Metropolitan Hamilton

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Does Hamilton's Twitter Universe Represent the Whole City?


UPDATE (at bottom of post):  "Merrulala Land and the merry bunch of Tweeters"

>> also see:  Twitter in Real Life!

====================================================================================== From: Mahesh P. Butani (via email)

Date: Mon, Jan 21, 2013 at 12:41 PM

To: Council, the Mayor, City Manager and Integrity Commissioner,
City of Hamilton.

Does Hamilton's Twitter Universe Represent the Whole City?


Here is a well researched snapshot of the global Twitter-sphere:

  • 5% of users account for 75% of all activity,
  • 10% account for 86% of activity,
  • and the top 30% account for 97.4%
--- 2009, Sysmos (see attached).


  • A small hard-core group (2.2%) have accounted for 58.3% of all tweets.
  • While 22.5% have accounted for about 90% of all activity.

Hamilton is no exception to such Twitter usage statistics, a reality that is diametrically opposite of what Alex Sévigny, an associate professor of communications at McMaster University has come to believe: “the barrier to acceptance for any social media campaign --here-- is very high, and demands authenticity”... because --Hamilton-- has such a high level of engagement when it comes to social media.

The sheer arrogance behind such statements as above and this: “With social media strategies and campaigns, research first is very important, said Chris Farias"... when they themselves have utterly failed to research "facts" of what really occurred, only highlights the total unreliability of Twitter comments in Hamilton presently.

Maybe a few years from now when a more matured user base manages to sublimate the current hashtag jingoism, then it may begin to represent the city's true character.

I have stated earlier that a very small fraction of the population initiated and sustained the public swarming of Dialogue Partners -- a point completely missed by the Spec writer and her expert branding and communications validators.

What you witnessed two weeks ago, were not conversations. They were rabid assaults, fed by equally rabid opinions of experts who do need to develop a deeper understanding of the sub-text of such on-line violence, which is being passed off as intense civic engagement and humour, wrapped up in good old local machismo.

Twitter users in Hamilton simply do not represent the much wider and demographically diverse communities of our city.

Given the hype generated by this small group of twitter users, --as them being representative of the entire community, and the resulting misguided media fallout, it is crucial for the council to define the size of  Hamilton's "Twitter universe" before meaningful civic decision making can be based on this small group.

Getting feedback from multiple on-line channels, is quite different from basing civic or media decisions solely based on Twitter chatter. Unless, the intent is to promote gossip mongering.

My understanding of what happened on the 7th/8th of January is based on my experience* and a lot of manual pattern reading of Hamilton's Twitter chatter, between 7th and 20th of January.

Our city administration needs to develop capacity in tracking on-line chatter as it is invaluable in predicting the real v/s hyped tone, temper and direction of our diverse community's many --concurrent and parallel-- conversations on various channels.

Today there are many more cost-effective tools available in the market, such as:

(note: I do not have any business or social involvement with these companies. They are mentioned here only for reference).

Merely following the Twitter users and the ensuing press distortions, is bound to generate a skewed understanding of what is really going on in the community.

To avoid being manipulated in future by sensational press headlines arising from Twitter dumps, as seen two week ago, and becoming pro-active as a city in understanding broader community conversations, it is critical for this city administration to develop capacity in such predictive, pattern-recognition technologies and tools.

The council & staff can only learn from this incident and advance it's understanding and capabilities to ensure that similar incidents do not happen again, as well as develop a much more sophisticated approach to gaining deeper insight into our city's many more various community conversations outside of Twitter/Facebook.


Another very serious point that needs to be noted by Council with regards to Twitter usage by councillors:

Is this self-imposed silence on twitter? or an attempt at continuing bad behaviour, now, under protection of privacy?
You decide:

Sam Merulla @Sam_Merulla
Ward 4, East Hamilton, City Councillor   Made in Hamilton. You will be amazed how much you will agree with me if you follow closely.  Hamilton, Ontario, Canada ·

@Sam_Merulla's tweets are protected.

Only confirmed followers have access to @Sam_Merulla's Tweets and complete profile.  !!!
Click the "Follow" button to send a follow request.

After being very active during the public swarming of the consultant, Clr.Sam Merulla has now decided to use the protection of "privacy" on Twitter!

Should such public behaviour by an elected councillor, be allowed to go unchecked?  Especially, when it has been extensively documented that he has used his Twitter chatter to empower the public swarming of a city consultant--without a shred of evidence that could hold up in the court of law to justify his actions.

When proof that was counter to his accusations surfaced, instead of offering an apology to the people of Hamilton for his behaviour, he simply chose to goes into hiding behind Twitter privacy!!

An elected councillor is a public figure.Their conduct and speech, be it in public, or among small groups on-line, must be non-defamatory, non-inflammatory, evidence-based, and open & transparent.

The "trust" that city contractors and consultants from out of town have in conducting business with this city, has been seriously violated and broken by Clr. Sam Merulla's mindless actions and continuing unapologetic behaviour.

Nothing sort of a Council and Integrity inquiry along with a public apology by him, will manage to restore this trust.

His unethical conduct has put many local businesses/services who have contracts with other municipalities at serious risk of reciprocal actions -- while setting back the progress Hamilton has made with it new found reputation of being a "business friendly environment" for outside companies.

Now that he has chosen to go behind his wall of privacy on Twitter, who knows what kinds of conversations he is leading or empowering?

I am calling on the Integrity Commissioner and the Mayor & Council to immediately look in to the conduct of Clr. Sam Merulla in directly hurting the reputation of this city with his actions, and I am also requesting for a new policy for on-line usage by councillors--with clear penalties for breaching such policy.

All councillors who conduct public conversations be they on-line or off-line, during their elected term, should do so based on facts and not gossip, in an open and transparent manner. And all electronic records of such conversations needs to be public. They simply do not have the luxury of being protected by privacy filters.

Below is a glaring example of Clr.Merulla's continuing mis-use of social-media, this time to discuss a city issue viz. the redevelopment of the Delta School in his ward, which has not yet ratified by council:

[...] I still can't believe they are demolishing Delta's building. Would make a beautiful condo building #HamOnt

Sam Merulla @Sam_Merulla
It will not be demolished it will be a hybrid of residential and park development.
8:20 AM - 17 Jan 13

[...] Does @HWDSB agree?

Sam Merulla @Sam_Merulla
It is not up to them. We will purchase it at the appropriate time and pursue RFP process   !!!

[...] don't they have to offer to other ed. institutions first? City is down the list.

Sam Merulla @Sam_Merulla
Folks we've done this before. The city will gain possession.  !!!

Sam Merulla @Sam_Merulla
No problem. If you google the issue there are stories on my plan published re Delta

[...] familiar with your plan, but don't other buyers still come first?
[...] catholic board, french board, post-secondary, private, it's a big list before the city. hope this happens, but no guarantee
[...] no, and if HWDSB decides it wants a park only? But I believe your in good hands with Sam. He wouldn't lead his ppl down a path.

Meanwhile the newspaper has a totally different story from Clr.Merulla's Tweets:

City eyes Delta for new development, Emma Reilly, Fri Jun 01 2012

Councillor Sam Merulla says city staff are already looking into purchasing Delta,  Merulla envisions a development that would include "much-needed green space alongside condos that would keep the building’s impressive architecture intact."  There’s little information available about how much the Delta property may cost city taxpayers. The board has valued the three lower-city schools it plans to close — Delta, Parkview, and Sir John A. Macdonald — at a total of just over $8 million.

A+ idea to buy Hamilton schools, says prof,Teri Pecoskie, Thu Aug 23 2012

Councillor Sam Merulla, for instance, is pressuring the city to buy Delta Secondary for a possible development that would include "much-needed green space alongside condos and keep the building’s impressive architecture intact."

Murray said he doesn’t know at this stage what funds would be tapped to purchase schools. But for Merulla, the city’s commitment to buy Delta, at least, is imperative.  “We can’t afford not to do this,” he said. “We’re taking a negative and trying to develop a positive.”

Comparing these most recent Twitter comments to the earlier press stories. Clr. Merulla appears to be clearly mis-informing Twitter users. Is this how a councillor should be conducting city affairs via Twitter and the press?

Is he hoping to create another "swarming of public opinion" via Twitter to pressurize the city into buying the Delta school building with tax-payer money -- in a ward from only which he stands to gain politically?  Never mind that during this very same period, he has "seconded" a motion which has ensured the demolition of the Sanford School building which just happens to not be in his ward !!

Integrity Commissioner's Message:  

"Public perception of the decision-making process of municipal government is critical to the reputation and the level of trust the public will have for its government. This perception shapes the public’s opinion of Council’s personal integrity, honesty and performance. Members of Council are trustees for the public and there is an expectation that Members of Council will operate from a base of integrity, transparency, justice and courtesy."

Allowing such behaviour and misuse of on-line tools to be continued by a councillor, is seriously damaging the reputation of this city which publicly claims to be emerging from the dark shadows of its own past.

Is this the New Hamilton we all talk about?



Mahesh P. Butani


* My interest in tracking this incident, is based on my extensive business involvement in a pioneering software-technology company in the US in 2000-01. During its existence, some of our advanced pattern-recognition tools helped Fortune 100 companies track on-line conversations and chatter to develop strategies, solutions and products in real-time. This company was one of the top-four in the world in AI, Pattern Recognition field back then.




"Merrulala Land and the merry bunch of Tweeters"

Quid Pro Quo?

Celebratory beer fest of some kind, Joey Coleman(left) and Laura Babcock (right),

If accepts a free "$32,000" engagement training course from the firm that

messed up public engagement project I may lose my mind, Jan 24, 2013 -- Retweeted by

MYTHS of a poor campaign: spun by a Mac communication student and his Twitter friends.
Here are the FACTS, which the local and out of town media will not publish or broadcast, as they were party to this public lynching:


1. Bike path picture from Ottawa, ON

    ---> First LIE Tweeted by Joey Coleman

2. T-shirt Picture from Hamilton, WA

     ---> Pintrest Hack - see: 

3. Courthouse Picture from Hamilton, OH

    ---> Pintrest Hack - see:

4. Payday loans script in the HTML source

    ---> Clearly hacked with intent to embarrass. 

5. 'Offensive' comment in the survey about minorities and the under-privileged

     ---> User submitted, from #hamont --- "As a minority, I do not see this as offensive".

6. Website looks ugly

    ---> Cheap comment by Joey Coleman. Have you seen Coleman's websites?

7. Survey was done on a template site

    ---> Many large & small companies use survey websites for surveys.

8. Website was a Template site

    ---> Millions of businesses use web templates every day.

         Those who complain most about this, are the small web designers who are losing out in the market.

9. Survey did not comply with MFIPPA

    ---> Proven to be false.

10.The "what is HSR" -- question

     ---> Clear GANGING UP by 5 women, followed up by call for a twitter swarm by Joey Coleman.

11. Silence after the Twitter Noise

      ---> As per instructions of the client, the City of Hamilton.


The Hamilton Spectator, CBC-Hamilton, local TV, Cable TV, and Radio, as well as many local blogs, and out-of-town blogs such as this one, continues to NOT publish the above truths in its entirety.

Why are they being skittish? Who are they trying to protect?



Not one of the "Twitter Gang" has offered a clear, worded apology even after each and every one of the above accusations started to unravel. Not by any individuals, not by the media, not even by the city.

This is the true character of HAMILTON. A city that is afraid to speak the TRUTH.

What are we breeding here? a new-generation of Liars?



Hamilton first needs to become a HUMBLE city and an INCLUSIVE CITY.

Maybe a FORGIVING CITY, may then have a chance to grow someday, from which, a new kind of CARING ECONOMY may have a chance to evolve.


Until then this will be the "Merrulala Land and the merry bunch of Tweeters", ready to charge at every "windmill" he points at.

ARE the Canadian PR/MARKETING PROS so gullible as to buy anything that comes out of Hamilton's PR industry? I have lived here for 17 years, and still consider myself an outsider, thanks to the "local born & bred" fetish, that is sadly still alive and thriving.

For Godz sakes don't try to unpak this stuff in 5 points --- without first spending time to research this. Isn't that the very accusation being flung at the consultant from Ottawa?


RESEARCH before you write...RESEARCH before you TWEET. Better still don't Tweet for five days, and re-discovery your life again!


Latest media coverage on this topic:

M.P.Butani2013/01/22 at 2:04 AM ET  (my comment at above post).

Alex Sevigny:  Empathy has to preexist within a group, before it can be felt.

Tweeting "sweet nothings" over months to each other in a group does not maketh a community.

---"No one likes taking shots at someone they see at Starbucks. There's no honour in that."---

Are you suggesting that there is "honour" in taking shots... repeated shots at a blank face!! If that is what you are professing, than I believe this city [does] have a much bigger problem.

No amount of scholarly gymnastics can absolve this "group" from what it did. A few pack leaders, seen in the Tweeter Reach report - those standing on top of the heap, were clearly present at time of the organized "lynching" right from the first mention of HSR by five women, who showed up preordained, to not give an "inch".

Five otherwise intelligent women, who started this well planned spiral.

As I mentioned earlier, find out who was hanging out with these women and that Child Student from Mac on the evening he divined the "tellOHeverything" assault, and you will have the answers.

Do you see any diff. between what happened here and what happened to that innocent young girl in New Delhi on the bus? or what happened during the run up to bombing Baghdad?

You come across as an apologist of the joy riders, and not a scholar on this issue for you have way to many friends in this group to be objective.

They feel warm and fuzzy, on tweets, but I doubt even one of them would show up in your defense, if I were ever to start a "tellSevignyEverything" about communications.

Don't continue to demean those who have already been hurt in this for no cause but that -- your "community's influencers" felt like they weren't solicited or taken into account."



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Metropolitan Hamilton is a 'Collaborative Innovation Network' facilitating transformational thinking in the evolving Hamilton Metropolitan Region - comprising Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Glanbrook, and Stoney Creek.


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