UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

August 21, 2009

WHEN BUREAUCRATS TRY TO BE HIP

Washington Post - Metro is struggling with overruns again, but this time the problem isn't train operators overshooting platforms. It's mysteriously incomplete tweets. In March, Metro set up a Twitter account and configured software to tweet onto the popular social networking site all of the advisories about service disruptions already e-mailed to subscribers. Because a majority of the alerts are longer than the 140-character limit, Twitter has been truncating them automatically. As a result, Metro's updates sometimes leave the agency's 1,507 followers scratching their heads. What did Metro mean, for instance, when it posted: "No Line: There is no Blue line train service between Rosslyn & King Street. Shuttle bus service is established. Customers are encouraged to"? The anonymous blogger behind Unsuck DC Metro has hosted four "Complete the Tweet" contests on his site, in which visitors can speculate about what the rest of a message might have said. One was based on the Blue Line message encouraging riders to do . . . something or other. A commenter responded: "ford the Potomac River at their own risk." Another said, "go to the closest bar and drink away the stress . . . and then call your designated driver." A third guessed: " . . . walk, as that will probably be faster and more convenient than taking the bus." Staffers in Metro's public relations office have seen these. "We find humor in that as well," Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato said.

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