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City-funded audit: Blogs and “bikers” rule the web

Posted by on January 21st, 2010 at 8:01 am

“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.

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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):

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).

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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DavidWe’re No. 11! We’re No. 11! « For those who can’t afford free speechGLVRequiemMatt Picio Recent comment authors
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thefuture
Guest
thefuture

#1!! Nice work Jonathan & BP!

timtim
Guest
timtim

I think part of the reason cyclists of all types talk so much about our community is because we care what happens within our community and how it effects our daily lives. Thanks Jonathan for keeping us up to date on so many things going on, and keep up the good work.

AaronF
Guest
AaronF

Let’s face it, cyclists care more because they are better people, with bigger souls.

Go cyclists!

Seag
Guest
Seag

Cyclists may be more involved because we face death by car if we aren’t?

Jackattak
Guest
Jackattak

Wow this is some impressive news, Jonathan. I believe a commendation is in order for everyone’s hard work at BikePortland.org and the guest contributors, and let’s not forget those of us advocates here on the comment threads. 🙂

Congratulations!!! Keep up the good fight, peeps.

9watts
Guest
9watts

You’ve created an incredible tool, voice, medium, community builder, and mirror for us to see ourselves in, Jonathan. Thank you.

jordan
Guest
jordan

That’s awesome. As an example recently the Parks department put out an online survey regarding trail improvements at Powell Butte. Of the respondents 66% were cyclists! Everyone keep up the good work.

GLV
Guest
GLV

“cyclists care more because they are better people, with bigger souls. ”

I really hope that was sarcasm.

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

The city deletes cyclist comments.

Censorship is quite active on the Portland City website. I had posted reasons to stop the 6-10 billion CRC brdige. They were soon deleted.

Here’s the google cached version:
http://preview.tinyurl.com/pdxonlinecensor

Here’s the deleted page, it’s the top result in this google search. Adams had posted 6 reasons to oppose the CRC.

http://preview.tinyurl.com/pdxonlinecensor2

Matt Davis
Guest
Matt Davis

Thanks for the hat tip Jon. This really is a fantastic achievement for Bikeportland.

BicycleDave
Guest
BicycleDave

Heard this on KPOJ this morning and before they announced who was on the list I wondered if bikeportland.org would make the top 10. Guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when they said you were the top spot. Congrats.

Joe
Guest
Joe

word! 🙂 thanks for all the hard work, great people ” out side the box “

Coldswim
Guest
Coldswim

Very good news indeed. bureau agency portland government biking good bureau agency bureau bureau bureau agency bureau more bike boulevards agency bureau.

q`Ztal
Guest
q`Ztal

Perhaps if auto drivers felt in fear of their health, safety or mortality then they might be a more vocal group.
As it is the “safety” of an auto is sited as one of the main reasons not to go by bike.
In my opinion THIS is why cyclist are more vocal.
Auto drivers have lulled themselves in to a false sense of safety ignoring the many 10’s of thousands that are killed each year by autos.
Somnambulant pilots of 2+ ton pieces of metal that we have to trust won’t hit us.
I am, a cyclist, supposed to be quiet?

Todd Boulanger
Guest

Congrats to Jonathan and Elly!

It speaks to the high quality of your product too.

Plus it helps that bicyclists traditionally have been one of the more active (easier to engage) alternative transportation groups historically vs. pedestrians and ‘straphangers’ (aka transit riders).

Joe Metal Cowboy Kurmaskie
Guest

Bike portland is an example of the best of new media models and deserves the recognition it’s getting- now back to work everyone.

Hart
Guest

It’s depressing that Oregonlive is even on that list.

Cornelius Swart
Guest

Hey great work guys. But.. the link to Portland Sentinel goes to the Oregon Live.. d’oah!

Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief)
Guest

sorry Cornelius.. i fixed the link!

Barney
Guest
Barney

Though I’m not surprised that they study found that “motorists sometimes feel discriminated against”, I’m curious in what ways specifically they found that. Do they mean legislatively? I get easily tired of such a strong majority whining about losing power to the tiny minority. It’s like meateaters and vegetarians. The top dog always gets scared when they see the underdog gaining momentum, but they’ve been in unchallenged power so long that all they know how to do is complain.

Anne Hawley
Guest

For myself, active involvement in the bike-riding/local politics community comes down to two things: it’s something I do because I love it, so it’s natural to interest myself in it online (sorry–just not something I can say about riding Tri-Met, for instance, or driving and parking downtown); and bike-riders as a transportation minority group are a really vocal, articulate, online, and bloggy set of people.

And BikePortland. That’s the other reason.

Congrats, Jonathan. Well-deserved notice.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

Good! Motorists are second-class users of the facilities as long as they’re being subsidized by the rest of us. Until they start paying their own way, let them eat cake!

GLV
Guest
GLV

Motorists are second-class users of the facilities as long as they’re being subsidized by the rest of us.

Huh? Everyone who uses public rights-of-way is subsidized. (bikes, peds, drivers, transit riders…no one directly pays the full cost of transportation) If being subsidized is your criterion, everyone is second-class. Maybe I missed something?

Matt Picio
Guest

GLV (#23) – Everyone pays the full cost of transportation, through taxes. What Paul’s getting at is that if you take motorists and cyclists and figure in how much of their tax dollars eventually make it into the road system, and the figure costs on a per-mile, per-hour, or per-lane mile basis, cyclists, on average pay more than their fair share, and motorists, on average, pay less. Pedestrians are the ones who really get shafted (if that’s their only mode) since they pay into the system yet gain almost no benefit from it.

Requiem
Guest
Requiem

I think the take-home point here is that BikePortland.org does an excellent job of consistently creating content that people want to see.

The White Horse suggestions are unrealistic, however. The problem with blogs is that one inane comment can sidetrack an entire thread. In person, that inane comment simply gets ignored or tabled shortly thereafter.

There is a great content in these threads. But the cost/benefit of City employees digging through the rubble for the nuggets doesn’t meet expectations of value. More aggressive monitoring could resolve that, but such censorship is contrary to the open spirit of blogs.

GLV
Guest
GLV

Everyone pays the full cost of transportation, through taxes.

I understand how taxes work. I said no one DIRECTLY pays the cost of transportation. As in, users of each mode directly pay for the infrastructure they use. All infrastructure is subsidized to some extent.

GLV
Guest
GLV

if you take motorists and cyclists and figure in how much of their tax dollars eventually make it into the road system, and the figure costs on a per-mile, per-hour, or per-lane mile basis, cyclists, on average pay more than their fair share, and motorists, on average, pay less.

Do you have any evidence to support that claim? Motorists pay gas taxes, license and registration fees, in addition to property and payroll taxes, which cyclists also pay. How does it follow that a greater share of the taxes cyclists pay go to the road system? Gas/license/registration fees are dedicated to road improvements, whereas property/income taxes are allocated for general purposes.

trackback

[…] Bikeportland.org has their take on the analysis, as does the No 3 blog, the Portland Mercury where you can grab a link to the whole report, which is something we at Street Roots will figure out soon. When we do, we expect to get the bump to No. 10. […]

David
Guest
David

“The biking community is so strong that motorists sometimes feel discriminated against in Portland.”

Bummer that you feel discriminated against, motorists. Put down the cell phone and we can talk about it.