Monday, July 16, 2018

The Importance Of Keeping #politas On Topic

This is a piece concerning Twitter I've been meaning to write for some time, mainly so I can link to it and so others can link to it when explaining the concept of topicality to people determined to ignore it or else new to Twitter.  Or who just don't know what "#politas" means.

On Twitter, hashtags are used to to help people find material that is relevant to them.  If a person is interested in something, they can use TweetDeck or other programs to set up a search for all tweets with a particular hashtag (a # followed by the subject matter), and thereby "follow" that hashtag.

In Tasmania, the hashtag "#politas" is especially useful for this purpose. #politas stands for politics of Tasmania. The equivalents for other states and territories are:

#nswpol for NSW politics
#qldpol for Queensland politics
#wapol for WA politics
#ntpol for NT politics
#actpol for ACT politics

and a couple of tricky ones:

#saparli for SA politics 
#springst for Victorian politics

The correct hashtag for generic Australian political tweets is #auspol.  During election periods it is common to also see hashtags of the form #---votes emerge, eg #ausvotes, #tasvotes etc, sometimes with the year after them.  Some states have other political hashtags that are sometimes used - eg #lgtas for Tasmanian local government (council) politics and issues.

The #politas hashtag is mainly used to discuss Tasmanian politics - including state and local politics and also including Tasmanian federal politics.  On quiet days it might only see a few tweets, on very busy days it might see a hundred.  However one of the things that makes the hashtag work well is that a high percentage of tweets are on-topic.  

When people from other states use #politas to tweet about general federal political matters at a high volume, this is annoying to people who use the #politas hashtag.  They need to either wade through all the irrelevant tweets or else mute or block the offenders.  They may not actually wish to mute or block the offenders (I've even had to block people who were following me because they would not get the hint about keeping #politas spam-free).

Some latitude is shown for people who are based in Tasmania who may use #politas to talk about federal issues, especially if they are politically active, because in the latter case anything they have to say about pretty much anything may be of interest to the local political scene. 

But anyone in the Tasmanian political scene who wants to know what a random tweeter in, say, Sydney thinks about Bill Shorten or Malcolm Turnbull can see that on the #auspol hashtag if they wish.  

And while people tweeting their support for the Labor or Liberal parties onto the #politas hashtag from afar might think they are helping get the message out, the people who follow this hashtag are generally already politically active.  Spamming #politas with partisan cheerleading that is not relevant to Tasmanian politics is not likely to gain your side votes; it might even annoy people and cause them to vote for the other side.  

Where people are showing continuing disrespect for the desire of people interested in Tasmanian politics for a clean feed relevant to their own state I will often reply to them along the lines of the following:

Please use #politas for tweets relating to Tasmanian politics only.  The hashtag is used by people who follow Tas politics and having lots of general #auspol tweets on it makes it hard for them to follow.  Thanks for your consideration.

I try to ask nicely (it's worth being polite; some people just don't know it's a state-based hashtag) but I ask once only.  Those who continue to post off-topic material to #politas frequently after being asked to desist, whatever their politics, can expect that I will mute them, block them, and will in some cases report them to Twitter for spam.  Even if they are following me.  If the problem persists I may even set up a name-and-shame list on this page.

To those who are flooding #politas with general #auspol material: You wouldn't like it if I kept filling your letterbox up with advertising material of no interest to you.  Please show consideration for the interests of others and their desire to have a relevant feed.


Accounts Blocked 

Starting August 2018 I am adding a list of accounts I have blocked for ignoring requests to stop posting off-topic material to #politas, so others can block them too.  I don't have a full list of those I have blocked in the past, so will only add these as I remember them.

@lovethenews2018 - this one seems to be mostly but not exclusively a bot.
@left_say and @SayNoToLeft_ (same person)
@thesayno7 *
@raymo_au now rebadged as @raymondaus_TNL (account spams for New Liberals party)
@T_Bellette (homophobic and transphobic troll account)
@CivilDiscours11 (appears to be Tasmanian, but even if so still blocked for flooding other state hashtags.)

*Actually I didn't block this one but they blocked me for asking why they were doing it and then engaging with their subsequent false claims about the Tasmanian media.  Which was nice because it saved me the bother of blocking them.  

I've also muted @CorpGovResearch , whose rationale for constantly tweeting generic aged care tweets to #politas (that the Minister and Shadow Minister in the aged care area are both Tasmanian) seems to be rather slender.


  1. I gave up on twitter yonks ago for just this reason. I got tired of wearing out scroll wheels on my mouse.

  2. I agree with Barry. It is tiresomely repetitive, mostly completely inane, and I rarely bother.

    On another subject, what is your estimate of the odds of an upset in Braddon? The libs have picked a dud in Whitely when they had a choice of 2 far better candidates, Keay is unpopular due to her being the cause of a by election, and Garland gets 8500 odd facebook views within 24 hours of putting a post on fakebook, comes across as genuine, humble and pissed off with business as usual politics. The advocates circulation in 2010 was 23000 copies, and i know it has decreased since then considerably due to it being a poor clone of the Examiner.

    1. Who were the far better candidates than Whiteley? (Not that Whiteley is a very good candidate but at least he has name recognition.)

      I think it's very difficult for Garland to win because of the even split of major party primaries (it is more difficult than Denison 2010 when Wilkie won, and even that was very close) and also because his platform is similar to the Greens. But I think he could do very well and have an impact on the outcome.

    2. Gavin Pearce was one, local businessman, Wynyard RSL president, on the board of Yolla Producers a local ag supply co-op, Libs had had him out and about in the blue tie a fair bit over the last 8 months or so. The other ones name eludes me right now (I think it's old age, but maybe I just don't care), but he was not a complete nobody, perhaps even better name recognition than Pearce, especially towards the eastern end of the electorate.

      While I have your attention, how fair is the process of starting the vote counting by only using the first prefs of the two parties the AEC picks out as being most likely to win? DO you get a different result if you do first prefs for all candidates instead as a first round?

    3. To explain that, the AEC does count first preferences for all candidates on election night, and that is the first thing that is done in the booths - the primary count happens first, then the preference count later in the night.

      However, as people want to know who is going to win, the AEC also counts an initial two-person count between the two candidates who it thinks will be the final two. So in Braddon we will know how many voters preferred Labor over Liberal and however many preferred Liberal over Labor - which unless something very strange happens will decide the final result.

      Sometimes it happens that the AEC has picked the wrong two final candidates. If this is the case, it makes no difference. If it is obvious, the AEC can re-align the preference count to the right two candidates. But even if it is not obvious, at the end of the counting the AEC does a rigorous distribution of preferences where it eliminates the last candidate, then the second last and so on to confirm the winner.

      The choice of two parties to do the initial preference count between has no impact on the outcome whatsoever. It is just a convenience to try to speed up public knowledge of who is going to win.

  3. FTR, #taspol was originally Tas Police


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