directed to an MP
  • tweets that match other internal keywords
  • Politwitter then saves these tweets in an internal database because Tweets on the Twitter usually only last a couple weeks, so this creates an archive of MPs tweets.

When someone visits politwitter the tweets are usually loaded from this internal database, making the loading fast. Twitter can often be very slow or go down completely because of this setup, politwitter still loads even if twitter goes down.

The other main function of Politwitter is to encourage those MPs not on Twitter to join. The site allows users to search for their MP or riding then send emails and tweets encouraging them to join.

The goal of Politwitter has evolved is to be the "go to" place for all news & social media related to your federal & provincial elected representatives. Politwitter tracks an MPs social media activity, bringing in their Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Facebook, blogs, news, hansard & more all under one roof.


What were your goals for users when you created the site?

Along with all the passive functionality I wanted to make the site a fully functional Twitter application. So users can login and tweet, reply, retweet and post pictures directly from the site.

I also wanted to give lots of control to uses on how they can filter the political tweets.

And allow users to view politwitter on many platforms, the website, mobile phone version, widgets, Facebook app and RSS feeds.


The benefits to the public

  • Real-time update of tweets, very useful during elections and other active twitter events.
  • Archiving political tweets by MPs for public record
  • Statistics and trends compiled from the archive of tweets
  • Ability to see the hot topics of the day and week
  • MPs can engage Canadians in dialogue regarding issues of concern


How does Twitter make a politician more accountable to the public?

  • It encourages politicians to be in conversation with the public. It's difficult to avoid input when you're in a publicly available conversation with citizens
  • Provides direct communication with constituents
  • in between elections when it's harder to get media coverage (especially for backbenchers and oppositions MPs)  MPs can manage their own public narrative
  • Many people wouldn’t write a letter or call an MP but would feel comfortable Tweeting an MP.
  • People can be reassured that MPs are not so different than themselves by sharing personal stories
  • accessibility to a new audience that traditional media sources are not reaching
  • Adding a more personal touch to politics, could help to combat voter apathy
  • MPs like to promote local events in their community
  • Twitter updates are often the first source for news, before blogs, news media and TV. MPs or observers often tweet from their mobile phones.
  • As far as we know MPs who tweet are not put through any filter like the PMO. And tweets cannot be completely deleted.
  • Also provides some interesting statistics to see which MPs and which parties have the most followers and how that relates to polls and election results.
  • Social media means even the most powerful government messages can be challenged by a single individual



  • It can be too time-consuming to do properly, and still fulfill other responsibilities
  • Serious public policy cannot be discussed in 140 characters
  • Some politicians will only use it as a 1-way conversation to promote themselves, only posting news updates, events


Does the new age of communication truly make government more accessible to the public?

  • The division between government and citizens is breaking down.
  • There is a movement for openness taking shape in Canada and more so in the US.
  • MPs voting history on howdtheyvote.ca & openparliament.ca
  • Party financing and other stats at punditsguide.ca by “Alice Funke”
  • Viewing parliament and committee videos on parlvu

About Politwitter

Politwitter is a non-partisan service that brings together all the Canadian political twitter, making it easy to connect elected MPs & MLAs with the Canadian people.

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