Los Angeles cyclist, Joe Anthony, is the founder of Bike Commute News, which uses @bikecommutenews on Twitter.com to organize and mobilize cyclists around the world. Check out our Q&A below to learn more about Bike Commute News and how Tucson cyclists can use it.
1) Tell me a little bit about what you are doing. What are the goals?
The ultimate goal of the Bike Commute News project is to help build a more informed, cohesive and organized cycling community, not only within each city, but around the world. In doing so, I hope to create more engaged online communities of cyclists, and catalyze new collaborations and relationships that can lead to offline action. (This blog itself is a great example. Via Twitter, some time ago @TucsonVelo sent a shoutout to Los Angles cyclists prior to visiting our city, and we ultimately met up for a ride with a group of L.A. tweeting cyclists. Michael and I kept in touch to the extent that we were able to collaborate and share this interview.).
If you’ve been following the @bikecommutenews Twitter account, you’ll notice that for a little over a year I’ve been aggregating news, blogs, and the occasional meme as they pertain to the use of bicycles as transportation. The point is to encourage sharing of this information and to raise awareness of cycling, both among cyclists, and with each member of every participant’s social graph. With a little over 2,060 followers at the moment, there has been a great deal of participation thus far.
Over time BCN will increasingly roll out new projects and tools to accomplish these goals. The first project is the Bike Commute News city hashtag database. I started a Google Spreadsheet (a “wiki”), wherein followers in the U.S. and around the world can add their city’s hashtag. This is an effort to help cyclists within each city share local cycling news and information more efficiently. More on this below.
Still in “alpha” mode, BCN is working towards obtaining funding to bring on additional collaborators, programmers and developers to create new and innovative tools to accomplish our goals.
BCN is a call for all cycling advocates, “slactivists” and bloggers to collaborate to help make cycling normal, and safer. I call this “Wiktivism”.
2) Why use twitter?
First I’ll say that my passion is learning how the internet can be used to build a movement or to support a cause, perhaps more effectively than offline advocacy.
Rather than building a stand-alone website, I find it more effective to find people where they are.
Leading up to the 2008 Presidential Elections I gained some notoriety for an unofficial, and eventually semi-official, community of supporters for Barack Obama. Myspace was number one in social networking at the time, and this type of community was perhaps one of the first of its kind. Over time the community reached around 160,000 members and gained positive mainstream media attention, and eventually collaboration with the campaign until it was ultimately taken over by Obama’s staff. To an arguable (and well-documented) extent, this and other similar online grassroots communities may have led to the President’s success.
Bike Commute News is an attempt to take what I’ve learned from that effort, and apply it to bicycle advocacy.
At this point Twitter is the ideal social networking platform because it is open enough to encourage inclusiveness and collaborations among any interested party, without revealing too much personal information. Anyone can follow, share, and join in on the conversation via Twitter while still retaining as great a level of anonymity as each participant prefers.
There is also a BCN Facebook account, but I expect most of the activity to take place on Twitter for the time being.
3) What do the hashtags do?
Hashtags were created not by Twitter itself, but by the Twitter community. They were created as a way to aggregate meta-data concerning a specific topic and add context to tweets.
Twitter.com has a comprehensive hashtag tutorial here.
4) Why should someone use them?
Think of each hashtag as a community. For example, when tweeting a link to news, or any information about cycling, include the tag #bikenews. The hashtag is automatically hyperlinked and if you click on that hashtag, you’ll be directed to a feed of all Twitter status updates that have been tagged with “#bikenews”.
The BCN hashtag database lists and encourages tags by city. In Tucson, AZ for example, you can click on or save a Twitter search for #bikeTUC and you’ll immediately be able to view an aggregation of all Tweets concerning cycling in Tucson. If you notice there aren’t many tweets associated with a certain hashtag, keep tweeting. Eventually others will catch on and you’ll have yourself a community.
There are more tips and guidelines listed on the @bikecommutenews hashtag database located here.
Another popular hashtag created via my personal Twitter account @ohaijoe and @bikecommutenews is #whyweride. Click on this tag for some inspirational tweets that promote cycling and share these experiences with others in the Twitter community.
5) Is it only about commuting or all bike issues including roadie stuff?
Bike Commute News is primarily concerned with cycling for transportation, and does not get involved with the sport of cycling.
6) Anything else?
If you have questions for Anthony, leave a comment and he’ll check in and respond.