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Snow Shovelling Social-networking Experiment

2012/01/06

From the TORONTO STAR

The City of Chicago is betting that people will want bragging rights to their snow-free sidewalk and their neighbourliness this winter. The interactive city website ChicagoShovels.org “is kind of a one-stop shop for snow removal,” the city’s chief technical officer, John Tolva, said.

Chicagoans can:

 See where city snow plows are during and after a storm, following little plow icons on a city map.

 Adopt their patch of sidewalk online as a “social engagement,” said city director of social media Kevin Hauswirth.

“You tell your friends on Facebook you got this sidewalk and you’re keeping it clean.”

It’s also a means, said Tolva, of sharing shovels and snowblowers among neighbours.

 Sign up for Snow Corps, which lets volunteers contact the city to find out who needs help shovelling their sidewalks. Seniors and disabled people can ask for help through the emergency line 311, similar to the system Toronto has.

 Check on the weather on the site or download “winter apps,” which include maps of banned parking areas during a storm. Another app is the former “was my car towed,” which allows motorists to see where the city “relocated” their car during a storm.

Toronto’s Transportation Department lists on the city website what the city does and what it expects people to do before, during and after a storm. Seniors and disabled people who want to register for help are asked to download a form online. An online Toronto map also shows where, in outlying areas of the city, municipal crews can plow sidewalks. The mayor of Newark, N.J., Cory Booker, turned himself into a social media celebrity when he used Twitter and his 1 million followers in December, 2009, to answer calls for help during a blizzard.

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