Remember Twitter

There is an increasing tendency among trade unions to “outsource” certain parts of our websites — and this is going to cause problems for us even in the short run.
More and more unions are creating groups for themselves on the social networking site Facebook. For example, the NUJ’s group on Facebook has over 1,800 members.
Other have taken a keen interest in the online virtual world “Second Life” — going so far as to create a permanent “Union Island” there. The TUC, Unison, Prospect and Connect are all backing that initiative, which was launched by UNI Global Union.

Yahoo Groups have long been used by unions large and small to serve as mailing lists. Many small unions use free blogs such as Blogger to host their sites. Nearly 400 trade union photographers have created a group on the free photo-sharing website Flickr. Many unions now host their videos on YouTube. And others have promoted union use of Twitter, a service that offers platform-independent messaging and micro-blogs.
The problem with all these free services in addition to their inherent unreliability is the fact that they can be so easily taken away. As Twitter has just proven.
A few weeks ago, Twitter announced that it was suspending its service, which allowed residents of the UK and other countries to receive the short messages known as “Tweets” to their mobile phones. Twitter claimed that sending out SMS messages was costing the company too much money.
For LabourStart, which was sending out daily “Tweets” to more than 500 followers, this came as a disappointment. Fortunately, we have other ways (email, a website, RSS) to communicate with our constituency. But what happens when Second Life shuts down, or starts to charge for what was previously free? What if Facebook, Flickr, YouTube or Yahoo do the same?
We’re all tempted by free services on the net. I can understand that. But next time your union decides to outsource one its online activities, remember Twitter.

8 Comments on "Remember Twitter"

  1. Here’s an aspect of Facebook that is potentially negative for the service in terms of the work you do. I also posted it on facebook to help people understand that these are not neutral entities.

  2. I agree that Free services on the Net should never be a substitute for official communications.
    However, it can be used as an informal way to get in touch with members.
    We should always remember that it is by definition not so reliable and not eternal.

  3. Barry Leslie JOHNSTONE | 02/10/2008 at 22:51 |

    I can’t help feeling that “out-sourcing” is the new corporate disease. The search for financial profit at the expense of people is completely immoral.

  4. Tom Fischer | 02/10/2008 at 23:38 |

    Well, of course! The online world is still changing so fast that anything you do online will be obsolete, redundant or simply shut down in a year or two. Even if you could reliably plan to use Twitter, Facebook or photobucket for a decade or more, would you want to?
    The entire point of the communications revolution is to communicate with the maximum number of people with minmum effort. As a movement whose sole focus is on communication and organisation, we need to embrace that wholeheartedly, and make sure we’re on top of every new fad, trend and gimmick – because we know they won’t be around in 5 years, but the people we reach through them will be workers for the next 65.

  5. Using Facebook for organising specific events seems to be a fact of life that was not there even a year and a half ago. Our NDP campaigns are mostly linked into Facebook, this federal election. But yeah, we need to be not so dependent on these services that we flail when they change or disappear.

  6. The social web – (buzzword Web 2.0) is a living breathing network. People will use many tools. Open source tools are the best, but require us to have developers who can build / maintain the tool – but then they are ours. For example –
    We could have a Union micro-blogging network – how much do you think we could organize with that?

  7. Why not organise a bunch of skilled TRADE-UNIONIST’s to provide, fast and independent from commercial organisations, services like Twitter, or hosting-services as realatively easy to manage (and train) multi-site-instalations as WordPressMultiUser, or other web 2.0 social internet services?
    Trade-unionist first, but also skilled in internet, organisation, and not at least with focus on training of internet-site-use by other trade-unionists or members of other non-profit organisations in social web communities
    There must be lot of those in the world, but to find them?

  8. Always make backups. Every service can crash (no matter free, commercial or your own). Backups must be done in a format that allows the import into other services.
    I think about making a blogging or social web2.0 service for unionists but doubt whether they will use it. For some reasons unionists prefer the traditional means of communication such as telephone 😉
    If anyone can organize at least a dozen of active bloggers, feel free to contact me (email:

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