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We're Live From the White House As #AskObama Is Set to Begin

BY Becky Kazansky | Wednesday, July 6 2011

Hello readers — I'm currently at the White House, one of a small group of @whitehouse Twitter followers chosen to attend the first-ever Twitter Town Hall and White House Tweetup today. I got in by submitting an application last week in response to this blog post from the White House. Where the post asked “Why you want to attend” on the registration form, I wrote something in the required 140 characters about believing in the importance of open conversation and participatory politics.

I'll be live-tweeting. You can follow me or techPresident to keep up.

I have kept things transparent — I mention techPresident (I'm a research assistant here this summer) in my Twitter profile, and figured if the event coordinators cared about catching press people in their randomly-cast fishing net, and weren't happy about it, they'd,
uh, filter us out. Of course, in its invitation to attend the event, the White House officially encourages us to tweet, stating "you will hopefully be tweeting about what's happening in the room," and since you could argue that in this day and age, we're all the press — citizens capable of committing acts of journalism, expected to observe and report on events around us, with the understanding that personal broadcasting is never neat or pretty — perhaps it doesn't matter that I come to this event as something between an amateur and professional observer, as well as someone who chose to engage.

I received my official email of invitation on Friday at 7pm before the long holiday weekend, over which I kept my TweetDeck trained on the #AskObama hashtag, watching as the conversation picked up steam. That led me to discover some of the other #WHTweetup attendees — @briadavi, @js9805, @alisonwoo, who I've exchanged hellos with and watched descend onto D.C in the last 24 hours from as far as the U.K. Late in the afternoon, the White House's Twitter account @whitehouse mentioned us:

Looking forward to our first #WHTweetup tomorrow w/ @QueenofSpain @js9805 @pondswimmer @DShai_Hendricks @KT_Little @jack & more

A funny thing happens when you get mentioned in a tweet by someone with 2,241,202 followers, and that "someone" is the White House: you "earn" lots of weird bot followers, and get spammed and heckled a few times.

As Tea Partier Barbra (@southsalem), an #AskObama observer commenting over the Twittersphere, took note last night, we, as a group, are not necessarily the most prolific Tweeters on Twitter:

#WHTweetup 4ppl whodont tweet: @js9805 has 91 followers/281 tweets @pondswimmer 213/940, @DShai_Hendricks 58/278, @KT_Little

I can't speak to the White Houses's strategy, but the selection process appears to have lead to a certain amount of diversity: Among us are college students, software engineers, community managers, social media strategists, and bloggers. While we all engage through social media, we're not celebrities in the Twittersphere — some of us have thousands of followers, others dozens. We're, more or less, average people who cared to engage with the platform the White House put forth to us, and “got lucky” enough to attend.