In this installment of the new Daily Weekly feature "Taking Sides," Dan Person and Matt Driscoll spar over the virtues of SPD's new "Tweets-By-Beat" program.
Dan Person Thinks "Tweets-By-Beat" Is Set Up for Boredom
At first, my disinterest in the Seattle Police Department's Tweets-By-Beat program was equal part cynicism and Wallingford.
The cynicism arose from a journalism career that has taught me those in power - be they bureaucrats or business moguls - are whizzes at information control. Thus, when I read in The New York Times that the Twitter program was being done in the name of "transparency," I did a great impression of my dad and started arguing with the newsprint.
I mean, should I really expect our boys in blue to tweet out that they just assaulted a minority while using a racial slur?
That said, information is information, and we at the Daily Weekly couldn't be happier with the bang-up job the Seattle Police do with their blog. Even if there's a bit of PR in there, it's still fun/frightening/humbling to read the kind of situations officers have to deal with every day while we type on keyboards. I suspect the twitter feeds will be similar.
But that gets us to Wallingford, south of 45th Avenue and north of 40th, where the white-trimmed homes always are re-touched and the yards are botanical wonderlands. The most common police call on our block is for people parking too close to the fire hydrant. The patrons of Dick's Drive-in are the closest thing we have to a criminal element, their crime being littering and loitering. Frankly, that Twitter account is a set-up for boredom.
But I began to change my tune Wednesday night when my bus, the good ol' 26, came to a stop on 3rd Avenue and the flashes of emergency lights glinted off the plexiglass windows. We weren't moving, and I wanted to know why. So I humbled myself, got out my phone, and went to check out what tweets were on the beat. To which I saw this screen:
Holy mackerel! E=Edward, eh? And O=ocean? How about some information I really need, like where in the hell downtown is in this system.
Believe it or not, I wasn't able to track down where I was. Which made me realize a true flaw of the system, if a minor one: By partitioning out the feed to such small segments of the city, it will make it quite difficult for anyone to see the forest for the trees.
No matter. The bus got going after about 15 minutes, and off we went to quiet, quiet, Wallingford.
To read Matt Driscoll's retort, click to the next page.
Matt Driscoll Argues That Knowing Where People Are Pissing In Public Is Awesome
Look, I could sit here and tell you that the transparency and openness displayed by SPD's newly instituted "Tweets-By-Beat" program is a step in the right direction. I could reference they city's 20/20 program, of which Tweets-By-Beat is part of, and proclaim SPD is evolving toward a brighter, more community-connected tomorrow. I could even tell you it's helpful to the citizenry to have a (nearly) real-time look at crime in their neighborhood.
But I'm not going to do that. Not that I don't believe some of the above - I just think it pales in comparison to the real genius of Tweets-By-Beat.
And that genius, of course, is found in the striking new insights everyday Twitter users can now gain from the program.
Ever wondered how often someone is cited for public urination in your neighborhood? Ever wonder how often a drunk flashes their junk in public before being loaded into the paddy wagon?
Via Tweets-By-Beat, SPD has made this information easily accessible.
Take, for instance, a Tweet-By-Beat that showed up in my Twitter timeline mere moments before I sat down to write this:
Beat:B2, LEWD - (EXPOSING, FLASHING, URINATING IN PUB) at 14XX BLOCK OF NW 56TH ST reported on 10/4/2012 11:56 AM— SeattlePD Boy 2 (@SeattlePDB2) October 4, 2012
I respectfully ask you, Seattle: Is there any way we were better off before having information like this pumped straight into our smartphone?
The obvious answer is no.
Sure, the tweets may be robotic. And, sure, the eleventy-seventy individual Twitter accounts that make up the Tweets-By-Beat program may be cumbersome. And, sure, sure, the program may be far more geared toward the appearance of transparency than the actual definition of transparency.
But you can't argue with the facts.
And, fact is, knowing where people are pissing in public can only be a good thing.
I rest my case.