Council staff told . . you’re a bunch of work-shy twits

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It was always going to be dangerous.

A city council experiment to spend 24 hours tweeting its activities has seen both fans and, perhaps more predictably, critics jump on the bandwagon.

The local authority used the social-networking site Twitter to update followers on the work of its staff from noon yesterday until noon today, telling them about everything from Colinton Library’s Bookbug session to the 13,000 meals being prepared and served in schools.

Each of the tweets was labelled with the hashtag – a mark that enables users to follow a chain of posts – “#whatwedo”.

Some were clearly unimpressed, creating their own hashtag, #whatwedontdo, to complain about shortcomings in council services.

Eyebrows were raised when the council tweeted “Edinburgh Council Customer Services are here to answer your queries until 4pm”, earning the response from one Tweeter: “Does that mean you “knock off” at 4pm? Typical public servants!”

The experiment also attracted the ambivalence of psychologist and Edinburgh Secret Society founder, Richard Wiseman, who tweeted: “Edinburgh council run 24 hr Twitter event to show how they work. No, I don’t give a s*** either.”

However, the city said the vast majority of users appreciated the event and it was proud to be experimenting with social media.

It said the 4pm cut-off mentioned online only marked the end of a two-hour session where customer services staff would directly log complaints made via Twitter, and that other staff would respond to Tweets outside those hours, directing customers to other resources as appropriate.

Edinburgh is one of 28 authorities to join the day of tweeting, which follows on from a similar 12-hour event held by the council in August.

Among those using the event to take the council to task online was Tollcross resident David Rintoul, who uses the Twitter name @MisterTollcross.

He used the #whatwedontdo hashtag to alert staff to faded road markings in Home Street, which he said he had reported on February 21, 2009, and a blocked gully in Fountainbridge, which he said he had reported to Clarence in April 2008.

Mr Rintoul said: “As they [customer services staff] only seem to be responding between two and four, it’s hardly a 24-hour thing. They do have staff on 24/7, they could have trained one of them up to do that out of hours.

“As long as they take action, it’s a good idea.”

A council spokesman said: “The feedback that we get from many users shows that they welcome this form of communication and appreciate us trying to innovate.”

sgyford@edinburghnews.com