Social Media Cafe Columbus: The elections and foreclosures in St Louis

Sorry for the blogging silence here on Strange Attractor, but as I’ve mentioned, I’m currently driving across the US covering the elections. One of the things that Emily Bell at the Guardian wanted me to do was to meet up with bloggers and other social media folks on the trip, and I’ve managed to meet up with bloggers in LA, Denver and tonight a great meet-up with the Social Media Cafe crowd in Columbus Ohio. Thanks to Tim Eby of WOSU for the invitation. I met Tim and Robert Patterson in London a couple of years.

I came in a little late, but there was already a discussion about local community blogging project Ganther’s Place. People who live in the neighbourhood were using the blog to name and shame absentee landlords. They also mentioned how the blog was helping to gain the attention of traditional media to cover their concerns.

After that, Robert, Andy Carvin, who heads up the social media desk at NPR, and Anna Shoup also of NPR joined the meet-up through the magic of Skype. Andy talked about a project to monitor voting during the elections. They will use Twitter and SMS with the hashtag votereport to collect reports on voting, now during early voting and all the way through election day next week. You can already follow some early Twitter reports via Summize of Dwigger.

Robert has an absolutely fascinating project with the public broadcaster in St Louis. They are using social media to help people either facing foreclosure or falling behind in their housing payments to keep their homes. The entire focus of the project is to help people help themselves but giving them information about resources in the city. It’s about fostering community even as the fabric of the community is under strain from the housing crisis, and it’s about people finding ways to help themselves. Robert’s overall message was the potential of social media to renew community bonds and give people the tools for self-reliance.

I gave a quick overview of my social media efforts during the road trip. Twitter helped me arrange the blogger meet-up in LA. Twitter also helped me to cover the rise of homelessness during this housing crisis. I talked about how Ralph Torres in California contacted me because of the blog and gave me a foreclosure tour of Riverside California.

I also gave a quick overview of some of the technology that I’m using on this trip. I showed off Twibble, the Twitter client that I’m using on my Nokia N82. I also showed the Twitpic and geo-tagging features of Twibble. I’ll be writing more about all of this once the trip is over.

Thanks again to the folks at Social Media Cafe Columbus for the warm welcome. I’ll see you on Twitter.