“The biking community is so strong that motorists sometimes feel discriminated against in Portland.”
— Finding from a report authored by White Horse Consulting
“Bikers are the single most active online group discussing Portland city government” — That’s one of the findings by White Horse Consulting, a company the City of Portland hired to analyze online conversations about City services. The “Social Media Conversation Audit” was done as part of an effort to update the City’s official website, PortlandOnline.com.
As reported in today’s Portland Mercury, the audit found that “blogs” are where all the action is when it comes to discussing city government.
White Horse analyzed 2,035 blog posts between May and October of 2009. They used a variety of tools to search websites, comments and social media forums via specific keywords (like “bureau,” “agency” and so on) and found that blogs make up 72% of online conversation about the City of Portland, compared to 16% for the mainstream media (another 12% went to the “other” category).
As for the quality of that conversation, the audit report states, “Some fringe opinions exist, but larger sources basically have mainstream opinions and civil dialogue.”
The report also ranked some of those “larger sources.” Below is their list of top blogs (based on volume of posts/comments related to City of Portland):
- 1. bikeportland.org
The audit also found that, “Bikers are the single most active online group discussing Portland city government.” Given these findings, White Horse came to some noteworthy conclusions:
- Bike policies are well-loved, and Portland’s reputation as a “biking city” is well established
- The biking community is so strong that motorists sometimes feel discriminated against in Portland.
- These conversations can provide insight into transportation issues/problems
What should the City of Portland do with this information? White Horse offered a few suggestions:
- Recommendation: Monitor these venues and factor comments into prioritization of planned road work/repairs
- Recommendation: Engage in these conversations to clarify the City’s position
I’m happy to see this report. Way back in November of 2005, the former bike and pedestrian coordinator for the Oregon Department of Transportation, Michael Ronkin, took heed of a bike safety issue I reported on. He acknowledged the issue, left a comment about it, and then fixed the problem less than a month later. It was a textbook example of the power of blogs and the opportunities they provide for attentive policymakers. (Thanks Michael!)
Hopefully this audit serves as another reminder to city staffers and elected officials that sites like ours are a valuable place to get feedback on projects and policies. I also hope it encourages more bureaucrats to step in and join us in the comments (you’d be surprised how many agencies forbid employees from doing so).
Read Rise of the Blogs in the Portland Mercury. Download the full report here (PDF).