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Friday, April 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 50.0° F  Fog/Mist
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MADISON HALLOWEEN

City officials comment on CRASH Madison Halloween texting system

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Given the novelty of the concept, Phil Ejercito was skeptical about how the city would react to CRASH Madison. This is a system to broadcast text messages about the status of the Halloween party on State Street, including information about the weather, entertainment venues, crowd sizes, and dangerous situations, among other things. How is the city responding the texting plans announced by Ejercito?

A Halloween organizer, the mayor's spokesperson, and a police spokesperson weigh in:

  • Joel Plant, city alcohol policy coordinator and primary Halloween planning liaison: "I think the CRASH Madison service is both novel and useful. The timely dissemination of accurate information will be very helpful for everyone involved. Furthermore, [Ejercito's] efforts reiterate the fact that the issues surrounding Halloween in Madison are community issues that require community action."
  • George Twigg, communications director for Mayor Cieslewicz: "The mayor supports finding innovative ways to reach Halloween participants with accurate, timely information. This project would seem to fit that goal, and the mayor hopes it is successful in that regard."
  • Officer Howard Payne, a public information officer for the Madison Police Department: "We have no issue with any outlet that's delivering information. We can't control that. As long as this outlet is delivering timely and factual information to whoever they're clients might be, I can't see it being a negative thing, especially by way of informing people about lines, bands, locations to eat, and other information that people want to know. We're not against this as long as it's giving factual information and not inciting some sort of a problem or promoting some type of negative situation. We would not want to align ourselves with anyone who is doing such a thing."

As word spread about CRASH Madison, there was one question repeatedly asked by various persons: Will heavy network traffic due to the amount of people presumably using cell phones on State Street slow down or inhibit the text broadcasts in any way?

Ejercito says probably not. "It's a very legitimate concern that heavy network traffic will slow message delivery, but there are a couple of responses to that," he says. One, "we think SMS data is more likely to make it through than voice traffic," Ejercito states, and secondly, "text messages can be time-shifted and still received, unlike voice messages." Even if CRASH messages don't get through to all of its subscribers," he continues, enough messages getting through "can seed word-of-mouth message delivery with accurate and timely information as opposed to the usual rumors and misinformation that can breed confusion and chaos."

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