Saturday, November 3, 2012

Weibo Watch #1: Mayor's Fake Fans?

Mayor Gregor Robertson has been showered with gee-whiz stories from various media outlets for setting up an account on Sina Weibo, China's state-censored answer to Facebook and Twitter rolled into one.

You may remember how Robertson praised China and pooh-poohed democracies during his September 2010 trade junket, that included a stop at the Shanghai World Expo.

His trans-Pacific social media move comes in the wake of Vancouver social media juggernaut HootSuite launching a Chinese app that integrated Weibo on Oct. 9.

A Nov. 1 Globe and Mail story said Robertson signed up the previous morning and had amassed 16,000 followers just hours before the story was published. You can find the Mayor's page here.

Notice the background photo is a lovely aerial shot of the City of Vancouver, with Stanley Park in the foreground. Notice it doesn't include East Vancouver. Only the Westside and West End, with a bit of downtown.

The fans just keep coming. By the afternoon of Nov. 3, Robertson had a whopping 37,659-plus fans on Weibo. Impressive, since it took nearly four years for him to build his Twitter following over the 27,000 level. Quite an achievement and, I quickly assumed, it must have something to do with being related to Canadian-born, Chinese hero Dr. Norman Bethune.

Then I looked closely at the Mayor's Weibo page. I copied and pasted some of the messages into Google Translate. One user made the shocking allegation that 95% of the Mayor's Weibo fans are from fake accounts!

Here is that translation, with the original copied below.
@ Canada homes
[Vancouver Mayor @ Robertson letter Gregor microblogging why so many zombie fans? Who is behind? ] Saying that Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson came microblogging been the the Vancouver local Chinese and Chinese microblogging touted. Xiaobian mayor of less than 1 million fans, even behind. 3 days after the mayor of the microblogging fans number 35000, allegedly in excess of the number of Twitter 4 years! Browse to the mayor's fan list inadvertently shocked: newest fans 95% + are zombie powder
【温哥华市长@罗品信Gregor 微博 为什么那么多僵尸粉丝?谁是幕后黑手?】话说,温哥华市长罗品信来到微博,受到温哥华本地华人和主要华人微博力捧。小编在市长不到1百粉丝时就力挺。3天后市长微博粉丝数3.5万,据称超过Twitter 4年数量!不经意间浏览到市长的粉丝列表,震惊:最新粉丝95%+都是僵尸粉

Here is the translation of the response from the Mayor (or whoever is staffing his Weibo account).

Thank news! We will investigate with Sina.
谢谢消息!我们会跟新浪 调查一下。Thank you for the help, let us know if there is anything we can do @加拿大家园
I'll let you know how this develops.

(For those keeping score at home, 5% of Robertson's Twitter followers are faked accounts, 18% are inactive and 77% are good, according to the Status People Fake Follower Check.)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Getting to know the Finance Ministry

It's definitely not "Finance Ministry for Dummies."

When Mike de Jong was appointed Minister of Finance on Sept. 5 by Premier Christy Clark, he got a 52-page package of information about the ministry, its operations and its key people. This is better known as the "briefing book."

It contains no major revelations, but it does offer a glimpse into how the most-important ministry of government works.

FIN MIN Briefing Book - 0214

Anyone working at the Ministry of Labour?

The British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union represents more than 25,000 government workers in B.C. and on Sept. 27 it reached a tentative agreement with the government.

The deal was announced the next day by Premier Christy Clark at the Union of B.C. Municipalities' convention in Victoria. It included the immediate corking of the controversial privatization of the Liquor Distribution Branch.

I requested, via Freedom of Information, a copy of the labour accord from the Ministry of Labour. After the Sept. 5 cabinet shuffle, Jobs, Tourism and Investment Minister Pat Bell also became Labour Minister. My request was processed and, on Oct. 29, I received notice that the Ministry of Labour doesn't have a copy of the BCGEU settlement.

Truth is stranger than fiction. See below.

(BCGEU members will be glad to know their union has a copy of the tentative agreement, which can be read here.)


Premier's office claims no dimples & draught day records

Both Jonathan Fowlie, the Vancouver Sun's reporter at the Legislature, and I made Freedom of Information requests to find out about the investigation into the conduct of ex-Chief of Staff Ken Boessenkool. Fowlie Tweeted that the government claims there are no records, because the investigation was done verbally. See the government's Oct. 29 denial letter to me below.

Boessenkool became the ex-Chief of Staff for Premier Christy Clark on Sept. 23, when he tendered his resignation. The Premier said on Sept. 24 that it was because of an "incident of concern." She made the resignation letter public. She wouldn't offer any further information, hiding behind privacy laws.

The "incident of concern" happened Sept. 7 in Victoria at a bar, after a golf tournament attended by Boessenkool, among others. Yet, the Office of the Premier claims there are no records about the day's events.

This is part of a growing trend toward the government claiming no records exist. The B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association has complained to the Information Commissioner. The big question is this: is the government hiding information or is it not documenting its business?

Boessenkool was replaced by Dan Doyle, the former highways deputy minister who was recycled from the chairmanship of BC Hydro and the executive vice-presidency of construction for VANOC. Here is Boessenkool's Feb. 10, 2012 appointment letter to the $195,148.22-a-year job. Doyle's Sept. 25 appointment letter is below. Doyle's appointment ends April 16, 2013 -- the eve of the provincial election campaign. Like Boessenkool before him, Doyle has Deputy Minister status.



Dan Doyle Appointment Letter

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