We are currently working with about 20 homeless people to test our prototype service. We are hugely indebted to Sheila Scott @ Shelter From the Storm and Ben Richardson @ Connection at St Martins for their support of the service and for letting us meet and work with their guests and clients.
Core curated accounts
We created a master service account that a homeless user follows after signing up to Twitter online or over their mobile. (This is the 'Welcome' account). Through this account and supporting documentation, we then introduce our users to a number of other curated accounts that we operate based on specific content streams. These content streams currently include:
WELCOME: Information on new curated accounts and service updates
TIPS: Useful info and advice to make a difference day-to-day
FIND: User can tweet a question to get information on a specific service
ENJOY: Updates on fun and free things to do (films, music, art)
DO: Updates on sports, and outdoor and social activities
LEARN: Find classes, courses, lectures and workshops
NEWS: Daily weather updates & news
In addition, we are investigating the possibility of creating other specific accounts with relevant information for particular user segments such as women, those with no recourse to public funds, and those suffering with drug and alcohol problems.
We are also looking at how we can enable service providers, whose Twitter efforts are predominantly focused at non-homeless people, to take advantage of mobile as a communication channel with clients. This could be ideal to provide updates on the organisation, spread useful and timely information, issue appointment reminders or gather feedback.
Selecting the right content:
Users will be informed of the content of each account and can decide how to interact with it by either ‘following’ or ‘getting’. ‘Following’ will mean that they receive each tweet from the account by SMS. 'Get' means that the user can request only the latest tweet from an account and is not overburdening themselves with unnecessary content. We envisage each user having a different 'fingerprint' of accounts they follow, tailoring the information over time to suit their needs.
Amplifying a users voice:
Once provided with access to the basic accounts, and on reaching a certain level of confidence using the service, users can then begin to make use of its outbound potential. We provide an account we will refer to as a 'help' account that follows all the users of the service. When a user tweets a question or comment, it is seen by the help account and if suitable it can then be retweeted to the other homeless users or a network of service followers (non-homeless), who may be able to answer the question or feedback.
Whilst this is not something we can easily automate, it means that homeless users do not have to rely on people following them directly to be heard. To make this even easier, we have built a Twitter list so that non-homeless users can directly access any tweets made by our users without having to follow them all individually.