By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Social media get results

Doug Haslam explains how a tweet about an icy sidewalk in Newton made its way to the Newton Tab’s Wicked Local site and then to the mayor’s office. The end result: no more icy sidewalk.

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A most unfortunate juxtaposition


Tomorrow’s corrections today


  1. If you want to avoid my social media gobbledygook, go to the WickedLocal Newton Blog at:

    Thanks Dan!

  2. Michael Pahre

    While the process used a series of social media technologies (five, according to Reibman’s account) in order to achieve the result of a plowed sidewalk, I think the real story here is not social media.

    Haslam reported calling city officials for 12 years and getting nowhere. Now, a few days after the inauguration of new Mayor Setti Warren and the arrival of his administration, Haslam gets a result.

    While it’s a hypothetical argument, IMHO he would have gotten an equally good result today with a phone call or email (with picture attached). The change in leadership and governing style are the real story.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Michael: What you’re saying is that social media won’t work unless someone is paying attention. Absolutely.

  3. Michael,

    There’s no question in my mind the new mayor was the big difference in the response. It makes it all the more interesting to me that the issue got raised via social media channels.

  4. Harrybosch

    David Carr reports another interesting Twitter anecdote in yesterday’s New York Times:

    “I was on a Virgin America cross-country flight, and used its wireless connection to tweet about the fact that the guy next to me seemed to be the leader of a cult involving Axe body spray. A half-hour later, a steward approached me and said he wondered if I would be more comfortable with a seat in the bulkhead . . . @VirginAmerica . . . sent me a message afterward saying perhaps it should develop a screening process for Axe. It was creepy and comforting all at once.”

  5. Ernie Boch, III

    Nice story showing us the the new newton mayor is not doing such a great job.

    And, btw, if this guy was so concerned about the sidewalk why didn’t he call the mayors office directly rather then the message in the bottle method he used. It would have taken less then a minute.

    To me, this story also shows how technology has made some people afraid of one on one communication.

    Poor Ruth Balzar. She has worked her butt off for that city and the far left for so many years. She has a record. Yet the selfish, obtuse, celebrity minded, self-re-assuring, Newron liberals with zero loyalty went with the brand new untested hip new guy.

  6. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    Give me a break.

    Social media my backside.

    Had the tweeter or twoofer or whatever it is you call them, ever contacted his alderman about this/

    Irrespective of the means of contact, getting something done in a city is a function of contacting the right people.

    Methinks a phone call, with the usual threats to Alert The Media, would have had the same results.

  7. Amused– yes, I had been in contact with my Alderman over this issue for the past several years. I put up the picture as a way of telling people I knew, not knowing the city would see it and actually do something this time. There were other things going on behind the scenes, set in motion by actions of Alderman Scott Lennon and phone calls by many residents, such as myself, over the years- combined with a new administration that has apparently found a way to fix whatever problem prevented the walks being plowed in the first place.

    Alert the media?

    1) Twitter (blogs, FLickr, Posterous etc) is a medium, and many people, apparently including Mayor Warren’s office, pay attention. (They pay more attention when the postings aren’t anonymous, by the way).
    2) One of the people who read my Tweet (yes it’s a silly word but we’re stuck with it) was the publisher of the Tab. Even by the decaying old-school definitions, that’s definitely “media.”

    None of this happens in a vacuum, even if you are giving it your backside (the issue, not the vacuum).

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