The Public Sphere, Gov 2 – The Twitter Stream

Yesterday I attended Public Sphere 2 which was run by Senator Kate Lundy in the main committee room at Parliament House.  The topic of this Public Sphere was Open Government: Policy & Practice, all Public Spheres run by Kate Lundy have the over arching topic of Government 2.0.  My role in yesterdays event was to monitor the twitter stream for questions put to individual speakers and to retweet outstanding relevant tweets as well as intermittently tweeting the latest stats on the #publicsphere hash tag.

One thing which astounded me was that there were virtually no questions directed at speakers from the twitter stream after an initial burst of 10 questions during the first morning session.  There was only one single question directed at a speaker during the rest of the day.  To give some perspective on this there were 31 presentations and during the first session there were 4 speakers, why were there no questions from the twitter stream for the other 26 presentations.  This was a stark contrast to how the twitter stream behaved during the first Public Sphere, there were way too many questions from the twitter stream during Public Sphere 1, we had to choose only 2 questions per speaker.

I thought about it today and I believe the reason for this is the subject matter of Public Sphere 2.  Public sphere 1 was about the National Broadband Network and how high speed broadband would change the way we use the Internet.  This is a very hot topic for all Australians and is not just a topic for people who have a strong interest in Government, therefore the audience were more informed and more passionate about the broadband topic and already had a very strongly formed opinion on the topic.  Hence way more questions were put to speakers.  The broad topic of Government policy regarding Government 2 had not already been a hot topic on twitter hence the majority of twitter users who participated were less prepared.

The lack of questions from the twitter stream did not particularly worry me yesterday as the twitter stream was going ballistic, it was extremely hard to keep up with it and remain focused.  My eyes never left the screen except for a period when the wifi went awry.   Over 2600 tweets flew past my eyes yesterday, from over 300 participants.  The topic is still doing well today and the tweets are up to over 2700 tweets with 322 participants.  I have left my hash tag search in place from yesterday and have again been monitoring the stream today and answering questions where I can.

In fact the conversation in the stream has turned to an effort to expand Public Sphere and take it to the NSW Government with many contributors very eager to see this happen.  I see this as a natural stepping stone to expanding the Public Sphere model we have developed across all levels of Government, this will give all levels of Government easy access to public opinion on Government making it incredibly open and collaborative.

I would like to see the new Gov 2.0 Taskforce announced by Minister Lindsay Tanner yesterday implement the Public Sphere model as a whole of Government framework collaborating with the public.


  1. Kerry Webb

    I think the Twitter stream was the least valuable part of the day. We don’t need:
    * people tweeting “hi” to others in the room
    * people tweeting “I’m suitting behind you” to others in the room
    * mutiple people tweeting “[Speaker] is now talking about [Topic]
    * off-colour jokes from the Twitterverse

    Someone asked why the mainstream media ignored the event. I think you have the answers.

  2. RaeBuerckner


    Whilst you may have found the social part of the stream not valuable, the rest of the stream was extremely valuable and will have a large influence on the submission paper which Pia Waugh is putting together. I am guessing you’re not on twitter?



  3. Kerry Webb

    I am on Twitter, but I – like everyone, I guess – use it in the way that I choose.

    What I’m trying to say is that I doubt that most people would find the stream “extremely valuable”, and to some it would be a real turn-off.

  4. RaeBuerckner

    Ok, glad to hear. I usually warn my followers if I am going to cover an event, so they can temporarily unfollow if they wish. The stream you witnessed at public sphere is only available if an individual does a hash tag search and is not something that all see.

    It’s fine for you to have your own opinion :)



  5. RaeBuerckner

    Just to clarify here, the twitter stream and live blogging screen at publicsphere was for education purposes for people who had never seen either. The actual streams were for people who could not attend the conference in person but wished to participate :)

  6. Rae

    Are you still out of a job ? It sounds maybe not if you are running these events.
    Do you know of anywhere in your part of the world where citizens have been invited to design public services ? Our politicians seem to realise that what they have is fit for the 1970’s. not the 2010’s and that their own people are not likely to be the most innovative or entrepreneurial folks.
    So they are asking the common person again. They need democratic engagement as well.


  7. RaeBuerckner

    Hi Alex,

    Yes I am still unemployed, I helped organise this event as a volunteer because I am passionate about several things which are customer engagement, service delivery completion and a collaborative & participative Government.

    The idea of running the public sphere events is to encourage collaborative and participative interaction between Government and citizens, and of course G2B B2G etc.

    The announcement of the Government 2 Taskforce at the event was in my opinion a huge step forward in facilitating the type of collaboration and change in Government which is required this century.

    Stay tuned for the next Public Sphere event, you can monitor that here

    If you would like to follow me on twitter and keep abreast of announcements regarding this topic in Oz, my twitter handle is @rbuerckner

    I agree we do need democratic engagement to enable customer engagement, and I will be working toward facilitating that to the best of my ability. Whether it be assisting in User Experience Design or advising on interaction with the public through Social Media.



  8. Nikki

    Hi Rae, Kerry, all,

    Public Sphere 2 was a real eye opener for me. Never been to anything quite like it! My initial reaction to the Twitter and live blog streams was that it was a bit distracting, I found myself watching that too much and not taking in what the speaker was saying. But throughout the day I found it really valuable to have links to topics and articles that speakers were referring to, I came away with 3 pages of things to go and read up on (yeah I went “old school” with pen and paper). Had I had a laptop with me I could have looked things up on the fly and bookmarked them to come back to later. But being unfamiliar with the topic and style of presentation before the day it didn’t even occur to me to take my laptop. I’ll know better next time!

    Some of the comments on the Twitter stream were inappropriate given that we’re trying to gain credibility and gain support for some pretty major changes. But it would be just about impossible to moderate comments before posting them. I guess you just have to have a certain level of trust in the participants to behave (hopefully they’ll heed Kerry’s comments and be a bit more careful in future). Personally, I liked having some hello’s in there, we had a giggle at Rae’s hello to Craig, it made us feel more included. I know a lot of the participants already know each other quite well and I appreciated the efforts they went to to make us newbies feel welcome.

    In regards to the lack of questions, again I think it comes down to a lack of preparedness on the part of those less knowledgeable on the subject, a bit of shyness and a real sense of being overwhelmed by the number of speakers and the amount of information presented. A few times I found myself still mulling over one concept when the next speaker had already started. I’m also the sort of person who would prefer to go away and read up on the subject and then have an opportunity to ask more in-depth questions after I’ve got my head around the basics, so it’s great to have made contact with many people from the event via forums, blogs, facebook and twitter.

    The only real gripe I had was the chairs. They were OK for half day but by the end of the day they were almost unbearable!

    Otherwise, I really enjoyed the event, I came away with a lot to think about and it has generated some great discussions within my team at work. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this all goes!


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