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StarBulletin.com

Twitter a pol tool, means for twaddle


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POSTED: Monday, April 27, 2009

Kymberly Pine informed the World Wide Web she was “;getting a manicure and pedicure,”; “;heading for Easter Mass”; and asking “;why the finance committee is taking so long to vote.”;

Another state legislator, Gil Keith-Agaran, admitted on the Internet in a “;tweet”; that he had a plane to catch and was “;feeling guilty”; about skipping out of a House Finance Committee hearing.

Local politicians have discovered Twitter and are filling the Internet with their thoughts, both profound and inane, through so-called tweets.

Now thanks to Twitter.com, the free Internet social networking site, anyone is able to spout off in 140-character messages delivered to anyone who signs up to get them.

Politicians here and across the country have seized upon Twitter as a new way to get their messages out, find new supporters and build a network.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie recently announced his run for Hawaii governor on Twitter, a move that was unusual enough to be mentioned by newspapers and wire services across the country. Since then it has become almost the expected way to herald a run for office. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom broke the news of his run for California governor last week on Twitter.

The news media, including this newspaper, give news alerts and brief story summaries on Twitter. And thousands of people with extra time on their hands are answering the question that appears at the top of the Twitter Web site: “;What are you doing?”;

Keith-Agaran (D, Kahului-Paia) has posted some of the more free-spirited accounts, noting during a House floor debate: “;The Kalihi rep is pandering to the cameras. The cool kids don't like that (unless they did it first).”;

Georgette Deemer, the House Democrats' communications director, quickly adopted Twitter to keep the public up to date on legislation. Deemer attends hearings and files almost moment-by-moment accounts of the action or nonaction.

“;Each conferee has HUGE binder w/yellow (agree) and white (disagree) sheets. About equal, but more yellow sheets than white. Yay,”; Deemer said in a Twitter broadcast last week from the conference committee on the state budget.

“;My whole thing is trying to humanize the Legislature and get people to get a more personal connection to what is happening here,”; Deemer explained.

So far it appears to be working, as Deemer has collected more than 700 “;followers”; who receive her messages.

How you get those followers has become something of a political controversy for the Twitter crowd because Mayor Mufi Hannemann was able to collect 80,000 followers for his ruminations.

Critics said it was impossible for Hannemann to amass that many followers, especially since most of them were not even from Hawaii, without some sort of special Internet program to gather them.

City spokesman Bill Brennan said Hannemann did not hire anyone or buy any special program. Instead, he said, the city is testing out Twitter to use as a way to quickly communicate with residents and visitors.

“;Several federal, state and local municipalities are doing likewise,”; Brennan said.